Full-fat mayos generally rated highest with our taste testers - no surprises here. So what characteristics gave them the edge?
Fat: The five products in our trial with the most fat (oil) were rated in the top six overall. Obviously, more fat means more kilojoules – but when the trade-off is flavour, it’s worth eating a little less and savouring the better taste.
Authentic: Of all the mayos on test, those described by our trialists as tasting “authentic” were most likely to score well overall. So it’s not surprising that the ingredients lists of the top-tasting products closely resemble a traditional recipe, where up to 80% of the volume is oil, with egg yolk the other key ingredient.
Eggy: Egg yolk is listed in the first three ingredients of our top-tasting mayos. Indeed, the ones our trialists described as tasting “eggy” generally scored well. While it had no measurable impact on taste, it’s of interest that Doodles Creek, Hellman’s and Kato all declare free-range eggs are used in their mayonnaise, while S&W claims its eggs are “cage free”.
Texture: is also important. Gradually whisking oil into egg yolks results in a naturally dense, smooth and creamy emulsion. The products that rated as the smoothest and creamiest – words frequently used on mayonnaise labels – were the most popular.
Seasonings: such as mustard, spices and salt in particular are commonly added to mayonnaise for flavour. But it’s worth pointing out that Praise Whole Egg, our top-tasting mayonnaise, is the least salty on test. Clearly, mayo doesn’t have to be salty to be tasty.
At first glance Norganic Golden Soya and Kato Mayo contain all the right elements (oil, egg yolk and vinegar), yet their taste test scores are relatively low. A closer study of the ingredients lists suggests why this is so.
Kato is only 27% oil and egg is way down the ingredients list, but more significantly, perhaps, its first ingredient is grape juice. Norganic contains apple cider vinegar and honey rather than the more conventional white vinegar and sugar.
Such unique ingredients give these mayos a flavour profile that may not appeal to all taste buds.
We included Kato and Norganic in this test, despite their unique ingredients, as they’re not marketed as “flavoured” mayonnaise — unlike the exotic-sounding products in many brand ranges: wasabi, peri-peri, dill, truffle, and chilli lime and coriander, to name a few.
Reduced-fat mayos rate poorly
Reduced-fat mayos in general and 97% fat-free mayos, in particular, scored poorly overall in our taste test. Our trialists didn’t know if the samples they tasted were reduced fat or not, but their scores suggest there’s no substitute for full-fat flavour.
Bear in mind that reduced fat doesn’t necessarily mean healthy. When fat is removed, something else is generally added to provide flavour —in this case, sugar. Of the five most sugary mayos on test, four are reduced fat (three of which are supermarkets’ own brands).
Low in fat, high in water
If you’re watching your weight, chances are you'll opt for a 97% fat-free mayonnaise. You should know that in these products the bulk of the oil is replaced with water. And according to their ingredients list, the amount of egg they contain is minimal (Coles Mayonnaise 97% Fat Free contains no egg at all).
To simulate the texture and consistency of traditional mayonnaise, thickeners and stabilisers such as xanthan gum and maize starch thickener are added. But as our taste test results show, there’s still some way to go before the natural density and creaminess of a mayonnaise made of oil and egg can be replicated by food science.
One clear reduced-fat winner
But you don’t always have to forgo health for taste. Unger’s Lite may not be “light” compared with the 97% fat-free products, but it has only half the kilojoules and fat of the top-tasting regular mayos and minimal sugar, and our trialists scored it higher than all other reduced-fat mayos.