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Mayonnaise vs tomato sauce: which is the greatest Australian condiment?

Who wins in a fight between the two greatest condiments known to humankind?

mayonnaise and tomato sauce bottles
Last updated: 01 March 2022

Aussies love their tomato sauce. There isn’t a pie in the country that doesn’t benefit from a slick of sweet, red sauce. But there is a condiment inching in on traditional sauce territory. Hello, mayonnaise!

Be it homemade whole egg or supermarket brands such as Hellman’s, Praise and Kewpie, we’re finding more and more reasons to put the squeeze on sauce and instead opt for the sweet tang and luscious mouthfeel of mayo, which can go places tomato cannot. Oh, the places mayo can go…

Dip your chip

Sure, you may never slather a pie with mayonnaise, but might you consider dipping your hot chip in it? There's definitely precedence for such a pairing – people in Europe have been doing it for years. 

And while the weekend Bunnings sausage sizzle might not offer a squeeze of Kewpie, we're finding a taste for mayo on our fancier snag sandwiches. A creamy squiggle seems to go just-so with bratwurst, onion and sauerkraut on a crunchy bun.

Banh mi

Speaking of crunchy buns, that French-Vietnamese mash-up, the banh mi, has just about been adopted as Australia's favourite sandwich, far outpacing the old Devon-cheese-and-tomato-sauce lunchbox staple of the 1970s. 

Yet there's no tomato sauce on a banh mi: its lubrication relies on paté and, yes, mayo. Some even say salad sandwiches, too, need the fat from mayonnaise to elevate unadorned vegetables from rabbit fodder to desirable tucker.

The salad question

While burgers benefit from a slathering of both red and white, what about salads? Most Aussie barbecues feature mum's potato salad, and most mums' potato salads feature mayonnaise. No self-respecting Aussie mum ever added tomato sauce to a potato salad. (Bolognese, on the other hand…)

Still, mayo finds its way into green salads, is essential to coleslaw, and – love the genre or hate it – mayo is a requisite ingredient in most pasta salads.

In fact, mayonnaise easily pairs with food genres that tomato sauce can only dream of meeting.

Cue… Kewpie

The Japanese iteration, Kewpie, has been wholly adopted in Australia and is just as at home on a schnitzel and wedges as it is atop sushi, karaage (fried) chicken, okonomiyaki (Japanese-style pizza) and any number of plant-based foods, such as mushroom burgers. It even lands, if controversially, on tacos.

Mayonnaise bridges cultural divides – it's just as well blended with chipotle sauce for a spicy dipping condiment as it is being spread over bread with cheese and kimchi for a late-night toastie.

Balance of power

Now, we're in no way suggesting tomato sauce is in danger of losing its King of the Condiments status in Australia. As long as there's tucker sizzling on a barbie, there'll be a squeeze bottle of tomato sauce within cooee. Its status in our collective hearts remains unchallenged.

In terms of breadth of use, mayo might just have it over the red stuff

But in terms of breadth of use, mayo might just have it over the red stuff. Maybe that's down to its union of three key elements – fat, acid and salt – rather than simply the sugar-edged sharpness of tomato sauce. But we'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

For those of you unwilling to take sides, allow us to break your brains momentarily… combine mayonnaise and tomato sauce, and you may find you have the greatest condiment ever known to humankind. What 'saucery' is this?

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