Vegan mayonnaise is gaining momentum as the new generation’s condiment of choice.
Vegan mayonnaise is officially taking over the condiment world, with more products than ever going eggless. As more people are embracing a plant-based or flexitarian diet, the global food market has come up with new dressings to jazz up the dullest of salads. Plant-based mayos are being whisked up using avocado oil, tofu, and even pulses.
In the world of all things saucy, mayonnaise is somewhat unique in that it is both everyday and luxurious at the same time.
The thick, creamy condiment is a staple of nearly every fridge and regularly chucked into the shopping trolley with little ceremony. Yet a dollop of the stuff transforms a simple sandwich into a moreish lunch, a plain burger into a sumptuous snack. However, as mayonnaise is traditionally made with egg yolk, vegan versions are in great demand.
As well as being more sustainable and ethically sourced, plant-based mayos are usually lower in saturated fat than the eggy alternatives and contain between 20-22 percent fewer calories.
What is Mayonnaise?
Mayonnaise is a thick sauce traditionally made as an emulsion of vegetable oil, vinegar, and egg yolk.
In 2014, the US munched its way through177 million gallons of mayonnaise, slathered on sandwiches and spooned on spuds. While several countries lay claim to mayonnaise as their creation, it is impossible to verify its geographical origin, but sources point to the condiment being French.
Andre Viard, the Chef de cuisine to French Nobleman, Louis Philippe, Comte de Ségur, mentioned mayonnaise in an 1820 edition of the famous cookbook “Le Cuisinier Royal.”
Traditional mayonnaise becomes the dense, smooth spread that we know and love by adding the oil, drop by drop to the egg yolk and vinegar while whisking. This process creates an emulsion (suspended particles in an aqueous form) which swift stirring thickens up into a fluffy sauce thanks to the emulsifying lecithin in the egg yolk. To make a vegan mayonnaise, ingredients which perform the same function are necessary.
Yellow Pea Protein. As used in JUST Mayo, this is made of long-chain amino acids which makes it useful as a binding and thickening agent.
Maize Starch. Sometimes called corn starch, this ingredient is often used to thicken sauces and soups.
Soya Milk. As this proteinous liquid is already a stable emulsion, the additional oil droplets are well supported, which makes for a thick mixture.
Much like the ongoing furor around what to name dairy-free curd, (the creative options include “cheese alternative” and “cheddar style slices”) vegan mayonnaise nomenclature has previously been a hot source of debate.
Unilever took particular exception to an eggless mayonnaise in 2014. It went so far as to file a lawsuit against vegan company JUST (then named Hampton Creek) for daring to call its vegan product “JUST Mayo.” As the owner of Hellman’s, the biggest producer of mayonnaise in the US, Unilever got defensive when Hampton Creek claimed that its product beat Hellman’s in a taste test via its Facebook page.
Unilever based its suit of false advertising upon a detail written in the FDA in 1957. This specified that in order for a product to be called mayonnaise, it must contain eggs. As a vegan product made from yellow pea protein, JUST Mayo did not conform to the FDA standards. Unilever also took exception to the fact that JUST Mayo’s logo featured an egg being cracked by a growing pea shoot, which it said was misleading.
The case became a matter of public debate, being discussed on radio shows, in national press including the New York Times and on social media. While JUST is now worth an estimated $30 million, back in 2014 Hampton Creek was only a three-year-old start-up and the court case saw many people leap to the underdog’s defense. The $60 billion company, Unilever, was suing Hampton Creek for three times its annual profit in damages plus legal fees. An ironic twist to Unilever’s lawsuit was that it inadvertently gained the accused considerable positive publicity.
After receiving a fair amount of criticism in the press, Unilever dropped the case less than two months after filing it, upon the condition that JUST Mayo alter its packaging. However, the case catapulted Hampton Creek and by extension, plant-based mayonnaise, into the public eye.
Are Eggless Products Better For Your Health?
Eggs are very high in high in cholesterol, with a single egg containing 186 mg. That’s more than three times what you’d find in a pork hotdog. While there is good and bad cholesterol, the cholesterol found in eggs is Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) which is the kind to avoid. The consumption of cholesterol packed eggs has been linked to heart disease, strokes and early deaths.
A recently published study by Northwestern University investigated the effects of eating high quantities of eggs in over 29,000 test subjects over 17 and a half years. The results published in the medical journal JAMA showed that people who ate two or more eggs per day were at the most risk of having an early death.
A researcher from the study, Dr. Norrina Allen, told the Independent, “we want to remind people there is cholesterol in eggs, specifically yolks, and this has a harmful effect.”
As well as their high cholesterol content, eggs can contain harmful substances such as salmonella and have also been linked to Type 2 Diabetes. A 2016 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that out of 200,000 test subjects, those who consumed the most eggs experienced a 39 percent higher risk for diabetes.
The environmental impact of the egg industry is considerable, with a box of a dozen eggs requiring four pounds of feed, 636 gallons of water, and antibiotics to produce.
Animal Welfare in the Egg Industry
Along with the health and environmental concerns surrounding eggs, there are considerable animal welfare concerns. The maltreatment of egg-laying chickens has become more common knowledge in recent years, with exposes by charities like Viva! bringing the living conditions of chicken to the public’s attention.
Ninty percent of all the world’s commercial eggs come from caged battery hens, forced to live out their lives in tiny cages.
While “barren” battery cages were banned in the UK in 2012, “enriched” cages are still too small for a hen to stretch her wings. The cages deprive chickens of natural light and fresh air and the hens are forced to live in their own urine and excrement. The constant lighting and high-protein diets of these chickens force them to lay up to 300 eggs per year, wild hens lay between 12 and 20 eggs annually.
In the US, many states still use the barren caging system, which allows each hen the same amount of space as an A4 sheet of paper.
Without room to indulge in natural behaviors such as perching, dust bathing or foraging, the chickens sometimes become so distressed they self-mutilate by pecking at their own flesh.Male chickens do not live past a few hours, as being incapable of laying eggs, they are considered to have no value. Each year, around 6 billion male chicks are suffocated, gassed or thrown into a macerator while still alive.
Human Rights in the Egg Industry
Some egg farms have hidden human rights violations. The 2018 Frontline documentary “Trafficked in America” revealed slave labor practices at Ohio’s Trillium Egg Farms. Immigrants from Guatemala had been illegally smuggled into America by the egg farm and were living and working in unsuitable conditions.
Some of the smuggled workers were only 14-years-old when they came to work at Trillium in 2015. Despite undeniable evidence being presented, Trillium Farms’ vice president claimed to have no knowledge of the incident and no charges were upheld.
The egg industry also holds a serious grudge. Following the Unilever versus Hampton Creek case, the American Egg Board launched an undercover spoiler campaign against Hampton Creek, in which it spent over $59,500 to defame Just Mayo’s products. When discovered, this led to a federal investigation by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.
9 Top Vegan Mayonnaises
While you can choose to make your own eggless vegan mayonnaise, there is an incredible range of plant-based varieties out there. Thanks to nifty new developments, enjoying vegan mayonnaise is as easy as opening a jar. Here are our nine top products.
1. JUST Mayo
JUST’s sauce is made of yellow pea protein and canola oil. JUST’s vegan spread forms the base of five other mayos, including sriracha, garlic, and truffle.
Buy it here.
Since Follow Your Heart launched its soy-based mayo back in 1977, the creamy condiment has become a hit. The vegan company also makes a soy-free, pesto and grapeseed oil varieties of Vegenaise. The mayo is sold in over 25 countries, so is easy to sauce. (See what we did there?)
Buy it here.
3. Chosen Foods Vegan Avocado Oil Mayo
Made by the San Diego brand all in on the avocado, Chosen Foods’ vegan mayo harnesses the thickening power of aquafaba with its signature avocado oil.
Buy it here.
4. Sacla Free From Mayonnaise
This Italian mayonnaise is soy-free and made from potato protein, carrot concentrate, and xanthan gum. This polysaccharide (derived from a bacteria which can cause rot in cabbage) is a common thickening agent in mayonnaise, especially low-fat versions. Sacla’s new offering can be bought in Sainsbury’s and the Co-Op.
UK customers, buy it here.
5. Sir Kensington’s Fabanaise
Aside from its fabulous smoothness, this vegan mayo gets its name from its aquafaba content. The GMO-free spread also comes in an avocado oil and a chipotle version.
Buy it here.
6. Mr. Organic Free From Mayonnaise
This British company makes its mayonnaise from sunflower oil and apple cider vinegar from ingredients grown in Italy. Mr. Organic’s mayo is also the proud owner of PETA Vegan Food Award Winner prize. The mayo is stocked at Holland & Barrett, Waitrose, and Abel and Cole.
Buy it here.
7. Hellman’s Vegan Mayo
Having apparently adopted an “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” mentality, Hellmann’s launched its own vegan mayo in 2016. Made of rapeseed oil and maize starch, the sauce is completely devoid of egg. Hellmann’s plant-based offering is available throughout the UK and the USA.
Buy it here.
8. Tesco’s Free From Mayo
Tesco has been championing plant-based eating in recent years, even appointing its own Director of Plant-based Innovation, Derek Sarno at the start of 2018. As well as stocking its exclusive Wicked Kitchen range, Tesco also sells its own vegan mayonnaise made from rapeseed oil.
Buy it here.
9. Nuco Vegan Mayonnaise
Proving once again that there is nothing the coconut cannot do, this vegan mayonnaise is made from coconut oil.
Buy it here.