Mayonnaise: The Thrifty and Delicious Secret Ingredient Already in Your Fridge

Photo: _Nezemnaya_

When I was in college I had a boyfriend whose favorite food was mayonnaise.

I know. That should have been a red flag right there.

He was really good looking and charming, so I was able to overlook (or at least look away from) his habit of eating a condiment. Like it was some kind of savory pudding. Out of the jar with a spoon.

We broke up for reasons not related to his depraved love of sandwich spread.

It was soon after our breakup that I discovered that he'd left an opened, 128-ounce jar of mayonnaise in my refrigerator. If I hadn't been the poster child for starving students everywhere, I would have just thrown out the jar. However, at that point in my life, I was poor enough that I couldn't waste food for sentimental reasons. Any food.

So I ate a gallon of mayonnaise.

I did not eat it out of the jar. I instead went on the hunt for good mayonnaise recipes. (See also: 10 Unexpected Home Uses for Mayonnaise)

My First Favorite Mayonnaise Recipe

Luckily, one of my favorite dishes to make is Waldorf salad. The Waldorf salad, as the name implies, is a signature dish of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. It was invented not by the hotel's chef, but by its Maitre D', Oscar Tshirky, who was apparently a huge foodie.

What follows is the recipe for Oscar's original salad as it was published in his cookbook — titled "The Cook Book" — in 1896.

Waldorf Salad

Peel two raw apples and cut them into small pieces, say about half an inch square, also cut some celery the same way, and mix it with the apple. Be very careful not to let any seeds of the apples be mixed with it. The salad must be dressed with a good mayonnaise.

I was surprised when I read this recipe because, in the last century, Waldorf salad recipes have become more and more byzantine with the addition of everything from nuts to shredded carrots. The original Waldorf salad is quite a thrifty and simple dish.

A Piece of Cake

Because I was poor, and mayonnaise's main ingredients are eggs and oil, I used a lot of my ex's mayo as a cheap substitute for eggs in baking recipes. Today I substitute three tablespoons of mayonnaise for every egg the recipe calls for.

Although I can now afford eggs, in my kitchen, mayonnaise is still a staple baking ingredient. Mayonnaise is the secret ingredient in many chocolate cake recipes because it gives the cakes a supple, moist texture.

By the way, chocolate cake is extra yummy with bourbon chocolate frosting. Secret ingredient? Mayonnaise.

Even if you are a terrible cook, mayonnaise can give boxed cake mix that "homemade" flavor. This classic lemon pound cake recipe that calls for yellow cake mix, instant lemon pudding mix, and mayonnaise is all over the Internet, but this version has the best vintage food commentary that promises, "A secret ingredient that will cause a sensation at your next lunch or dinner party."

Who doesn't want to cause a sensation at their next lunch party?

Some Other Favorite Mayo Recipes

Do you love chocolate chip cookie dough but worry endlessly about salmonella poisoning from raw eggs? Use mayo instead.

Are chocolate chips out of your price range? Mayonnaise makes yummy sugar cookies that don't taste like homemade Play-Doh.

My other favorite use of mayonnaise is for breading chicken for Chicken Parmesan. In addition to being the glue that holds the breadcrumbs together, it also makes the chicken extra juicy.

Is breaded chicken not your thing? Mayonnaise and chipotle peppers in adobo sauce make an incredible marinade for just about any meat.

How I wish that Hellmann's had a website when I was in college (I'm old). Their mayo-centric recipe archive is enormous.

What's your favorite way to use mayonnaise?

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Guest's picture

You forgot the world's best grilled cheese sandwich. Absolutely the best, hands down, even if you hate mayo. Butter on GC is strictly for suckers.

I use 3 slices of cheese instead of 2, but that's personal preference.

Max Wong's picture

Hi GC Guest--

You had me at grilled cheese. I am trying this TODAY as I imagine that the eggs in the mayo give the bread that french toast texture. Brilliant.

Guest's picture

I mix mayo with Dijon mustard, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, garlic, and salt for a sauce I bake salmon in. It's wonderful on Keta Salmon which doesn't have much flavor on it's own.

Meg Favreau's picture

It's not a secret use of mayo, but I like serving roasted root vegetable "fries" with quicky aioli -- mayo mixed with lemon juice and minced garlic. Friends have started calling it my "magic sauce."

Lars Peterson's picture

Similar to Meg's quicky aioli is the mayo based dip I make using vegan mayonnaise (surprisingly like the real deal), gyoza dipping sauce, and a couple of shakes of Sriracha.

Guest's picture

I prefer salad dressing - a lighter, more piquant flavor that also can be consumed straight out of the jar! It goes well with peanut butter, and I recently learned Kraft is marketing new flavored versions of Miracle Whip for use as a dip as well as a spread.

Guest's picture

I'm not a huge fan of mayo but it actually makes sense that it could be used as a secret ingredient for moist baked goods. Since I've gotten on a healthier-food kick I've been substituting plain greek yogurt for mayo in different things, and been using mashed avocado in things like tuna and chicken salad to give it more flavor. Just a thought!

Mikey Rox's picture

Love this post. My grandmother used to make mayonnaise cakes. Soooo good. Thanks for sharing.

Guest's picture

A can of tuna, a dollop of mayo, squirt of mustard, healthy sprinkle of garlic powder, salt and diced pickle makes a great poor man's tuna salad.