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Playing Jacques Pépin's Mayonnaise

One of the best of all sauces and perhaps the most useful, mayonnaise is a smooth emulsion of raw egg yolks and oil that lends itself to an infinite number of variations. It’s good with many cold foods: eggs; cooked vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli and artichokes; fresh tomatoes and vegetable salads; poached fish and shellfish; and chicken. I like it made with mustard because it is a powerful binder and, with the yolk, holds the emulsion together. Mayonnaise can be made by hand or in a food processor or blender. The oil should be at room temperature; if it’s cold, the mayonnaise will separate. Like most people, I rely on store-bought mayonnaise for everyday use but for a special party, I always make my own. Whether you use store-bought, handmade, or machine-made mayonnaise, the variations that follow will expand your culinary repertoire.


  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons tarragon vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cold water (if using a food processor or blender)
  • 2 cups oil (peanut or olive oil, or half and half


Serves: 2 cups


To make the mayonnaise by hand: Put the yolks, mustard, vinegar, salt and white pepper in a large bowl. Beat for a few seconds with a whisk. Add the oil slowly, especially at first, whipping vigorously and constantly until all the oil is incorporated.  

To make the mayonnaise in a food processor or blender: Put all the ingredients except the oil in a food processor or blender. Add 1 tablespoon cold water and process or blend for a few seconds. With the motor running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream. It should not take more than a few seconds to get a smooth, creamy mayonnaise.