Taste Test: The Best Mayonnaise
Essential reading on a most essential condiment.
Mayonnaise binds the South together. Without it we are without pimento cheese, deviled eggs, summertime tomato sandwiches, potato salad, coleslaw, and ranch dressing; without it we are without our selves.
But Southerners’ love for mayo is not as simple as the paperback romance novels you may find in the next aisle. There are as many different brands of this consecrated condiment, this inviolable ingredient, as there are SEC football teams, and the passion they invoke is similarly inflamed. Perhaps your Aunt Gladys Jewel swears that only Duke’s will give her chocolate cake its mystical moist texture; maybe Blue Plate was what your grandfather smeared on his sandwiches after work. In a world ruled by chaos, more so than ever, a jar of mayonnaise in the fridge may be one of the few comforting constants to count.
And thus, we give you our guide to mayonnaise brands, Southern-born or not. Weather you believe by one brand’s power, have converted to another’s, or remain agnostic on the subject, knowledge is power.
Duke’s Mayonnaise: Born of a Eugenia Duke’s enterprising spirit in the 1920s, this Southern staple was created to prepare pimento cheese and egg salad sandwiches for hungry soldiers training at Camp Sevier in Greenville, South Carolina. Mrs. Duke’s mayonnaise recipe became so beloved that she quickly sold her sandwich business and focused her attention on producing mayo. We argue that it has the most balanced flavor making it the perfect canvas, and it’s devoted disciples would agree. From North Carolina illustrator Emily Wallace’s renderings to a collection of people who have tattooed the iconic tub on their bodies, this label’s colors don’t run.
Hellmann’s Mayonnaise: While Duke’s may have a majority of our Test Kitchen’s favor, we still have many a ride-or-die Hellmann’s user in our midst. Perhaps the most famous of all mayo brands, this version is a touch tangier, akin to a milder Miracle Whip. Although it has been the object of controversy in recent times for perhaps changing the viscosity of their recipe, it still remains a classic.
Blue Plate Mayonnaise: Like there is no other city like New Orleans, there is no other mayo like Blue Plate. Born across the river in Gretna, home to brands like Zatarain’s, Blue Plate has a cult following and appears in select grocery stores outside of Louisiana, but it has one ingredient that does not appear in some mayo brands: sugar. Although it gives Blue Plate a smidge of sweetness, it works as a counterpoint in savory recipes like chicken salad.
Bama Mayonnaise: The most beloved mayonnaise you’ve never heard of, Bama has a loyal legion in Alabama and Mississippi where it’s still the most popular brand, although it’s also sold in over 20 countries. Some of our staffers say it’s also on the sweet side; others say it has more pronounced lemon flavor.
Mrs. Filbert’s Mayonnaise: A Virginia export, Mrs. Filbert’s mayonnaise, like its advertisement that ran in national newspapers in 1958 says, is a more delicate, lighter spread. The company also claimed to use aged apple cider vinegar and a collection of imported spices to add “special zest and bouquet.” Whether or not that is still the case, it still claims a spot in the Southern pantry.
Just Mayo: With the strongest citrus flavor, Just Mayo has been the new kid on the shelf, but became a favorite for its thickness, which can stand up to the juiciest heirloom tomato.
Kraft Real Mayo: Not to be dismissed, this mass market mayo has one of the more complex ingredient lists with a subtle background of garlic and onion.
Did we leave out your favorite? We have a sneaky suspicion you’ll let us know.