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So, I've finally accomplished making mayo. But it has a yellowish hue to it, obviously this is the case because of the egg yolks.

My question is this: Why is store mayo white? What makes it white?

I'm fine with mine being the color it is, but now it's driving me crazy as why it's white in the stores. Is it a preservative thing? Is it an appearance thing?

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I once made mine green by only using very strongly colored olive oil... I liked it but other people weren't so keen. –  vwiggins Jun 21 '11 at 10:41
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2 Answers 2

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Short answer: store mayonnaise has less yolks per volume oil, and yolks give most of the yellow color.

Mainly the reason is that store mayonnaise adds water, rather than relying on the moisture in the egg yolks and vinegar. To quote On Food and Cooking, page 634:

Though cookbooks often say that the ratio of oil to egg yolk is critical, that one can only emulsify a half-cup or cup of oil, this isn't true. A single yolk can emulsify a dozen cups of oil or more. What is critical is the ratio of oil to water: there must be enough of the continuous phase for the growing population of oil droplets to fit into.

This means you can use less yolks and just add water to get your volume. Since yolks impart most of the yellow color (from plant pigments called xanthophylls), this reduces color considerably.

Store mayonnaise also uses some whole eggs, not just yolks, which do not emulsify as well, but are cheaper. This further reduces the amount of yolk in the result. Note that while home mayonnaises use yolks, store mayonnaises can get away with including egg whites by using very powerful machines to emulsify the mayonnaise, and in some cases add emulsifiers such as lecithin to help stabilize it.


The Experiment!

One whole, very jumbo egg, with a little white wine vinegar (around 15 mL). For oil, I used vegetable oil with a small splash of olive oil. The total amount of oil used was 1.5 cups, or 350 mL.

First, I tried to create mayonnaise by hand whipping with a mini-whisk. It turned out a pale yellow, and thickened some, but refused to thicken fully. This confirms that making a homemade mayonnaise by hand requires yolks or some sort of mechanical beating/blending; whole eggs just don't emulsify well enough. It's fair to say that the result is quite yellow when it isn't fully blended. Mayo before the blender

Next, I gave it a shot with my immersion blender: Mayo after blender

See how much lighter and paler the mayonnaise is! I can only speculate that the blender created a much finer emulsion, and incorporated more air, reducing the impact of the oil and yolk color on light scattered off the micro-droplets.

Finally, I went ahead and added flavorings (a little dijon mustard, a ton of paprika, salt, pepper, and more vinegar). In this comparison against commercial mayonnaise, you can see that the result is now darker and more orange, courtesy of the paprika. It is also clear how close the color was before adding paprika.

Mayo after seasoning

Clearly, the use of whole eggs is the biggest part of the equation. It is clear that by adding more water to thin the emulsion and then adding oil to achieve the proper consistency, I could make this even paler, very close to store mayonnaise. The use of mechanical blenders may assist in the process, producing a finer and paler emulsion.

Recipes that include paprika also yield a more yellow-orange result; I think it is for this reason that my commercial mayonnaise uses "paprika oleoresin" in place of ground paprika.

Finally, the use of more heavily colored olive oil appears to darken the resulting mayonnaise. Given how bland my mayonnaise was with only a touch of olive oil, I would encourage you to blend in water and additional oil, rather than avoiding the olive oil. Ideally, the water would be added about a tsp at a time, when the mayonnaise is still somewhat liquid.

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My home made mayo is made with whole eggs and an ordinary 600W kitchen blender. No problem. I usually use part sunflower part olive oil. The olive oil adds a lot of flavor and color. Less olive oil, whiter mayo. Nearly store mayonnaise. –  BaffledCook Jun 20 '11 at 15:49
    
How many eggs per volume oil does your nearly store-colored mayo have? I was really tempted to do a series of mayonnaises with different whole egg/yolk/water amounts and oil blends and show pictures. I had noticed that olive oil plays a role in darker mayonnaises, but I'm still convinced it's mostly related to yolks vs. whole eggs vs. water (and in my case, adding a dash of dijon mustard). If you use a whole egg, I think that's nearly half the amount of yolks needed to achieve the necessary water content for the volume. –  BobMcGee Jun 20 '11 at 15:59
    
My last batch had one whole egg, 100ml sunflower and under 150 olive oil. It gets thick. I also added 1/2 garlic clove. A tablespoon of sherry vinegar and salt. –  BaffledCook Jun 20 '11 at 16:04
    
Huh. Interesting -- that's about half the yolks I'd normally use, and I tend to get a brightly colored result. Not sure if this confirms or supplements the answer. It does demand additional experimentation, however. To the kitchen! (Oh gods, I'm going to waste so much eggs and oil.) –  BobMcGee Jun 21 '11 at 5:33
    
I tried it. Pictures will go up tomorrow. 1.5 cups vegetable oil to one whole, very jumbo egg, with some white wine vinegar. The result isn't quite as pale as grocery store mayo, but if you doubled the oil and simply added more water, you'd pretty much be there. I can also confirm that the oil is noticeably darker when I add a splash of olive oil. Also, mayo without much olive oil is pretty bland. I think that's a big part of what makes home mayo so much tastier. –  BobMcGee Jun 21 '11 at 6:24
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Mayonnaise is an emulsion (small bubbles of watersoluble liquid suspended in fat). All the small bubbles break the light; this is why any emulsion is white per default (like milk).

Of course, when an emulsion contains a dye, it has the color of the dye (or rather, a mix of white and the color of the dye). This is what happens in homemade mayonnaise, it gets colored yellow from the pigments in egg yolk (primarily xanthophylls).

Store bought mayonnaise, on the other hand does not contain egg yolks. It is made by combining oil, emulsifiers, and proteins (usually whey proteins). I think that they can't sell you a real mayo even if they wanted to, because of the raw egg content. But even if selling it is legal, it'd have a shelf life from 3-5 days from production to consumption. This is clearly not feasible in supermarket distribution. So they just forego the eggs and make a stable sauce without it, calling it "mayonnaise". As its ingredients don't contain a dye, it stays white - or rather off-white, because the oil itself is yellow.

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In some countries there are plenty of store bought mayonnaises containing real egg yolks. They use pasteurisation to make it last. Chicken can lay very anaemic eggs if feed particular diets, these are not sold as fresh eggs and are used in processed foods, and I assume also in "white" mayonnaise. Note: in some cultures white mayonnaise is not popular, and deep cream yolk colours are more popular –  TFD Jun 19 '11 at 22:55
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I believe you've confused Miracle Whip and commercial true mayonnaises. These are quite common and quite legal; I just ate some. They use pasteurization or irradiation to kill pathogens and spoilage microbes present in raw eggs. This makes them safe to store, unopened at room temperature. Preservatives and the natural acid level of mayonnaise slow bacterial growth in the fridge, after the package has been opened. However, the egg content still makes them perishable at room temperature, once exposed to bacteria. –  BobMcGee Jun 20 '11 at 1:15
    
@BobMcGee, @TFD This seems to be another regional thing. I have explicitely asked the staff of big German supermarkets (Aldi, Kaufland, Lidl) for mayonnaise made with eggs and they told me that they don't carry such items. Irradiation of eggs is probably not permitted in the EU, which would explain why they don't sell "real mayo". Pasteurization doesn't expand the shelf life above 5 days at fridge temp. I don't think that I've ever seen store bought mayo with real eggs. Maybe it is available in specialty stores, I've never looked for it very hard. –  rumtscho Jun 20 '11 at 13:10
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It may not be carried by German markets, due to differences in your health and food codes. However, real mayo is quite common in the US and Canada, and I can assure you that shelf life unopened is much more than 5 days. Once opened, the fridge life greatly exceeds that too. Heck, my homemade mayonnaise can last more than 5 days in the fridge in many cases. –  BobMcGee Jun 20 '11 at 15:19
    
it's not a EU thing, as mayo with pastorized eggs is sold in Italy for instance. @BobMcGee: Miracle Whip contains egg yolks too. Furthermore, on the German Kraft website I found this: tinyurl.com/6395jz2 which seems to indicate that egg yolks are used in Germany too (my German is very poor, I translated the page with Google, so I may be wrong). –  nico Jun 20 '11 at 15:53
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