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There is very little difference between mayonnaise and hollandaise sauce; each is basically an emulsion of egg yolk and fat, with various emulsifiers and flavours added.

The significant difference is that one uses oil that is already liquid at room temperature, and the other uses butter, which must be melted at a higher temperature.

The question is, why can't they be made exactly the same way, but at a temperature that is just high enough to melt the butter, not more than 40°C or 100°F?
I.e. why does hollandaise also require being effectively cooked as well?

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  • I’ve seen some recipes for hollandaise that actually call for using softened instead of melted butter. You still cook/warm it, so I don’t know what temperature it gets up to. Haven’t tried it myself, though.
    – Joe
    Mar 18 at 15:46
  • to clear up some misconceptions:, egg is the emulsifier that binds the fat/oil (vegetable oil, butter, etc) and acid/water (vinegar, white wine, lemon juice, water, etc). and for butter, it isn't melted to a "high temperature", it is simply melted and is typically clarified. if the temperature is too high then it will cook the egg which will prevent a good product. the acids in both will denature and set the proteins in their respective emulsifications.
    – Mr Shane
    Mar 23 at 22:35
  • as for the temperature, 40C is not a wise choice as that makes it prime environment for bacteria growth.
    – Mr Shane
    Mar 23 at 22:42
  • @MrShane, I picked that temperature simply as an example of a low temperature that will melt butter but not cook egg. But as for bacteria, they might grow rapidly at that temperature, but if it's only for a short time, it won't make much difference. (e.g. if the eggs are heated for 20 minutes, the bacteria might double, but if doubling the bacteria causes a problem, then the original amount of bacteria must have been quite bad to start with. It's in hours that the exponential growth becomes significant. Mar 24 at 0:26

2 Answers 2

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You can make mayonnaise with butter, using the same technique. The probable reason you don't find it on shelves is that it hardens up in the refrigerator, nobody wants to have to warm up their mayo to use it. You can make hollandaise with oil instead of butter.

Although both are emulsions, mayonnaise and hollandaise are different consistencies, achieved with different methods.

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  • Yes, hollandaise is much thinner. But the techniques are essentially identical; mayonnaise can very much be considered a variant of hollandaise (or vice versa) IMO.
    – xuq01
    Mar 22 at 20:18
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The techniques are not actually different. Both sauces are supposed to be made at a higher temperature.

The heat is not meant to melt the butter, it is used because of the way the egg yolk proteins react to heat. Their ability to emulsify the oil and to foam up starts to show at around 50 C, but is optimal at 72 C. This is why you should make both a mayonnaise and a hollandaise in a water bath for optimal results.

Since the mayonnaise also incorporates mustard, which helps with emulsification, and people have very powerful blenders, it is also possible to achieve an emulsified mayonnaise at lower temperatures. So you probably have come across recipes which do this as a time-saving shortcut. It is still not the recommended technique if you want to achieve quality.

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