My question relates to the 5 of 6 emulsifying agents I am aware of for stabilizing emulsification. namely; egg yolk, garlic, mustard, tomato paste, honey, and cream.

I haven't personally used each of these as as emulsifying agents but that's the extent of my list. Anyways. So my question is, for any given particular emulsion does there exist a most useful emulsifying agent to Stabilize that particular emulsion? For instance, if I am making an oil in water emulsion, like a hollandaise sauce where the emulsifying agent is the egg yolk or whatever, would egg yolks yield an equally stabilized emulsion if used in an water in oil emulsion like a vinaigrette? Or would an alternative absent be more appropriate for that type of emulsion?

Again, not interested in any specific case, more of the general answer. I imagine the emulsifying agent is useful because it has both a hydrophobic and a hydrophilic side, kind of like dish soap, which lends it to uniting oils and waters so well... I don't know though if there are particular characteristics about specific emulsions that would make mustard more appropriate in one case but not as desirable in another.

Obviously this is assuming all other variables being equal, and with out consideration necessarily of taste... I mean this is cooking so everything has to do with taste but you know what I mean

  • 1
    Of course there is... taste. Do you really think it is a good idea to make your hollandaise with tomato paste or honey instead of yolks? Such a sauce wouldn't be hollandaise. Anyway, you say "five of six" but you list six and don't say which of them you're excluding.
    – Catija
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 4:32
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    I don't know if you read my entire question...
    – user74091
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 4:33
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    I did. But you can't just decide to ignore taste. The definition of these sauces or recipes requires the ingredients that they call for or else they cease to be that product. Regardless, you might want to reconsider your list. I don't think that all of those things are actually emulsifiers.
    – Catija
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 4:45
  • Clearly taste is important in cooking. The entire point of my question however was to solicit an answer regarding whether or not their exist emulsifiers that lend themselves to being better at stabilizing oil in water emulsions vs water in oil emulsions and vice versa.
    – user74091
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 11:34
  • Is garlic an emulsifier? Never seen it used that way before.
    – Caleb
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 16:20

1 Answer 1


From a chemistry standpoint, yes, there is a difference. That depends on the desired effect and composition of your emulsion, so there are more appropriate emulsifiers for water-on-oil than oil-on-water, and also depends on what size of micelles you want forming, texture and etc.

A complete explanation is a whole course in university and depends on a lot more details, so that's the condensed general version.

  • Can you give any examples?
    – Cascabel
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 23:40
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    as the OP pointed out, egg yolks (and therefore, lecithin) are better for emulsifying oil on water emulsions because they're more soluble in water than in oil. Contrary to what OP thinks, vinaigrette is oil on water, not water on oil. Water on oil emulsions are not very common in cooking (the only example I can come with is butter) Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 23:53
  • A vinaigrette is water IN oil - as OP said
    – canardgras
    Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 17:09
  • If the recipe is more water than oil, it is oil in water. If it's more oil than water, it is water in oil. The recipe I normally use is more water than oil, so oil in water. Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 17:39

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