From slathering it on sandwiches to baking goods or creating a sauce, few condiments are as versatile as mayonnaise. But does mayo contain milk?
The short answer is no. Despite its thick, creamy texture and white color, mayonnaise does not contain any dairy, milk, or lactose. Because of this, mayo is perfectly safe to eat for those with dairy allergies or lactose intolerance.
Most major brands of mayonnaise found in stores - such as Hellmann's, Kraft, Heinz, Miracle Whip, and Duke's - are dairy-free.
However, some mayo recipes include milk products, which you should watch out for if you or someone in your household suffers from dairy allergies.
Read on to learn more about this versatile kitchen staple and whether it is safe for those with common food allergies, including lactose intolerance.
What is Mayonnaise Made of?
The three main ingredients in mayonnaise are egg yolks, oil (typically soybean oil), vinegar, and lemon juice. Other less common ingredients may include sugar, salt, paprika, garlic, onion, or mustard.
The simplest mayonnaise ingredients contain only egg, oil, and vinegar. Seasonings like salt and spices - such as rosemary extract - are often added to add flavor.
How is Mayonnaise Made?
Despite its complex appearance and list of ingredients on the jar of Miracle Whip sitting on your local grocery store shelf, making mayonnaise is quite simple.
Mayonnaise is considered an emulsion, which means it is a mixture of liquids that wouldn't ordinarily mix. The egg yolks contain water, which doesn't typically mix with oil.
However, the oil is added to the eggs slowly while the eggs are beaten at high speed, effectively suspending and dispersing one liquid through another. The mixture won't properly emulsify if the oil is added too quickly or it isn't whisked at a high enough speed.
However, an emulsifier is needed to stabilize the combined product to keep the oil and water from separating.
Egg yolks contain lecithin, an emulsifier that keeps mayonnaise from separating into its basic elements, resulting in a thick, creamy spread.
Here's a video that shows the entire process of how mayonnaise is made.
Is All Mayonnaise Dairy-Free?
Most major brands of mayonnaise found in stores don't contain dairy.
Here's a list of naturally dairy-free brands found in stores:
- Duke's Real Mayonnaise
- Great Value Mayonnaise
- Heinz Real Mayonnaise
- Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise
- Hellmann's Organic Mayonnaise
- Kewpie Mayonnaise
- Kraft Real Mayonnaise
- Miracle Whip
- Primal Kitchen Avocado Oil Mayo
- Sir Kensington's Classic Mayo
- Tessemae's Organic Mayonnaise
- Trader Joe's Organic Mayonnaise
- Whole Foods 365 Mayonnaise
- Wholesome Pantry Organic Real Mayonnaise
While the brands listed above are free of dairy or lactose, several products that use mayonnaise as a base - such as salad dressings - include dairy.
Some eggless mayonnaise recipes substitute condensed milk for eggs. This mayonnaise tastes slightly sweet and has a thicker texture than traditional mayonnaise.
A product called milk mayonnaise is quite popular in Spain and Portugal and uses liquid milk instead of mayonnaise.
Some salad dressings that use mayonnaise as a base often include dairy products such as parmesan cheese and buttermilk, so watch out for this the next time you are perusing the shelves for a dairy-free salad dressing.
There is always a risk of cross-contamination in factories where mayonnaise is manufactured, so keep this in mind if you or someone in your household suffers from severe dairy allergies.
The only way to ensure completely dairy-free mayonnaise is to make it yourself from eggs, oil, and vinegar.
Is Mayonnaise Gluten-Free?
Traditional mayo is gluten-free. After all, its ingredients are egg, oil, and vinegar.
However, this isn't always accurate - especially when it comes to store-bought mayonnaise.
Homemade mayonnaise is ordinarily gluten-free, but major brands of mayonnaise sold in stores often have added ingredients containing gluten. These include:
- Vinegar - while balsamic or white vinegar is gluten-free, some vinegar, such as malt or rice vinegar, contain gluten.
- Stabilizers - these include emulsifiers and agents that thicken the mayonnaise. Some manufacturers use flour or other wheat-based ingredients to thicken the mayo.
Cross-contamination is also possible in factories, so keep this in mind when picking up a jar of store-bought mayo, even if the ingredients don't include any sources of gluten.
Only homemade mayonnaise or mayonnaise with a "certified gluten-free" label is safe for those with gluten allergies, as this mayo is manufactured in a plant that doesn't share the same equipment with products containing gluten.
The following brands of mayonnaise are certified gluten-free and dairy-free, so they are safe for people with dairy allergies and celiac disease.
- Better Body Foods (also soy-free, since avocado oil is used instead of soybean oil)
- Blue Plate's Real Mayonnaise
- Chosen Foods Classic Mayo (free of gluten, dairy, and soy)
- Cool Chef Organic Mayo
- Duke's Real Mayonnaise
- Primal Kitchen (free of gluten, dairy, and soy)
- Sir Kensington's Classic Mayo
- Spectrum - has a variety made with olive oil, making this version free of gluten, dairy, and soy
- Tessamae's Organic Mayonnaise
Is Mayonnaise Vegan?
Because traditional mayonnaise contains eggs, it isn't considered vegan. However, some certified vegan mayonnaise recipes swap the eggs for plant-based alternatives.
Hellmann's and Sir Kensington's make vegan mayonnaise, and a few lesser-known brands specialize in vegan, plant-based mayo varieties.
Chosen Foods Vegan Mayo and Nuco's Vegan Coconut Avocado Mayo are two of the most popular vegan mayo options.
What is Vegan Mayonnaise Made of?
Because of the simplicity of the ingredients in mayonnaise, making vegan mayo doesn’t include much extra effort.
Most homemade recipes advise switching out the eggs for soy milk, which contains emulsifying properties similar to those found in egg yolks.
Learn more about the benefits of soy milk here.
Several vegetable oils can also replace egg yolks, with vegan recipes including avocado oil (one of the most popular options), canola oil, sunflower oil, and soybean oil.
If you don’t have time to whip up your own batch of vegan mayo, the following brands of mayonnaise can be bought at many stores and are certified vegan:
- Chosen Foods Vegan Mayo – replaces eggs with avocado oil, aquafaba (the liquid brine from chickpeas), and fava beans.
- Follow Your Heart Veganaise – replaces egg with canola oil
- Good & Gather (Target store-brand) Vegan Dressing – switches out eggs for canola oil and pea protein
- Nuco’s Vegan Coconut Avocado Mayo – combines coconut and avocado oils to replace the egg yolks. Also certified allergen-free and safe for those with soy, canola, and gluten allergies.
Which Mayonnaise is Best for Those With Dairy or Food Allergies?
Most mayonnaise doesn't contain dairy, making it safe for those with dairy allergies or lactose intolerance, but what about those with other allergies, such as soy, gluten, and even eggs?
For those with food allergies, it can be difficult to find mayonnaise that is safe to consume. However, you can modify some recipes to accommodate your food allergies.
For those with egg allergies, milk mayonnaise is a safe substitute. If you are allergic to both eggs and dairy, make milk mayonnaise while substituting the dairy milk for another kind of non-dairy milk.
Flax milk contains no known allergens, making it the safest alternative for those with food allergies.
It also has a relatively neutral flavor so that it won't affect the taste of your milk mayonnaise.
A downside is many grocery stores don’t sell it.
If you or someone in your household suffers from dairy allergies, don't fear - mayonnaise is free of dairy.
Suppose you have other food allergies, such as soy or gluten intolerance, or are living a vegan lifestyle.
In that case, there are alternatives to traditional mayo that don't contain allergens or animal products.
For highly sensitive allergy sufferers, the best way to know exactly what is in your mayonnaise is to make it yourself.
Several recipes are available that include alternatives for eggs, soybean oil, ingredients including gluten, dairy, and more.