To prepare this healthy mayonnaise shopping guide, I went to some local stores to check out the mayonnaise selection. I was amazed by the variety of mayo products—I found vegan mayo, Paleo mayo, light mayo, organic mayo, etc.
The fact that mainstream brands like Hellmann’s are now offering organic “healthy” mayonnaise and versions prepared with higher-quality eggs and oils shows how much consumer interest there is in healthier foods–and this is great news!
More good news: there are some good and okay healthy mayonnaise options available, including ones you can buy at most grocery stores. (Spoiler alert: Buy organic mayo, and skip “light” versions.)
The bad news? Of all the brands I looked at, only one is really, truly Good Stuff. As I ranked these mayos from most to least to least healthful, I realized that there needed to be extra categories for this review. So, you’ll see below that we’ve got Best Stuff, Good Stuff, Okay Stuff, Sneaky Stuff, and Bad Stuff to help you pick a healthy mayonnaise.
As you’ll see below, the Best Stuff when it comes to mayonnaise is Primal Kitchen Mayo: It’s the only brand to use only avocado oil for fat, there are only six ingredients, the eggs are organic, and it comes in a glass jar.
You know I’m a big fan of making things from scratch, so you probably won’t be surprised to hear that the healthiest and most delicious mayo is made in your own kitchen. If you’d like to try making your own mayo—it’s actually really simple!—check out the recipe at the end of this post. But don’t worry, I’ll also give you my thoughts on all the store brands.
What is mayo?
In its traditional form, mayo is a simple condiment. It’s a combination of:
- Egg and/or egg yolk
- Acidic ingredients like lemon juice or vinegar
- Other flavoring ingredients (salt, mustard, etc.)
The best store-bought mayo products have ingredient lists that are very close to this one. The worst products have a several more ingredients, including highly processed and sketchy ingredients (see below). Vegan mayo products, because they don’t contain egg, have other ingredients to make up for it.
Believe it or not, Hellmann’s Organic Mayonnaise is the second-best mayo I could find. The primary ingredients are organic, and they use organic soybean oil.
What’s wrong with most mayonnaise?
Ask people what’s unhealthy about mayo, and most will tell you it’s because mayo is “high in fat.” It’s true that traditional mayo has a lot of fat in it—oil is the primary ingredient. But there’s more to the story. Most conventional mayo products contain:
- Poor-quality oils: The worst thing about most mayo is not the number of fat grams per serving, but rather the quality of the oils. Canola and soy are the most common oils you’ll find on mayo ingredient labels, because they are cheap and neutral in flavor.I’m wary of canola oil because non-organic canola is usually genetically modified. Even organic canola oil is the product of a lot of processing, involving chemicals and high temperatures that can compromise the fatty acids, even hydrogenating some.And soybean oil worries me because unless it’s organic, it is most likely from genetically modified plants. (Because there is so much controversy concerning vegetable oils, when preparing food at home, I use only olive, coconut, avocado, or toasted sesame oil and sometimes butter or ghee.)
- Poor-quality, conventional eggs: Eggs and egg yolks are another key ingredient in mayo. Cheap, non-organic eggs are problematic because conventionally raised chickens are typically exposed to higher levels of agricultural chemicals, environmental toxins, hormones, and antibiotics.Sadly, most chickens are raised in terrible conditions. Although “free range” and “cage free” sound good, those terms don’t necessarily mean that chickens have a better life or their eggs are any healthier than those from more confined animals.
- Preservatives keep mayo from spoiling. That’s a good thing. What’s not good is that a lot of conventional mayo contains concerning preservatives like potassium sorbate and calcium disodium EDTA.
- You will find highly processed starches and added sugar (including high-fructose corn syrup) in a lot of mayo products, especially light and vegan versions.
- “Natural” flavors are often anything but natural. They are usually highly processed and can have a lot of concerning additives that are not listed separately.
- Plastic jars and squeeze bottles are best avoided because plastics often leach unhealthy chemicals, including hormone disruptors and carcinogens.
Follow Your Heart Organic Vegenaise is the best choice for those of you looking for an egg-free mayo, although it contains soy. (They do have a soy-free version using safflower oil, but nothing is organic in that one).
Healthy mayonnaise ingredients
Fortunately, not all store-bought mayo is Bad Stuff. When you look at the ingredients in good mayo products, you’ll see a relatively short list of familiar, whole-food ingredients.
As I mentioned before, when you’re shopping for mayo, look for organic and non-light versions.
Here are the ingredients I found in healthier versions of store-bought mayo:
- Healthier, organic oils: The best oils I found in good store-bought mayo were avocado oil and olive oil. Other vegetable oils aren’t ideal, but because mayo is a condiment, you’re probably not eating a ton of it. Soybean oil is okay if it’s organic.
- Organic eggs: If you’re eating animal products like eggs, you should look for organic versions to reduce your exposure to agricultural and environmental toxins. The very best eggs are from organic, pasture-raised chickens.
- Preservatives like rosemary oil are much better than the highly processed ones you’ll find in most conventional mayo products.
- Real flavoring ingredients like salt, herbs, and spices are preferable to vague “natural flavors.”
- Glass jars are better than plastic containers because glass won’t leach any substances into your food.
You’ll notice below that I’ve linked a bunch of products to Thrive Market. Thrive is a Costco-meets-Whole-Foods-meets-Amazon model, with hard-to-find healthful foods delivered, for $1.95, at steeply discounted prices. I encourage you all to give it a try! (And Thrive has agreed to give you a free jar of Primal Kitchen Mayo when you do.)
The Best Stuff
Primal Kitchen Mayo is my new favorite healthy mayonnaise.
We have the Paleo trend to thank for this product. I like that there are only six ingredients, the only oil used is avocado oil, the eggs are organic, and it comes in a glass jar.
When a told Thrive how much I love this mayo, they offered a free jar to my readers who try Thrive, with this link.
The Good Stuff
Hellmann’s Organic Mayonnaise was a pleasant surprise. The primary ingredients are straightforward and organic, with the exception of “natural flavors,” which I’m wary of.
They use organic soybean oil, so if you are avoiding soy, this mayo isn’t for you.
Spectrum Organic Mayonnaise with Flax Seed is the healthiest mayo from Spectrum. It has soybean oil, but if you have no issue with soy, this is a good pick because it’s organic and doesn’t have any weird ingredients.
The Okay Stuff
Woodstock Organic Mayo is what I happen to have in my fridge right now. I like that the ingredients are simple and organic, and that the oil is expeller-pressed soybean oil rather than canola oil (soy isn’t ideal, but it’s better than canola and okay in small amounts; I don’t use it in my home cooking). I have the squeeze bottle, which is convenient, but the plastic is not great. If I buy this product again, I’ll choose the version that comes in a glass jar!
Hain Safflower Mayonnaise was a mayonnaise that I first turned to when I began eating natural foods many decades ago. (It was a good pick back then because it doesn’t contain some of the weird stuff in regular mayonnaise, like modified food starch and potassium sorbate. Also, vegetable oils were considered healthy, especially sunflower and safflower oil.)
This mayo is an okay choice for people avoiding soy ingredients (the only oil they use is expeller-pressed safflower oil), but it loses points because none of the ingredients are organic, and I’m a little wary of the “natural flavors.”
Nasoya Vegan Nayonaise is an okay choice for vegans. It’s definitely better than the Hellman’s vegan mayo. I wish it were organic, and it is soy milk-based, so people avoiding soy will need to look elsewhere (Vegenaise and Nuco have soy-free versions).
Nuco Coconut Vegan Mayo is another okay choice for vegans or anyone trying to avoid eggs or soy ingredients. Most of the ingredients are not organic, but I like that they use the best plant-based oils (non-GMO coconut and avocado) and real flavoring ingredients.
Spectrum Organic Mayonnaise with Cage Free Eggs sounds like Good Stuff, especially because it’s organic. However, the oils are a combination of canola and soy—not the best oils out there. It’s Okay Stuff and a step above the Hain Safflower Mayo.
The low-fat version uses safflower oil, which is okay, as well as soy milk powder for thickening, so you’ll want to skip it if you can’t do soy. The grapeseed oil version has soy also, but some research says grapeseed oil raises good cholesterol.
Finally, they have a soy-free version using safflower oil, but nothing is organic.
The Sneaky Stuff
Spectrum Organic Mayonnaise with Olive Oil is Sneaky because soybean oil and canola oil are the primary oils. Olive oil is the fourth ingredient, so this is definitely not an olive oil-based mayo! Aside from that, it’s an okay choice, but not exactly a healthy mayonnaise.
Hellmann’s Vegan Carefully Crafted Dressing is certified vegan and non-GMO, but nothing is organic, and they add some Bad Stuff ingredients like modified food starch, modified potato starch, and calcium disodium EDTA. Also, I’m a little doubtful that the soybean oil is truly non-GMO, since almost all non-organic soy is genetically modified.
The Bad Stuff
Most of the conventional mayo products out there have sketchy ingredients. Here’s just a sampling:
Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise has mostly straightforward ingredients, but it does contain calcium disodium EDTA and “natural flavors.” Not surprisingly, none of the ingredients is organic. They boast that their eggs are “100% certified cage-free eggs,” but that means nothing from the health perspective, and little to nothing for the well-being of the chickens.
Kraft Miracle Whip is what I grew up with. It contains modified food starch, high fructose corn syrup, and potassium sorbate. Yuck!
Some people prefer Duke’s Real Mayonnaise to Hellmann’s. It has similar ingredients, but they don’t offer an organic version. It has the same calcium disodium EDTA as a preservative, as well as “natural flavor.” The oil is soybean oil, which is likely from genetically modified soybeans.
Yummy Home-Made Healthy Mayonnaise
I made up my own recipe from looking at two different cookbooks in my kitchen:
- The Nourished Kitchen by Jennifer McGruther
- Mediterranean Paleo Cooking by Caitlin Weeks, Nail Boumrar, Diane Sanfilippo
- 4 egg yolks, room temperature (get the highest quality eggs you can find—I like pastured, organic eggs)
- 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon finely ground unrefined sea salt
- 1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice or 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups organic extra-virgin olive oil
- Put the lemon juice, egg yolks, and salt in a food processor. Pulse the ingredients for about 10 seconds.
- With the food processor running, very slowly add the olive oil in a thin, continuous stream.
- When the mixture thickens, stop adding oil. You may have some oil left over. If the mixture becomes too thick, add a few teaspoons of water until it reaches the desired consistency.
You can keep this healthy mayonnaise in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to one week. Mayo can last for a couple of months if you ferment it.
To your health,