by Sammy Caiola
Native Foods Cafe
Condiments took me a while. Ketchup disgusted me, never mind
the mysteriously stinky jars of mayo, horseradish and who-knows-what-else on
the door of my family’s fridge. So I lived a life of austerity. Pasta with no
sauce. Salad with no dressing. Dry french fries and cardboard toast.
But as I bloomed into adulthood my taste buds followed suit,
and soon enough I was eager to taste the world full of semi-solid delicacies
waiting in the condiments aisle. I come to you today as an aficionado of
slushes and spreads, ready to address a condiment common in vegan refrigerators:
Regular mayonnaise, a creamy white substance used primarily
on sandwiches, has been around since 1912 and consists generally of egg yolk,
oil and vinegar. Vegan mayonnaise, a cruelty-free alternative generally made
with oil, soy protein, mustard flour and lemon juice, is a more recent
development that’s becoming more and more common in major grocery stores. Which
is good, because most vegans call it a must-have.
I went down to my local Whole Foods to assess their stock of
vegan mayonnaise and, to my delight, found FIVE regular varieties and FOUR
gourmet varieties. For your convenience, I have ranked and described them all
Vegenaise is the trademark mayo of Follow Your Heart, a popular natural
foods line that started in the 1970’s. Their Grape seed oil-based spread is the
best I’ve had so far. It has a lighter mouth-feel than other mayos, with a
pleasant fruity undertone and a kick of citrus. As a perk, grapeseed oil is one
of the only foods that raises HDL, also known as the “good cholesterol.” This
option will make your heart and your stomach happy at the same time.
In contrast to the grapeseed variety, this strain of
Vegenaise has a buttery flavor more typical of standard mayonnaise. It’s a
strong flavor, but not overwhelmingly so, and its salty overtones will make it
a great supplement to any sandwich. I’d also be willing to bet that it does
well in a potato salad.
Our favorite producer of vegan butter strikes again with
“Mindful Mayo”, available in organic and non-organic varieties. It’s a bit
pungent on first bite, but once your palette adjusts you might find it
enjoyable. Unlike the Vegenaise variety, which plays to its inner mustard and
lemon more than anything else, Earth Balance really highlights its oil base.
It’s a smoother spread, and probably a good bet if you’re making an aioli, as
its subtler flavor is more easily masked.
This is the original vegan mayo. So it’s really a relief
that the industry’s expanded. This old-timer is similar in flavor to its
reduced fat counterpart, but the unhindered blast of flavor makes it difficult
to stomach. Vinegar is accentuated where lemon should be, making it a stronger spread. Not for the faint of heart.
This bottom-ranking substance, crafted by the lovely folks
who make my extra-firm tofu, is charged with the biggest crime a vegan mayo can
commit: not tasting like mayo. It’s oil, vinegar and lemon-based like the
others, but the not-so-subtle addition of turmeric, paprika, garlic powder,
xantham gum and some things I can’t pronounce certainly doesn’t help this sad
spread to fit in with the cool kids. The only upside here is that the Nasoya
contains only 1.5g of fat where the others contain 9 (the reduced Vegenaise
contains 5). Still, I’ll take a little more fat for better flavor any day.
BUT WAIT. The fun is not over. Select Whole Foods Stores
carry a special gourmet line of Vegenaise which includes six flavors: Roasted
Garlic, Pesto. Tartar Sauce, Barbecue, Horse Radish and Chipotle. Wowza!
came up with this “flavored mayo” concept a while ago and I’d say it’s about
time we emulated it. These little jars are jam-packed with flavor and will help
you make some serious improvements to your tofurky-on-wheat (or whatever your
sandwich of choice might be). I
found four varieties at the big-city Whole Foods (no such luck in the ‘burbs)
and slathered them on some crackers for a yummy late-afternoon snack. Here’s my
1. Pesto: This pesto mayo really jazzed up my
afternoon. So much so that I just started eating it on crackers like it was a
dip. While obviously not as fresh as homemade pesto, the basil really pops out,
even through all the regular vegenaise ingredients. I would happily put this on
a spinach-and-tomato sandwich and maybe even on a pizza!
2. Chipotle: A far stretch from chipotle salsa,
this mayo captures the essential chipotle flavor in a creamier, more versatile
form. It’s got a delightful smoky flavor with a hot after-taste, and it’s so
distinctive as a chipotle that it hardly tastes like mayo. Still, the creamy
texture is ideal, and I’ll happily put it on any wrap or sandwich.
3. Roasted Garlic: Don’t have time to do a homemade
garlic aioli? No worries. Just grab this little guy off the shelf and you’ll
get your stinky-breath fix no problem. No one can accuse this mayo of being
lackluster- it has enough personality for the whole gang. Spread (in small
quantities) on any hearty bread for a scrumptious surprise.
4. Barbecue: How they got the “natural smoky
flavor” without using any meat is a mystery to me, but I’m not sure they quite
pulled it off. The “fake barbecue” completely overpowers any subtleties in the
original mayo, and I can’t think of a thing I would put it on.
It’s a vegan mayo fiesta!