The Wine Hack To Fix Separated Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise only consists of egg yolks, oil, and an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice, and making homemade mayo from scratch can be satisfying and rewarding. The homemade stuff tastes far superior to the store-bought kind, but a downside is that even an easy recipe can quickly go wrong. We all know that oil and water (in this case, vinegar) don't mix, so it's all too easy for homemade mayo to separate into oily blobs in a pool of liquid, instead of staying smooth, silky, and well-combined. 

The good news is that broken mayo can be easily fixed with the help of a little white wine — and not by drinking it in order to help you overcome the frustration. Mayonnaise is an oil-in-vinegar emulsion, or a combination of items that usually repel each other. The egg yolks in a recipe working as an emulsifier to bind the mixture. Most recipes instruct you to slowly drizzle the oil into the vinegar while whisking, so small droplets disperse throughout and create that even, creamy texture. Go too fast or don't mix enough, though, and you have a curdled disaster.

White wine can help because it's also a surprisingly effective emulsifier, and whisking it into your mayonnaise can help bring the broken mixture back together. It only takes a small amount of wine and a couple of simple steps to get back on track with a deliciously creamy mayo.

How white wine emulsifies split mayo

In egg yolks, a lipid called lecithin works as an emulsifier. Lecithin's molecules feature one end that attracts water, with the other end attracting oil, which is what enables oil droplets to dissolve in vinegar to make mayonnaise. White wine's emulsifying properties are a little different, owed to a component of the drink known as lees.

Lees are dead yeast cells are left behind in wine after the fermentation process. Some white and sparkling wines, and indeed a few reds, are also aged using lees, meaning they spend more time in contact with these yeast cells. This is meant to give the drink extra flavor, but lees also have emulsifying and foaming properties, which can restore a split mayo. To try this hack, whisk a couple of tablespoons of wine into a small amount of the separated condiment in a bowl, then whisk this wine-and-mayo mixture back into the remaining mayo to smooth out the consistency.

An additional advantage of using white wine to rescue the mayo is, of course, its complementary crisp and lightly acidic taste. You could use red wine, but it would taint the color of the pale mayo and add harsh, overpowering flavors. A dry, non-sweet white wine (and it doesn't have to be an expensive bottle) does the most effective job.

More hacks to fix broken mayo or aioli with no alcohol

While wine is an effective way to fix a split mayo, there are other alternatives if you'd rather avoid consuming alcohol. Try replacing the white wine with a little white wine vinegar, or a teaspoon of another acid such as lemon juice. Just add the vinegar or lemon to a clean bowl, whisk in a small amount of the broken mayonnaise to create a new emulsion, and then slowly pour in the rest of the split sauce, whisking it continuously. It should come together quickly.

Alternatively, try using extra egg in place of acid to transform the broken mixture. Add one egg yolk to a clean bowl, and slowly beat the separated mayonnaise into the yolk. The emulsifying properties within the yolk will work to bind everything together once again, for a smooth, creamy result.

A similar technique can also be applied to a classic homemade aioli that has split. Simply pour the broken aioli into a pourable container such as a jug, and then grab a clean bowl and whisk an egg yolk, a little butter, and fresh garlic together. Slowly pour the broken liquid from the jug into the bowl containing the egg, whisking as you go. Then gently drizzle some fresh oil into the mixture, continuously whisking it, until you've achieved a silky consistency.