I’ll never forget being on vacation as a kid, watching the hotel room TV, and seeing an ad for a local grocery store. In it, they would demonstrate one particular product’s flaw, and then cut to footage of a different, better product that the grocery store had on sale. When they got to mayonnaise, they had a woman trying to write a grocery list and struggling to spell the word: “M-A-Y-O-N-A…M-A-Y-O-N-N…” Hard cut to discounted Miracle Whip, the implication being that this woman was so frustrated trying to spell mayonnaise that she simply decided to buy Miracle Whip instead. Even as a kid this struck me as a hilariously demented premise. Are we to believe that her frustration and shame at misspelling a word on her own grocery list led her to purchase a different product? Not to mention, “mayo” is easy to spell and widely used. To me, this ridiculous ad conveyed one unintended message: The only thing Miracle Whip has over mayonnaise is that it’s easier to spell.
But is this the truth? When it comes to mayo vs Miracle Whip, is spelling the biggest differentiator? What is the difference between Miracle Whip and mayo, anyway? Let’s find out.
What is mayo?
The history of mayonnaise is somewhat cloaked in mystery. There are contradictory theories about exactly who invented it, but it is generally accepted that it made its debut in 1806 and most likely came from the city of Mahon (which may explain the name mayonnaise) in Menorca, Spain. In the U.S., commercial mayonnaise in jars first hit Philadelphia shelves in 1907. Today, a jar of Hellman’s mayo contains “canola oil, water, liquid whole egg, vinegar, liquid yolk, salt, sugar, spices, concentrated lemon juice and calcium disodium edta.”
What is Miracle Whip?
Miracle Whip premiered at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, where it was introduced as a less expensive alternative to mayonnaise. It was immensely popular, initially outselling mayo. Today, it’s made by Kraft Heinz and contains “water, soybean oil, water, high fructose corn syrup, vinegar, modified cornstarch, eggs, salt, natural flavor, mustard flour, potassium sorbate as a preservative, paprika, spice, dried garlic.”
How about the flavor of mayo vs. Miracle Whip?
Essentially, there’s a spicy sweetness to Miracle Whip versus mayo, which is more savory, less tangy, and richer. And while these two products might seem fairly similar, ultimately the main difference between mayo and Miracle Whip comes down to personal preference. While I personally love mayonnaise and consider it to be a complete necessity for a sandwich, there are a lot of people who find the rich egginess of it revolting. And for those who do love mayo, Miracle Whip may be a bit of a challenge precisely because it is so similar—it enters a sort of culinary uncanny valley where it’s eerily close to mayonnaise while being vexingly different.
No matter your tastes, there’s no wrong answer when it comes to enjoying Miracle Whip or mayonnaise. Just make sure spelling isn’t the reason you pick one over the other.