There’s no doubt that mayonnaise is a polarizing condiment. The rich egginess of it is absolutely gag-worthy to some, but other folks can’t get enough of the stuff. For them, it is a must on a sandwich, and it’s a dip for fries and other assorted snackables. No matter how you feel about mayonnaise, you may never have considered mayo’s history. Let’s go through all the Ws: Who invented mayonnaise? When was mayonnaise invented? Where was mayonnaise invented? Why was mayonnaise invented? (I can answer that last one now: It’s delicious on a sandwich or as a dip.) And squirt out a dollop of answers about mayo’s origins.
When was mayonnaise invented?
There are plenty of mayo-esque sauces that predate mayonnaise, such as remoulade and aioli. But for something approximating the mayo we know today, you have to go to the 18th century.
Where was mayonnaise invented?
Mayonnaise most likely originated in Spain. Specifically, Mahon, the capital of Minorca, Spain.
Who invented mayonnaise?
Legend has it that a French duke’s chef invented mayonnaise. After Minorca was captured by the Duc de Richelieu in 1756, his chef purportedly presented him with a sauce made from the only ingredients available, oil and egg, at his victory celebration. The sauce was a hit, and it was named Mahonnaise after its place of origin.
However, some food historians argue that Richelieu’s chef likely learned of the sauce from locals, making mayo a Spanish (not French) invention. Whatever the exact truth, there’s no doubt that this was a pivotal moment in condiment history.
Mayonnaise was a big hit from the start, but the innovations didn’t end there. Marie-Antonie Careme, the famed French chef, is credited with the idea of lightening mayonnaise by emulsifying the ingredients, which is how we enjoy it today.
When did mayonnaise become an American staple?
The first mayonnaise sold commercially in jars was in Philadelphia in 1907. A woman named Amelia Schlorer marketed the recipe used in her family’s grocery store, predating the beginning of Hellman’s mayonnaise by a very short time. And the biggest mayonnaise competitor, Miracle Whip, was introduced in 1933, though legally it can’t be sold as mayonnaise and is instead considered “salad dressing.” (Want to know the difference between mayonnaise and Miracle Whip? Check out our explainer.)
The rest, as they say, is history, slathered on some bread, topped with bacon, lettuce, and tomato, and scarfed down.