Take your sandwich or fries to the next level with this easy lemon garlic aioli, made with fresh garlic, mayo, and a splash of fresh lemon juice!
With this 5-minute homemade garlic aioli recipe, you get all the olive oil and garlic flavor of a traditional aioli without the laborious work of making an emulsion by hand. It’s the perfect hybrid of traditional and cheater’s aioli, making it the best aioli recipe out there!
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Imagine, if you will, one of those cheesy infomercials that starts with black-and-white footage of people failing miserably at simple tasks. Tired of dipping your fries in ketchup? Boring sandwiches got you down? Crab cakes dry and lackluster?
Listen up, garlic lovers! This easy garlic aioli is the creamy condiment you need in your life, the perfect dipping sauce for anything you can imagine.
Aioli is the new mayo. It’s the new ketchup. It’s the new remoulade. It’s EVERYTHING.
Let’s be clear. This recipe is not *real* aioli. But it’s darn good and you can use it just the same.
What is aioli?
Aioli is a cold, creamy condiment traditionally made of an emulsion of garlic and oil. Many versions add egg yolk to help emulsify the other ingredients, making it more similar to mayo. Cheaters versions (like this one) skip the yolk altogether and use mayonnaise as a creamy base. In America, aioli has become synonymous with flavored mayo.
“Real” or Traditional Aioli
Real aioli, like mayonnaise, is an emulsion. That means that two things that don’t normally mix, like water and oil, form a suspension of tiny oil droplets in the other substance that makes them stay combined and forms a creamy texture.
You can use a couple things to help emulsify ingredients, like:
- dijon mustard (used frequently in vinaigrettes)
- egg yolks (hello, mayonnaise!)
- or you can just use patience and elbow grease.
A true traditional aioli uses the latter — patience and elbow grease, along with a few simple ingredients:
- extra-virgin olive oil (although a more neutral oil can be used, like vegetable oil, canola oil, or grapeseed oil)
- kosher salt
Many versions use a raw egg yolk to help form a more stable emulsion along with a splash of lemon, making it more similar to a homemade mayonnaise recipe. French aiolis may also include mustard, while Spanish aioli uses more garlic and no egg.
The ingredients are mashed and mixed a little at a time until it forms a creamy emulsion that, yes, resembles mayonnaise but tastes like garlic, olive oil, and heaven.
I have tried the “purist” traditional method using just garlic, salt, oil, and a mortar and pestle with no egg.
Not only is it laborious, time-consuming, and tiring, the emulsion also breaks very easily if you add the olive oil even slightly too quickly. You literally have to add the oil a couple drops at a time to get the emulsion to start before you can maybe start adding it a little more quickly.
I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re just trying to prove that you can.
These days, you can also make a homemade aioli using an immersion blender or food processor, although purists may protest.
Cheater’s Aioli or Garlic Mayo
These days aioli has become somewhat synonymous with flavored mayo, and any schmoe (myself included) can call a flavored mayo “aioli” and turn nary a head. I’d guess most of the aioli you’ve had in your life is actually flavored mayonnaise (what I’m calling Cheater’s Aioli) rather than a true aioli.
Cheater’s aioli is great if you:
- Don’t want to or can’t eat raw egg.
- Don’t want to use or clean appliances like an immersion blender or food processor.
- Don’t want to fuss with a time-consuming and easily-broken emulsion of garlic and oil only.
- Want a delicious and flavorful sauce in only five minutes.
While this is a “cheater’s aioli” or short-cut version, it’s still crazy delicious. And I’ve taken a few cues from traditional aioli to better approximate the flavor in this easy version.
So besides mayo, which is the cheat way to achieve the creamy consistency, this also contains a splash of lemon and some olive oil for flavor. And, of course, a paste made from fresh crushed garlic cloves and kosher salt.
What Readers Say:
“This is so tasty, we love it on french fries and burgers! I love the tip for grinding the garlic with the salt to make the paste. Thank you for sharing!”
This easy garlic aioli recipe uses just a few simple ingredients you probably already have!
How to Make Garlic Aioli with Mayonnaise (Easy Cheaters’ Version)
This cheaters’ garlic aioli is a bit easier than making a true aioli but I’m not letting you off the hook completely. You’ll still need to use a couple freshly peeled garlic cloves smashed with some kosher salt until it forms a smooth paste.
Step one: Mince the garlic.
Start by peeling the papery skin off a couple cloves of garlic. Then slice or mince or crush your garlic with a garlic press to get started on forming smaller pieces. How you do this isn’t super important since you’ll be making it into a paste anyway.
Step two: Use kosher salt to make a garlic paste.
If you have a mortar and pestle you can use that to further crush the garlic into a paste. Just add some kosher salt and mash away.
I usually make my garlic paste with the flat of a chef’s knife and a cutting board. The kosher salt is still important both for flavor, and because the course texture helps break down the garlic. Just alternate smashing it down with the flat of your knife and scooping it back up into a pile. Smash and scoop, smash and scoop, until you have a smooth paste.
Step three: Mix garlic paste with the other ingredients.
After making the garlic paste, it’s super simple. That’s why it’s still cheater’s aioli. Just mix the garlic paste into your mayo, add a little lemon juice and olive oil, and stir to combine.
Voila! It may not be true aioli, but you’ll still be licking the bowl.
Substitutions and Variations
Roasted garlic aioli: Substitute roasted garlic for raw garlic for a more mellow garlic flavor. Plus, it’s easier to make roasted garlic into a paste because it’s already softened.
Roasted red pepper aioli: Puree a red bell pepper and mix it in with the garlic and mayo.
Truffle aioli: Swap the olive oil for truffle oil for a rich, earthy aioli that’s perfect on fries!
Herbed lemon aioli: Add some lemon zest and fresh herbs like dill, parsley, or chives (think the herbs you’d use in ranch dressing).
Vegan aioli: Use a vegan mayo instead of regular.
What to do with aioli
The real question is, what can’t you do with aioli? But if you need a few ideas to get your mouth watering, I’ve got you covered. You can:
- Use it as a sandwich spread
- Dip your fries in it (regular or sweet potato fries!)
- Use it as a veggie dip
- Serve it as a sauce for steamed or sautéed green beans
- Dip your ruffles potato chips in it
- Eat it with a spoon (kidding… kind of)
- Spoon it over crab cakes
- Use it instead of tartar sauce
- Put it on a steak or other meat dish
- Dip steamed artichoke leaves in it
While the possibilities are endless, here are a few recipes you can enjoy with your garlic aioli:
- Hot Roast Beef Sandwich with Brie
- Turkey Burger with Hollandaise Sauce (swap aioli for the Hollandaise)
- Sweet Onion Oven Roasted Asparagus
Easy Homemade Garlic Aioli Recipe (Cheaters’ Aioli)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Peel the papery skin off your garlic cloves and mince finely or smash through a garlic press.
- Add kosher salt and smash with the flat of a chef's knife, scoop it into a pile, and smash it again until it forms a relatively smooth paste. You can also do this with a mortar and pestle instead.
- Whisk the garlic paste into the mayonnaise. Add lemon juice and olive oil and whisk until smooth.
- Spread on a sandwich or enjoy as a dip!