Is mayo dairy? What is in mayonnaise anyways?

Mayo is a staple in many of our diets. It’s worth investigating what’s in it! I wanted to know what was in mayonnaise, and especially whether or not it contained dairy. When I asked myself ‘is mayo dairy?’ here’s what I found.

So, is mayo dairy? Plain, old-fashioned mayo is generally dairy-free. In its most basic form, mayonnaise is simply an emulsified mixture of oil, egg, and vinegar. Milk and/or milk products are not a traditional ingredient in mayonnaise, although milk products may be added in some recipes.

If you’re following a strict dairy-free diet, then you will want to check the label to make absolute certain the brand you’re buying is lactose or dairy free.

In this article, we will go over what mayo is generally made of and when it can be considered a dairy product.

Is mayo dairy
Is mayo dairy? What is in mayonnaise anyways?

What is mayo made of?

Mayo is generally considered dairy-free because the main ingredients lack any milk products. Any food produced from or containing the milk of mammals is considered a dairy product.

None of the common traditional ingredients in mayonnaise contain milk. That being said, some recipes do add in milk products or are produced in facilities that also handle milk. So, if you have a lactose or dairy allergy, or are lactose intolerant, be sure to double-check as some mayo may contain dairy!

Old-fashioned mayonnaise recipes are generally milk-free (perfect for those of us who like making our own mayonnaise!).

Making dairy-free mayonnaise
Is mayo dairy? What is in mayonnaise anyways?

Traditional mayonnaise ingredients

Wanting to make homemade mayonnaise? This way you can make sure that it’s dairy free!

The traditional ingredients of ‘real mayonnaise’ are:

  • Egg
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Lemon Juice
  • Vinegar
  • Mustard
  • Salt

Depending on the recipe you choose, they might call for organic lemon juice concentrate, organic distilled vinegar, or organic egg yolks/organic whole eggs. Honestly, lemon juice or vinegar will probably work either way. Buying organic is totally up to you! If you can afford it and it’s important for you, go for it!

For an example recipe, see this mayo recipe for how to make your own mayonnaise in a Vitamix blender. My favorite way to make mayo is with an immersion blender. Here’s Gordon Ramsey presenting the mayo recipe and method our household has always used.

No milk products are called for in these and other popular homemade mayo recipes, making them safe for lactose intolerant people! I’ve seen one mayo recipe call for milk “whey” – which is dairy – but that is uncommon. So, you have a dairy-free diet, choose a recipe that doesn’t call for any milk products.

Dairy-free mayo in glass jar
This homemade mayonaise

Mayonnaise is traditionally dairy-free

Legend has it that mayonnaise was actually invented by a chef who was out of dairy cream. The chef wanted to make a creamy egg-based sauce, but didn’t have any cream. He used olive oil as a substitute for the dairy product and found that his dairy-free blend was well-received.

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Is mayo dairy? What is in mayonnaise anyways?

How is it made?

Mayo is made by whisking or blending the ingredients together. Egg is traditionally used as the emulsifier, helping the mixture blend. While eggs are generally sold in the store close to the milk, that doesn’t mean they are dairy! Eggs don’t contain the milk of mammals and are therefore not a dairy product.

Hellmanns mayo
Is mayo dairy? What is in mayonnaise anyways?

Egg free mayo

If you don’t eat eggs, you can still enjoy the taste of mayo. Some store-bought mayonnaise doesn’t use egg as the emulsifier. These mayo products are rarely dairy free.

The store-bought mayonnaise products that add in a dairy product use it as an egg substitute. These eggless mayonnaise formulations can often be identified by their thicker texture.

Homemade mayo made with canola oil and free-run egg
The nice thing about making your own mayo is that you can monitor exactly what’s added to it! It’s nice to know what’s in our food.

Vegan mayonnaise

If you are on not just a lactose-free diet, but a vegan diet, then you will need a mayonnaise that does not contain any animal byproducts. This means no eggs and no dairy products. So, you’ll want to look for vegan mayo brands.

Vegan mayo uses substitutes for the emulsifying eggs and adds ingredients to get the right flavor and same creamy texture as traditional mayonnaise.

You can find vegan mayonnaise for sale commercially or look for a recipe to make at home!

Is mayo gluten-free?

If you are also following a gluten-free diet, then you may be wondering if mayo is gluten-free. If it was made with the ingredients listed above, then yes!

But, if you have a gluten allergy (and not just an intolerance), then you will need to carefully investigate the label of store-bought mayonnaise to make sure it was made in a gluten-free facility. Cross-contamination can be a concern otherwise.

So, is mayo a dairy-free product?

Mayo generally isn’t a dairy product because milk is not a traditional ingredient in mayonnaise. That being said, some store-bought mayo products and even home recipes do contain dairy. They may call for condensed milk or milk, especially in eggless mayo.

There is also the possibility of cross-contamination with dairy milk. Always read the ingredients and allergen information when determining whether a specific mayo product is dairy free!

Another thing to look out for is mayonnaise-based dressings, which will contain dairy. Dressings like ranch have dairy, and so does creamy Italian (if it has ‘creamy’ in the name, it’s usually got dairy!).

And, if you’re worried, look for some dairy-free mayo brands or try making your own with one of the recipes above!

Dairy free mayo - homemade
Is mayo dairy? What is in mayonnaise anyways?

What about Miracle Whip?

You may wonder about Miracle Whip, which is kind of similar to mayo. Especially since mayo and Miracle Whip are often sold near each other.

Honestly, it’s somewhere in between mayo and a dressing. Generally, Miracle Whip does not have dairy, but, like mayo, it does have eggs.

What is mayo for?

Chances are, if you’re reading this post, you already wanted to use mayo for something. But, if you’d like some ideas about how to use mayonnaise, you could try some of these

Mayonnaise-based salad dressings

You can make so many delicious mayonnaise-based salad dressings from scratch. There are tons of recipes online, so try searching for ranch dressing, creamy Italian, or a homemade coleslaw dressing next time you need a salad topper!

For potato salad

Another delicious way to use mayonnaise is in potato salad. Whenever I make this, I add a bit of parmesan cheese and organic mustard seed. The result is divine!

As a sauce base

Plain mayo is great on a sandwich, but I like to spice it up a bit every now and then. You can easily make an herbed mayo with rosemary, dill, basil… Or whatever else is growing in your garden!

You could also add some spices in like mustard flour. I usually opt for organic spices, but whatever you have on hand is good!

For stuffing fish

Another common way to use mayo is as stuffing. Simply mix it in a bowl with organic lemon juice, salt, pepper, and a bit of brown sugar before cooking. It’s more like a treat than anything, honestly!

Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a digital content creator and mom of three. She is also an engineer and bit of a plant nerd too. She has been featured by publications such as Real Simple, Mother Earth News, Homes & Gardens, and Family Handyman.

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