Duke’s Mayonnaise: Secret Weapon for Tasty Southern Cooking
A Lifelong Love
I guess I've always loved Duke’s mayonnaise. I used to eat it out of the jar with a spoon when I was a small child, or so I’m told. As an adult, of course, I know that mayonnaise is highly caloric and should be consumed only occasionally or sparingly. (Wink, wink.)
These days, I certainly don’t eat mayo daily—but I do embrace any excuse to enjoy Duke’s. There are certain foods or recipes, like classic Southern potato salad and coleslaw, that require mayo, and this brand makes all the difference in the world.
According to the "our history" page on the company website, Duke’s mayonnaise was created in 1917 by Eugenia Duke of Greenville, South Carolina. In 1929, Ms. Duke sold her company to the C.F. Sauer Company of Richmond, Virginia, but for some years afterward she still served as the company's mayonnaise spokesperson. To this day, the company has kept Ms. Duke's original recipe, and they still make it in its birthplace of Greenville, SC.
When I first joined the Air Force, however, it was not widely available. When I drove to Illinois for my first duty assignment, I had four jars of Duke’s in the trunk of my car. Unfortunately, it snowed within two days of my arrival, and the jars were still in my trunk. I found out that mayo separates when frozen and thawed. I could have cried!
In this article, I am sharing some of my favorite foods and recipes that incorporate the great taste of Duke’s, a staple of kitchens throughout the Southeast for great Southern cooking. I hope you enjoy!
SandwichesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Nothing's better than a tomato sandwich with a ripe, garden-grown tomato. I like this on thin white sandwich bread because I don’t want the bread to distract from the tomatoes. Spread the Duke’s, add the sliced tomatoes, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. It's also great with a slice or two of thin “boiled” ham.
I like my banana sandwich on oatnut bread, such as Oroweat Oatnut. The bread is a bit heavier and larger than white bread, but the flavor profile is perfect for a banana sandwich. Spread the mayo liberally.
Open-Faced Chicken Sandwich
Spread bread with Duke’s. Top with steamed broccoli spears, cut into thin strips lengthwise. Add boned chicken breast and top with cheese. Heat until the cheese melts.
SaladsClick thumbnail to view full-size
I like my tuna salad on Wasa crackers, or just by itself. Sometimes I use sweet pickle, sometimes dill. I add pickle, a mashed boiled egg, and Duke’s. I also like it with diced onion and cucumbers.
As with tuna salad, I sometimes make chicken salad with sweet pickle; other times I make it with dill. More often, I use dill pickle, tiny diced celery, mashed boiled egg, mayo, and a tablespoon or two of vinegar. I eat it as a sandwich or on saltine crackers.
Chicken Salad With Raisins, Walnuts, and Pineapple
For a sweet chicken salad, use golden raisins, English walnuts, crushed pineapple, and Duke’s. This one does nicely on a salad plate with fruit.
I use red potatoes, Claussen’s pickles, boiled eggs, sweet onion, green olives, Dijon mustard, and Duke’s mayo in my potato salad. Don’t use a chopper for the pickle or onion because the texture gets lost. See my article, "Thanksgiving Southern Family Feast Recipes" for my potato salad recipe.
I like pasta salad with Duke’s mayo, not vinaigrette, and I call it noodle salad. I like tri-color spiral pasta or shells. I use tomatoes, sweet onion, and cucumbers. As with potato salad, I do not use a chopper because the vegetable texture disappears. Also, cook the pasta with ample salt, and try to salt the vegetables and set aside for 30 to 60 minutes before mixing all of the ingredients together. At our house, we like this with tuna, as well.
The packaged mix for slaw dressing, usually on the produce aisle, is really quite good, prepared with Duke’s, of course. I like the finely shredded cabbage, but the kind with coarsely shredded carrots and purple cabbage is good, too. Just add sweet onion and maybe a smidge of sweet pickle relish.
My grandmother always made cucumber salad to go over the top of green beans. Make a sauce of Duke’s mayo, vinegar, and water. Granny used straight vinegar, which is too strong for me. Try about ½ cup of mayo, ¼ cup white or Champagne vinegar, and ¼ cup of water. Whisk to blend and add salt to taste. Add 6 chopped baby cucumbers or equivalent and about ½ cup chopped sweet onions.
Dips, Spreads, Dressings & SaucesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Dip, Spread, Dressing & Sauce Recipes
Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing & Dip
Use Duke’s mayo with dry packaged Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing mix. This is so much better than bottled dressing! I might make it with 1½ cups plain yogurt and ½ cup mayo. This is immediately thick and ready to use, unlike when you make it with milk and it has to set. I like ranch on a salad with romaine, grape tomatoes, baby cucumbers, and rotisserie chicken. This also works great as a dip with baby carrots or another favorite vegetable.
I love dip mixes from Hampe House in Gruene Texas, especially the Chili Con Queso Dip mix. Hampe House was sold and they no longer carry the dips, but I found another source: The Old Mill. I also collect dip mixes from the shops in Fredericksburg, Texas. Most of the dips call for 2 cups of sour cream, but I tend to use plain yogurt and ½ cup of Duke’s. Sometimes I add a couple of tablespoons of sour cream, as well.
Mock Hollandaise Sauce
Blend Duke’s mayo with lemon juice. This is the best thing that ever happened to steamed broccoli. Sometimes I use this to spread on bread, just as I would plain mayo, for a sandwich.
Pimento Cheese Spread
Make your own pimento cheese with your favorite cheese or mixture of cheeses. Shred the cheese and combine with finely diced pimentos. Stir in mayo until it has reached the desired consistency.
Hot DishesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Hot Dish Recipes
Chicken Divan is a decadent treat made with rice, chicken breast, cream soup, and Duke’s mayonnaise. See my article, "Eight Quick and Easy Chicken, Tuna, and Beef Casseroles" for the recipe.
Broccoli or Squash Casserole
Many broccoli casseroles are a variation of the following recipe: 2 boxes of frozen chopped broccoli, 1 can of cream soup, 1 to 1½ cups of grated sharp cheddar cheese, and ½ to 1 cup of mayo. A small chopped onion and 1 to 2 beaten eggs are also common ingredients. Crushed Ritz crackers are a common topper, or buttered saltine crackers. Classic Southern cooking!
Squash casseroles follow the same formula. Use several yellow squashes, sliced and cooked until soft.
Want to learn more? Here are a few articles that contain fascinating information about Duke's!
- Castle, Sheri. "Why Southerners Have an Obsession With Duke’s Mayonnaise." SouthernLiving.com.
- Dieterle, Jarrett, and Maria Ribas. "Worth the Whisk: How the Woman Behind Duke's Mayo Became a Tycoon." NPR.org.
- "Duke's Mayonnaise." Wikipedia.com.