Does Mayonnaise Contain Dairy?

Updated on May 13, 2019
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Tatiana has been an online writer for over five years. Her articles focus on everything from pet care to fantasy sports.

A World Without Dairy

No more milk, cheese, or yogurt. No more delicious cakes, ice cream, or chocolate. No more mayo—wait, does mayo have dairy? Say it ain’t so!

It can’t be! Oh, mayo, my sandwiches would be so sad without you! The way your silky goodness mingles with every pore of my pumpernickel! The way your flavor brings my tastebuds to life, no other condiment could possibly replace you! How can such a simple concoction create such a beautiful work of flart? (That's "flavor-art," see what I did there?)

Well, you can relax because the good thing for you is that most mayo doesn’t contain dairy ingredients. But that's not quite the whole story. Let’s continue.

Does Mayo Contain Dairy?

Most do not! Mayonnaise consists of four primary ingredients: eggs, oil, salt, and lemon juice.

What's in Mayonnaise That Makes It So Good?

Have you ever wondered what’s in mayonnaise? If you ever plan on making it at home yourself (which is super easy!), all you need are a few simple ingredients and the will to make it. You need the proper balance of:

  • Egg
  • Oil
  • Salt
  • Acid (such as lemon juice or vinegar)

Lots of people also like to mix in some mustard into their homemade mayonnaise to help act as an emulsifier, or to help the mixture blend, which also helps to enhance the flavor. You’ll discover a delicious example of this later!

11 Foods You Didn't Know Were Dairy Free

Store-Bought Mayonnaise

I understand that lots of people live busy lives in different ways so this may be a condiment you opt to purchase pre-made. When you choose to purchase something pre-made, you almost always run the risk of cross-contamination, so caution should always be exercised if you have a true, serious allergy. Read all labels and call the company if you still have questions.

Now when it comes to store-bought mayonnaise, the ingredients will vary and you have two categories: Shelf-stable and deli mayo.

Read labels to ensure that the mayo is indeed dairy free. Don’t only look for the obvious dairy ingredients like milk and cream, but also keep an eye out for “natural flavors.” Why, you ask? Here is a snippet from the FDA website regarding labeling for natural flavors:

“...Sec. 501.22 Animal foods; labeling of spices, flavorings, colorings, and chemical preservatives. (3) The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional... “

This is why it’s always best to err on the side of caution because undesirable ingredients can be lurking in the least expected places!

Is Mayo Lactose Free?

Yes, mayo is lactose free! Lactose is milk sugar, and since there is no dairy in mayo, it is a lactose-free food. If you're lactose intolerant or just looking to cut lactose from your diet, most store-bought mayo is safe to enjoy.

Shelf-Stable Mayonnaise

Shelf stable mayonnaise is all of the mayo that you typically see in the condiment aisle along with the ketchups, mustards and dressings. You are likely most aware of many major mayonnaise brands and their no-frills counterparts. You’ve probably also heard of Miracle Whip which is found with all of the mayonnaise but is not actually mayonnaise; it’s more of a dressing/mayo blend.

Although the mayo on the shelves in the grocery area are generally dairy free, there is always off-brands or local brands that can have more unique ingredients. Here’s a list of some of the major kinds of mayonnaise on the shelves today that do not contain dairy. Those marked with an asterisk (*) contain “natural flavors” in their ingredients.

  • Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise*

  • Hellmann's Extra Creamy Mayonnaise*

  • Hellmann's Light Mayonnaise*

  • Duke's Real Mayonnaise*

  • Heinz Real Mayonnaise*

  • Kraft Real Mayo*: The label on this one specifies “contains mustard” next to their natural flavor ingredients.

  • Spectrum Organic Mayonnaise

  • Great Value Mayo*

So basically, the organic one that I checked out is the only one that doesn’t list even a single potential hidden dairy ingredient, while another claims their natural flavor on their label as being derived from mustard. Are all of the other mayo brands using mustard as a natural flavoring agent as well or is this a hidden dairy source? This is when you would want to call in check for yourself if you have a life-threatening allergy.

Deli Mayonnaise

Since deli mayonnaise brands will vary from store to store and may very well contain dairy ingredients, especially the ones you find stored in the refrigerated section, you must rely on—you guessed it—reading labels. You’ll find some of the tastiest mayo any store has to offer right in the deli section, so it’s always worthwhile checking over there!

How to Make Homemade Mayo

If you are interested in making your own homemade mayonnaise, you will have a delicious condiment with zero doubts about the ingredients! Try the following recipe and you may never go back to store bought!

Momma’s Homemade Mayonnaise Recipe

Nothing ever tastes better than homemade! To get started, you’ll need a jar and an immersion blender.

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg (from the fridge)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (add more to taste)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup avocado oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients into jar.
  2. Blend with emulsion blender all the way at the bottom until mixture begins to whip up and turn white, about 20-30 seconds. Slowly move blender upward, allowing time for it to mix to your desired texture.
  3. Taste test and adjust ingredients as you see fit.

Note: In order to prevent a mess and to help ingredients to mix well, it’s best to use a jar with a mouth that your immersion blender fits into without much extra room. Mason jars work great and double as the jar you store it in.

The best part is that it stores in the fridge for two weeks. That’s a lot of lunches!

How Long Will Homemade Mayo Last?

You can safely store homemade mayonnaise in your fridge for up to 2 weeks.

So in short, does mayo have dairy? Not usually. When in doubt, call the company or make some yourself. It’s worth the flavor and the peace of mind that you have control over what’s going into your body. As for those going on a lactose-free or dairy-free diet, don’t skip the mayo (but still read labels)!

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