Hey’, I like chef J. Kenji López-Alt as much as you do, but I have never quite understood what the fuck is going on with the mayonnaise taste test he conducted with the team at Serious Eats. In addition to the peculiar inauguration of Kraft as the best mayonnaise, Duke’s mayonnaise was deemed “too strong” by the tasters, Kewpie comes in at an insulting fourth place, and Trader Joe’s mayo somehow scores better than Hellmann’s. The whole ranking just feels... off. That said, this cursed list was actually a gift, because it was the first time I ever heard of Blue Plate mayonnaise.
After looking it up and seeing that Blue Plate is made in New Orleans, maybe the best food city in America, I had suspected that this lesser known mayo brand was a winner, regardless of its placement on this bizarre, uncharacteristically off-base ranking curated by one of the great minds of the culinary world. And my hunch was right: Blue Plate rips.
It’s smooth, man. Complex. Nuanced. It’s tangy, sweet, savory, and rich. Though this Lousianna staple was invented in 1923, this mayo feels current and hip to trends, as if it’s borrowing all the best attributes of every other name-brand mayo. How so? Glad you asked: The first three ingredients listed in Blue Plate are soybean oil, distilled vinegar, and egg yolks, so it’s got some of that intense Kewpie richness to it. By contrast, the second ingredient in both Kraft and Hellmann’s is water, followed by whole eggs rather than just the yolks.
Blue Plate also includes sugar in the recipe, so it tastes just slightly sweet like a Miracle Whip (not my thing, but a little sweetness is nice). At the same time, it’s thick, gloppy, and custard-esque like Hellmann’s. This stuff is balanced, and therefore beautiful.
I tasted Blue Plate side by side with Duke’s, and while my palate prefers the tasty, mouth-smacking tartness of Duke’s, Blue Plate is enticingly more viscous and full of rich egg flavor. Duke’s, by comparison, looks and tastes more like a spread made from oil. These two Southern staples are both amazing products that offer starkly different experiences, and they’re the subject of much debate.
That’s why I’m so perplexed by the Serious Eats ranking: There’s much more variation between jars of store-bought mayonnaise than we might think. Each brand is unique, with its own specific set of skills. Duke’s, with its intense, almost lemony tang, is the perfect dressing for potato salad. Savory Hellmann’s is the iconic spread for a decadent BLT. And velvety Kewpie is pretty much liquified egg salad, ideal for both enriching a batch of deviled eggs and marinating protein.
Blue Plate’s flavor works best with the food of New Orleans. Combine the slightly sweet and tangy mayo with briny pickles, spicy hot sauce, mustard, and Worcestershire for a classic remoulade. Of course it’s used in po’ boys citywide, withstanding an abundance of shrimp, beef, or pork with crusty French bread, shredded lettuce, tomato, and pickles. I’ve also been using Blue Plate as my go-to special sauce at home, pairing it with brightly acidic Hunt’s ketchup to make a robust burger sauce.
If you asked me a few months ago, I would say that there’s not a ranking or article alive that could change my mind—the top three mayos are Hellmann’s, Duke’s, and Kewpie. But how much of that brand loyalty is just autopilot? Having tasted Blue Plate, I no longer care about trying to decide what’s “best.” They’re all so different, and each provide wonderful opportunities. Mayonnaise exists on a wild-ass spectrum. It’s comforting, really, to know that sometimes things taste so different there’s no sense in ranking them.