Ask Peter: Vegan mayonnaise
Could you please tell me an alternative to mayonnaise for vegans? Can I make something similar that doesn’t include eggs?
Oh I love a good mayonnaise — packed full of olive oil and tarragon, or orange zest and saffron. But, seeing as they contain eggs, the usual versions won’t be suitable for vegans. The ingredient that comes to the rescue is silken tofu. It’ll make a version of mayonnaise that will somewhat resemble the genuine thing. It’ll also be noticeably different, but then that’s always going to be the reality for such matters.
For this you do need to use silken tofu, not the firm yellow variety you can find more easily. Silken tofu can be bought fresh but the easiest way to source it is in a tetra-pak of about 350g, which will last for a year or more. It can be kept at ambient temperature and is a useful thing to have in the pantry.
Remove the tofu from the pack and cut into four slices. Lay between triple thickness of kitchen paper and gently press down, then leave for 15 minutes. This removes excess moisture. Place the tofu in a small to medium-sized food processor or wide-bottomed bar blender and add a few tablespoons of vinegar. If the processor or blender is too large it can be difficult to make this. Add a tablespoon of mustard or 1 teaspoon wasabi paste. Turn on the motor to medium high and then slowly add 200ml vegetable oil.
The protein in the soy beans (from which tofu is made) will keep the oil emulsified, and your “vegan mayonnaise” will keep without splitting in the fridge for at least 3-5 days. If it does split, just whizz it up again. You can also try this with a stick-blender, but some stick-blenders are better than others for this, so would be my second choice.
You can use this basic recipe as the starting point to make something much nicer. I was recently given a bottle of delicious NZeola cold-pressed rapeseed oil from Canterbury — this tasty and golden yellow oil would add a lovely colourful dimension. Likewise you could use olive oil or avocado oil.
Replace the vinegar with a citrus juice (lemon, lime, grapefruit, or orange) and some finely grated zest, or use a red wine or balsamic vinegar. Add crushed garlic, or chopped black garlic, to turn it into an aioli. Finely grated ginger would give it a tangy twist. Try adding finely chopped chilli or half a dozen drops of a piquant sauce like the locally made Lucky Taco habanero chilli sauce. A tablespoon or two of kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce) or regular soy sauce added halfway through will give it a more savoury edge (although both will make it brown, and on some occasions this mightn’t be what you want). If you’re making this for those who aren’t vegan, you could also flavour it with oyster sauce.
Fresh herbs pureed into the tofu mix before adding the oil will give a green tinge and flavour. A few toasted cumin or coriander seeds, coarsely pounded, will also add interest. You can also make a lovely dip using the same “gently pressed” tofu. Drizzle unpeeled pumpkin, kumara or scrubbed carrots with olive or rapeseed oil then roast and leave to cool. Scoop the flesh from the skin or cut the carrots into chunks, and place in a food processor.
For every 200g vegetables, add 100g tofu. Add any flavourings you feel like — from fresh herbs through to toasted spices, vegan mayonnaiseas above, chillies, garlic (black garlic is terrific in this) and salt. Puree until smooth and then adjust seasoning if needed. Lovely with toasted pita bread or spread on toast and topped with a fried egg (if you are not vegan). Yum!
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to email@example.com and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes here.