So, this past weekend, my very good friend Chef Jon Kung gifted me with a jar of his homemade Szechwan chili oil. I felt like he was handing me a mason jar full of rubies in exchange for some non-vegan store bought sauce that had been sent to me by a company I’d never heard of. He claims that he makes these by the gallon every week, but if that is true, he should be selling said gallons, because it’s spicy, smoky, a little sweet, and completely delicious.
My quandary, then, was figuring out what to do with my new found wealth. I didn’t want to put it to its typical use–just a mere dipping sauce or, god forbid, use it as a cooking oil. I wanted to give it a chance to really strut its stuff while standing up to rich textures and flavors. Accordingly, I concluded that I would make a mayonnaise out of it.
So, how to make vegan mayonnaise? Well, let’s back up a little and talk about the heavenly condiment of our white-bread youths. What makes mayonnaise not vegan to begin with? The egg yolk. The egg yolk is beaten together with the oil, which emulsifies into that decadent yet fluffy spread that makes sandwiches taste other-worldly. So, how to make it vegan? Well, enter aquafaba, or, as I sometimes refer to it, “bean juice.”
What is Aquafaba?
One day, many years ago, legend has it that a computer science student in the Silicon Valley was messing around with the liquid leftover from a can of chickpeas and then discovered to their amazement that it could be whipped into a foam, soft peaks, and even stiff peaks, just like eggs. No one knows if this is actually how the magical properties of bean juice were discovered, but the discovery remains the same. I’ve used aquafaba in many of my baked goods. They can even help to make a very fluffy frosting for cake! Here, the aquafaba acts as the “egg” that you would typically add for traditional mayonnaise. It binds beautifully with the oil to create a creamy but fluffy sauce.
A couple of words on aquafaba–although technically any can of beans will do, in my experience (and others’) the liquid in a can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans works best. In addition, make sure to use a non-BPA can of beans. Finally, many people often ask whether they can make aquafaba by boiling a bunch of garbanzo beans. Here’s a good recipe for that.
The Heat and Art of Emulsification
Since I was using Jon’s chili oil in lieu of regular canola oil, I figured I would go all in and add some gochugaru, as well. After adding the gochugaru, as well as some black vinegar to the aquafaba, I slowly started pouring the oil to the bowl while simultaneously blending the ingredients with my immersion blender. You can also used a hand-mixer if you don’t have an immersion blender. Using a regular blender will be hard, though, unless you have one that allows you to trickle the oil in while also blending. If you add all the oil at once, you will have a hard time achieving a consistent emulsification and the oil will want to start separating from the aquafaba. So, take your time with this to ensure everything binds together. Towards the end, I added a tiny bit of maple syrup to take some of the sting out of the chili while enhancing the natural sweetness of the same.
What Do I Use This Mayo For?
I should think it’s obvious: a sandwich!!
But there are so many different applications for this spicy mayo:
- Drizzled over your baked potato
- Dressing for your spicy kale salad
- Draped over your kimbap
- Dipping sauce for your potstickers
Honestly, the possibilities are endless. But this is what I used it for:
Spicy Vegan Fried “Chicken” Sandwich
Ever since going vegan, I’ve been on the prowl for a proper substitute for a fried chicken sandwich. I’ve actually tried a few of them at some fancy restaurants, but they all tasted, well, weird. So, I decided to make my own and, as is often the case, what I came up with in my kitchen surpassed what I’d have to pay $21 for at an eatery in Manhattan. If you want the recipe for my Vegan Fried “Chicken,” you can find it here. Just slather some bread with this Spicy Vegan Mayo and layer on some of that “chicken,” together with some tomatoes and greens, and you, too, will be thinking you should open up your own vegan sandwicherie.
Quick Tips on Making Spicy Vegan Mayo
- Make sure to use a non-BPA can of chickpeas for the aquafaba if you’re not making your own.
- Use chickpea or garbanzo beans in lieu of the other beans for aquafaba for the best results.
- Add the oil gradually down the side of your container to ensure the liquids do not separate.
- Use a tall container if using an immersion blender, so that the blades have plenty of aquafaba to “whip.”
Simple and Spicy Vegan Mayonnaise
- Immersion blender OR hand mixer
- In a tall container (if using an immersion blender) or a small bowl (if using handmixer), mix together, the aquafaba, sea salt, gochugaru, and black vinegar.
- Begin mixing on high while slowly pouring in the chili oil along the edge of your container.
- Continue blending/mixing until you reach a thick, creamy consistency (about 5 to 7 minutes).
- Add maple syrup and continue blending for another minute.