My mayonnaise dilemma

I love making mayonnaise but the past few months, it hasn’t been emulsifying. It hasn’t curdled, it just stays thin. Shock horror. This was a mainstay of my mystic culinary skills (courtesy of the recipe from an original Cyclonic Wizz bought in Oz).

As my confidence dwindled, we tested different theories. Weather? Temperature? Humidity? Nothing changed. Equipment? A new blender produced the same watery result.

So, ingredients. We wondered if the sunflower oil I used had been thinned somehow. Not according to the labelling. I tried adding more olive oil, swapped to vegetable oil, experimented with combinations of the above. Still no joy.

Vinegar, then. White wine, cider, red, balsamic – all had the same sorry result.

The eggs? I tried every sort available, sometimes using up to eight for one small pot of mayo. I can’t even begin to describe the mountain of greasy washing up. Oh, I just did.

It must be the mustard, we concluded.

I sought help from my daughter, well trained in the mustard arts. Within seconds, my junior acolyte produced a classic mayo, using the exact same equipment – and most of the ingredients – as I had. Indeed, it was thick enough to stand a teaspoon upright in its glorious stickiness.

Her trick was she that she now uses no fewer than three types of mustard to gain emulsification – Colman’s mustard powder, any Dijon mustard and a whole-grain to finish the job. A good teaspoon of each for every 200ml of oil, in case you’re wondering.*

We were astounded, recalling quite clearly my days of making perfect mayonnaise using just a quarter of a teaspoon of mustard powder.

Confused, we peered at less than helpful food labels. ‘MUSTARD flour’ it says on the tin. No kidding.

Time to go to the sauce, I mean, source. I knew that Colman’s mustard powder contained flour, as I have several coeliac friends, so I thought that might be a useful place to start, rather than saying ‘what the heck have you done with your mustard mate?’

Unilever responded fairly quickly but the letter was so evasive, it simply exacerbated our suspicions. This is the gobbledygook they sent. Note the repeated use of the word 'information'.

In regards to your enquiry I would like to give you the following information. Mustard flour is the ground seed of the mustard plant from which some of the oil and most of the hulls have been removed. Mustard flour itself does not contain gluten. Although Colman's English Mustard is not gluten free as wheat flour is used as a thickening agent. This information has been provided in good faith using the most up-to-date information. Please note that the information is subject to change due to recipe amendments and therefore ALWAYS check the product label for the most accurate information. 

Talk about 'cut and paste'!

We still have no idea what is in the mustard powder, or why it doesn’t work to make mayonnaise any more. All I know is that I intend to keep a selection of other brands of whole-grain and Dijon stashed in my cupboard. At least they’ll cut the mustard.


So, this is my daughter Lauren’s M.O. for mayo, so thick it will support an upright teaspoon. You’ll need a hand-held blender and matching measuring canister:

Crack a single egg and place it at the bottom. On top, place a teaspoon EACH of mustard powder, whole-grain mustard and Dijon. Add a mere dash of balsamic vinegar, half a clove of garlic, pinch of salt and grinding of pepper. Make up to 200ml with a dash of olive oil, topping up with sunflower or vegetable oil.

Place the blender head gently over the egg yolk and whiz hard without rocking until you see the oil emulsifying. Draw up the blender very slowly until the whole mixture has set. You can go back in for a few more seconds to remix with herbs, lemon juice, spices or whatever and it will thicken further.


  1. Wow! That's really interesting - and I also thought Colman's was still an orphan brand, not eaten up by Unilever. I shall file that in my food brain!


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