Mayo, a creamy yellowish-white condiment, is usually served cold with sandwiches or used as a base for salad dressings and sauces.
Because it’s so commonly used around the world, you may wonder whether it’s safe to eat on a gluten-free diet.
This article provides an overview of the ingredients used to make mayo and explains whether people on gluten-free diets can eat it.
What is mayo made of?
Mayo is a blended emulsion of:
- egg yolks or whole eggs
- an acid (typically vinegar or lemon juice)
Blended, these three simple ingredients alone create a basic mayo.
Additional spices and flavoring may be added. Some of those commonly used include sea salt, sugar, Dijon mustard, white pepper, celery seed, and mustard seed.
The type of oil used to make mayo can also vary. Many manufacturers use a neutral-flavored oil, such as canola, avocado, grape seed, or safflower. A stronger-flavored olive oil could overwhelm the flavor of the mayo.
Mayo is a blended emulsion of egg yolks, oil, and an acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar.
Is mayo safe for people who eat gluten-free?
Gluten is a group of proteins found in wheat and other grains like barley and rye.
Some types of wheat are used to process food products like bread, cereal, pasta, and baked goods, as well as even soups, sauces, and salad dressings (1).
People with celiac disease need to follow a strict gluten-free diet, which involves avoiding wheat, barley, rye, and other foods containing gluten. Eating gluten can cause symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, constipation, stomach pains, weight loss, and loss of appetite (
Those with gluten sensitivity, which is different than celiac disease, can find relief by avoiding gluten as well.
None of the traditional ingredients used in mayo — eggs, oil, nor acids — contain gluten. Therefore, a true mayo should, in most cases, be safe for people who follow a gluten-free diet.
However, it’s possible that some of the additional ingredients could contain gluten, or that the oil and vinegar used in the recipe were derived from gluten-containing products.
Still, there are some best practices for ensuring a mayo is gluten-free.
The ingredients traditionally used to make mayo are naturally gluten-free, but it’s still best to use caution since cross-contamination or added ingredients could result in the presence of gluten in mayo.
How to find a gluten-free mayo
When shopping at the store, the best way to be sure you’re buying a gluten-free mayo is to look closely at the label.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), any foods that contain one of the following claims on the packaging must contain fewer than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten — a safe number for people who follow a gluten-free diet (
- “no gluten”
- “free of gluten”
- “without gluten”
If you see one of these claims on a jar of mayo, you can rest assured that the product is gluten-free.
Many food manufacturers choose to include these labels on their gluten-free products voluntarily, but they’re not legally required to do so. Thus, some gluten-free mayos may not state this on the label even if the product is gluten-free.
You can also check the ingredient list to look for ingredients that could contain a form of wheat or gluten. When you’re at a restaurant, check with a server or manager to find out whether their mayo is gluten-free.
The following mayo brands are known to sell gluten-free options:
- Blue Plate
- Primal Kitchen
- Sir Kensington’s
- Trader Joe’s
Some of these brands sell multiple types of mayo — some containing gluten and some not — so it’s still best to look for gluten-free indications on the label when purchasing these brands of mayo.
Many mayos sold at grocery stores contain a label on the package indicating that the product is gluten-free, or you can check with a server or manager at a restaurant if you’re unsure.
How to make mayo at home
If you want to be sure your mayo is gluten-free, you can make your own at home.
For homemade gluten-free mayo, you need the following ingredients:
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup (236 mL) of mild-flavored oil, such as canola, avocado, grape seed, or safflower
- 1 Tablespoon (15 mL) of vinegar (e.g., white, red wine, apple cider)
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- additional spices like black or white pepper, Dijon mustard, mustard seed, celery seed, or a pinch of sugar (optional)
To make the mayo:
- In a small food processor, blend the egg for about 30 seconds.
- Next, add the vinegar and salt and blend for another 30 seconds.
- Slowly blend in the oil a few drops at a time. If you add too much oil too quickly, your mayo may not thicken properly.
- Stir in the lemon juice and any additional spices you would like to add.
Although it’s fine to experiment with different types of oils and vinegars in your homemade mayo, be sure to avoid using rice or malt vinegar, as they may contain gluten or have become cross-contaminated.
Since the eggs used in this recipe are left raw, it may be best to use pasteurized eggs to limit any risk of food poisoning.
To prevent your homemade mayo from spoiling, store it in the refrigerator at 40°F (4.5°C) or below.
Most homemade mayo stored in the refrigerator can be used safely for up to 14 days. However, if you notice a rancid smell, mold, or a sudden change in the color of the mayo, it’s best to throw it out.
You can make a gluten-free mayo at home with a food processor and just a few simple ingredients.
The bottom line
People following a gluten-free diet need to avoid wheat, barley, rye, and other foods that contain gluten.
Traditional mayo is made from just a few naturally gluten-free ingredients.
Still, sometimes added spices or cross-contamination could make a mayo unsuitable for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Checking for a gluten-free label on the package or making your own mayo at home are two ways to ensure you choose a safe gluten-free option.