Summer is, inexplicably, the season of mayo. You pull it out when it’s ready to dress your potato or pasta salad. You smear it all over your flimsy grilled hamburger buns so your veggie burger doesn’t taste too dry. You—if you have good taste, of course—dip your French fries into it. But if you’re like me, then you have that one mayonnaise brand you revere above all the others. Whether you’re looking for something more intense and tangy or you’d prefer to opt for the really thick, creamy stuff, we all have our preferences.
I’ve decided to taste-test some of the most popular mayos on the market to determine which ones taste best and which I’ll leave on the store shelves from now on out. Of course, I can’t expect everyone to share my sentiments on mayo, but if you’re trying to branch out and expand your mayo library, my top picks may just be your new favorites as well.
Miracle Whip is one of those products you’ll see in just about every grocery store you visit, but is it worth a try? If you ask me, not really. This Kraft Heinz product seems like an afterthought in the company’s condiment line, always destined to be overshadowed by the much-superior ketchup. It’s not a surprise to me that high-fructose corn syrup makes an appearance early in this product’s list of ingredients: This stuff tastes actively sweet. If you have a problematically ravenous sweet tooth, then Miracle Whip may be the frosting-like product you’ve always wanted to dump in your grandma’s potato salad recipe. For the rest of us, though, there are much better mayo brands out there.
Look, I was vegan for a few years in college, so I totally understand the struggle of finding vegan alternatives to your favorite foods. But there are some non-vegan foods, like mayo, that you just have to let go of when you stop eating animal products. It’s okay—there are a ton of other fat-based sauces that you can happily indulge in if you’re eschewing animal products, but I’m here to break it to you that Vegenaise is essentially flavorless. This mayo is barely creamy and has basically no acidity to speak of. Plus, it’s so thin that it kind of just turns watery and unimpressive once you add it to just about any dish. Considering the fact that it’s generally not even inexpensive, you may be better off springing for a bottle of nice olive oil.
Duke’s is next up on our list, and this is a mayo brand with a serious cult following. Duke’s is especially popular in the Southern U.S., though many shoppers can find it outside of the region. I have to admit that Duke’s is super similar to the next mayo that appears on this list, and if you don’t taste them side by side, you may not be able to tell the difference. Duke’s only uses yolks instead of the whole egg, but I couldn’t really make out that difference when I tasted them. It may come down to the kind of vinegar that’s used in the Duke’s recipe: Instead of white vinegar, it utilizes apple cider vinegar. For me, that tang is just slightly too strong, but Duke’s is still a major contender in my book.
If you don’t live on the East Coast, then you may not have access to Hellman’s (though some claim that Best Foods’ mayo is pretty much exactly the same product). But if you do live in this part of the country, then there’s a good chance that you grew up with the stuff making regular appearances in your fridge. While Hellman’s isn’t quite as thick as the next contender on our list, I do think that this brand has one of the thicker consistencies I’ve experienced in the wide world of mayo. That’s perfect for those who really love a significant smear of the sauce on a sandwich or in a salad—the light, waterier varieties really just don’t do it for me.
And though there’s a real richness and creaminess here, there’s also a heavy-enough dose of acidity that you won’t feel like you need to take a sip of your drink after every mayo-infused bite you chew. And since, on the East Coast, you can find Hellman’s at most grocery retailers, this brand ranks high on this list.
Kewpie is indisputably one of the most popular mayo brands on the market, and it’s no wonder why. First of all, there’s a hefty dose of MSG in every serving, which gives the condiment a delicious umami note that you simply won’t find in any other mayo brand. (Yes, we’re big fans of MSG here.) This mayonnaise also has a distinct eggy flavor to it, which makes sense considering that Kewpie is made with only the yolks of eggs while many other mayo brands use the whole egg.
The main appeal of Kewpie, though, is the texture. While other types of mayo can be thin and loose, that’s not what you should expect from Kewpie. Rather, you’ll be getting a rich, creamy, thick mixture that keeps its shape once it’s been squeezed out of its flexible plastic bottle. This mayonnaise provides more flavor and a richer consistency than other mayos, so if you’re looking for something light and unassuming, this is probably not the brand you’ll want to try. But if you’re the kind of person who loves to savor every bite of their mayonnaise, Kewpie is just right for you.
Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.