The world is always divided into two types of people when it comes to food: Those who love cilantro and those who think it tastes like soap. Those who believe pineapple is a pizza ingredient, and those who do not (it’s not, BTW). Those who love mayonnaise and those who can’t stand the thought of it.
For the record, I’m pro-mayonnaise.
I actually buy it at an alarming rate because I don’t just use it for sandwiches and tuna salad. Mayonnaise is a secret ingredient I love to use when cooking a wide range of things. Sometimes even a small amount makes an exponential difference in taste, and I’m here to convert you, mayo-haters!
Check out these five unexpected uses for mayonnaise that may have you rethinking this pantry staple. Or maybe just buying a bigger jar at a time.
Top photo: my favorite grilled cheese © Jane Sweeney
5 unexpected uses for mayonnaise
Photo © Jen Causey for Real Simple
1. Bake the most delicious, tender boneless chicken breasts
This Parmesan-Crusted Chicken with Mushroom-Arugula Salad recipe from Real Simple has turned baked chicken into one of my favorite unexpected uses for mayonnaise.
Baked chicken breasts can often be dry and tasteless, but as I learned from this recipe, using a little mayo (I’m a Hellman’s fan) can help seal in the juices and plump up the flavor of an otherwise ordinary chicken breast.
Use this particular recipe is a guide; you don’t need exact measurements for this trick and you can scale the amount up or down depending on how much chicken you are baking.
Note: I would just suggest that if you follow the Real Simple recipe for the chicken, watch the broiling very carefully. I will broil for maybe a minute if I want extra browning, but I find that five minutes in my oven (as directed) can mean burnt chicken breasts.
© Amy in the Kitchen
2. Make grilled cheese the way chefs do
Chefs have been saying this for years: For the most savory and indulgent grilled cheese, use mayonnaise instead of butter when frying your sandwich.
Wait…hear me out! Mayonnaise won’t burn the way butter will, and it imparts the loveliest, crispiest, golden exterior to your bread. Or, you can do what Amy in the Kitchen does with her Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich recipe – use both butter and mayonnaise. I mean, how insanely good does that look?
Plus, she uses sourdough bread which is my personal favorite. Try this trick once and you’ll forever be hooked.
Anton Nikolov via Unsplash
3. Prevent grilled fish from sticking, and boost flavor
Fish is notorious for sticking to the grill or grill pan, but spreading a thin layer of mayonnaise to the outside of a fish helps prevent sticking, while also protecting the skin — and it adds flavor to boot.
I even add mayonnaise to skinless fish fillets and it’s pretty darn tasty. (It works on steaks too, shhhhh). Seriously, the next time you grill, break out the mayo. You’ll notice the difference immediately.
© Jessica Gavin
4. Elevate your dressing
That ever-so-slightly tangy deliciousness in your favorite restaurant’s dressing? It just may be mayonnaise. A mere spoonful can emulsify – or bind together – the other delicious ingredients in the dressing and add a slightly richer consistency.
One of my favorite food bloggers, Jessica Gavin, uses a tiny bit in her balsamic dressing which is really smart, if you’ve ever tried it. She also uses it as a key ingredient in her Green Goddess Dressing recipe. If you’re hesitant about the jarred stuff, Jessica can even show how to make your own mayonnaise. But being the awesome cook that she is, she also includes how to use store-bought mayo, how to make it vegan and how to make it Whole 30-friendly.Niklas Rhöse via Unsplash
5. Make a kid meal more grown up
Maybe this isn’t that unexpected a use for mayonnaise, but I’m always amazed at how easy and transformative it can be to make a flavored mayonnaise or aioli for meals like turkey burgers.
The kids can grab the ketchup and my husband and I will make a quick mayo sauce. Our favorites include mixing Sriracha, mayonnaise, and lime for Asian-style burgers; and mixing Cholula (or any hot sauce) and mayonnaise for Mexican-style burgers.
Add a little chopped cilantro to either and you’ll really thank me. Well, unless you think cilantro tastes like soap, that is.