What is Kewpie mayonnaise
Kewpie mayonnaise was introduced to Japan in 1925 and since then its popularity has increased tremendously. Originally, Toichiro Nakashima invented this mayonnaise after several culinary trips to the United States.
At the time, the Japanese were not familiar with mayonnaise at all, so Toichiro changed the recipe accordingly by increasing the amount of egg yolk to be in line with Japanese culinary taste.
Then when he launched his product, the mayonnaise was branded as Kewpie from the popular Kewpie doll created in 1909 by illustrator and artist Rosie O’neill.
Its taste is very different from ordinary mayonnaise available in western countries, because it is softer on the palate and has less vinegar in it.
With its unique umami flavor, soft and creamy texture with pleasantly acidulous nuances, let me tell you that Japanese mayonnaise will quickly seduce you from the first bite. It’s very close to a French mayonnaise, as they we use almost the same ingredients, except for the addition of rice vinegar or apple vinegar to make it smoother and less thicker. The Kewpie mayonnaise is actually a brand and a true institution in Japan. They even have a Mayo Museum!
So, if you are ready to taste this famous mayonnaise we offer you some helpful information on the topic and nice Japanese mayonnaise recipe.
As we mentioned Kewpie does not refer to a type of mayonnaise (usually called “mayonezu” or simply “mayo” in Japanese) but to a trademark. It is easily recognized by its distinctive red packaging and a small Kewpie Doll logo
The name “Kewpie “is however commonly used as a synonym for” Japanese mayonnaise ” nowadays. This is because this brand was the first to produce this condiment in Japan, and because it is the undisputed leader of the mayonnaise market today in Japan, though it has been gaining much popularity outside the country recently too.
Less essential than soy sauce, miso, dashi, or mirin, the Kewpie mayonnaise still remains one of the most common condiments in Japanese cuisine.
Ingredients, and difference with Western mayonnaise
Mayonnaise originated in Europe before spreading to other parts of the world, notably the United States where it was discovered by Toichiro Nakashima, the man responsible for the introduction of mayonnaise in Japanese homes.
Each region in turn took hold of the mayonnaise, retaining its basic composition but adapting the ingredients to their taste and traditions.
For example, French, Belgian, American and Japanese recipes always contain the three basic ingredients of mayo (vegetable oil, eggs and vinegar) but not always incorporated in the same way.
The main ingredients of mayonnaise are as follows:
While in ordinary mayo rapeseed or olive oil is often used, mayonnaise in Japan contains soybean oil. Soy is a very common choice in Japan, where it is particularly common thanks to miso and shoyu (soy sauce).
The original Kewpie recipe contains only egg yolks, as is often the case here, but unlike the American version which is based on whole eggs. There is, however, also a light option for mayo made of whole eggs.
Western mayonnaises are usually made with white vinegar. The latter is however not the norm in Japan, mayonnaise is made with rice or apple vinegar.
Mayonnaise can then be added to enhance the taste of other ingredients too. It is most often mustard, lemon, salt and pepper in the West. But in Kewpie mayonnaise, it is the use of monosodium glutamate (MSG) that gives it its undeniable Japanese touch: umami.
Monosodium glutamate is a food additive used as a flavour enhancer. It imparts flavour, called umami in Japan, to the dishes to which it is added. This ingredient is also known as sodium glutamate, monosodium glutamate, GMS, MSG, and E621.
These differences make Japanese mayonnaise sweeter (much sweeter, lighter and less acidic) than Western recipes, and give it a slightly more compact texture.
Mayo in Japanese cuisine
In our country, mayonnaise is mainly reserved for cold dishes where it is used as a base in bread, sandwiches, salad dressings and salads (of lettuce, eggs, meat, fish, etc.) or as an accompaniment to crudités. It’s also a perfect sauce for french fries. 😉
In Japan, on the other hand, mayonnaise is used in hot dishes. This difference is explained by the fact that the Japanese do not share our western culture of salads, sandwiches and spreads. From then on, when the mayo appeared in Japan, they have associated and used it mainly with more typical dishes such as the given below:
Okonomiyaki is a kind of thick pancake that can hold everything. Its name literally means” what we love “(okonomi) “grilled” (yaki). Mayonnaise is often spread on its surface in pretty patterns. You can check our easy Okonomiyaki recipe here.
Cayenne pepper, pepper and sriracha
Yakisoba is a dish of noodles, meat and vegetables sautéed on a hot plate. Mayonnaise can be added as a seasoning.
Takoyaki is topped with okonomiyaki sauce, Kewpie and young onions.
The takoyaki are small meatballs cooked in a round mold like a similar to the ones used for cupcakes. They are often served with mayonnaise too.
The term karaage refers to meat Donuts (often chicken), fried in oil. These bites are then served steaming hot along with a slice of lemon and a sauce, such as the kewpie mayo.
Another use of Japanese mayonnaise Kewpie, which is closer to our western habits, is to mix it with tuna. This classic tuna-mayo combination can then be used as a base for onigiri for example, or in a roll of maki sushi.
Finally (and more surprisingly), Kewpie is used by Japanese on pizza and in some desserts.
Where to buy Kewpie mayonnaise?
Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise is mainly purchased in Japanese (or Asian) grocery stores online and on platforms such as Amazon. It is rarer in physical grocery stores, and completely absent in traditional supermarket chains.
Note that its packaging may vary depending on the country of sale.
In grocery stores the Kewpie mayonnaise is most often offered in its original (Japanese) container, that is, a soft plastic bottle to squeeze, which itself is placed in a red pouch marked with the brand’s logo (a small doll).
There is also a second version : Lite Kewpie. This one is produced with whole eggs, coming closer to the American mayonnaise, and is rather intended for salads and bread. It is most often sold in yellow packaging.
Homemade Kewpie Japanese Mayonnaise
There are many recipes to make your own Japanese mayonnaise. However, I generally would advise against them for two reasons.
First, to best imitate the true Kewpie mayo, you need to get Japanese ingredients that are available in the same grocery stores offering the mayonnaise already made. So what’s the point of putting additional work and efforts? Buy the Kewpie directly, it will be better and not that much expensive!
And, if you can’t get the Japanese ingredients to make this mayonnaise, you’ll have to turn to Western alternatives. It also works, and it will be good in taste, but if you don’t get an authentic result despite how hard you try, you might as well use your ordinary mayonnaise from the local grocery store and make your life a lot easier, as there is a wide range of choices available on the market already.
But if you really want to try to make a homemade Japanese mayonnaise, here is a nice and easy recipe to make Japanese mayonnaise at home:
Easy Homemade Japanese Mayonnaise Recipe (Kewpie style)
To make this delicious Japanese mayonnaise you would need the products listed below:
- Half a tablespoon of sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 cup lemon juice
- 1 tsp mustard
- 125 ml oil (preferably rapeseed, but any cooking oil will do the trick)
- 1 pinch of dashi powder (optional, to be added only if you want to add a taste of umami)
- 1 pinch of salt
Optional: if you want a strong taste of umami, dilute the dashi powder for 5 minutes in the rice vinegar.
- In a bowl using a hand mixer or kitchen stand mixer beat the egg yolk and the mustard
- While continuing to mix with the mixer, slowly add 3 tablespoons of oil until an emulsion with thick creamy structure is obtained.
- Add salt, sugar, rice vinegar and lemon juice
- Finish by adding the rest of the oil in a thin, continuous stream while constantly beating the mixture like you would do with a classic mayonnaise.