The One Crowd-Pleasing Condiment My Family’s Fridge is Never Complete Without

published Feb 21, 2022
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BLT sandwich on a colorful plate with a bird design, resting on a black table. Next to the plate is a bottle of Kewpie mayonnaise resting flat on the table.

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As a White girl growing up in Washington state suburbs, I was a prime candidate for a mayonnaise-lover. Along with its cooler cousin, sour cream, mayonnaise was a staple in our household. Especially during the holidays, when it made an appearance in practically every side dish, appetizer, and dip. On our side of the country, the gold standard was Best Foods Mayonnaise, and the big, white 30-ounce jar is synonymous in my memory with opening the fridge in my childhood home. Every day at lunch it would appear on the counter with mustard and a Tillamook cheese loaf, ready to churn out quick sandwiches for Mom, Dad, and us three kids.

When I moved out into my first apartment alongside my future husband, I kept the exact same jar in my refrigerator door. Even though it was just for the two of us, it took up a greedy footprint in our starter fridge; and though neither of us made that many sandwiches, it didn’t seem like home without that blue-and-yellow labeled tub always at the ready. Over the years I ended up throwing away a shameful number of expired mayonnaise tubs that had found their way to the very back of the fridge, lost along with obscure pepper jellies and tamarind paste.  

Some years later, during one of the lunch hour escapes from my office at my favorite sushi restaurant, I watched one of the chefs squeezing the most adorable faint yellow jar over a crunch roll. This creamy, rich, slightly sweet sauce came out of a squeeze bottle? I thought it was some masterful specialty being whipped up away from prying eyes in the back. When I asked about the mystery ingredient, I was finally introduced to Kewpie Mayonnaise.

What makes Kewpie mayonnaise so special?

Kewpie mayonnaise is made in Japan, and unlike its American counterpart, it doesn’t use egg whites. Kewpie is pure whipped yolk, which explains its otherworldly luxuriousness. It’s also free of added sugar (a key component of my childhood standby), so the subtle, multi-dimensional sweetness is coming through the natural flavor of the eggs and tempered vinegar.   

You can find Kewpie Mayonnaise in some large grocery chains such as Kroger or Safeway, but the bottle you’re buying there doesn’t contain what some chefs consider its true superpower — MSG. Monosodium glutamate, a natural flavor enhancer, has been used in Asian cooking for over 100 years, and only became controversial in the Western world due to some sketchy studies and cultural mistrust of “foreign” foods. Modern studies have shown that it is safe in amounts much higher than what any Kewpie-drenched meal would ever contain. You can still find the authentic Japanese version of Kewpie at Asian grocery stores such as H-Mart, or ordered online. Look for the clear ivory bottles with cheerful cherry red tops, contained within a Kewpie-logoed plastic bag. But if you need delivery, Amazon’s version does in a pinch.

The Best Ways to Use Kewpie Mayonnaise

Calling this mayo a “condiment” feels like a disservice. It’s so delicious and satisfying, I choose dishes that use it just so I can satisfy my endless craving. As the sushi restaurant did, you can use Kewpie at home for virtually any sushi recipe. In the summertime, there’s nothing better than a BLT&K (because the mayo deserves to be part of the acronym, too!). Use it in macaroni salad to make it taste much more like your favorite Hawaiian restaurant’s version. Nothing is easier to apply while grilling (or turns out better!) than Kewpie on elote. And a tomato pie isn’t worth making without it.

So go ahead. Give the jar and knife and break and give the bottle a go. Your new main squeeze is waiting.