This is one of those recipes that require quotation marks, not out of affectation, but because it’s not a true mayonnaise. It contains no egg yolks or mustard. It’s nothing more than an emulsion of milk and oil. More Brazilian than Portuguese, it’s just now beginning to be used on the Continent. The taste is lighter and cleaner than that of egg-based mayonnaise, allowing other flavors to come through.

☞ Read the Article: The Secret Behind Milk Mayonnaise

Since I was given the recipe, I haven’t stopped finding ways to cook with it. The master recipe is only a canvas for additions. Besides the uses in this book, I’ve smeared the variations on grilled meats and fish, used them as dips and in dressings, spread them on sandwiches, and stirred them into potato salads, much as I do with actual mayonnaise.

Why Isn’t my Mayonnaise Emulsifying?

Like all emulsions, this recipe can be a bit finicky. But adding the oil in a thin stream and stopping when the right consistency is reached is the key. For almost foolproof results, a handheld blender is best, but a small canister blender with a narrow base will do (tall and narrow is best here). Don’t do as some of us did and assume that a stand mixer or food processor will work—it just won’t. If you’re working with a less-than-powerful immersion blender, the consistency of the mayonnaise may turn out thinner than you’d expect. You can help it along by slowly adding 2 more tablespoons of oil to the milk mayonnaise as you continue to blend and it will thicken nicely.

A person holding a spoonful of milk mayonnaise above a jar.

Milk Mayonnaise

4.92 / 35 votes
Milk mayonnaise, called maionese de leite in Portuguese, is silkier and lighter than egg-based mayo. Magic happens when butterfat and oil collide in a high-speed blender. And the addition of garlic gives it a little heft, as well as a little zip. 
David Leite
Servings16 tablespoons | 1 cup
Calories91 kcal
Prep Time5 minutes
Total Time5 minutes


  • cup very cold milk
  • ¾ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small garlic clove, peeled
  • teaspoon white pepper
  • About ¾ cup vegetable oil, or 1/2 cup (118 ml) vegetable oil plus 1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
  • Kosher salt


  • Combine the milk, lemon juice, garlic, and pepper in a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Using a handheld blender (or a blender), buzz on high for 30 seconds until frothy.
  • With the motor running on high, slowly pour in the oil a few drops at a time, and gradually increase this to a fine thread, moving the blender up and down, until the mixture thickens lusciously and resembles a soft mayonnaise. You may need more or less oil. 
  • Season with salt to taste. The mayonnaise will last up to 1 week in the fridge.


Milk mayonnaise variations

Clockwise from top right: cilantro-ginger, curry, anchovy, sun-dried tomato.
Milk Mayonnaise variations

Cilantro and Ginger Milk Mayonnaise | Maionese de Leite com Coentros e Gengibre

Add 1 loosely packed cup of well-dried fresh cilantro leaves and tendril-soft stems and a 1 1/2-inch peeled and grated thumb of ginger to the cup along with the milk, 1 3/4 teaspoons of lemon juice, and the pepper. Omit the garlic. Whir in the oil as directed above. Stir in 1 scallion cut into thin slices on the diagonal.

Anchovy Milk Mayonnaise | Maionese de Leite com Anchovas

Add 6 anchovy fillets (generous 1 tablespoon) packed in oil to the cup along with the milk, lemon juice, garlic, and pepper. Whir in the oil as directed above. Omit the salt.

Curry Milk Mayonnaise | Maionese de Leite com Caril

Add 2 teaspoons of your favorite curry powder to the cup along with the milk, lemon juice, garlic, and pepper. Whir in the oil as directed above. Before using, let this sit for an hour or so in the fridge to bloom.

Tomato Milk Mayonnaise | Maionese de Leite com Tomate

Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of double-concentrate tomato paste to the cup along with the milk, garlic, and pepper. Omit the lemon juice. Whir in the oil as directed above. Stir in 1 tablespoon minced oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes.
he New Portuguese Table

Adapted From

The New Portuguese Table

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Serving: 1 tablespoonCalories: 91 kcalCarbohydrates: 1 gProtein: 1 gFat: 10 gSaturated Fat: 8 gMonounsaturated Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 1 mgSodium: 72 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 1 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2009 David Leite. All rights reserved.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


    1. Jennifer, that usually happens when the oil is added too fast, or the hand (wand) blender isn’t powerful enough. What did you use to blend it?

  1. 5 stars
    I want to thank the author of this recipe from the bottom of my heart! This sauce is amazing, and exactly what I was looking for. It resembles a sauce that my husband and I grew up buying at a fast food place with shawarma. I can’t wait for him to try this sauce. Thank you, again! This turned out amazing.

    1. iulia, I’m the author of the recipe, and I’m over the moon you like it so. It’s one of my favorites!

  2. Could you not specify what is the power and/or speed of rotation of the blade of a blender which is recommended for this recipe?

    1. Victoria, I can’t really. I’ve used all kinds of immersion/wand blenders for this recipe with success.