This easy vegan garlic aioli recipe could be your favorite dipping sauce yet! Use 5-ingredients and our foolproof method for prepping raw cashews for the dreamiest, creamiest, most irresistible aioli ever!
Aioli, fancy mayo, right? Well, not exactly. And for those of us who are vegan or plant-based, traditional mayo is no longer an option. Egg yolks, folks, they’ve been off the menu from the beginning.
These days, the terms aioli and mayo are synonymous. However, their 'original' recipes are quite different. Mayonnaise is a combination of lemon juice or vinegar plus mustard, egg yolk, and salt. Traditional aioli recipes are a blend of olive oil and garlic – lots of garlic.
I won’t ask if someone put aioli in the mayo or vice versa. I imagine that vegan mayonnaise falls somewhere in between, replacing oil for eggs.
If you’re following a whole-food, plant-based diet, added oil, which is highly processed and 100% fat, is not an option. And seriously, why add oil when we have another, tastier alternative at our disposal?
What is vegan aioli made of?
As promised, you’ll need 5-ingredients and one optional extra to make this recipe.
Cashews – We'll spend a bit of time on cashews in a bit because they are ingredients in a lot of vegan recipes (in case you haven't noticed). As an ingredient, you want to get raw cashews – nothing dry-roasted or salted. Look for the white ones.
Dijon mustard – The salty bite of Dijon contains less vinegar than the yellower mustards. This recipe calls for Dijon. If you use another kind (and you most certainly can), you may want to adjust the amounts. For this reason, start with a little, taste, and add if needed.
Fresh lemon juice – My preference whenever it's available is fresh lemon juice. I ended up adding 4-tablespoons which was nearly a whole smallish lemon. You do have the option of using the bottled kind if necessary. If you want to add a sourer flavor, you can also add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.
Water – Yes, water is an ingredient.
Garlic – Raw garlic fellow lovers of the movie Twilight (or just garlic lovers). You now have the perfect excuse to load up on the bold, spicy flavor of garlic. No vampires dare tread near :).
How to soften the bite of raw garlic
Are you scared of raw garlic? I won't ask why, but if you want to soften its bite or do some substituting, there are several ways to accomplish this.
1. As whole bulbs – Take an entire garlic head or a half for this recipe. Peel away the outer paper layer. Cut the top of the bulb to expose the raw garlic inside each pod.
Wrap the garlic in foil, or place it in a small ramekin and bake the garlic at 4000F. (2000 C.) for 30-40 minutes until it is brown and soft. Push the roasted garlic out of their pods and add a few to the aioli. Roasting is one way to mellow out garlic that super-easy and a method you can use when roasting other veggies.
2. The jarred kind – Prepared garlic comes in numerous varieties ranging from whole cloves floating in buckets of oil to the little jars of minced.
Jarred garlic is more convenient and doesn’t have the same ‘wake me up’ factor as fresh garlic. A good conversion rule is ½ a teaspoon of jarred, minced garlic for every clove.
3. Garlic powder – A jar of dried and ground garlic should be in every kitchen. It's perfect when you want just a pinch of garlic flavor well-distributed. Garlic powder has a different flavor than fresh, but it's a convenient alternative. Use 1-teaspoon of garlic powder for every garlic clove.
Note – I’m not mentioning garlic salt. It can be challenging to balance the garlic from the salt once you add other ingredients that contain sodium. For this recipe, look toward Dijon mustard.
All about cashews
Ever wondered why you never see cashews in the shell? There’s a good reason for this. The shells are highly toxic and have a resin, urushiol. To ensure that the cashews have no residue, they must be steamed or roasted before being sold or safely consumed. I guess in theory, 'raw' cashews aren't that raw after all.
If you, like me, are nuts about cashews, the joke is on us. Cashews aren't nuts. They are seeds from the fruit of the apple from a cashew tree. In Brazil, one of the original cashew countries, the apples remain a part of traditional cooking.
How to prepare cashews for blending
Cashews are soft in terms of nuts (or seeds). However, if you toss them in your blender or food processor straight from the tub, you may end up with a tasty but somewhat gritty texture.
If you have a high-speed blender or an immersion blender that cuts through steel, you may not have encountered this problem. I have one of those 'regular' blenders, so I've done a lot of experimenting with cashews. To transform your cashews into creamy smoothness using one of four approaches.
- 1. Hot-soak – this is my favorite way to prep cashews. Place the cashews in a bowl and then about twice the amount of boiling water. For the 1 cup of cashews in this recipe, add at least 2 cups of water. Soak the cashews for at least 20 minutes, drain them, then rev up the blender.
- 2. Long-soak – Soak the cashews overnight, same procedure. Twice the amount of water. I, personally, have not had as favorable results using this method as the hot-soak procedure.
- 3. Grinding – Add cashews to your spice grinder and grind them into a fine powder. This quick method and works quite well, although you don't get quick as smooth as consistency, in my experience, as with the first approach.
- 4. Steaming – I usually reserve this method when I make Bechamel sauce (white sauce) which requires steaming cauliflower. And it's just as it sounds. Add cashews to a steamer basket over boiling water and cover the pot. They should soften up in about 15 minutes. Then transfer everything to your blender or food processor.
- Add cold water in moderation. Colder water helps to fluff up aioli. It’s also a pro tip for making hummus and other creamy dips. Be careful when adding water. Never start with more than ¼ of a cup to start. Be sure to blend all the ingredients, give the sides a scrape, and blend again. Then check the consistency and start adding water a tablespoon or at-a-time, repeating the blending process before adding additional water.
- Check the strength of the lemon juice before adding the last of the water. Nothing worse than struggling with the decision of more lemon or too thin?
- Be mindful that Dijon mustard is salty, so be sure to let the aioli settle and add salt, if desired, after you’ve mixed in the garlic.
- Mix the garlic with a spoon rather than adding it to the blender. If you blend it with the rest of the ingredients, the taste will be much stronger. The garlic flavor also gets stronger over time.
Although the terms are often used interchangeably, traditional aioli is an emulsion of olive oil and garlic. Mayonnaise is made with egg yolks, lemon juice or vinegar, mustard, and salt.
Aioli is not always vegan. For this reason, you want to be sure you have a complete list of ingredients or that the container is clearly labeled vegan before determining if it is vegan. Most pre-made aioli will contain oil in one form or another. Your safest and healthiest) bet is to grab your blender and a tried and true vegan aioli recipe.
The healthiness of aioli ultimately depends on the ingredients used to make it. Our version using cashews is lower in fat with more nutrients than those made with oil.
Store aioli in an air-tight container or jar with a lid and keep it in the refrigerator. Aioli will stay fresh for about a week. Stir it before serving. Add water or lemon juice to thin it out if necessary.
What other flavors can you add?
We love aioli with its zesty garlickiness. Flavor variety - it's a life spice. Right? To kick up the flavor of your aioli and make your french fries even more appealing, consider adding ingredients such as:
- Chipotle powder or chopped Chipotle chipotle chilis in adobo sauce
- Sambal oelek
- Smoked paprika
- Chili flakes or chili powder
- A pinch of nutmeg
- Chopped herbs such as parsley or cilantro
What to serve with aioli
easy vegan garlic aioli (oil-free)
Easy vegan garlic aioli with just 5-ingredients and our foolproof cashew prep delivers the creamiest and more irresistible homemade aioli sauce ever.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 1 ½ cups 1x
- Category: Condiments
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegan
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 20 minutes
- 2 – 3 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 3-4 Tbsp. lemon juice (1 lemon)
- ¼ - ½ cup of cold water (more depending on desired consistency)
- 4 - cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- ½ tsp. salt (optional)
- Add 1 cup of raw cashews to a small bowl and add 2 cups of boiling water. Soak the cashews for at least 20 minutes.
- Drain the cashews and add them to a blender along with the 3 tsp. of Dijon mustard, 3 Tbsp. of lemon juice, and ¼ cup of water. Blend everything until it is smooth.
- Scrape the sides of the blender and give it a few more twirls. Then check the consistency and flavor. Add more Dijon or lemon juice if needed.
- If the mixture is too thick, add water a tablespoon at a time, blending after each addition.
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl, then stir in the minced garlic. You may want to add half the garlic and adjust after tasting it. The garlic flavor will get stronger over time.
- Store any leftover aioli in an air-tight container for up to a week in the refrigerator.
- Don't skip the cashew prepping step. Otherwise, your aioli won't have a creamy consistency. An alternative to soaking the cashews in boiling water is to grind them into a fine powder using a spice grinder. You can also soak them overnight or steam them for 15-20 minutes.
- Use cold water for a lighter texture of aioli.
- If you blend the garlic with the rest of the ingredients, the flavor will be much stronger.
- Use jarred minced garlic at a ratio of ½ a teaspoon for every clove of garlic. Using garlic powder will not yield the same flavor as fresh. If you make this substitution, use a teaspoon of garlic powder for every clove of garlic.
Keywords: vegan garlic aioli recipe