Japanese Mayonnaise [or Kewpie] vs American: Taste & Nutrition

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  August 2, 2022

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Mayonnaise, often abbreviated as mayo, is a thick, creamy sauce often used as a condiment. It originates from Mahon; in Spanish Mahonesa or Mayonesa, in Catalan Maionesa.

It is a stable emulsion of oil, egg yolk, and either vinegar or lemon juice, with many options for embellishment with other herbs and spices. Lecithin in the egg yolk is the emulsifier.

Mayonnaise varies in color but is often white, cream, or pale yellow. It may range in texture from that of light cream to thick.

Japanese Mayonnaise [or Kewpie] vs American- Taste & Nutrition
Favorite Asian Recipes
Favorite Asian Recipes

For Americans, mayonnaise is one of the first condiments to add to a sandwich. It is also often used in recipes to provide a creamy texture and a tangy taste.

But what if you are in Japan? What will you use to dress your sandwiches when you are in this Asian country?

Well, fortunately, there is Japanese mayonnaise. However, isn’t exactly like western mayonnaise. It is made with different ingredients and it produces a slightly different flavor.

Japanese mayo may be difficult to find in grocery stores, but it can be purchased online:

kewpie Japanese mayonnaise

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Read on to find out more about Japanese mayonnaise and how it stacks up.

How is Japanese mayonnaise different from Western mayonnaise?

Japanese mayonnaise differs from Western mayonnaise in that it uses only the egg yolk whereas Western mayonnaise uses the whole egg.

It is also made with rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar instead of distilled vinegar.

As a result, the taste is tangier and sweeter with a distinct umami flavor while the texture is richer and smoother.

How is Japanese mayo used?

Japanese mayo can be used just like any other mayo. Here are some ways you can incorporate it in your dishes:

  • On sandwiches
  • As a dip for fries
  • In a potato
  • In chicken or egg salad
  • In dressings
  • In marinades
  • As a glaze
  • On a bagel with smoked salmon

However, when using it, you should be aware that it can really pack a punch so you might want to reduce the recommended dose.

Why are chefs obsessed with Japanese mayonnaise?

Lately, Japanese mayo has exploded on the culinary scene. People love its distinct umami flavor and many chefs say it’s the best mayonnaise in the world.

They say the taste is due to the levels of MSG in the mayo. However, not all forms of Japanese mayo are made with MSG.

Here are some ways renowned restaurants are using it in their kitchens.

  • At Nunu, a new Japanese restaurant in Philadelphia, chefs are using it in the coleslaw they put on top of their katsu sandos.
  • Otaku Ramen chef Sarah Gavigan adds Japanese mayo and smoked miso to the breading of her Nashville fried chicken which she puts in her hot chicken buns.
  • Ask San Francisco’s Stones Throw chef Halverson what he uses as the secret sauce in his burgers. I’ll give you one guess. He also uses the mayo to bind his tater tots.
  • Bar Charley in Washington D.C. dots its spicy Korean BBQ wings with Japanese mayo.

Japanese mayo can also be found zig-zagged across various types of sushi rolls in restaurants all over the country.

Is Japanese mayo healthy?

Japanese mayonnaise has come under fire because it often contains MSG (monosodium glutamate). This is the sodium salt of glutamic acid that is used to give food its umami flavor.

Many believe MSG can cause damage to nerve cells. Others say it produces sensitivities such as headache, numbness, weakness, tingling, and flushing. However, this has never been proven in human scientific studies.

Regardless, you can rest easy because many brands provide MSG-free versions of Japanese mayonnaise.

When making it at home, dashi makes a great substitute.

Is Japanese mayo healthier than regular mayo?

If you are wondering how regular mayo and Japanese mayo compare health-wise, here is some nutritional information based on a 1 tablespoon serving.

ContentsJapanese mayoRegular mayo
Calories100110
Fat calories90100
Total fat10 g11 g
Total saturated fat1.5 g1.5 g
Cholesterol20 mg25 mg
Sodium100 mg105 mg

As you can see, western and Japanese mayo come out pretty even when it comes to nutrition.

Do you need to refrigerate Japanese mayonnaise?

Japanese mayonnaise can be stored outside of the fridge until it is ready to be opened. It should be stored in a cool, dry place.

Once it is opened, it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month.

If the mayonnaise gets to zero degrees Celsius, the oils will separate. It is best to store it on the door of the fridge to keep it from getting too cold.

FAQ’s about Japanese mayonnaise

This article has provided a wealth of information on the topic of Japanese mayonnaise. But if you still have questions, you might find the answers in this FAQ section.

Does Walmart Sell Japanese Mayo?

Yes, Japanese mayo is available through the Walmart website. It also may be available at certain in-store locations.

Is mayo umami?

Japanese mayo gets its umami taste from MSG and the Japanese rice wine vinegar komezu.

Dashi can be used as a substitute to give it an umami flavor or it can also be brought out with salt, vinegar, and bonito flakes.

How do you pronounce Kewpie brand?

The word Kewpie is pronounced pretty much as it’s spelled. Phonetically that would be KYOO PEE. In America, there is a brand of dolls called Kewpie dolls that were conceived from a comic strip of the same name.

The pronunciation is identical for both products.

How popular is Japanese mayonnaise?

Japanese mayonnaise is growing in popularity as more American chefs are incorporating it into their dishes but doesn’t compare to how popular it is in Japan.

It is the second most popular sauce/condiment to be used in Japanese dishes second only to soy sauce. It is believed that 80% of Japanese dishes use Japanese mayonnaise.

And while mayo is often used as a condiment or dipping sauce, the Japanese also have mayo-flavored ice cream, snacks, and potato chips. They also use it as a sauce for noodles and toast.

Well, I’ve even heard about mayo fruit salad, odd right?

What is Yum Yum Sauce?

In addition to using Japanese mayo as a condiment by itself, it can also be mixed with other ingredients to make different kinds of condiments.

One of these is Japanese pink sauce, Sakura, or yum yum sauce. It was given the latter name because it’s so yummy.

The sauce has a sweet and sour taste and it is often used in steakhouses as a dip for steak or shrimp. It is made from mayonnaise, tomato paste, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, butter, sugar, water, and salt.

Although it is often associated with Japanese cuisine, yum yum sauce originated in the U.S. and Canada. It can be made with western or Japanese mayo.

Can I use regular mayo instead of Japanese mayo?

If you are making a recipe that calls for Japanese mayo but you don’t have any on hand, regular mayo will do in a pinch.

However, if you really want to give it that flavor, you can add rice wine vinegar, and sugar. (Use ½ tsp. vinegar and 1/8 tsp. sugar for every tbsp. of regular mayo and whisk until dissolved).

It won’t replicate the flavor exactly, but it will get you a lot closer!

Takeaway

Now that you know all there is to know about Japanese mayo, how will you be using it to give your dishes an extra kick?

If you’re looking for mayo with a punch, the Kewpie is a great way to make your favorite dishes more flavorful.

It’s definitely not as bland as Western-style mayo because it contains MSG, egg yolks only, and vinegar for a slight tart taste but it’s really creamy and delicious!

Read next: 9 best sushi sauces you must try! List of names + recipes!

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.