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

                by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  November 4, 2021

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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

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 adds up.

How is Japanese mayonnaise different from Western mayonnaise?

Favorite Asian Recipes x
Favorite Asian Recipes

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.

What is the flavor of Kewpie?

Kewpie mayo has a unique taste. It can be described as having an overall umami flavor.

But, it is made with egg yolks only so it has a strong egg taste. Also, it has a tanginess to it from the vinegar and a slightly sweet aftertaste. I would say it is refreshing and very savory, especially if it contains MSG.

It also maintains its flavors very well even after the bottle is opened because the bottle design prevents oxygen from getting inside and thus the mayo doesn’t oxidize at all.

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:

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.

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

Homemade Japanese mayonnaise from scratch

Joost Nusselder
Taste mayonnaise and adjust sugar and salt to your liking. It can be stored in the refrigerator in an air tight container for about four days.
No ratings yet
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Japanese
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pasteurized egg yolk
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ¾ cup canola oil
  • ½ tsp kosher or sea salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp dashi powder
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Instructions
 

  • Put egg yolk and mustard in a food processor or blender and process for 20 minutes.
    Put egg yolk and mustard in a food processor or blender and process for 20 minutes
  • While the processor is going, slowly begin adding ¼ cup the canola oil. The mixture should start to thicken.
    While the processor is going, slowly begin adding ¼ cup the canola oil. The mixture should start to thicken
  • Add salt, sugar and dashi and give the processor another spin.
  • Add another ¼ of the canola using the same slow method as before.
  • Add rice vinegar, lemon juice and remainder of oil and process for an extra 10 seconds.
    Add rice vinegar, lemon juice and remainder of oil and process for an extra 10 seconds
  • Taste mayonnaise and adjust sugar and salt to your liking. It can be stored in the refrigerator in an air tight container for about four days.
    Taste mayonnaise and adjust sugar and salt to your liking

Video

Keyword Mayo, Mayonnaise, Sauce
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Tips

Here are some tips that will ensure your Japanese mayonnaise turns out well.

Japanese Mayonnaise [or Kewpie] vs American- Taste & Nutrition recipe pin

What dishes can you make using Japanese mayo?

On the other hand, if you want to use Japanese mayo in a recipe, here is one for Mayonnaise Risotto that the whole family is sure to enjoy.

Risotto with Japanese mayonnaise

Ingredients

Directions

Top 10 most popular Japanese dishes that use Kewpie mayonnaise

1. Japanese Egg Sandwich (Tamago Sando) たまごサンド

Tamago Sando is one of the best egg sandwiches out there.

It’s much simpler than your American egg sandwich and only contains three ingredients:

  1. Pullman milky bread
  2. mashed boiled eggs
  3. Japanese mayo

What makes it special is the combination of crustless milk bread and a creamy mashed egg filling with Kewpie mayonnaise.

The Pullman bread has a fluffy texture that melts in your mouth. After the crust is removed, the soft square Shokupan milk bread is filled with finely mashed boiled eggs and a good dose of Kewpie mayo.

The mayo makes the egg extra creamy and gives it a slightly tangy flavor.

It’s a great snack, sold at all convenience stores in Japan. It’s a cheap but delicious savory dish and increasingly popular in the US too.

2. Japanese Potato Salad ポテトサラダ

The Japanese potato salad is the must-have party food staple at nearly all Japanese gatherings. It’s made of roughly mashed potatoes, corn, cucumber, carrots, boiled eggs, ham, and zingy kewpie mayo.

The Kewpie mayonnaise gives the potato salad a refreshing tangy flavor that makes up for the absence of vinegar. It has an intense egg flavor which adds to the overall umami taste.

This salad has a creamy texture with chunks of delicious vegetables and ham. All of the rich flavors of the potatoes and veggies, the tart taste of the mayo, and the sweetness of the corn come together in this creamy dish.

It is commonly served with some soft bread, or as a side dish for Japanese fried foods.

3. Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き)

Okonomiyaki is a popular Japanese pancake with all kinds of savory toppings. It’s a cross between a frittata and a pancake but the batter is runny and there are many possible toppings.

The pancake’s runny batter is made of flour, eggs, and tenkasu (tempura scraps). Cabbage and pork belly slices are added into the batter and cooked until golden but still soft.

Then toppings like okonomiyaki sauce, Kewpie mayonnaise, dried bonito flakes, and dried seaweed are added for a delicious mix of tart and savory flavors.

Okonomiyaki is often cooked on a Teppanyaki griddle or fried in a pan.

4. Takoyaki (たこ焼き)

Takoyaki are deep-fried octopus balls, topped with Beni shoga (pickled ginger), spring onion, tempura scraps, dried seaweed, bonito flakes, and drizzled with tasty Takoyaki sauce and Japanese mayo.

This dish is special because the batter is made with dashi stock, so it has that rich umami flavor Japanese people really enjoy.

The combination of deep-fried octopus and savory toppings makes this a great meal or snack for seafood lovers.

Takoyaki is extremely delicious because the octopus melts in your mouth and the batter has a crispy texture.

Kewpie mayo is an essential topping because it adds a bit of a fruity and eggy taste and makes the bite-sized octopus balls easier to swallow.

5. Squid Kara-age with Japanese mayonnaise

This squid kara-age is one of the best Japanese deep-fried seafood dishes. It’s made by deep-frying the squid until golden brown and crispy.

The squid tentacles are marinated in soy sauce and sake, ginger, and garlic before cooking. Some people even like to add some chili powder or flakes for a bit of spice.

Next, the tentacles are coated in potato starch, flour, and deep-fried in peanut oil.

The crispy fried squid is served with Kewpie mayonnaise and lemon wedges for a refreshing tart and sour flavor.

6. Corn mayo pan (コーンマヨパン) 

The corn mayo pan is a crowd favorite in Japanese bakeries. It is a sweet milk bread bun with a Japanese mayonnaise and corn filling.

Some bakeries make it with a soft bun, and some use hard bread as the base and add the corn and Kewpie mayo as a topping.

Either way, this is a delicious snack and the combination of sweet, sour and tart works very well.

The rich savory mayo filling oozes out of the buns and the corn adds a nice crunch. It really is one of the most interesting ways to bake with Japanese mayo.

7. Chicken nanban

Chicken nanban is Western-inspired Japanese fusion food.  It consists of chicken thighs which are covered in an egg and potato starch mixture, and then deep-fried until crispy.

Once fried, the chicken is coated with a nanban sauce. This sweet and tangy sauce is quite popular, and it’s made by boiling soy sauce, sake, ginger, and sugar.

But the real flavor comes from the tartar sauce, which is an essential part of this popular dish. It is made by mixing boiled egg, Kewpie mayonnaise, celery, scallions, mustard, salt, pepper, and lemon juice (or zest).

This creamy sauce is used as a topping over the chicken and nanban sauce and makes this a rich, savory delight.

8. Tuna mayo onigiri rice balls (ツナマヨおにぎり)

The tuna and mayo-filled rice balls make up so many of the Japanese bento lunch boxes. This onigiri is one of the most popular varieties, beloved by adults and kids alike.

It is a triangle-shaped fluffy rice dish filled with tuna and Kewpie mayonnaise (that you can easily make yourself).

Tuna mayo onigiri is a simple dish but it has a very pleasant seafood flavor. The sushi rice is filled with canned tuna and filled with savory soy sauce, creamy tarty mayo with a high egg content, and Nori (kelp).

It’s almost like having a tuna mayo sandwich but with rice instead of bread.

9. Tuna mayo maki (sushi)

Tuna mayo maki is also known as spicy tuna roll and it’s a type of sushi roll filled with tuna and Kewpie mayo.

This sushi roll is quite basic, and it’s sometimes also called the poor man’s roll. But, don’t worry it’s one of the tastiest tuna sushi rolls of all time.

It’s made with a spicy tuna mix made from tuna, spring onions, sriracha hot sauce, and kewpie mayonnaise. Once filled, the rice is covered in a nori sheet for that yummy umami flavor.

The combination of vinegared rice, umami nori, and spicy mayo tuna is so tasty, you can’t stick to just one roll.

Also read: Sushi vs. Maki? What are the differences, or are they the same?

10. Ebi mayo

This is a delicious prawn dish with a creamy Kewpie mayonnaise sauce. Tiger or king prawns are coated in batter and then deep-fried until crunchy.

Once fried, the shrimp is covered in a Japanese mayo sauce which is made by combining the Kewpie with milk, honey, and catsup (Japanese ketchup). This sauce has a rich sweet and savory flavor with a hint of tartness.

Ebi mayo is commonly served as an appetizer along with shredded cabbage.

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.

Contents Japanese mayo Regular mayo
Calories 100 110
Fat calories 90 100
Total fat 10 g 11 g
Total saturated fat 1.5 g 1.5 g
Cholesterol 20 mg 25 mg
Sodium 100 mg 105 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.

Best Japanese mayo brands

If you are looking for Japanese mayo you can count on, here are a few brands that are recommended.

Kewpie

Kewpie is almost synonymous with Japanese mayonnaise. In fact, it claims to be the originator of Japanese mayo.

The brand launched in 1925 and after nearly a century, it has established itself as one of the most trusted brands in the industry.

In spite of the fact that it has acquired many competitors over the last few years, it still remains on top with a 70% market share.

So what’s the secret?

Kewpie uses simple ingredients like egg yolk, salt sugar and vinegar brewed with apple. Some argue that it is also the MSG that makes the flavors stand out.

However, Kewpie now has an MSG free variety and still stays at the top of the heap.

This company claims its secret to success is using fresh eggs that are no more than three days old.

They also say the chickens the eggs come from are fed with premium feed that further guarantees the taste. They also stand out because they use malt vinegar which gives the mayo a unique flavor.

kewpie Japanese mayonnaise

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Ajinomoto

Ajinomoto has been around for about 30 years now and it claims about 20% if the market share.

ajinomoto-pure-select-mayonnaise

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Kenko

Kenko contains canola and vegetable oil, water, vinegar, and egg yolk. It has a light texture and a yellowish color.

The mayo comes in a flexible plastic container with a pouring hole that is shaped like a star. It tastes very similar to Kewpie but it is cheaper in price.

kenko japanese mayonnaise

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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!

Ever had trouble finding Japanese recipes that were easy to make?

We now have "cooking Japanese with ease", our full recipe book and video course with step-by-step tutorials on your favorite recipes.

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.