Mayonnaise – Emulsification using a Sonicator

Oil and water don’t mix, right? In fact, oil and water can be efficiently mixed using power ultrasound. Mayonnaise is a prominent example of an emulsion in culinary applications. Learn how sonication facilitates the production of a stable, creamy, and flavorful mayonnaise. Probe-type sonicators are available as hand-held homogenizers for use in kitchens and as industrial emulsifying machines in commercial mayonnaise manufacturing.

Ultrasonic Homogenizers Facilitate Mayonnaise Emulsification

Mayonnaise production is improved by ultrasonic emulsification.Ultrasonic emulsification leverages high-frequency sound waves to create tiny droplets of oil dispersed in water, forming a uniform mixture. This method ensures that the oil droplets are consistently small and well-distributed, preventing separation and maintaining the desired texture. By using a probe-type sonicator, the energy delivered to the mixture is highly controlled, resulting in efficient and reproducible emulsification.
In the kitchen, a hand-held homogenizer can easily emulsify small batches of mayonnaise, offering chefs and home cooks the ability to achieve professional-quality results. For industrial production, larger scale sonicators provide the capacity to emulsify vast quantities, ensuring consistency and quality in every batch of mayonnaise produced.
The application of ultrasonic emulsification in mayonnaise production not only enhances stability and texture but also intensifies flavors, making the final product more appealing. Thus, whether for artisanal or large-scale production, sonication stands out as a powerful homogenization technique for producing the perfect mayonnaise.

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Ultrasonic emulsification facilitates the rapid blending of the oil- and water-based ingredients into a creamy, stable mayonnaise.

Sonicator UP200Ht for mayonnaise emulsification


Watch how the sonicator UP200Ht overcomes the immiscibility of the water and oil ingredients creating a creamy, stable mayonnaise. This powerful sonicator uses high-intensity ultrasound waves to achieve superior emulsification, resulting in a consistently smooth texture. Unlike traditional methods, ultrasonic emulsification ensures enhanced stability and extends the shelf life of the mayonnaise by preventing phase separation.

Mayonnaise Made with Sonication: Watch how the sonicator UP200Ht emulsifies egg, vinegar and oil!

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Mayonnaise Emulsified by Sonication – The Recipe

Find below the recipe of the mayonnaise made using the sonicator UP200Ht as shown in the video above.

  • 2 fresh egg yolks
  • 200mL neutral oil (e.g. safflower or sunflower oil)
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp mustard
  • 1 pinch of sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt

Step-by-Step Instruction for Ultrasonically Mixed Mayonnaise

Place the egg yolks with vinegar, mustard, salt and sugar in a narrow glass container. Insert the ultrasonic probe into the mixture (near to the bottom of the vessel, but not touching the bottom) and then switch the sonicator on. Start sonicating at 100% amplitude. Add now the oil slowly to the mixture. It works best, when the oil gets right into the cavitation zone below the sonotrode surface. Initially leave the ultrasonic probe on the ground without moving – after 5 seconds, very slowly pull the sonicator slightly upwards. After 15-20 seconds, lower the amplitude to 70%. Move the probe slowly through the mixture until a solid mayonnaise forms. Make sure to not touch the walls of the vessel during sonication. When the mixture is turned into a homogeneous mayonnaise, store in the refrigerator until needed.
Consume within a day.

Tips and Troubleshooting to get a Stable, Creamy Mayonnaise using Sonication

Mayonnaise is an oil-in-water emulsion. To get a uniform oil-in-water emulsion, it helps if you firstly sonicate the egg yolks, vinegar and mustard so that the aqueous phase is thoroughly mixed. Use all ingredients at room temperature. In the second step, slowly add the (sunflower) oil by letting the oil running down the sonotrode. Thereby, the oil gets directly into the acoustic cavitation zone, where it gets most efficiently emulsified into the aqueous phase (i.e. yolks, vinegar, mustard).

The combination of egg yolk, egg white (optional), vinegar (or lemon juice), and mustard form the water phase of the emulsion. Premixing these ingredients thoroughly with the sonicator before adding the oil facilitates the subsequent preparation of a creamy, stable emulsion known as mayonnaise. The interplay of hydrophilic and hydrophobic interactions, protein denaturation, and acid-base chemistry ensures that the mayonnaise smooth and delicious. Ultrasonic homogenization is a simple, highly efficient method to create a very fine emulsion of the oil- and water-based ingredients producing a very creamy and consistent texture ensuring a great taste experience of fresh mayonnaise.

How do Ingredients influence Mayonnaise Miscibility and Stability?

  • Egg Yolk: The main emulsifying agent in mayonnaise is lecithin, a phospholipid found abundantly in egg yolks. Lecithin has a hydrophilic (water-attracting) “head” and a hydrophobic (water-repelling) “tail”. When egg yolk is mixed with oil and vinegar, the hydrophilic heads of lecithin orient themselves towards the water phase (vinegar), while the hydrophobic tails immerse themselves in the oil phase. This arrangement forms a stable barrier between the oil and vinegar, preventing them from separating.
  • Egg White: While egg white (albumin) doesn’t play as significant a role as egg yolk, it can contribute to the stability of mayonnaise due to its protein content. Proteins in egg white can also form a film around oil droplets, enhancing emulsion stability. That is why many recipes include only egg yolk.
  • Vinegar (or Lemon Juice): The acidity of vinegar (or lemon juice) not only adds flavor but also influences the stability of mayonnaise. The acidic environment helps denature proteins in the egg yolk, increasing their ability to interact with both oil and water phases. Additionally, the acidity can alter the charge distribution on the surface of oil droplets, promoting electrostatic repulsion and preventing coalescence.
  • Mustard: Mustard acts as an emulsifier and stabilizer in mayonnaise. It contains compounds such as mucilage and proteins that can enhance the emulsifying properties of egg yolk. Additionally, mustard contains small particles that can physically trap oil droplets, further stabilizing the emulsion.

The Chemistry of Emulsion behind Mayonnaise

Sonicator UP200St with sonotrode S26d7D for the batch-type homogenization of egg yolk, vinegar and oil into a creamy, stable mayonnaise.Mayonnaise is a type of oil-in-water emulsion. In this emulsion, oil is dispersed in water with the help of an emulsifier, typically egg yolk, mustard, or lecithin. The emulsifier surrounds and stabilizes tiny droplets of oil, preventing them from coalescing and separating from the water phase. This results in a creamy, stable mixture with a smooth texture.
The water content in traditional mayonnaise recipes is relatively low compared to the oil content. However, the presence of water-based ingredients like vinegar and egg yolks, along with the mechanical action of blending, e.g. ultrasonic homogenization, facilitates the formation of a stable oil-in-water emulsion.
The egg yolks contain water and lecithin, which acts as an emulsifier, helping to stabilize the mixture by forming a protective barrier around the oil droplets. Additionally, the vinegar provides acidity, which further assists in stabilizing the emulsion.
While the oil content is higher than the water content in mayonnaise, the presence of these water-based ingredients, along with the emulsifying action, allows for the formation of a stable oil-in-water emulsion.

Ultrasonic homogenizer for the continuous mixing and pasteurization of liquid eggs as well as for the emulsification of egg and oil into mayonnaise..

Industrial ultrasonicator UIP6000hdT for the inline emulsification and pasteurization of mayonnaise.

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High-Performance Sonicators for Mayonnaise Production

Why Hielscher Ultrasonics?

  • high efficiency
  • state-of-the-art technology
  • reliability & robustness
  • adjustable, precise process control
  • batch & inline
  • for any volume
  • intelligent software
  • smart features (e.g., programmable, data protocolling, remote control)
  • easy and safe to operate
  • low maintenance
  • CIP (clean-in-place)

Design, Manufacturing and Consulting – Quality Made in Germany

Hielscher ultrasonicators are well-known for their highest quality and design standards. Robustness and easy operation allow the smooth integration of our ultrasonicators into industrial facilities. Rough conditions and demanding environments are easily handled by Hielscher ultrasonicators.

Hielscher Ultrasonics is an ISO certified company and put special emphasis on high-performance ultrasonicators featuring state-of-the-art technology and user-friendliness. Of course, Hielscher ultrasonicators are CE compliant and meet the requirements of UL, CSA and RoHs.

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Sonicators for Emulsifying Mayonnaise at Any Scale:
The table below gives you an indication of the approximate processing capacity of our ultrasonicators:

Batch VolumeFlow RateRecommended Devices
1 to 500mL10 to 200mL/minUP100H
10 to 2000mL20 to 400mL/minUP200Ht,UP200St
10 to 4000mL20 to 800mL/minUP400St
0.1 to 20L0.2 to 4L/minUIP2000hdT
10 to 100L2 to 10L/minUIP4000hdT
15 to 150L3 to 15L/minUIP6000hdT
n.a.10 to 100L/minUIP16000
n.a.largercluster of UIP16000

Literature / References

Facts Worth Knowing

What is Mayonnaise?

Mayonnaise is a quintessential example of an oil-in-vinegar emulsion, a type of mixture where oil droplets are finely dispersed within vinegar. This culinary marvel owes its stable, creamy consistency to the presence of an emulsifier—specifically, the egg yolk.
Egg yolks are rich in lecithin, a phospholipid that plays a critical role in the emulsification process. Each lecithin molecule has a unique structure with two distinct ends: a polar (hydrophilic) end that is attracted to water and a non-polar (hydrophobic) end that is attracted to oil. Compounds, whose head groups are hydrophilic and water soluble and whose non-polar tail groups are hydrophobic and fat soluble, are described with the scientific term “amphiphilic”. This dual affinity allows lecithin to act as a bridge between the oil and vinegar, stabilizing the mixture.
When preparing mayonnaise, the lecithin molecules position themselves at the interface between the oil and vinegar. The hydrophilic end interacts with the vinegar, while the hydrophobic end embeds itself in the oil. This orientation enables lecithin to reduce the surface tension between the two immiscible liquids, preventing them from separating. As a result, droplets of oil are evenly dispersed and maintained within the vinegar, creating a smooth and cohesive emulsion.
In short, mayonnaise uses the amphiphilic properties of lecithin and the science of emulsification, combining simple ingredients into a versatile and world-wide used condiment.

The Role of Lecithin as Stabilizer in Mayonnaise

Lecithin functions as a key emulsifier in mayonnaise, ensuring that the oil and vinegar blend into a stable, cohesive mixture. The effectiveness of lecithin in this process can be attributed to its unique molecular structure, which features both hydrophilic (water-attracting) and hydrophobic (oil-attracting) components.

How lecithin works in mayonnaise:

  • Molecular Structure: Lecithin is a phospholipid, meaning it contains a phosphate group connected to a glycerol backbone, along with fatty acid chains. This structure results in two distinct ends: a polar head (hydrophilic) and non-polar tails (hydrophobic).
  • Interaction with Ingredients: When mayonnaise is made, the polar head of the lecithin molecule interacts with the water-based component, which is vinegar in this case. Simultaneously, the non-polar tails immerse themselves in the oil droplets.
  • Emulsification Process: As the ingredients are mixed, the lecithin molecules align themselves at the interface between the oil and vinegar. The hydrophilic heads remain in the vinegar, and the hydrophobic tails stay within the oil droplets. This alignment reduces the surface tension between the oil and vinegar, preventing the oil droplets from coalescing and separating out.
  • Stabilization: By stabilizing the oil droplets within the vinegar, lecithin creates a stable emulsion. The oil is effectively dispersed as tiny droplets throughout the vinegar, giving mayonnaise its characteristic creamy and homogeneous texture.
  • Final Product: The result of this process is a thick, stable mixture where the oil droplets are uniformly distributed within the vinegar base, creating the smooth and cohesive condiment known as mayonnaise.

The amphiphilic nature of lecithin, which describes the dual affinity for both oil and water, is crucial for the emulsification process in mayonnaise. By positioning itself between the oil and vinegar, lecithin stabilizes the mixture, ensuring the oil droplets remain evenly distributed and preventing separation, which ultimately gives mayonnaise its desired consistency and texture.

High performance ultrasonics! The Hielscher product range covers the full spectrum from the compact lab ultrasonicator over bench-top units to full-industrial ultrasonic systems.

Hielscher Ultrasonics manufactures high-performance ultrasonic homogenizers from lab to industrial size.

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