Greek yogurt and mayonnaise look alike and may seem to be perfect substitutes for each other. The truth is more complicated, as they each have unique characteristics that you will need to consider before using one or the other. Learn more about those characteristics in the SPICEography Showdown below.
Table of contents
How does Greek yogurt differ from mayonnaise?
Greek yogurt and mayonnaise consist of different ingredients. Greek yogurt is a cultured dairy product made from milk fermented with special bacteria. After it has been fermented, Greek yogurt is strained to remove much of the moisture, which is called whey. Some companies that make Greek yogurt add thickeners, while others will rely on the bacteria and the straining to give the yogurt its distinctive texture.
In comparison, mayonnaise is an emulsified sauce made of egg yolks and oil with a few other ingredients like lemon juice and salt added for flavor. Mayonnaise gets its creaminess from being whipped. The egg yolks are whipped while the oil is incorporated slowly, resulting in a thick, velvety mixture.
The fact that they are made up of different things gives Greek yogurt and mayonnaise distinctive flavors. Greek yogurt is tart and creamy with a dense, heavy consistency. Mayonnaise is thick and creamy but is not quite as dense as Geek yogurt. It has a mild acidity, but it is usually subtler than that of Greek yogurt. Most mayonnaise will contain salt, which you won’t find in Greek yogurt.
Greek yogurt and mayonnaise differ in terms of the nutrition they provide. Greek yogurt has much less fat and more important minerals like calcium and magnesium. Greek yogurt contains much more protein than mayonnaise. Mayonnaise will small amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin from the egg yolks and vitamin E from the oil, which you won’t get from Greek yogurt.
If your recipe calls for one, can you use the other?
Greek yogurt is commonly recommended as a healthier alternative to mayonnaise. It can work because it provides the same creaminess with only a fraction of the fat. Greek yogurt can work in many of the applications that call for mayonnaise, including salad dressings and sandwiches. When using Greek yogurt as a mayonnaise substitute, be aware of the difference in flavor. All the fat in mayonnaise makes some dishes more flavorful. Replacing it with Greek yogurt may make those dishes bland.
Mayonnaise won’t work in most of the dishes that call for Greek yogurt. For example, you wouldn’t add it to a smoothie or serve it with fruit. Where it can work is in savory dishes where Greek yogurt is being used as a mayonnaise alternative. Use mayonnaise in these dishes to make them less healthy but tastier.
When should you use Greek yogurt, and when should you use mayonnaise?
Greek yogurt is traditionally used in sweet dishes. Many people use it to add protein to smoothies without also adding a lot of fat. It is versatile enough to work in salad dressings and as a sandwich spread. You can also add Greek yogurt to soups and sauces as a sour cream substitute, or use it as a topping for chili and baked potatoes.
Mayonnaise is used mostly in cold dishes and in a few baked goods. It is a key component in traditional potato salads, coleslaw, and hamburgers. Mayonnaise helps to make the filling for deviled eggs creamy and is an effective butter substitute on grilled cheese sandwiches.