Another one of life's big decisions is mayo vs Miracle Whip. They look the same but differ quite a bit as far as sweetness and calories/fat are concerned. Here's how these two popular food accompaniments compare in terms of history, uses, shelf life, and nutritional benefits.
Mayonnaise is a white, creamy sauce that is made by combining egg yolk, oil, lemon juice or vinegar, and seasonings. Technically speaking, mayonnaise is an emulsion - a mixture of liquids that normally do not combine (like water and oil). Lecithin in the egg yolk is the emulsifier that binds the ingredients together so the mayonnaise remains as a thick sauce.
Although there is some uncertainty about the exact origins of mayonnaise, it is generally believed to have originated in France in the mid 1700's. Today, it is one of the most popular condiments and sauces throughout the world. Note that there are regional differences in how mayonnaise is made. For example, in Russia, mayonnaise is typically made using sunflower oil which imparts a very distinctive taste.
Mayonnaise and Miracle Whip are commonly used as sandwich condiments, as base sauces for other sauces, and for a range of other dishes such as potato salads and vegetable dips. Mayonnaise is generally used in sauces such as hollandaise sauce and horseradish sauce where the sweetness and distinctive taste of Miracle Whip would be a bit overpowering.
Legend has it that Miracle Whip was invented in 1933 when Kraft Foods needed a new product to boost sales during the Great Depression. The result was Miracle Whip, a dressing that was similar to mayonnaise but sold at a lower price. It was made by blending regular mayonnaise ingredients with cheaper salad dressings, sugar, and various spices.
Miracle Whip debuted at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair with the slogan: "Salad Miracles with Miracle Whip Salad Dressing". This less expensive alternative to mayonnaise was an instant hit. (helped no doubt by one of the largest food advertising campaigns of the era).
Miracle Whip has the same color and consistency as mayonnaise but is a bit tangier and sweeter. It appeals to those who want to add a little zing to their sandwiches or salads and cut back on the calories at the same time.
Miracle Whip contains mayo's key ingredients (egg, oil, vinegar) but in different proportions. In particular, it has a lower proportion of fatty gradients: eggs and vegetable oil. Kraft Foods keeps Miracle Whip's exact oil content a secret but it does confirm that it is too low to meet the USDA mayonnaise standard. This standard requires that any product labelled as mayonnaise must contain a minimum of 65% vegetable oil by weight.
Miracle Whip has a considerably lower caloric and fat content than mayonnaise. According to the product labels, a 15 gram serving (about 1 tablespoon) of Miracle Whip has 35 calories and 3.5 grams total fat. A serving of Kraft Real mayonnaise has 90 calories and 10 grams total fat.
Low fat mayonnaise products are available for those who prefer the taste of mayonnaise but don't want the fat or calories. Many people find these products not as tasty as real mayo, although they are arguably better for you. As an example, Hellman's Light "only" has 50 calories and 5 grams of fat per tablespoon.
On the surface, Miracle Whip seems to be a healthier choice than mayonnaise because of its reduced fat content. However, an argument can be made that it is more processed and less natural than mayonnaise. The ingredient list includes modified food starch, artificial color, high fructose corn syrup, and potassium sorbate.
Although Miracle Whip was once the low cost alternative to mayonnaise, the two products now cost about the same. This is due in large part to the premium consumers seem willing to pay for light or low fat foods.
Mayonnaise has a relatively short shelf life. According to the USDA, commercially-produced mayonnaise can be kept in the refrigerator for two months. However, many people keep mayonnaise around for much longer than two months without any ill effects. The shelf life of home-made mayo is no more than one to two weeks. Miracle Whip's shelf life is comparable to that of store-bought mayonnaise.
Because the Miracle Whip name is trademarked by Kraft Foods, comparable products from other manufacturers are sold under the name "Salad Dressing".