Easy and authentic: Provençale Aioli recipe from France

For those garlic-lovers, an aioli sauce recipe from Provence in the south of France, is just what you need. With tips on how to serve it, drinks, and accompaniments.
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This Recipe uses:

  • Garlic
  • Egg yolks
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • (Optional) Dijon mustard

If you like garlic, you will love aioli. One of the tangiest sauces in French cuisine, it is one of those recipes that is very quick and easy to make at home.

Having several relatives in the South of France in Provence where the aioli sauce is very popular, I have to say I have eaten many an authentic aioli. The etymology of the word comes from the French word ail (meaning “garlic”) and huile (meaning “olive”).

So as you can imagine, like many other recipes from Provence, the emphasis is on using a lot of garlic, olive oil, and herbs in the traditional aioli recipe.

Pair that with fresh vegetables from the farmers’ market grown under the summer sun, and you have the makings of a meal that has become a staple in this part of the world. Good simple food that is quick and easy.

What is aioli?

If you wander through the city of Marseille on the French Riviera, you will see plenty of restaurant menus proudly declaring that they serve “aioli”. But aioli is not actually a dish in itself, it is a sauce.

Aioli is a version of mayonnaise, with a lot more garlic in it. The mayonnaise part is made by mixing egg yolks and olive oil till it emulsifies, with it turning into a creamy aioli once the garlic is added. For mayonnaise in France, we usually add a vinegar and dijon mustard, while in aioli we add lemon.

There is some debate as to which was invented first, aioli or mayonnaise in the late 18th century, when both versions started appearing in French cook books. Other similar French sauces are the hollandaise and the béarnaise.

The classic garlic aioli from Provence is used to accompany steamed or poached fish caught fresh from the Mediterranean and lightly seasoned with herbs, olive oil and lemon. It is also usually served with steam fresh vegetables like carrots, potatoes, asparagus, or any other vegetable that is in season. (A rather simple French cooking principle, but it works!)

What does aioli taste like?

I should note that a traditional French aioli has a very strong taste of garlic. It has a bite to it, in the sense that you will not want to stick a spoonful of aioli in your mouth.

The aioli sauce is meant to add flavor to the rest of the meal, which is usually just steamed fish and vegetables, without many herbs or enhancements. The idea is that the rest of the plate is rather bland, and you add as much aioli to each mouthful as you wish to liven up the tastebuds. (The French version of sriracha sauce, if you will!)

Along with aioli, other sauces from this area are tomato provençale sauce, sauce vierge, pistou, and the rouille. The rouille sauce also has an abundance of garlic, and is served with bouillabaisse, except an aioli is less spicy.

If you do not want as strong a garlic taste, but still want the sauce to have a bite to it, you can reduce the amount of garlic and instead add a teaspoon of French dijon mustard. You can also try a greek yogurt aioli if you are looking for a healthier version.

Spicy aioli recipe with sriracha

Now, if you are looking for a bit more of a spicy kick to your aioli, you can follow the recipe for a rouille, or you can add a touch of hot sauce to the aioli recipe below.

Not all hot sauce works equally well, for instance, tabasco leaves too much of a back-taste that doesn’t go well in an aioli sauce. Another option is cayenne pepper which works well in a pinch.

However, my favorite hot sauce to add in an aioli is actually sriracha sauce. If you are not sure what sriracha is (and I should add, it is not that easy to find in France so I do understand), it is a type spicy chili sauce made from a paste of chili peppers.

It also has white vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt added to it, leaving a sweet aftertaste that blends perfectly with the aioli sauce without overwhelming it. (I would recommend putting sriracha or dijon mustard, but not both.)

Add three tablespoons to the recipe below (or more if you want even more heat) and you will have a spicy aioli that will win over anyone who may have been on the fence!

Sauce too thick or thin?

If your aioli sauce is too thin or thin, not to panic it is very much still salvageable. It is the olive oil that adjusts the thickness of the sauce.

So if your aioli sauce is too thin, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to it. If your aioli on the other hand is too thick, add a couple of tablespoons of water or lemon juice and mix in thoroughly.

Aioli in other countries

Similar versions of aioli exist in other countries along the Mediterranean sea. The most common term in Spain is alioli, an adaptation from Catalan, although it is also called ajoaceite, ajiaceite, ajolio or ajaceite.

In Malta, arjoli or ajjoli is commonly made with the addition of either crushed galletti (a type of cracker) or tomato.

Frequently asked questions

What to serve with Aioli?

cutlery

Aioli is usually prepared and served with steamed or poached codfish, lightly seasoned with herbs, olive oil and lemon. But you can also try it with other fishes sea bass, crab cakes, shrimp or other types of seafood.

As a side, add steamed fresh vegetables like carrots, potatoes, asparagus, or other vegetables that are in season.

What drinks to serve with it?

two wine glasses

Since aioli is usually served with fish, I would recommend a light white wine from Côtes de Provence, Bandol or Lubéron. You can read more about French wines here.

Can you freeze and store it for later?

freezer

No, since it contains raw eggs, I would not recommend freezing it. You can however prepare it in advance and store it in a jar for a few days, leaving it in the fridge rather than the freezer.

close up of aioli sauce on a plate with steamed fish, beans and carrots

Recipe: Provençale Aioli Sauce

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

An aioli sauce made of garlic and olive oil from Provence.

Ingredients

  • 6 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 25cl (1 cup) of olive oil 
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • (Optional) Teaspoon of dijon mustard
  • (Optional) 3 tablespoons of sriracha

Instructions

    1. Peel the garlic and then crush it in a mortar with a pestle. `
    2. In a bowl, whisk in the egg yolks and gradually add the olive oil until you make a mayonnaise-like sauce.
    3. Add in the crushed garlic, salt, pepper, and lemon juice, as you mix and whisk.
    4. Set aside once the aioli is smooth and serve when ready.

Notes

Adjust the garlic taste of the aioli based on personal preference. If you do not want as strong a garlic taste, reduce the amount of garlic and instead add a teaspoon of French dijon mustard.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 102Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 92mgSodium: 68mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 1gSugar: 8gProtein: 2g

Note: We are not certified nutritionists and these estimates are approximate. Each individual’s dietary needs and restrictions are unique to the individual. You are ultimately responsible for all decisions pertaining to your health. This website is written and produced for informational purposes only.

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If you enjoyed that, check out our other classic French recipes that are easy to prepare. Bon appétit and à bientôt !

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