Did you know that Americans eat about $2 billion worth of mayonnaise per year? Vegan competitors like Just Mayo are slowly eating into that market share… But is vegan mayo actually a healthier option than regular mayo?
Vegan mayo may be a bit healthier than regular mayo, as it is cholesterol-free, and it often has fewer calories and healthier oils. However, store-bought vegan mayo is still processed. The main ingredient is oil, and it usually has modified food starch and sugar, too. Therefore, it’s still relatively unhealthy.
Below, I’ll take a detailed look at the ingredients and nutrition facts for 3 leading brands of vegan mayo. Then I’ll compare them to regular mayo and “light mayo.” I’ll finish by sharing 5 actually healthy vegan alternatives to mayo.
What Is Vegan Mayo Made Of?
Let’s start by looking at the actual ingredients in vegan mayo. Note that these products might not legally be called “mayo” depending on the laws where you live. But these are vegan spreads made to be mayo alternatives.
Anyway, let’s look at 3 of the leading brands. The first is a brand launched in 2013, JUST Mayo:
JUST Mayo Ingredients: Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Water, White Distilled Vinegar, Contains Less Than 2% of Sugar, Salt, Spice, Modified Food Starch, Pea Protein, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Fruit and Vegetable Juice (Color), Calcium Disodium EDTA (Preservative).
Next, let’s look at the classic brand that goes all the way back to 1995, “Vegenaise” by Follow Your Heart:
Follow Your Heart Vegenaise Ingredients: Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Filtered Water, Brown Rice Syrup, Apple Cider Vinegar, Soy Protein, Sea Salt, Mustard Flour, Lemon Juice Concentrate.
And lastly, here is Hellmann’s vegan mayo, first offered in 2016:
Hellmann’s Vegan Ingredients: Sunflower Oil, Water, Modified Food Starch (Potato, Corn), Distilled Vinegar, Salt, Less Than 2 % of: Sugar, Salt, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Sorbic Acid (Used to Protect Quality), Natural Flavor, Calcium Disodium EDTA (Used to Protect Quality, Paprika Extract.
As you can see, the main ingredients in vegan mayo are oil, water, and vinegar. Sugar and modified food starch are also typically included pretty high in the ingredients. Now let’s dig into these ingredients a bit closer.
Is Vegan Mayo Processed?
Vegan mayo is a processed food, as its main ingredient is refined oil. Most brands also contain modified food starch, sugar, salt, and isolated plant protein (like soy protein or pea protein). These are all processed ingredients, not whole foods.
Here are the patterns I see in the vegan mayo ingredients:
- The #1 ingredient in all 3 vegan mayo brands is refined oil, either expeller-pressed canola oil or sunflower oil. These are not the most unhealthy oils, but they are still processed ingredients, not whole foods.
- The Hellmann’s brand has a significant amount of Modified Food Starch. This is an ingredient often found in light mayo. (See my comparison of vegan mayo vs light mayo below.) It’s a processed and nutritionally empty ingredient, so, not great.
- Vegan mayo has some sugar and salt. More details on the sugar content below, but vegan mayo contains roughly the same amount of sugar and salt as regular mayo.
Does Vegan Mayo Have Sugar?
Vegan mayo typically has a very small amount of sugar. JUST Mayo and Hellmann’s Vegan both have “Sugar” as an ingredient, while Vegenaise has “Brown Rice Syrup,” which is a source of sugar. However, all three products have less than 1g of total sugar per serving.
Vegan mayo does not appear to have more sugar than regular mayo. In fact, Miracle Whip and some Light Mayo products appear to have more sugar than any of the vegan brands I checked.
However, none of the mayo products I checked have much sugar at all. Mayo is mainly fat, not sugar.
Vegan Mayo Nutrition Facts
Now let’s look at the numbers. How does vegan mayo do when it comes to calories, fat, sodium, carbs, sugar, and the rest?
Again I’m looking at 3 leading brands of vegan mayo. Each brand has a serving size of 1 tablespoon:
|JUST Mayo||Vegenaise||Hellmann’s Vegan|
Here’s what I notice when comparing these 3 brands of vegan mayo:
- JUST Mayo is the “lightest” vegan mayo brand I reviewed. It has only 66% of the calories and 60% of the total fat that Hellmann’s Vegan mayo has—in the same serving size! Hellmann’s was the “heaviest” in terms of fat and calories.
- All 3 vegan mayo brands are free of cholesterol and trans fat. Considering that the saturated fat contain is also low (0.5g), most of the fat is relatively healthy unsaturated fat.
- Vegan mayo is very low in carbs, with typically 1 gram or less of total carbohydrates per tablespoon. Since the main ingredients are oil, water, and vinegar, the main macronutrient in vegan mayo is fat.
These nutrition facts don’t look too bad. But now let’s directly compare vegan mayo to regular mayo.
Vegan Mayo vs Regular Mayo
Since vegan mayo is typically used to replace regular mayonnaise, let’s see which is healthier. The table below compares the classic vegan mayo, Vegenaise, with two brands of normal, non-vegan mayo.
I chose to use Vegenaise to represent vegan mayo below, as it was the most “middle of the road” brand in terms of calories and fat.
Again, each brand has a serving size of 1 tablespoon:
|Vegenaise [Vegan Mayo]||Great Value Mayo [Regular Mayo]||Kraft Real Mayo [Regular Mayo]|
Here’s what I notice when comparing vegan mayo to regular mayo:
- Vegan mayo has about 1/3 of the saturated fat in regular mayo. Most health orgs suggest limiting saturated fat intake for heart health. If you’re having multiple spoonfuls of mayo per day, the saturated fat in regular mayo could add up.
- Vegan mayo is cholesterol-free, while regular mayo is not. There is some evidence that limiting dietary cholesterol is beneficial. That said, regular mayo only has about 5mg of cholesterol per serving, which is not much.
- Vegan mayo may be slightly lower in calories—but this depends on the brand. Hellmann’s Vegan was also 90 calories per tablespoon, so it’s no lighter than normal mayo.
- Vegan mayo and regular mayo are equal for sodium, fiber, and sugar. No clear winner in these areas.
So when it comes to the nutrition facts, the vegan mayo looks a bit healthier. But let’s also compare the ingredients real quick.
Which Has Healthier Ingredients?
Below are the ingredients for Kraft’s mayo. The ingredients for Great Value mayo are very similar:
Kraft Real Mayo Ingredients: Soybean Oil, Water, Eggs, Vinegar, Contains Less Than 2% of Sugar, Salt, Egg Yolks, Natural Flavor (Contains Mustard), Lemon Juice Concentrate, Calcium Disodium Edta (To Protect Flavor), Dried Garlic, Dried Onions, Paprika.
When I compare this to the vegan mayo ingredients above, I notice:
- The vegan mayo brands use arguably healthier oils. The vegan mayo brands used expeller-pressed canola oil or sunflower oil. Both of those oils have a better omega fat ratio than soybean oil, which is the oil used in the regular mayo brands I checked.
- Vegan mayo doesn’t contain eggs. This is the defining feature of vegan mayonnaise. Since eggs contain cholesterol, I view their absence as a positive from a health perspective. But it’s not a huge factor either way.
So, I would say that vegan mayo has a bit healthier ingredients than the regular mayo brands I checked. This is mainly based on the oil used. If you bought regular mayo that used avocado oil or another healthier oil, that would make regular mayo healthier.
Vegan Mayo vs Light Mayo
Now, how does vegan mayo compare to “light mayo”? Light mayo is made with less oil than regular mayo, so it’s lower in calories and fat.
Again, the serving sizes are 1 tablespoon each, and I’m comparing one vegan mayo (Vegenaise) to two “Light Mayo” products:
|Vegenaise [Vegan Mayo]||Kraft Light Mayo||Hellmann’s Light Mayo|
There’s one really big difference you’ll notice in these nutrition facts:
- The vegan mayo has more than double the calories of the light mayo. Granted, if you got the JUST Mayo brand of vegan mayo, the calories are a bit lower—but not as low as “light mayo”!
However, let’s take a look at the ingredients in light mayo, too. See if you can notice how they’re making a lower-calorie product:
Kraft Light Mayo Ingredients: Water, Soybean Oil, Modified Food Starch, Sugar, Maltodextrin, Vinegar, Contains Less Than 2% of Salt, Natural Flavor, Egg, Lactic Acid, Mustard Flour, Phosphoric Acid, Dried Onion, Dried Garlic, Beta-Carotene (Color), Potassium Sorbate and Calcium Disodium Edta (To Protect Flavor).
And here’s light mayo number two:
Hellmann’s Light Mayo Ingredients: Water, Soybean Oil, Modified Food Starch (Corn, Potato), Sugar, Distilled Vinegar, Whole Eggs and Egg Yolks, Salt, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Sorbic Acid and Calcium Disodium Edta (Used to Protect Quality), Natural Flavor, Paprika Extract, Vitamine E.
As you can see, “light mayo” is lower in calories because there is less soybean oil per serving, more water. However, to make up for that in the taste, they add modified food starch and more sugar.
So it’s not like Light Mayo is an actual health food. It’s still loaded with processed stuff. It’s just got less of the oil, which is the most calorie-dense ingredient. Therefore, it’s lower in calories overall.
If you’re solely focused on cutting calories, then Light Mayo may be better than vegan mayo. But if you want to avoid processed ingredients, then vegan mayo may be the better choice, or they may be about equal.
Is Vegan Mayo Good for Weight Loss?
So, is vegan mayo less fattening than normal mayo? Maybe by a bit, but the difference is not huge. If I was aiming at fat loss and I wanted to eat some kind of “mayo,” I would probably choose JUST Mayo, as it only has 60 calories per tablespoon.
Does Vegan Mayo Have Fewer Calories?
Vegan mayo contains slightly less calories than regular mayo on average. However, this varies by brand. From the vegan mayo brands I checked, JUST Mayo was the lowest in calories, with 60 calories per tablespoon. That’s about 33% lower than most regular mayo.
Is Vegan Mayo Low Fat?
Vegan mayo is generally not low fat—it typically contains a similar amount of fat as regular mayo. Just like regular mayo, the main ingredient in vegan mayo is oil, so the main macronutrient in vegan mayo is fat.
That said, JUST Mayo was the lowest in fat of the vegan mayo brands I checked, with only 6g of total fat. That’s only 60% of what most regular mayo brands contain.
Is Vegan Mayo Good for Cholesterol?
Vegan mayo may be better for cholesterol than regular mayo. This is because vegan mayo typically has about 1/3 of the saturated fat in regular mayo, and saturated fat is shown to raise LDL cholesterol. Vegan mayo is also free of dietary cholesterol.
However, most brands of vegan mayo still contain a bit of saturated fat and sodium, so there could be healthy spread and condiment choices that are even more heart healthy than vegan mayo.
Let’s look at some of those now!
5 Healthy Alternatives to Mayo
We’ve seen above that vegan mayo is maybe a bit healthier than regular mayo, but not a lot. What if you want to replace your mayo with something actually healthy? What are your options?
Here are some ideas:
- Avocado: You can mash avocado or just use slices, but it’s my #1 replacement for mayo. Healthy fat from a whole plant food. Add some salt, pepper, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, or other seasonings if you like.
- Hummus: Hummus contains whole plant foods like chickpeas and tahini. It’s especially healthy if you get it made without refined oils—or with only the healthiest oils, like extra virgin olive oil.
- Homemade vegan mayo: Just because store-bought vegan mayo isn’t very healthy, that doesn’t mean every recipe is unhealthy! Find one that focuses on whole foods, or at least a healthier oil like avocado oil. Here are two recipes to try: one, two.
- Unsweetened vegan yogurt: There are some store-bought vegan yogurts that come without added sugars and without many processed ingredients overall. Just check the ingredients list!
- Nut Butters: This is a bit different… But in some cases, it might do the trick. If you choose a natural nut butter without added oils and sugar, it’s quite healthy fat.
Two More Recommendations for Your Vegan Journey
1. This is the best vegan multivitamin I’ve found in 13 years of being vegan. It has vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3—and nothing else. Translation: It only has the nutrients vegans are actually low in. Read my full review of Future Kind’s multivitamin here (with 10% discount).
2. This is the best vegan starter kit I know of. It’s a bundle of 9 beautiful e-books that help you transition to a healthy plant-based diet—the right way. The advice is spot-on, and it has print-outs and checklists that make it easy to implement. Read my full review of Nutriciously here.