• Feel less guilty about your next burger with Dibble's eco-friendly condiments. (Dibble)
There's a healthier, vegan and more sustainable alternative to mayonnaise, made with chickpea water saved from hummus producers.
By
Lee Tran Lam

14 Jan 2019 - 2:28 PM  UPDATED 10 Dec 2018 - 12:15 PM

It’s true, Vuong Nguyen once spent two solid months eating every kind of mayonnaise available. It was impossible to ignore the jars. “All the different brands and variations took up three shelves of my fridge!” he says. “And I don’t like waste, so I literally had mayonnaise for breakfast, lunch and dinner, every day, for two months.”
 
The Sydney food technologist’s mission? To create a sustainable, plant-based mayonnaise. Producing just one egg requires around 200 litres of water. By replacing that mayo-dependent ingredient with aquafaba (leftover brine produced from cooked chickpeas), the result is far better for the environment.

The Dibble mayo is made from leftover chickpea brine.

Reaching for mayonnaise already sparks a big enough guilt trip (it’s famously overloaded with fat). So replicating that gloriously tart, creamy mouthfeel of mayo – without such a detrimental impact on the environment (and your arteries) – would be good for everyone. Producing a vegan alternative means anyone can eat it: from pregnant women steering clear of raw eggs to people with allergies and anyone wanting to skip the condiment’s big-time calorie count. So plant-based mayo makes sense on every front.
 
Sure, it might seem unusual for Nguyen to be experimenting with mayo. “I grew up in quite a traditional Vietnamese household,” he says, so his formative years weren’t spent casually drizzling the condiment onto his sandwiches or salads. But generating a vegan alternative to mayo is on track with his previous food-manufacturing experience. He’s a co-founder of Inside Out, the almond milk company that he started with just $600 and 17 litres that he blitzed at home and sold at markets.

“There’s a lot you can learn from building a business from your kitchen bench to the shelves of Woolworths and 2500 stockists nationwide!” he says.

So Nguyen used a similar “small-step” approach when starting new company Dibble, the brand behind his plant-based mayonnaise.

“Instead of creating almond milk from my parent’s kitchen bench, I created my Eco Mayo from my studio apartment.”

"I literally had mayonnaise for breakfast, lunch and dinner, every day, for two months.”

Funnily enough, it was an SBS article that inspired him to come up with a sustainable mayonnaise made from aquafaba. The Dibble founder works with local businesses that make hummus and falafel – two dishes that generate leftover cooked chickpea brine – and saves it for a better purpose than a trip down the drain.
 
“The chickpea water is collected and transported in chilled vans and we travel around Sydney collecting it from small cafes and restaurants to large hummus manufacturers.” One business might only have enough saved aquafaba to fill a bucket, while another might offload a hefty 200-kilo load. This part of the process is relatively easy.

“The hardest part was definitely getting my plant-based mayo to taste like real egg mayonnaise, without any flavours,” he says. The goal wasn’t just to make something that vegans considered “fine enough”, but was so richly mayo-like that even non-vegans were converted.

That’s why Nguyen is currently up to the 74th version of his recipe. He think he’s nailed it, “given the amazed yet confused reactions” when people try his products.

And it’s true – if you dip a French fry into the Dibble Eco Mayo, or slather its aïoli counterpart on bread – you’d thoroughly pledge that it’s legitimately the real thing. It has that rich, fatty creaminess, with the tart vinegar twist that lights up the “damn, this is good” part of your brain. And besides the products’ eco cred (each jar saves around 80 litres of water compared to traditional mayo; the most-used ingredient is rescued aquafaba), Dibble also donates 10 per cent of proceeds to One Tree Planted’s global reforestation project.

That’s why Nguyen is currently up to the 74th version of his recipe. He think he’s nailed it, “given the amazed yet confused reactions” when people try his products.

Another reason to keep the condiment around for fridge-raiding and sandwich-making purposes? Dibble’s mayonnaise has significantly less fat than its eggy counterparts (a third less, in fact).

Nguyen’s products are convincing enough that he’s issuing challenges to cafes: here’s a free 23-litre bucket of my vegan mayo, if you use it for a week and no one notices the difference, you have to replace your standard mayonnaise with mine. (It works.) His mayo appears on menu items at Baffi & Mo and The Usual Café, and is sold at health food and vegan shops (one place sold out of its supply in two hours). Dibble has stalls at vegan markets and is available to buy online, too.

In the meantime, he’s experimenting with dairy-free butter and plant-based haloumi (he’s got the right texture, but is “yet to crack that recognisable squeakiness typical of dairy haloumi!”). Overall, he aims to help everyone live more sustainably, not just vegans.  

“Not everyone drives a Prius, but we all [make] more [of] an effort to put our recyclables in the yellow bin. I’m not trying to fully convert carnivores to vegans,” he says. “You can have your tuna salad, but at least switch the egg mayo for my Eco Mayo. Every little bit helps!”


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