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The traditional Provençal aioli recipe

Aïoli provençal, the emblematic dish of the Provence region, is a family culinary tradition rich in flavour. This simple recipe features fish, seasonal vegetables and an essential sauce. Whether you prefer it hot or cold, follow this step-by-step guide to prepare a truly great Aïoli, in keeping with the traditions of Marseille.

L'aïoli provençal.

How do you make homemade aioli sauce?

To make your homemade aioli sauce, start by peeling 3 cloves of garlic. Then, using a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic until you obtain a smooth paste. This is called garlic ointment.

Then add an egg yolk to this paste, followed by a pinch of salt and mix well.

Once these ingredients are well combined, gradually pour in 20 cl of olive oil while continuing to mix. It's important to pour in the oil slowly to allow it to emulsify and create a smooth sauce.

If you wish, you can also add a dash of lemon juice to give your aioli a touch of acidity.

  • 3 cloves of garlic

  • 1 egg yolk

  • 20 cl olive oil

  • Salt

  • (Optional) Lemon juice

This traditional preparation is simple but requires patience.

Explanatory video

Here's a well-made video from a Provençal chef on how to prepare the grand aioli. The video is in French, we haven’t found a good one in English.

The origins and tradition of aioli in Provence

Aïoli dates back to ancient times and is deeply rooted in Provençal culture. Its name comes from the Provençal words 'alh' (garlic) and 'òli' (oil), reflecting its basic ingredients. Traditionally, it is an emulsion of garlic and olive oil, prepared with a pestle and mortar.

In the Middle Ages, aioli evolved into a dish in its own right. It was often served at Friday meals, as a lean, boiled meal. Ingredients may vary, but generally include vegetables, snails, desalted cod and hard-boiled eggs.

Over the years, this culinary tradition has spread across the northern shores of the Mediterranean, from Andalusia to Sicily, via Provence, attesting to its roots in the Mediterranean basin.

The essential ingredients in a traditional aioli recipe

Preparing an authentic Provençal aioli requires quality ingredients.

Garlic is the first key ingredient. Choose fresh garlic for a strong flavour. Next, the olive oil. Choose extra virgin olive oil to guarantee a delicate, fruity flavour.

Cod is the fish traditionally used. You can also add whelks for an extra marine touch.

For the vegetables, opt for carrots, potatoes, cauliflower and possibly artichokes. Hard-boiled eggs complete the garnish.

Finally, don't forget the egg yolks, which thicken the sauce and give it a creamy texture.

The choice of fish and vegetables for a great aioli

Cod is the most commonly used fish, but it's not the only one.

It's essential to choose good quality fish and vegetables for your grand aioli. Cod is traditionally the most common fish used in this dish, but you can also opt for cod, hake, monkfish, Saint-Pierre or tuna. Lean, firm-fleshed fish are particularly recommended.

Recommended fish :

  • Cod

  • Cod

  • Hake

  • Monkfish

  • St. Pierre

  • Tuna


When it comes to vegetables, potatoes, carrots and cauliflower are a must. Depending on the season, you can also include green beans, courgettes, fennel, turnips or chickpeas.

Recommended vegetables :

  • Potato

  • Carrot

  • Cauliflower

  • Green beans

  • Courgettes (in season)

  • Fennel (in season)

  • Turnips (in season)

  • Chickpeas (in season)

These ingredients may vary slightly according to local preferences and availability.

How to serve and enjoy aioli?

Aïoli is best served with steamed vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, cauliflower, green beans and asparagus. It can also be served with white fish such as cod.

For a convivial meal, consider preparing a large aioli. This is made up of a variety of fish and vegetables, all served with a generous portion of aioli sauce.

Aïoli goes perfectly with a light, chilled rosé wine from Provence. It's also best enjoyed with a meal eaten outdoors, in the shade of an olive tree for example, for an authentic Provençal experience.

For optimum enjoyment, Aïoli should be served chilled, but not too cold. Once prepared, it should be covered and refrigerated for at least an hour before serving.

Last but not least, there's a tradition in the Alpilles region of France of having a little siesta after eating the Aïoli, to help digest this richly flavoured dish.

Tip: what do you do when you've put too much garlic in the aioli?

An overly garlicky aioli can sometimes spoil the flavour of the other ingredients in your dish. Fortunately, there are a few simple tricks you can use to put things right.

Add more olive oil: If your aioli is too strong in garlic, you can dilute the flavour by adding a little more olive oil. Make sure you add the oil very slowly and keep whisking to maintain the consistency of the sauce.

Use parsley: Parsley is known to neutralise the taste of garlic. Chop it finely and add it to your aioli. This tip is particularly useful if you've added too much garlic to your recipe.

Add a little lemon juice: Lemon can help balance the taste of garlic. Add a little at a time until you get the desired flavour.

Remember, the key is to add these ingredients a little at a time and taste regularly to find the balance that suits you best.

Is aioli best eaten hot or cold?

Aïoli Provençal can be eaten hot or cold, making it a very versatile dish. The ingredients that accompany the sauce, such as the boiled vegetables and fish, can be served warm or at room temperature.

That said, it is also possible to enjoy aioli cold, especially when it is prepared in advance and stored in the fridge. This can be a good option for summer meals, when you're looking for refreshing dishes.

On the other hand, it is advisable to avoid preparing the aioli in a room that is too warm, as temperature variations can alter its consistency.

Where and how to eat a good aioli in Marseille?

If you prefer to enjoy an aioli prepared by Provençal chefs, here are a few good addresses in Marseille:

  • Restaurant l'Eau vive: Located in Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, this restaurant serves traditional aioli only on Fridays. Reservations recommended.

  • Le Clan des Cigales: Nestling in the charming Panier district, this restaurant serves an aioli that is popular with locals and travellers alike.

  • Le Pont d'Or: Located a few kilometres away in the Var hinterland, this small hotel-restaurant is renowned for its Provençal aioli.

For a more urban experience:

  • Provençal restaurant in the Vieux-Port: This establishment offers traditional Marseille aïoli with quality seafood.

Each place has its own style and interpretation of this traditional recipe, allowing you to discover different variations of this emblematic Provençal dish.

Which plate and which dish should be used to serve an aioli?

When it comes to serving an aioli, tradition dictates that a large platter should be used to display all the components of the large aioli. Ideally, the dish should be deep enough to hold the sauce, vegetables and fish.

As for the plate, opt for a soup plate, large enough to hold all the ingredients without them getting mixed up.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Dish: Large earthenware or ceramic dish

  • Plate: Porcelain or earthenware soup plate

These choices of crockery will not only enhance your aioli, but also make it easier to eat.

We hope this article on Aïoli Provençal will interest you and inspire you to make your own. You're in for a treat!

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