Homemade Tarragon Mayonnaise + A Squeeze of Lemon = Unbelievable Lobster Rolls

lobster roll

With lobster rolls on my brain for weeks, it was high time to brush up on my homemade mayonnaise making. I took my mother’s advice and made Mark Bittman’s food processor mayonnaise, which, as my mother promised, was both delicious and foolproof thanks to a teeny hole in the food-pusher insert (see photo below). From start to finish (including cleanup), the whole process took five minutes, the mayonnaise itself coming together in less than one minute once the blades started spinning.

In preparation for the lobster rolls, I threw in some tarragon at the end, an ingredient I’ve always associated with a good lobster roll — a good lobster roll made at home I should say. It has been too many years to say for sure, but I don’t recall any tarragon present in the $3 lobster rolls my mother and I inhaled three times a day for a week straight at the various roadside stands dotting the Maine coastline during one summer road trip. Those were the best lobster rolls I’ve ever tasted, ones I’ve never even tried to replicate at home.

At home I make lobster rolls just as my mother does with nothing more than homemade mayonnaise, fresh tarragon and a squeeze of lemon. They are so simple — with the exception of the whole killing/boiling/cracking of the lobsters process — and so delicious. It never feels like summer till I’ve had my first lobster roll, at a roadside stand or not, and these, despite arriving just days before the Fourth, were no exception. Happy Fourth Everyone!

A few notes on buying/killing lobsters: The consensus seems to be that it is more humane to kill a lobster by thrusting a sharp knife through the lobster’s shell behind its eyes than by dropping the live lobster into boiling water. A little internet research led me to a youTube video featuring Eric Ripert, whose comments and demonstration finally gave me the courage to kill the lobsters before boiling them. If you have any inclination to do this, watch Ripert’s video, and then go for it. As Ripert says:

“It’s not a pleasant experience, but when you eat lobster and when you eat any kind of animal, that animal has been alive and it’s very important to be aware that we are taking that life away and that we are going to eat it, and if we do a good job, we are actually paying homage to the lives that we sacrifice.”

I’ll be honest, it wasn’t a pleasant experience, and I had the jitters before, during and after the process (they seemed to linger all afternoon in fact), but it was worth it.

Finally, Seafood Watch’s Ocean Friendly Seafood App lists wild-caught lobster from California or Florida as the “Best Choice” and trap-caught lobster from the Northeastern U.S. and Canada as a “Good Alternative.” Wild-caught lobster from Brazil is on the SW’s “Avoid” list.


lobster meat

lobster meat

lobster meat mixed with tarragon mayonnaise

See this teeny hole? It’s this hole that allows the oil to enter the food processor in a slow steady stream, allowing the mixture to emulsify perfectly into mayonnaise.

Cuisinart stopper

mayonnaise ingredients

homemade mayonnaise

fresh tarragon

tarragon mayonnaise

You all know how to cut a lemon, right? I mean the pretty way? Not sure? Check this out. It’s not necessary to cut lemons this way but it makes for a nice presentation.
lemon slices

Unbelievably Delicious Lobster Rolls
Serves: 3, but the recipe can be multiplied as necessary

3 lobsters, about 1 lb to 1.25 lbs each
kosher salt
homemade tarragon mayonnaise (recipe below)
fresh squeezed lemon juice, to taste
additional lemon for serving (cut like this for a pretty presentation)

hotdog buns (or homemade brioche hotdog buns)

1. Bring a very large pot of water to a boil. (Since I do not own a lobster pot, I used my two largest stock pots.) Kill lobsters, as described above (if desired), then plunge into boiling water. Boil for 10 to 11 minutes. Remove lobsters from pots, let cool briefly, then start cracking. Remove meat from lobster, chop coarsely and place in a large bowl.

2. Spread the lobster meat out in the bowl into a single layer. Season with kosher salt. Add tarragon mayonnaise to taste. To give you an idea, my three lobsters yielded 13.5 oz of meat, and I used a quarter cup of the homemade tarragon mayonnaise. Add lemon juice — I used about half a lemon — to taste. Gently mix the ingredients with a spatula. Taste. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

3. Toast hotdog buns, if desired. (My buns had been baked that day, so I did not toast them.) Spoon lobster meat into buns. Serve with additional wedges of lemon on the side.

Homemade Mayonnaise
Source: Mark Bittman and The New York Times

1 egg yolk or whole egg (I used a yolk)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice or sherry or white wine vinegar (I used white balsamic vinegar)
1 cup neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, or extra virgin olive oil, or a combination (I used extra-virgin because it was all I had)

fresh tarragon (optional) — I threw in a whole bunch (5 to 6 tablespoons maybe?)

1. Put the yolk or egg, mustard, salt, pepper and lemon juice or vinegar in the container of a food processor and turn the machine on. While it’s running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream. (Your food processor should have a teeny hole in the food pusher insert in the top). When an emulsion forms you can add it a little faster. (Again, the little hole makes this unnecessary.) Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Add the fresh tarragon (if desired) and pulse until chopped.

Homemade brioche hotdog buns:
brioche hotdog buns


  1. says

    I don’t know where to start from…those lobsters look amazing and so does that homemade mayo (the color it’s just fantastic if compared to the one I buy in jars at the supermarket!). BUT what about those buns: amazing!!!!!
    I’m so gonna make them!

  2. Liz says

    Wow! Happy Fourth indeed! I just made your/Bittman’s mayonnaise, and you’re right–it’s amazing. There’s no going back. I used grapeseed oil, maybe not as flavorful as olive oil, but it’s light and lovely in its texture, and it didn’t break, as some mayos I’ve tried before have. I need the patience now to tackle the rolls and the lobster euthanasia. Terrified of that–need a martini first, I think. Thanks for all the tips.

  3. says

    I wanted to lick my computer screen as I went through all your sumptuous, delectable photos! I adore lobster and have yet to eat an amazing lobster roll. Yours look like perfection. I’m definitely terrified of buying live shellfish and killing it myself so I felt your angst as I was reading this post. Also, thanks for all the super helpful information (re: killing the lobster before boiling and the Seafood Watch lists).

    • says

      Nancy you are funny. I know, the whole killing of the lobsters is so unfortunate, but not so bad overall once you psyche yourself up for it. I love this lobster roll recipe bc it’s basically pure lobster — no celery, onions, etc. I hope you find time to make it sometime!

  4. 3petitsprinces says

    The mayonnaise looks amazing! I will definitely try it! Getting some fresh eggs this weekend from a friend. But I thought I would mention that I recall seeing an episode of “Take Home Chef” where Curtis Stone recommends putting the lobster in the freezer prior to cooking it. Something about “putting the lobster into a sleep state.”

  5. says

    I love how you made EVERYTHING in this recipe – and it looks amazing! I’d love to be a guest at your house 😉 I’m featuring this in today’s Food Fetish Friday (with a link-back and attribution). I hope you have no objections and it’s always fun to be following along with your creations…

  6. says

    Nothing like a post about lobster rolls to make me miss the east coast and regret buying a house in land-locked Denver. These look delightful. I may just have to splurge on lobster when we get settled….

  7. says

    I personally blog as well and I’m publishing something very
    close to this particular posting, Blackout Shades “The Best Lobster Rolls, Homemade
    Mayonnaise | alexandra’s kitchen”. Do you care in the event that Iuse a bit of of your personal ideas? Regards ,Fay

    • says

      Jul, I know, you are not alone — lots of people have this concern. If you worried about the raw egg, you can do a few things: 1.) Buy your eggs from a reputable source, e.g. farmers’ market, CSA, etc. 2.) You can cook the yolk just enough so that anything potentially harmful will be killed. I have not done this personally, but a quick google search led me to this post, which seems promising: http://fastpaleo.com/recipe/paleo-mayonnaise-with-cooked-egg-yolk/ Hope that helps!

  8. Sudi says

    Are there canned lobster alternatives available you think?

    And can I just buy regular mayo and add the tarragon & mustard in a food processor?

    • says

      Sudi, I have never tried canned lobster, but canned crab is a great product. I would be more inclined to suggest that than canned lobster, but if you find a good source for canned lobster go for it. And of course you can use store bought mayo, but there is something totally delicious about homemade, and it really makes a difference here. But, do what’s best for you given time, equipment, energy, etc.

  9. Sana says

    Hi Alexandra,
    This is so good and a favourite of my husband. I have made this so many times since last year.
    I had a question about homemade mayo. I feel like this makes a lot of mayo for us two, so is there any other recipe that makes a smaller batch than this. If not, then is it okay to use store bought? Because I am assuming that homemade mayo won’t last too long in the refrigerator and I always end up tossing the remainder.

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