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Exploring Deviled Eggs: History and Innovative Recipes

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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

What does it mean to "devil" an egg?

What does it mean to "devil" an egg?

What Is a Deviled Egg?

Eggs are used in every cuisine around the world, but what does it mean to “devil” them? The devilment is a nod to their spicy nature—a kick of (hellish) heat to enliven a dish of hard-cooked eggs. So, who was the mastermind behind this creation? It’s been noted that Alain de Lille wrote “All roads lead to Rome.” When it comes to deviled eggs, he was on the right path.

“Ab ova usque ad mala.” (Latin for “from eggs to apples”)

Who Invented the Deviled Egg?

To answer that question, we need to take a brief ride in the way-back machine, destination Ancient Rome. The Romans (and the Greeks) domesticated fowl, and so eggs were prepared in every-which-way in their kitchens. Guests of the “rich and famous” of Rome were served appetizers of cooked eggs covered in a spicy sauce. The expression “from eggs to apples” is a nod to eggs as the start of the meal (the appetizer) and fruit as the finale (the dessert). Would we call these eggs deviled? Perhaps.

Next, let’s travel to the Iberian Peninsula. It is here that the Romans did what they did best—they crushed the resistance, seized control of the populace, and turned Andalusia into one of their richest and best-organized colonies. And here we find the first written recipe for deviled eggs. An Anonymous Al-Andalus Cookbook from the 13th Century has been translated into English and provides this concept for "the making of stuffed eggs."

Take as many eggs as you like, and boil them whole in hot water; put them in cold water and split them in half with a thread. Take the yolks aside and pound cilantro and put in onion juice, pepper and coriander, and beat all this together with murri, oil and salt and knead the yolks with this until it forms a dough. Then stuff the whites with this and fasten it together, insert a small stick into each egg, and sprinkle them with pepper, God willing.

Basic recipe for deviled eggs

Basic recipe for deviled eggs

Basic Recipe for Deviled Eggs

A basic deviled egg recipe is pretty simple—just eggs (of course) and a few pantry staples to add flavor and creamy texture.

Ingredients

  • 6 hard-cooked large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

Instructions

  1. Slice eggs in half lengthwise (from pole to pole).
  2. Carefully scoop out the yolks and place them in a small mixing bowl. Set the whites aside.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and mash, mash, mash until the mixture is smooth and creamy. There should be no lumps.
  4. Equally divide the yolk filling and mound into the whites. You can use a spoon, or (make it fancy by) using a pastry bag and piping tip.

This is my recipe for a basic deviled egg dish. But, there's something perhaps just as important as seasoning those eggs. The eggs themselves must be flawless inside and out—perfectly peeled (don't let any of that white cling to the shell) and a solid yolk that isn't surrounded by the grey ring of horror.

The secret (of course) is all in how you cook the eggs. My friend Kenji will show you how . . . well, almost. I have a trick to add that will make his perfect eggs even more perfect. Use a map tack to pierce the rounded (not pointed) end of each egg before cooking. Don't worry, the egg won't break and the uncooked egg will not leak out of the hole. It's just a pinprick, but it's enough to allow the water to seep into the air sac and separate the membrane from the white.

Kenji's (Almost) Perfect Hard Cooked Eggs

Before cooking the eggs, pierce the end of each one with a map tack in order to guarantee shell-free eggs

Before cooking the eggs, pierce the end of each one with a map tack in order to guarantee shell-free eggs

Avocado deviled eggs

Avocado deviled eggs

1. Avocado Deviled Eggs

Could this have been the genesis for the Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham? I honestly think that Theodor Geisel would have liked these avocado deviled eggs. And, perhaps you'll give them a try because not only are they a delectable color, delicious, and easy to make, but they are a healthier choice because there is no mayonnaise. The avocado is a creamy (and heart-healthy) fat substitute.

Bacon deviled eggs

Bacon deviled eggs

2. Bacon Deviled Eggs

I had you at bacon, right? Bacon deviled eggs are, of course, a tasty appetizer, but I like to place one (or two) atop a Cobb salad. You can change these up by adding cheese, a splash of Tabasco if you're in a spicy mood, or replace the pickle relish with a touch of white vinegar.

Buffalo deviled eggs

Buffalo deviled eggs

3. Buffalo Deviled Eggs

If you enjoy the spicy taste of buffalo wings, you'll love buffalo deviled eggs. Hot sauce is blended into the creamy cooked yolks for a pop of that familiar heat, and the traditional blue cheese sauce shows up as a garnish of crumbled Gorgonzola.

Crab deviled eggs

Crab deviled eggs

4. Crab Deviled Eggs

The author of this recipe for crab deviled eggs lives in Mississippi and recommends lump crab meat for this dish. Lump crab meat is cleaned and pasteurized and packaged in resealable containers so it easily obtained any place in the United States. Lump crab is good, but if you are fortunate to live where you can purchase Dungeness crab, may I suggest that you use Dungie for your deviled eggs. It is superior in texture and flavor. (Full disclosure, I live in the Pacific Northwest where Dungeness crab is local seafood and I might be showing a bit of bias.)

Old Bay Seasoning is one of the ingredients that make these deviled eggs so tasty. If you don't have Old Bay, here's an easy recipe to make your own:

Old Bay Seasoning Substitute

Ingredients

  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/16 teaspoon ground cloves

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a spice grinder (I have a coffee grinder set aside for this purpose). Store in a clean dry jar away from heat and humidity.

French onion deviled eggs

French onion deviled eggs

5. French Onion Deviled Eggs

Many deviled egg recipes contain chives or grated raw onion. French onion deviled eggs have a more subtle onion taste, the classic flavor of golden caramelized onions and Gruyere cheese.

Pesto deviled eggs

Pesto deviled eggs

6. Pesto Deviled Eggs

There is no green sauce that gives me more pleasure than the basil pesto of Northern Italy. I say this not because of flavor, cost, or ease of preparation. It is basil pesto that brings back wonderful memories for me. Pesto and I were introduced to one another in 2006 in a place named the Cinque Terra. The Cinque Terre (Five Lands) is a group of five small coastal villages on the west coast of Italy.

These pesto deviled eggs embrace the wonderful sweet and savory (think mint, anise, and pepper) flavors of basil.

Here's my recipe for basil pesto.

Basil Pesto

Ingredients

  • 2 cups basil leaves, gently packed
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (yes, pine nuts are traditional, but walnuts are easier to find)
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 3/4 tsp salt

Instructions

Place basil, walnuts, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse into finely chopped. Add oil, cheese, and salt and process until a smooth paste, stopping several times to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Salsa deviled eggs

Salsa deviled eggs

7. Salsa Deviled Eggs

There's a little more devil in these salsa deviled eggs. Salsa and taco seasoning add a double punch of flavor.

Spanakopita-inspired deviled eggs

Spanakopita-inspired deviled eggs

8. Spanakopita

Spanakopita is probably one of the most classic Greek dishes. These spanakopita-inspired deviled eggs are rich with spinach, lemon, and crumbled feta cheese.

Vegan deviled "eggs"

Vegan deviled "eggs"

9. Vegan Deviled "Eggs"

This last recipe is a gift for my vegan friends. No, these aren't really eggs; Nicole is a registered dietician and created these clever, innovative fake "eggs" with baby potatoes and a savory filling of tofu, vegan mayonnaise, spices, and nutritional yeast. These vegan deviled "eggs" are dairy- and gluten-free.

Sources

© 2021 Linda Lum

Comments

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 06, 2021:

Sp Greaney, like you, I didn't know there were so many ways to make deviled eggs until I started researching this topic. Let your imagination run wild. I'm happy to hear from you and that you liked this article.

Sp Greaney from Ireland on April 06, 2021:

This is such a great selection of recipes for deviled eggs. I didn't realise you could adapt the receipe so much to suit your own tastes. Thanks for sharing.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 04, 2021:

Peggy, I've not had a "bad" egg ever since discovering that trick. Happy Easter to you too (and now you have some new ideas on using up those Easter eggs).

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 04, 2021:

I have been making many different varieties of deviled eggs lately but never knew about that thumbtack approach to making them easier to peel. I will try that next time and also try some of these good-sounding recipes. Thanks! Happy Easter, Linda!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 04, 2021:

Good morning Flourish. I'm glad you enjoyed this--I almost didn't get it finished in time. We won't be coloring eggs this year (only 3 of us) but will be worshipping this morning (online, of course) and spend part of the day planting the TON of flowers I bought yesterday. Love to you.

FlourishAnyway from USA on April 04, 2021:

Who knew there were SO MANY ways you could make deviled eggs and that deviled eggs went back so far in history? Wow! This was really inspiring! Have a wonderful Easter whichever version you'll be having!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 03, 2021:

Denise, yes this was for you. I'm so glad you found it in time. Maybe your honey will like these vegan subs too.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on April 03, 2021:

So kind of you to include a vegan version. I was just going to make deviled eggs for my honey today and thought, poor me, I don't get any. This will be a lovely substitute while he's eating his deviled eggs I can have my deviled potatoes, haha. Very timely article. Thanks.

Blessings,

Denise

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 03, 2021:

Manatita, soon you'll be writing your own food blog. I sense a competitor in my future.

manatita44 from london on April 03, 2021:

Thank You! I had some this morning and I used the spinach in butternut squash, rice and peas this evening, Ha-ha. Getting better at this!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 03, 2021:

Shauna, yes (insert eye roll emoji here). He's a sweetie, but has the palate of a 4-year old. (Don't tell him I said that).

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 03, 2021:

Shauna, a few times I've forgotten to "hole" the eggs until after cooking them. It works both ways. Yes, you can produce a flawlessly-peeled boiled egg. I have faith in you. Good for you on your weight loss journey. Proud of you sis!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on April 02, 2021:

P.S. I'm glad I don't have to cook for our dear friend Bill. I'd never get to eat anything I like without cooking twice for each meal. He's almost as picky an eater as my son!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on April 02, 2021:

Linda, to elaborate, I read that you should puncture the hole before you submerge them in cold water. I also like Kenji's method. I wish I could print it.

My neighbor makes awesome deviled eggs with crumbled bacon and sliced pimento olives, but she makes them way too "wet". I like my deviled eggs (potato salad, mac salad, and egg salad with just enough mayo to bring it together).

The avocado deviled eggs and crab-stuffed deviled eggs really appeal to me. I'll have to hang on to those recipes for our next get-together. That is, if I can master the flawlessly-peeled boiled eggs!

BTW, eggs are full of protein. Hard-boiled eggs are a great breakfast option. I eat eggs in the form of hard-boiled or crustless quiche with varied veggies, or frittata with varied veggies every day for breakfast. I've lost 18.3 pounds by including a protein in every meal and watching my non-complex carbs. Eggs are a great way to go.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 02, 2021:

Hi Shauna, yes a map tack is a push pin or thumbtack, but unlike a thumbtack, it has a little knob you can hold onto which makes the process so much easier. In a pinch, I've also used an open safety pin.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 02, 2021:

Pamela, don't you think it's time to branch out a bit? Try a new flavor (although, like you, I really like the old standard version). I'm seriously considering the pesto version because I love ANYTHING with pesto.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 02, 2021:

Oh, Manatita, you had me with plantains. They are so good. We enjoy them baked as chips. As for the baby potatoes idea, it's just so clever (and I do have vegan friends that I'm sure will love the concept). Yes, spinach with eggs is a winner. Lot's of nutrition going on there. Blessings to you.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 02, 2021:

Bill, Bill, Bill, whatever will I do about you? Deviled eggs are so EASY. Even you could do them. Go ahead, surprise me.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 02, 2021:

Ann, eggs are my guilty pleasure. Yes, I know that they are no longer considered "bad" foods, but yet I do limit myself to just one per week. I'm glad you liked the recipes (and tidbits).

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 02, 2021:

Louise they're so easy. If you can cook at egg you can make deviled eggs. And there are so many flavor options (as you can see). Have fun with it.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on April 02, 2021:

Linda, I love, love, love deviled eggs! I'm thrilled to be here before being forced to find you in my feed, which can take days.

Question: is a map tack the same thing as a thumb tack or push-pin? I've read recently that you should pierce a small hole in the eggs to allow water to separate the shell from the membrane. I find it most difficult to peel an egg when the shell sticks to the membrane.

I'm going to go back and read this article in its entirety before it slips into the "feed abyss".

BTW, this is the perfect article to submit to one of the paying sites I sent you.

Love ya, Sis, and good luck!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on April 02, 2021:

This is a very interesting article with great recipes, Linda. The history is always interesting. I have always made my deviled eggs the same way, which is almost exactly like your first recipe. Thank you this eye-opening article,

manatita44 from london on April 02, 2021:

I'm using spinach with eggs these days. I think I got the idea from you in relation to something else. Seeing the 'deviled eggs gave me the idea that I can just boil the eggs and slice them, then add the spinach. I may try this tomorrow, God's willing.

Adding 'baby' potatoes is a great idea! I have been frying plantains recently. Too much bread and wheat.

Great history and Andalucia is one of my favourite places not yet visited. I know some sweet tales of Andalucia.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 02, 2021:

This falls under the category "I love this food but I'm too lazy to make it." I think that says it all. Now, if someone else wants to make it for me, I'll gladly eat ten of them. :) What can I tell ya, I'm a mystery!

Have a wonderful weekend, my friend!

Ann Carr from SW England on April 02, 2021:

These all look absolutely delicious, Linda. I love eggs and also most of the fillings here. I shall be trying some of these. As always, great facts too!

Ann

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on April 02, 2021:

I've never tried making Deviled Eggs before, but I think I'll try this now. I really do like eating these!

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