Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.
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
A basic deviled egg recipe is pretty simple—just eggs (of course) and a few pantry staples to add flavor and creamy texture.
- 6 hard-cooked large eggs
- 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- Slice eggs in half lengthwise (from pole to pole).
- Carefully scoop out the yolks and place them in a small mixing bowl. Set the whites aside.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and mash, mash, mash until the mixture is smooth and creamy. There should be no lumps.
- 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
Read More From Delishably
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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
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.
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.
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.
- 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
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.
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 is probably one of the most classic Greek dishes. These spanakopita-inspired deviled eggs are rich with spinach, lemon, and crumbled feta cheese.
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.
© 2021 Linda Lum