I made deviled eggs nine ways and found the best recipe

Photo: DariiaBelkina (iStock)

The deviled egg: A potluck staple. A titan of the hors d’oeuvre world. Not exactly impossible to screw up, but also nowhere near as complicated as their fancy appearance might suggest. But as with all classic recipes, there are many, many ways to make them, and small variations make a huge difference.

I live in a one-bedroom apartment in a vintage building, so my tiny kitchen and I can never truly go full America’s Test Kitchen on a project like this. It didn’t stop me from trying. I attempted nine different deviled egg recipes, generally omitting anything ingredients that could make the egg part of the proceedings a side show—so, no shrimp, crabmeat, asparagus tips, avocado, bacon, pumpkin, and so on. With one exception, which I’ll outline below, if it didn’t go in the filling mix, I didn’t use it.

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Below are the best recipes, most useful tips, and general lessons I learned from spending nine hours hard-boiling, mashing, mixing, squeezing, garnishing, and yes, eating deviled eggs. The most surprising takeaway? I still like them.


The method

My goal here was to see what the best deviled egg recipes had in common, so when similarities cropped up amongst the recipes I was browsing, that wasn’t a deal-breaker. I looked for small differences—yellow vs. dijon mustard, mayo-to-yolk ratio, unexpected ingredients for the filling, etc. I settled on two “variant” recipes and seven straightforward recipes. The variants were included because I wanted to try at least one pickled deviled egg recipe and one double-filling recipe. Ultimately, I went with these nine methods. I’ve listed the significant ingredients in each recipe, omitting only salt and pepper or anything intended only as a garnish.

Standards

  • A New York Times adaptation of a Sheila Lukins recipe: Dijon, tabasco, chives, moderate amount of mayo
  • Martha Stewart: Dijon, shallot, hot sauce, white wine vinegar, light to moderate amount of mayo
  • Paula Deen: “Prepared mustard” (meaning, not mustard seeds or powder, but otherwise undefined), sweet pickle relish, light to moderate amount of mayo
  • America’s Test Kitchen: Fresh parsley, cider vinegar, Dijon, Worcestershire, cayenne, light mayo
  • Julia Child: Butter, sweet pickles, very light mayo, fresh herbs (and many other things) optional. No mustard! Added some Dijon to a small portion of the mix, and honestly, both were great.
  • Mary Nolan: Yellow mustard, white vinegar, light to moderate amount of mayo
  • Mark Bittman (from How To Cook Everything): Dijon, cayenne, moderate amount of mayo
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Variants

  • Pickled: The New York Times. I went with this one because it was the simplest of the pickled recipes I found. Pickling liquid: rice vinegar, garlic, light brown sugar, kosher salt, peppercorns, red onions. Filling: pickling liquid, Dijon, pepper, kosher salt, heavy mayo. So much mayo.
  • Double filling: Dorie Greenspan (from Everyday Dorie). Yolk filling: Dijon, cayenne (or Piment d’Espelette), moderate amount of mayo. Crunchy filling: unpeeled Granny Smith apple, scallion (white and light green bits), fresh lemon juice, very light mayo. Crabmeat omitted.
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The eggs

Pickled eggs
Photo: Allison Shoemaker
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When you’re making around four dozen eggs, you don’t have time to use only one method. I used three methods (boiling, steaming, and my trusty egg cooker), and peeled them using the crazy water-shake method I learned last year. What a freakin’ lifesaver that last one was.


The lessons

Easy does it with the mayo/hot sauce/etc. Not all deviled egg recipes say “to taste,” but here’s the big discovery: They are all to taste. That’s especially true of mayo. After the first few attempts, I started adding slightly less mayo than prescribed, then leveling up as needed. This made a big difference. Salt, pepper, hot sauce, mustard, all of it should be slightly adjusted to get the mix to the flavor and consistency you want. One big exception: vinegar. It’s used sparingly to begin with.

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Don’t be afraid of unexpected ingredients. This is especially true of that Dorie Greenspan recipe, but the things I liked best about nearly all of these recipes were the little touches. Cayenne! Worcestershire! Butter! A good deviled egg becomes a great one with these little tweaks, in my humble opinion—especially when you’re adding a little heat.

Mash the yolks a little first. Most recipes directed me to mix all the filling ingredients together at once, mashing as I went, or to mix the non-yolk ingredients separately and then add it to the yolks and mash. Without fail, every filling for which I mashed the yolks first was both easier to combine and easier to add to the whites.

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Cold knife. Julia Child instructed me to rinse my knife in very cold water before cutting my eggs in half, and man, I wish I’d done hers first. Cold knife! My prettiest eggs were all sliced with a cold knife. The yolks in those eggs popped out most easily. Big fan of the cold knife. USE A COLD KNIFE!

Crunch matters. If you’re adding something crunchy, make sure it’s chopped or minced finely so it can get through the piping bag. It’s worth the effort. A light, creamy filling with a little extra crunch is a thing of beauty. Sweet pickles were great, but so were shallots (and the Greenspan recipe has loads of crunch, but more on that below).

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Always use a bag, piping or otherwise, to fill the eggs. Even if you’re using a recipe that includes a somewhat chunky element, you can just cut a slightly larger corner off a sandwich or freezer bag. For awhile I was doing whatever method the recipe specified, but it didn’t take long for me to switch to using a bag exclusively.

A few more lessons: Dijon > yellow mustard. Vinegar can be good, but it always just made me wish I was eating a pickled deviled egg (though the NYT recipe turned out good-not-great). Fresh herbs, always welcome. Don’t add too many things in the mix, though, unless you’re Dorie Greenspan. Then you can do whatever you want.

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The winners

Best base recipe: Julia freakin’ Child! These eggs were very simple (with just a little crunch from the pickles), but delicious just as they were. Adding mustard was great, but these incredibly creamy, buttery eggs made me want to try all kinds of things in the mix. I was hesitant about the butter, but I should never have doubted Julia. If I want to experiment in the future—or just make one of Julia’s fancy alternatives, like these asparagus-stuffed eggs—I’ll be using this recipe. Butter makes things delicious: Who knew?

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Best simple recipe: Most of these were good, but if you want something 1) straightforward and 2) delicious, go with Mark Bittman’s. You’re adding cayenne to taste, so it’s easy to customize for the room you’ll be sharing with—heat (or cool) as needed. The filling was perfectly creamy, and for whatever reason, this batch had the closest filling-to-egg ratio of every batch I made. (Bittman also has a recipe that includes butter, and when I can bring myself to hard-boil another egg, I’ll be giving that one a try.)

Ta-da, deviled eggs a la Dorie Greenspan
Photo: Allison Shoemaker
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Best fancy-ass recipe: This Dorie Greenspan recipe is a total gem. As noted above, I omitted the crabmeat for simplicity’s sake, but even without it, the eggs were amazing. The green apple initially threw me for a loop, but it really works, and the smooth creaminess juxtaposed with the sharp, bright crunch of the apple and scallion works even better when the two are somewhat separate initially. I will make these many times. They’re fancy, but not hard to make—just a tiny bit more difficult to assemble.

In short, make those Dorie eggs and enjoy your fancy self. (Thanks, Dorie, for letting us reprint the recipe!)

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Double-Stuffed Deviled Eggs with Crab

Recipe by Dorie Greenspan, from Everyday Dorie
Makes 24 egg halves

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Because deviled eggs are so easy to make, I rarely order them when I go out. But in Paris, where there are competitions and prizes for the best oeuf mayo, the French version, I’m occasionally tempted. It was at Yves Camdeborde’s L’Avant Comptoir de la Mer, his seafood wine bar a few steps from my apartment, that I gave in to that temptation... more than once. Chez Yves, the whites are filled with two separate mixtures: One includes crab and the other is the traditional mashed yolks and mayo.

This recipe is my take on his more elaborate rendition. If you want to come closer to Yves’, add finely diced pieces of avocado (about half a small one) to the crab mixture. Recipes like this are meant to be played with, so fiddle with the spices, maybe adding a little heat to one or both of the fillings. Have fun, but whatever you do, don’t leave out the small bits of apple. Their tartness and crunch are almost as surprising as the crab.

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Working Ahead

Deviled eggs are really best served as soon as they’re assembled, but that’s not always practical. You can hard-boil the eggs up to 3 days ahead and peel them when needed. You can make the yolk and crab mixtures about 6 hours ahead of time and keep them covered in the refrigerator. And you can stuff the eggs, then cover and refrigerate them for a few hours before serving.

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  • 12 hard-boiled large eggs, peeled
  • About 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) plus 3 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1 to 2 tsp. Dijon mustard (preferably French)
  • Piment d’Espelette or cayenne pepper
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 pound (113 grams) lump crabmeat, picked over and patted dry
  • 1/2 medium Granny Smith apple (don’t peel), cored and finely diced
  • 1 slender scallion, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Snipped fresh chives, for finishing

Cut each egg in half the long way and scoop the yolks into a bowl. Using a fork, mash the yolks with 1/2 cup of the mayonnaise, a teaspoon of the mustard, a little hot pepper and some salt and ground pepper. The mixture will be soft and loose. Taste for mustard, hot pepper and salt and pepper and set aside for the moment.

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Put the crabmeat, apple, scallion, the remaining 3 tablespoons mayonnaise and a squirt or two of lemon juice in another bowl. Toss together gently and season with a little hot pepper; add more mayonnaise, lemon juice and/or some salt if needed.

If you’re not going to serve the deviled eggs immediately, cover the whites, the yolk-mayo and the crab mixture (separately) and pop them into the refrigerator. (The filling—and whites—can be refrigerated for up to 6 hours.)

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When you’re ready to serve, arrange the whites on a platter. Divide the crab-mayo mixture among them and top with the yolk mayonnaise. I find it easiest—and prettiest—to put the crab into the whites with a spoon, then make an indentation in the crab and use a small cookie scoop to top with the yolk mixture. Scatter over the chives and serve immediately.


Double-Stuffed Deviled Eggs with Crab is excerpted from Everyday Dorie © 2018 by Dorie Greenspan. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

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About the author

Allison Shoemaker

Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves television, bourbon, and dramatically overanalyzing social interactions.