4 things you must consider before choosing a deviled egg recipe

They are a simple classic, but choosing the right recipe can make the difference between yeah, meh and yuck. By paying attention to just four fundamental things you can make sure you get the best deviled egg recipe for you.

To get to the bottom of the differences between recipes for classic deviled eggs, I’ve reviewed and compared nineteen well-rated recipes. As well as poring over the authors’ writeups and their recipes, I went through their readers comments and reviews, helping me identify the key differences that make or break a recipe for different people.

What to pay attention to when choosing a deviled egg recipe

There are four key factors that make a big difference to the taste of your deviled eggs. You can click to jump to any of these factors, or read on to learn about them all. Be aware though that they are all intimately intertwined, so be careful tweaking just one.

The four keys to classic devilied eggs are:

  1. The type and quantity of vinegar.
  2. The level of saltiness.
  3. The type and quantity of mustard.
  4. The amount of mayonnaise.

And there’s one more area the recipes varied perhaps the most of all – how they boil their eggs. While this is probably not going to affect the taste of your deviled eggs, it impacts how you prepare them and maybe even how well they turn out.

So let’s have a look at how each of these factors changes a deviled egg recipe.

Closeup of 3 unlabelled glass bottles of vinegar with grapes and apple slices in front.

The impact of vinegar in deviled eggs

It’s probably no surprise to you that many people find the acidic zing of vinegar quite divisive. They either love it or loathe it. Of the four factors, vinegar drew the most attention from readers. So much so that their comments were often quite acidic themselves!

Why is vinegar added to deviled eggs?

There are a couple of reasons why people like the acidity of vinegar in deviled eggs.

A little over 25% of an egg yolk is fat, which makes them quite rich tasting. Eating an acidic ingredient with a rich, fatty one is a common way to cut through the richness, making it less overwhelming, and letting the flavours underneath come through more. Coleslaw with pulled pork is a good example of this combination.

On top of this, many people really enjoy the tartness of acidic ingredients, like vinegar or lemon juice. Adding vinegar to the yolk mixture creates the ideal deviled eggs for them.

Do you need vinegar in deviled eggs?

No, definitely not. In fact, of the 19 recipes I reviewed, only five authors include vinegar in their deviled eggs. Another four include either lemon juice or dill pickle juice, which are acidic, but not as dramatically as vinegar. The majority of recipes are for deviled eggs without vinegar, or any added acidity.

There’s a reason vinegar is not a common inclusion. It’s because the two most common ingredients in deviled eggs (apart from eggs!) are made with vinegar – mayonnaise, and mustard. So unless you really love vinegar, you don’t want to be adding much, if any, because the base ingredients are already fairly acidic.

For those that do add vinegar, there are two things that impact how the eggs taste – the quantity used in the recipe, and the type.

How much vinegar?

The amount of vinegar used in the five recipes that include it is both highly consistent, and a bit variable, depending on how you look at it.

If we standardise all the recipes for 6 eggs, four authors use one teaspoon of vinegar. The fifth author uses just a little less (about three-quarters of a teaspoon).

But if we look at the amount of vinegar compared to the amount of mayonnaise, it’s a bit of a different picture. They all use very similar amounts of vinegar, but have different amounts of mayo for 6 eggs. As a result, for each tablespoon of mayo:

  • Two authors use about a quarter-teaspoon of vinegar.
  • Another two use a bit less, about a fifth of a teaspoon.
  • And one uses a third of a teaspoon of vinegar.

To be fair, these aren’t wildly different, but keep in mind vinegar is a strong-tasting ingredient. And a third of a teaspoon is over 30% more than a quarter of a teaspoon.

The recipes using lemon juice are a little more heavy handed, but lemon is less assertive than straight vinegar, with some sweetness to balance the tartness.

But even though the quantities of vinegar are similar, the different types will definitely have an effect.

What type of vinegar is best in deviled eggs?

There are a few different types of vinegar used:

  • The most popular, in three recipes, is plain white vinegar.
  • One uses apple cider vinegar.
  • And one prefers white wine vinegar.

It’s clear from these numbers that the authors who use vinegar really like it, because white vinegar has the strongest taste of all commonly available vinegars. I keep it in my cupboard for cleaning more than cooking!

Apple cider vinegar and white wine vinegar are noticeably milder. Both have underlying sweetness from their source, while still maintaining the recognisable vinegar bite.

Vinegar – what to look for when choosing a recipe

This will sound obvious, but if you don’t like vinegar, there are plenty of recipes that don’t use any at all, so they’re the right place to start. Too many readers commented how much they disliked the vinegar taste in their deviled eggs. If only they’d picked a different recipe to begin with!

If you like a little vinegar zest, but not too much, pick a recipe that doesn’t use too much, and definitely not one that uses white vinegar. Of course, if you love the look of everything else about a recipe, you could replace white vinegar with a milder variety instead. But removing it altogether will change the consistency of your mixture.

And if you love vinegar, there are lots of recipes with healthy helpings of white vinegar that should be right up your alley.

Closeup of a wooden spoon full of large salt crystals.

Salt content in deviled egg recipes

The amount of salt in these recipes was another area of disappointment for many readers. A number commented on how salty their eggs were, while almost as many noted how bland the eggs were and needed more salt.

The fascinating thing about this is that most of the recipes don’t actually specify how much salt you should use. And those that do are typically only an eighth to a quarter of a teaspoon. So what’s happening here?

The story’s the same as vinegar, but even more so. All of the recipes contain mayo. Sixteen of them include prepared mustard. And a couple contain relish, one has dill pickle juice and another has Worcestershire sauce. Unless you’re making them yourself, all of these products contain salt, and not in tiny proportions either. So they all contribute to the saltiness of your eggs. If you then add salt to the mix, you can see how easy it would be to make the whole batch too salty.

Similarly, if you really like salt, some of these recipes don’t even mention it. So you’re unlikely to get the saltiness you like from just the amount included in the store-bought ingredients alone.

Salt – what to look for when choosing a recipe

Again, this probably sounds obvious, but if you’re sensitive to saltiness, pick a recipe that doesn’t include additional salt. And if the recipe recommends adding salt to taste, add it at the end, little by little, tasting as you go.

If you like salty deviled eggs, give the recipes that stipulate a quarter-teaspoon or more a go. And taste it at the end to make sure it suits your preference.

Closeup of a white ramekin full of yellow mustard with a small white spoon.

Mustard in deviled eggs

Mustard doesn’t attract the comments of anywhere near as many readers, which is interesting given that it’s included in some form in all but one of the recipes. And there’s a lot of variation in how much the authors use as well.

How much mustard?

Most of the recipes use between a quarter and a half a teaspoon of mustard per tablespoon of mayonnaise. A few use a little less, and a couple of authors really like mustard, using one teaspoon or more per tablespoon of mayo.

It was actually the type of mustard that seemed to cause more concern amongst readers than the amount though.

What type of mustard is best in deviled eggs?

There are three types of mustard used amongst these recipes:

  • Nine authors use Dijon mustard.
  • Seven use yellow mustard (American mustard).
  • And three use dry mustard powder.

And more than a few readers express their distaste (or in some cases even contempt!) for one or the other type of mustard.

What’s the difference between yellow mustard and Dijon?

There are two fundamental differences between these two popular mustard styles. They’re made with different types of mustard seeds, and they have different amounts of vinegar.

Yellow mustard is made with yellow mustard seeds, while Dijon is made with brown or black seeds. Brown and black mustard seeds are notably spicier than their yellow cousins, imparting a more dominant and more complex mustard taste.

As for vinegar, yellow mustard has significantly more. This gives it a greater acidic “bite” than Dijon, which is traditionally made with verjuice. Verjuice is an acidic liquid made from unripe grapes, but it is not as acidic as vinegar. Some modern Dijon mustards are made with vinegar instead of verjuice, but they still less vinegar (and therefore more water) than yellow mustard.

Yellow mustard is also a little sweeter than Dijon.

So what does this all mean? Yellow mustard is more vinegary but less complex and spicy than Dijon.

What about dry mustard powder?

Dry mustard is just ground mustard seeds, so it has no added acidity or other flavours. It is a lot more intense than prepared mustards, and so is used in much smaller quantities.

Mustard – what to look for when choosing a recipe

You’re no doubt sensing a pattern by now. The best approach is to choose a recipe that suits your preference for mustard.

If you’re not sure, Dijon is slightly more popular, so try it, but pick a recipe that doesn’t use lots of it. Or add it a little at a time and test, test, test.

Closeup of a small glass bowl with mayonnaise in it and a dollop on a spoon above it.

The creaminess of deviled eggs

All nineteen recipes include an ingredient to bind your mashed egg yolks into a rich, creamy paste. And the most popular by far is mayo.

Making deviled egg yolks creamy

All but three authors use mayonnaise as the creamy base of their egg yolk mixture. If you don’t like mayo, one author uses a creamy salad dressing, and two others take a healthier approach with Greek yogurt.

How much creamy goodness?

There’s a fair amount of variation in how much of their creamy ingredient the authors use.

The most popular approach is about a half to two-thirds of a tablespoon of mayo, yogurt or dressing per hard-boiled egg, with twelve recipes falling in this range. Another five use less than this, all about a third of a tablespoon per egg. And the last two like their deviled eggs really creamy, using about a tablespoon per egg.

Mayonnaise – what to look for when choosing a recipe

Sounding like a broken record, I know, but choose a recipe that suits your taste!

If you like your deviled eggs really creamy, choose a recipe that uses two-thirds of a tablespoon or more mayonnaise per egg. And if you prefer a less creamy finish, aim for half a tablespoon or less per egg.

You’re better off choosing the right recipe rather than adjusting the amount of mayo or other creamy ingredients. If you tweak these but not the others, you can quickly end up with too much (or too little) vinegar, salt, mustard or all three.

Closeup of a dozen eggs in water in a large pot.

How to hard-boil your eggs

There was a surprising amount of variation in how the authors recommend boiling your eggs. And interestingly some methods really didn’t seem to work for some readers.

Egg cooking methods

The authors use one of three main methods to cook their eggs:

  • The most popular method is to add the eggs to cold water, bring it to the boil and then remove it from the heat. They are then left to sit in the hot water, covered, for ten to fifteen minutes.
  • A couple of authors boil the water, then add their eggs. Both then cook them for fourteen minutes in the boiling water.
  • One author steams their eggs for seventeen minutes.
  • One author combines the first two methods, bringing the eggs and water to the boil together, but then leaves the pot on the heat, cooking the eggs in the boiling water for four to five minutes.

There are also a couple of variations on the first method, where the author allows the eggs to cook in the boiling water for one to three minutes before removing the pot from the heat. They are then left in the hot water, covered for fourteen to twenty minutes.

As you can see, there’s not only variation in the method, but the timings the authors use as well.

Not all authors provide a method for boiling your eggs either, simply listing hard-boiled eggs in their ingredient list. I suspect this is because they know that many people already have a favourite approach.

Choosing an approach

So long as you have hard-boiled eggs at the end, the method you pick is not going to affect your deviled eggs in a major way.

It is worth noting that a number of readers commented that the first and most popular method didn’t actually work for them, leaving their yolks, and in some cases their whites, undercooked.

I can only imagine that with the heat off, if your kitchen is cold, or you place the pot on a very conductive surface, your water will cool down more quickly than intended. That said, just as many (if not more) people swear by this approach. Personally I find it very effective too.

So how to choose? Pick the method you’re most comfortable with. Many of us know how we like to hard-boil an egg, and if you don’t, most of the authors offer effective methods.

Closeup of 3 deviled eggs garnished with paprika and the text 4 keys to choosing the best deviled egg recipe for you.

How to choose a deviled egg recipe

There are four key things that really change the taste and texture of what seems like a simple deviled egg:

  1. Vinegar. More than a quarter-teaspoon (per tablespoon of mayo) is a lot. White vinegar is the sharpest tasting. And remember that mayo and mustard both contain vinegar as well.
  2. There is salt in most of your store-bought ingredients – mayo, mustard, relish and more. So add more salt cautiously.
  3. Mustard. More than half a teaspoon (per tablespoon of mayo) is a lot. Dijon is spicier, and yellow mustard is more vinegary.
  4. Mayonnaise. More than half a tablespoon per egg is getting to be a lot.

So knowing this, choose a recipe that suits your taste, rather than trying to adjust one from your favourite blogger or recipe site. You shouldn’t need to dramatically modify a recipe to enjoy it. I see SO many comments from readers like “I changed almost everything, and it was amazing!”

Worse yet, if you choose the wrong recipe and end up not enjoying it, no one’s going to be happy – you, your family or your guests. The recipe’s author won’t be happy either, because they all share recipes in the hope you’ll enjoy them.

Choose the best deviled egg recipe for you

The moral of the story? Choose the right recipe to begin with and your odds of finding exactly what you like go up dramatically. And with deviled eggs, that means thinking about vinegar, salt, mustard and mayonnaise, and choosing a recipe that closely matches your preference for the taste of these ingredients.

I hope this helps you when you go looking for a deviled egg recipe this Easter, or whenever you decide to enjoy these moreish little morsels. Either way, please let me know what you think by dropping a comment below.

And if you’d really like to put the devil in your deviled eggs, try making some Tunisian harissa paste.

Frequently asked questions

Why is vinegar added to deviled eggs?

Vinegar’s acidic tang cuts through the richness of the fatty egg yolks. Plus some people just love it’s tangy taste.

Do you really need vinegar for deviled eggs?

No, you can make delicious deviled eggs without vinegar. You can replace it with lemon juice, or leave it out altogether. Better yet, look for a recipe that doesn’t use it.

Recipes included in this review

Deviled egg recipes without vinegar

Deviled egg recipes with vinegar

Deviled egg recipes with other acids

6 thoughts on “4 things you must consider before choosing a deviled egg recipe”

  1. The only time I use vinegar is to boil the eggs! My devilled eggs = eggs (dah), curry powder, mayo, dijon — that’s it folks- a sprinkle finely diced chives on top. 😀
    But, once again, I find your articles very thorough and quite interesting so many thanks!

  2. Excellent insight into deviled eggs. Making today for a party tomorrow and will be going vinegarless & saltless. I just need to figure out if I go with yellow mustard or dry mustard. I am from the Mid-west and dry was what I grew up with. I might go out on a limb this time. . .

  3. I went with the yellow mustard and also went with your ratios. Perfect amount of tang, and, no leftovers – yum!


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