The Enduring Popularity of Deviled Eggs

Food Features

Oh, Easter. A time for dyeing eggs, hunting for eggs, and—my favorite—eating eggs. Deviled eggs, to be more specific.

Deviled eggs, though relatively simple, tend to be relegated to holidays, and so there’s always something about them that feels rather special and limited edition.

Despite my affection for them, I’ve never done much research into the history behind deviled eggs. Where did they originate? And where in the world did that name come from?

As it turns out, the dish can be traced all the way back to ancient Rome, where boiled eggs were seasoned with spicy sauces and served at the start of a meal. This practice was so common, in fact, that the Romans had a saying they used in place of “from soup to nuts”—“from eggs to apples” (which, for them, was a meal from start to finish). Apicius, the landmark collection of Roman recipes from the 4th and 5th centuries, includes recipes for boiled eggs seasoned with oil, wine, or broth and served with pepper and laser (a now-extinct plant). I think I prefer our modern version, but then again, maybe laser was the perfect deviled egg garnish.

Fast-forward to the 13th century, and deviled eggs popped up again in what’s now Spain (they combined boiled egg yolks with cilantro, onion juice, pepper, and coriander, then attached the two halves of the egg white together with a small stick). This style of egg endured, and medieval Europeans added elements like raisins, cheese, and mint to their version of deviled eggs (which they served hot).

As far as the name goes, it appears the word “devil” being used to describe different kinds of spicy, broiled, or fried foods began in Great Britain during the late 1700s, and eventually was attached to this type of egg dish. Some folks still call them “stuffed eggs,” “mimosa eggs,” or “salad eggs,” though, to avoid an association with the Devil. (Kind of funny that these are such a standard Easter dish, given the name!)

Today, we think of the traditional deviled egg as including mayo, mustard, and paprika, but in the scheme of things this recipe is pretty new to the scene. Fannie Farmer’s 1896 Boston Cooking School Cook-Book suggested using mayonnaise as part of the filling, but that trend didn’t really catch on until the 1940s in the U.S.

Deviled eggs have experienced a resurgence in recent years, becoming a chic appetizer item on many menus (in the same way that beloved comfort foods like macaroni and cheese and hot dogs have gotten classed-up of late). Chefs are developing their own interpretations of the classic dish, some staying closer to the familiar mayo-based recipe, while others are taking deviled eggs to a whole new level (think kimchi deviled eggs or french toast deviled eggs).

Personally, I have yet to meet a deviled egg I didn’t like, and I’m always excited to see them make an appearance on a restaurant menu. In addition to being a tasty treat, they’re so sharable, so for me they’re a no-brainer as far as appetizers go.

For those of you who, like me, can’t get enough of them, here are a few deviled egg recipes to add to your line-up:

*Beet Pickled Deviled Eggs (from Food52)

*Devilish Deviled Eggs (from Garden & Gun)

*Rose’s Deviled Eggs Casino (from Food52)

*Smoked Trout Deviled Eggs (from The Kitchn)

*Georgia Peach Deviled Eggs (from Southern Living)

*Wasabi and Sesame Deviled Eggs (from Real Simple)

*Pickle and Jalapeno Deviled Eggs (from Cooking Light)

*Kimchi Deviled Eggs (from The Splendid Table)

*Greek-Style Deviled Eggs (from Better Homes & Gardens)

Anna Keller likes the occasional fancy, over-the-top meal served on a white tablecloth, but will be just a happy with dinner from Taco Bell (she and her husband were there the day they launched their new breakfast menu.) For her, food is about the experience, the story, the tradition, and the community it provides, and it takes a starring role in her blog, where she shares recipe creations and recreations—usually of the baking variety.

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