Make Ahead

Virginia Willis' Deviled Eggs

July 14, 2021
4 Stars
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

Though popularized in postwar America, the practice of serving boiled, spiced eggs as an appetite-stimulating first course (called gustatio) can be traced to Ancient Roman dinner parties. Stuffed eggs as party appetizers remained trendy throughout the following millennium, but referring to spiced foods as “deviled” only became popular in 18th-century Great Britain.

Deviled eggs are a study in simple things done right: Hard-boil as many eggs as you have dinner guests, split them pole to pole, then transfer the crumbly yolks to a small bowl. To this bowl, add something sharp (Dijon mustard), spicy (cayenne pepper), and creamy (mayonnaise). Mash until it just holds together. Pipe or spoon the filling back into the boiled egg-white halves—whether you do this with a piping bag fitted with a star tip or just two spoons is totally up to you.

Deviled eggs are not only make-ahead friendly, they benefit greatly from it, as well. Cook and peel the eggs up to a week in advance. The fridge rest will make for cleaner splits and, thus, a neater presentation. If not prepping ahead, no sweat—just be sure to let the boiled eggs cool completely before peeling and halving. Prepare the filling only up to a day in advance—any longer and the flavor and texture (especially if you’re including finely chopped acidic things) will go, ha, sour. Store the filling in a sealable container or reusable plastic bag; simply scoop, or snip and pipe when ready to serve.

By combining her Southern sensibilities with the restraint of her French training, Virginia Willis' deviled eggs just happen to do everything right. There’s a secret ingredient here, too, one that Willis picked up in culinary school: butter. Just a tad. Mixed in while it's soft, it rounds and smooths over the more acidic ingredients and renders the filling creamy without overtaking it. A few classic players—mayonnaise, mustard, and cayenne—hover at the edges, so the richness of the yolk still shines. A speckling of fresh herbs stirred in at the end lifts everything up.

Adapted very slightly from Bon Appetit, Y'all (Ten Speed Press, 2008)Genius Recipes

Test Kitchen Notes

Here's how to make the eggs ahead of time: Unpeeled hard-cooked eggs can be refrigerated for up to 1 week ahead. Or prepare the eggs, but don’t assemble them, up to 8 hours ahead of serving; refrigerate the whites covered with a damp towel in an airtight plastic container. Store the egg-yolk mixture in the piping bag with the tip also covered in a damp paper towel. Knead the yolk mixture slightly to soften before filling the yolks. The eggs may also be assembled and stored covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours. Any longer and the yolk mixture starts to form a crust. —The Editors

Watch This Recipe
Virginia Willis' Deviled Eggs
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Makes 24 deviled eggs
  • 12 large eggs (about 1 week old if possible—they'll be easier to peel)
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 pinch coarse salt
  • 1 pinch freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped tarragon, chives, or chervil, plus leaves for garnish
In This Recipe
  1. To hard-cook the eggs, in a large saucepan, cover the eggs with water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat (you will see bubbles around the sides of the pot). Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 12 minutes. Drain the eggs and rinse them under cold running water. Let cool completely.
  2. To peel the eggs, remove the shells by tapping each egg gently on the counter or sink all over to crackle it. Roll an egg between your hands to loosen the shell. Peel, starting at the large end, while holding the egg under running cold water; this facilitates peeling and also removes any stray shell fragments.
  3. To prepare the filling, halve the peeled eggs lengthwise. Carefully remove the yolks. Set the whites aside. Pass the yolks through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl or in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add the yolks, mayonnaise, butter, mustard, and cayenne and stir or blend until smooth; season with the salt and pepper. Stir in the tarragon.
  4. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip, or use a medium sealable plastic bag with one of the corner tips snipped off.
  5. To assemble the eggs, pipe the yolk mixture into the whites. Garnish with more tarragon and serve immediately.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Sandra Blanco
    Sandra Blanco
  • Winness
  • Robert Wilkanowski
    Robert Wilkanowski
  • Pat E. in SLO
    Pat E. in SLO
  • Jeff Shaffer
    Jeff Shaffer
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

33 Reviews

anniette November 12, 2021
These are excellent instructions and proportions. Our family's slight change is to replace the salt, pepper, and cayenne with Old Bay. Use Old Bay to season the mixture to taste and then garnish the finished eggs with another light sprinkle of Old Bay on top for color and zing.
Sandra B. January 29, 2020
The ingredient that all of these recipes left out is curiously the ingredient that gives its name: deviled ham!!! This ham is canned and usually you can find it in the Canned meat aisle of the supermarket. Without it, they are not truly deviled eggs, only filled eggs or whatever other name!!!
Linda C. January 29, 2020
Actually, the term “devilled” in reference to food originated as far back as the 1700’s and simply meant food that was cooked with spices over high heat. There are many kinds of devilled foods - devilled eggs, devilled shrimp, devilled short ribs and others. Devilled eggs did not get their name from devilled ham - they just share a name based on the cooking process.
Susan B. May 13, 2019
I’ve adopted method for “perfect-soft-and-hard-boiled-eggs. So easy. Bring water to boil. Gently lower eggs into boiling water. Continue to boil for 14 minutes for hard boiled. (Website gives perfect time estimates along with pictures of several stages of cooked yolk; from runny soft to a full hard boil.). Put immediately into a bowl of cold, running water to stop cooking. You can use icy water, too. I hold them under the water in the bowl and peel immediately.
Susan B. May 13, 2019
I combined this recipe with Food52’s recipe for Momofuku’s soy sauce eggs. Virginia’s filling for eggs was extra special with the rich, creamy mouth-feel added by the butter. By using Momofuku’s soy sauce/sherry vinegar/dilute sugar marinade for the hard boiled eggs for a couple of hours before slicing them the usually flavorless whites took on a rich umami flavor. Guests st the Mother’s Day party gave out with immediate “Mmmm! I love these” responses. I did have to explain why the whites had brown edges a couple of times. But one taste cleared up that resistance 😏
SharynSowell December 27, 2018
I've always been embarrassed at my weak ability with deviled eggs but this recipe was the best. Thanks, Virginia, whoever you are for telling me how to make foolproof deviled eggs. I took them to a party where everyone brought appetizers and mine was the one with rave reviews! Delicious just exactly as written.
Winness December 25, 2017
I peel my eggs by banging them around in the pan they cooked in. The shells fracture nicely and the peels come off easily. When I made this recipe, I used my food processor to achieve an ultra smooth filling. However, depending on the mayonnaise you use, add salt sparingly. The only substitution I made was to add a pinch of Aleppo pepper and eliminate the cayenne. It created a subtle heat. I had the leftovers (there were only 2) for lunch the next day with a salad. This is a keeper.
DavidK November 15, 2017
Interesting, but ultimately a failure I think. Too rich, and too subtle. I am realizing that hard boiled eggs should probably not be done with subtlety. The egg itself is so overpowering a flavor that a strong flavor, like pickle, goes well with it best. Interestingly, a colleague told me it reminded him of the way his mom made hard boiled eggs, and he is from the South.
Robert W. October 8, 2017
I don’t remember where I read this but the trick to easy peeling eggs is to boil the water first and then slowly lower in the eggs using a slotted spoon. Once cooled, Gently crack the shell and push off the shell with the tip of your thumb. Works every time
Margo H. August 18, 2017
I too had problems peeling boiled eggs like nancy j, but then a miracle happened. One day going through various recipes sites. I heard from a chef, a man, and so help me Hannah, I can't remember his name, said to "steam" your eggs, drop them into cold water, crack all of them immediately and peel them from the fat end where the air pocket is alwaying you to grasp the membrane. It works!! one warning, speaking from experience here, they aboslutely MUST be peeled immediately! Had a bad headache once & failed to do so and they were absolutely postitively as difficult to peel as boiled eggs. I use a lot of eggs, so I used my big steamer, But you can use a tiny basket steamer in a saucepan. My pans have glass lids so I time them for 19 minutes from them time the lid shows steam beginning (I use extra large eggs for boiled and deviled eggs)It takes almost a full minute for the steam to begin to show. Once it shows I turn the heat down so the water beneath the steamer does not boil away. Thanks Hannah for the info on the smaller eggs, now I know 14 for small and 15 for large!
I've never tried sour cream in them, but I do use mayonnaise, a dash of spicy brown to taste, a dash of liquid smoke, a dash Worcestershire sauce, a small bit onion, minced very fine, a dash of cayenne & I too, like a dash of smoked paprika on the top. If you are one that likes horseradish, then leave out the bit of onion a try a tiny bit of Boarshead mustard with horseradish in it, a bit at a time to taste. Sitting here typing, after scrolling down through everyone's delicious versions of the "incredible, edible egg", I googled how deviled eggs began and here's the link, in case anyone else is curious.
Thank you all for all your delicious ideas! Margo
mdelgatty August 21, 2020
So nice we now have Instant Pots, foolproof for cooking eggs...
Rob August 11, 2017
Try this for the best blend of sweet and tangy: good english mango chutney, sweet pickle relish, grainy mustard, a dollop of sour cream to smooth the flavors, salt and pepper -- and a sprinkle of paprika on the finished eggs. I think it beats just about any other egg you can have!
nancy J. April 14, 2017
I wanted to confirm that steaming fresh eggs, a few days old from my chickens, really does work to help them peel beautifully. I cannot peel these eggs even at 2+ weeks old when they are boiled. Everyone should know this. I did 14 minutes for small and 15 for large and it worked perfectly. Looking forward to making deviled eggs for Easter.
Linda C. June 12, 2016
I have always made my deviled eggs using equal parts of mayonnaise and sour cream. I add a teaspoon of each at a time until the texture is right. Then I add in about a teaspoon (or more!) of dry English mustard, a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce and a dash or two of cayenne. Last, I mix in a tablespoon or so of finely, finely chopped fresh chives and voila! - ready to carefully spoon back into the white. Top with a tiny dash of smoked paprika if you wish! My family considers me the queen of deviled eggs and I am always begged to bring them to big family gatherings.

nutcakes March 19, 2016
I just found this unnecessarily rich. I might try it with half the amount of butter.
Pat E. April 4, 2015
I've added butter for years...and old Julia Child trick. And my team likes a thin slice of green olive or a caper on top. No paprika here!
Jeff S. January 8, 2015
The secret of peeling a hard boiled egg is a PRICK. Before you put the eggs in the water prick the fat side, where the air pocket is, with a pin or sharp instrument. When the eggs are cooked take them out of the water and let them cool. Now, roll the egg on the counter to crack the shell. The shell just comes right off with no effort at all.
robin L. August 16, 2014
Thank you for the photos!!!! I have made hard boiled eggs for years, often with varying steps that are sworn to work the best. The photo here of the real rolling boil is THE most helpful tip anyone should appreciate. I'm going to finish this recipe off in the morning for our block party's brunch.
Gerri W. July 3, 2014
I still make mine the way my mom did years ago. mayo, minced onion ,pickle relish mustard ,salt an pepper everyone in our family loves them. I will try adding a little butter sometime though . making them for our family get together on 4th. don't use a recipe either just taste as u go.
Tammy July 2, 2014
I think a deviled egg is a required taste of how we were brought up. In my family that originated from Oklahoma but found home in Oregon, I think this recipe might be a Southern thing. We like our deviled eggs tarty and flavorful. After boiling the eggs I keep the cold running water running over the eggs in the pan as I'm peeling the eggs under the cold running water keeping your hand wet with the cold water the shell just slides off. Once peeled cut eggs in half and dump yolks into a small bowl and lay whites on a plate line with paper towels. Once you get the yolks in a bowl I then put white vinegar on the eggs, not sure how much just enough to where they start to swell then mix with a fork till blended. Then start tasting and adding salt, pepper, and I like jalapeno's in mine, mix it up more with a tad mustard and mayo Best Foods. By now there should not be no lumps. Put into the whites and sprinkle with smoky paprika. Not sure why but that really does make a difference. I go by taste not measurements, sorry. It's how I have learned from my grandma.
Kasey W. April 1, 2014
In order to avoid the ring around the edge of the yolk all you need to do is put them directly into an ice bath after steaming them. That ring is just an indicator that you have overcooked the eggs.
KirstenS December 30, 2013
I think it was Andrew Knowlton in Bon App who suggested that instead of butter, you could fry up some bacon and use the bacon fat instead, and then garnish the eggs with bacon. It is some tasty goodness...