Why Are They Called Deviled Eggs?

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They’re not red. They don’t carry a pitchfork. They don’t have an arrowhead-shaped tail. So why do we call them deviled eggs?

The answer, of course, is language and history.

Over the course of time and in multiple languages and cuisines, there’s a tradition of referring to hot, peppery, or spicy foods as being mean or associated with the underworld.

In Italian, for example, the hot tomato sauce called¬†Arrabbiata is made with dried red chili peppers, and the name literally translates to “angry” in Italian. With eggs, especially spicy and zesty eggs made with mustard, pepper, or other ingredients like paprika stuffed into the empty yolk cavity of half an egg, they are called “deviled,” though in some places they’re also referred to as stuffed eggs, dressed eggs, or even Russian eggs.

The term deviled egg comes from an 18th-century culinary term that the Oxford English Dictionary originally used to describe a fried or boiled dish that was highly seasoned. and this was eventually used to also include spicy, condiment-filled dishes, as well. It was eventually used to describe eggs.

So where do deviled eggs come from?

According to The History Channel, deviled eggs go all the way back to ancient Rome, where eggs were boiled, seasoned with spicy sauces, and then served at the beginning of meals.

In the 13th century, stuffed eggs began to appear in the southern, Andalusian regions of Spain. A cookbook from this era, for example, suggests grinding boiled egg yolks with cilantro, onion juice, pepper, and coriander with a fermented fish sauce, and two centuries later, similar recipes were widely available across much of Medieval Europe.

Not until the late 19th century, though, did we start to see deviled eggs that resemble what we would call deviled eggs. An 1896 cookbook was one of the first to suggest using mayonnaise as a way to bind ground egg yolks together, which leads to today’s classic recipe that calls for mayo, mustard, and paprika.

Looking for great variations?

Consider things like bacon, sriracha, kimchi, crab meat, dill, or pickles as a way to make your deviled eggs stand out from all the rest.

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