Virginia Willis' Deviled Eggs

March 30, 2012

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes:

By combining her Southern sensibilities with the restraint of her French training, Virginia Wills' deviled eggs just do everything right. There is a secret ingredient here, 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, dijon 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

Makes: 24 deviled eggs
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 20 min


  • 12 large eggs (about a 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 and freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon, chives, or chervil, plus leaves for garnish
In This Recipe


  1. To hard-cook the eggs, place the eggs in a saucepan and add water to cover them 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. Set aside to cool completely.
  2. To peel the eggs, once the eggs have cooked and cooled, 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 place them in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Blend the yolks, mayonnaise, butter, mustard, and cayenne, and mix until smooth; season with salt and pepper. Add the finely chopped tarragon.
  4. Place the mixture in 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, when ready to serve, pipe the yolk mixture into the whites. Garnish with additional herbs and serve immediately.
  6. To make ahead: Unpeeled hard-cooked eggs can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. Or prepare the eggs, but don’t assemble, up to 8 hours in advance 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.

More Great Recipes:
French|Southern|Egg|Mayonnaise|Mustard|Tarragon|Serves a Crowd|Make Ahead|Easter|Memorial Day|Mother's Day|Spring

Reviews (27) Questions (2)

27 Reviews

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.
Cuocopazzo 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!<br /> 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.<br />Thank you all for all your delicious ideas! Margo
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.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
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...
Allison D. December 30, 2013
I still prefer the old, tried and true recipe with mayonnaise, a bit of mustard, pickle relish, salt, pepper and paprika.
artist342 March 27, 2013
I'll be trying these beauties this weekend! I can't wait for the butter flavor.
JohnSkye July 9, 2012
i made these on the 4th and here's my take: they're "ok" ... the taste is fine, & based on your personal preferencees you could add more or less mustard, more or different herbs, put a slice of olive on top, etc, etc, etc ... the "problem" is the consistency ... i like chilled, but soft, creamy deviled eggs ... but the addition of the butter makes the yolk mixture of these turn into firm little clumps when chilled ... interesting, but not my favorite ... they were better either before they were refrigerated or after they warmed up a bit and got soft.
JohnL December 29, 2013
This recipe reminds me of both Sheila Lukins' "Heavenly Deviled Eggs" (my current favorite) and a recipe that Fran McCullough has put in at least two of her "Best American Recipes" cookbook series, called "Parsi Deviled Eggs." The Lukins recipe became my instant favorite, with its tarragon/herbal flavors, while the Parsi recipe contained butter (1 TB for 6 large eggs, so the proportion is the same as in this recipe), but neither the taste nor texture of Parsi blew me away. Fran loves the recipe so much that I prepared it twice just to be sure I hadn't made some prep or measuring error. Didn't love Parsi. But I do love a good deviled egg every now and then, so I will at some point try this recipe to see if Sheila has any competition!
JohnL April 20, 2014
I gave the Parsi Deviled Eggs one last try and found that if I added a little extra honey and lime juice, and I could see why Fran likes them so much. And I have discovered a new spice blend called Tajin (a mild flaked chile and dehydrated lime juice sprinkle) which really goes great on the eggs. It is great on many foods, and worth seeking out at your ethnic grocer (Asian or Latino).
Chokolate911 May 9, 2012
Since reading this post I have tried adding butter and was amazed at the results. You must try them!! <br />