There’s nothing particularly devilish about stuffed eggs—so what’s the deal with the name?   

By Corey Williams
December 13, 2019
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Have you ever wondered how deviled eggs got their name? You’re not alone. I mean, “deviled” is a pretty harsh way to describe a perfectly delightful appetizer. Here’s how the classic dish got its satanic moniker:

What Are Deviled Eggs? 

Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer

Deviled eggs are hard-boiled eggs that have been peeled, cut in half, then stuffed with a paste made from the yolk and other ingredients. 

Basic deviled egg filling is made with egg yolks, mayonnaise, relish, mustard, salt, and pepper. The eggs are often seasoned with spices like paprika or cayenne pepper. 

Typically, deviled eggs are served as appetizers. They often make appearances at holiday parties, picnics, or other social functions. 

While the stuffed eggs are popular throughout the U.S. and Europe, they’re particularly associated with the American South and Midwest. 

Deviled Egg History

Believe it or not, the Southern Sunday school staple actually originated in Ancient Rome. Though they weren’t prepared the same way they are now, eggs that had been boiled and seasoned were a popular appetizer among the elite members of Roman society. The dish was so common that it inspired the phrase “ab ova usque ad mala, which literally means “from eggs to apples, or from the beginning of a meal to the end. 

“By the 15th century, stuffed eggs had made their way across much of Europe,” according to History.com. “Medieval cookbooks contain recipes for boiled eggs that were often filled with raisins, cheese and herbs such as marjoram, parsley and mint and then fried in oil and either topped with a sauce of cinnamon, ginger, cloves and raisins with verjuice (a tart juice made from unripe fruits) or powdered with sugar and served hot.”

Stuffed eggs began appearing in U.S. cookbooks by the mid-1800s.

Get the recipe: Deviled Cadbury Eggs

Where Does the Name Come From? 

Victor Protasio

In this case, the adjective “deviled” has a (somewhat) secular meaning—the word “devil” is just a culinary term that is used to describe a highly seasoned dish.  

To devil means to “combine a food with various hot or spicy seasonings such as red pepper, mustard, or Tabasco sauce, thereby creating a ‘deviled’ dish,” according to the Food Lover’s Companion, the definitive guide to all things food and cooking. 

The term likely comes from the connection between spiciness and the presumably hot temperatures in hell.

Since the word “devil” does have negative connotations, though, some groups of people prefer to call the dish “stuffed eggs,” “salad eggs,” or “dressed eggs.”

Deviled Egg Recipes

Photography: Jennifer Causey; Prop Styling: Lindsey Lower; Food Styling: Torie Cox.

No matter what you call them, the hard-boiled egg dish is pretty dang delicious. Try your hand at one of our favorite takes on the ancient recipe:

Hungry for more? Check out our best deviled egg recipes ever.