13 Ways You're Ruining Egg Salad

Egg salad, in its most basic form, consists of cooked eggs, mayonnaise, and seasonings. Made with basic pantry staples, it's a savory, protein-packed dish that can be served any time of the year. Egg salad can be customized in various ways by using seasonings and add-ins — like fresh herbs and vegetables — to create different textures, flavors, and colors. It's an economical dish for which every home cook likely has a back-pocket recipe. And yet, the results of this simple dish can often turn out mediocre at best, leading to a runny, gloppy, tasteless mush.

There are many points in the egg salad-making process where things can take a wrong turn. Boiling the eggs can be tricky and messy, even for veteran cooks. Finding the right balance of seasonings can be an impossible feat. And the consistency of the salad can turn from thick to thin in a matter of seconds. But once you know what to avoid, you'll become the egg salad pro your friends turn to when craving this classic year-round dish. Read on to see how you may be ruining egg salad so you can steer clear of these pitfalls next time.

1. Using small eggs

Fun fact: The size of an egg yolk barely varies by egg size. This means, for the most part, that the size difference between small and large eggs is in the whites. But, you may be thinking, so what? Well, when it comes to egg salad, it makes a big difference whether you use small or large eggs.

Make large eggs your preferred egg size when making your next batch of egg salad because the higher proportion of whites to yolks will make for a better texture. If you use small eggs when making egg salad, the whites will get lost in the yolky dressing. As a result, your dish will lack the proper amount of bite, leaving you wondering whether it can be called egg salad at all.

Also, remember that most published egg salad recipes are developed with large eggs, so using a different size egg without adjusting the recipe may affect the dish's texture, flavor, and consistency.

2. Overcooking or undercooking the eggs

The first step when making egg salad is cooking the eggs. For many, this important step can be the most daunting part, because if the eggs aren't cooked to that perfect hard-boiled stage, you can be left with runny whites or dry, crumbly yolks — and neither makes for good egg salad.

The absolute best way to boil eggs involves a few key steps. First, start with tempered eggs that have lost some of their chill; this reduces the chance of shells cracking when they come into contact with boiling water. Next, carefully lower the eggs into a pot of boiling water and allow them to boil for a full 10 minutes. If the eggs are banging into each other (or the pot), you can reduce the heat slightly, but make sure the water remains at a boil. Then, immediately shock the eggs in ice water for at least five minutes before peeling.

Tried boiling eggs and are still unsatisfied with the results? Use an Instant Pot. This nifty kitchen appliance will help you make egg salad quicker than ever. This popular electric pressure cooker is one of the best ways to prepare hard-boiled eggs. Simply crack eggs into a greased cake pan and set the Instant Pot to pressure cook. The result is a hard-cooked egg loaf — sans shells — perfect for chopping up for egg salad. Pro tip: Line the cake pan with parchment to make removing the egg loaf even easier.

3. Not peeling the eggs properly

We've all been there — standing in our kitchens trying to peel boiled eggs that won't relent. Ultimately, we're left with sad-looking eggs pocked with craters, some with pieces of shell hanging on for dear life. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to make the peeling process easy, like Sunday morning.

We first suggest adding a splash of vinegar to the boiling water when cooking the eggs. The acid in vinegar dissolves some of the calcium carbonate found in the eggs' shells, softening them so they're easier to peel away. Our second suggestion is to use older eggs when making hard-boiled eggs. As eggs age, they contract, creating an air pocket away from the membrane, allowing the shells to come off cleaner and easier after cooking. Lastly, do not skip the ice bath. Shocking hard-boiled eggs in ice water immediately after cooking them will make the egg-peeling process less challenging. To remove the shells, remove a boiled egg from the ice bath and roll it on a hard surface to form cracks in the shell, then transfer it back to the ice bath and peel it under the water.

These are steps worth taking to make peeling eggs a breeze, so your egg salad can look and taste amazing. After all, there's nothing more alarming than chomping down on a sharp piece of shell while eating egg salad.

4. Using Miracle Whip

Newsflash: Miracle Whip is not mayonnaise, and using it in egg salad will affect flavor and texture. While it contains ingredients similar to mayonnaise (like egg, oil, and vinegar), Miracle Whip does not meet the United States Department of Agriculture requirement of at least 65% vegetable oil by weight. Hence, Miracle Whip is labeled as "dressing" instead of "mayonnaise."

You should think twice about using Miracle Whip in egg salad. Some people prefer Miracle Whip's sweeter, spicier taste compared to mayonnaise, and that's just fine. But if you're using it because it has lower calories and fat content than mayonnaise, remember that Miracle Whip is sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, considered a primary cause of obesity in America. Also, since it doesn't have as much fat (and thick consistency) as mayonnaise, Miracle Whip will likely separate and break down over time, resulting in a soggy egg salad. And no one wants that.

There are other mayonnaise alternatives that work well in egg salad. Depending on your tastes, you can choose to make a full or partial substitution. Our favorites include Greek yogurt, sour cream, and cashew mayo.

5. Using too much mayonnaise

Mayonnaise adds a wonderful richness, creaminess, and mild flavor to egg salad. But be careful not to overdo it on the mayonnaise when making egg salad, or the dish's flavor and texture will be off.

Deploying globs of mayonnaise into your egg salad can be profoundly unpleasant, as it will coat each piece of egg in a fatty, oily paste. Plus, the slightly sour, tangy, salty taste of mayonnaise will overpower the wonderful, savory flavor of the hard-boiled eggs that you've taken great care to prepare. To prevent a mayonnaise deluge from happening, we suggest making the dressing separately and then adding it to the eggs (and any add-ins) a little at a time.

If damage has already been done and you've managed to be too heavy-handed with the mayonnaise, all you need are some finely ground bread crumbs (i.e., not Panko). Sprinkle a small amount of the bread crumbs over your egg salad and fold them in to soak up some of the extra dressing.

6. Not seasoning properly

Spices can elevate a dull, bland egg salad to extraordinary, and many seasonings can be used to spice up egg salad. Let's start with an obvious one: salt. It's an essential seasoning in cooking, especially for egg-based dishes, as salt intensifies an egg's rich, savory flavor. While you're at it, sprinkle in some freshly ground black pepper for a pop of fruitiness and spice.

Perhaps you want a more complex flavor? Add Dijon mustard to your egg salad. This pungent condiment adds sweet, slightly sour acidity that compliments eggs well. For a hint of mustard flavor, use a tablespoon of Dijon for every eight eggs. If you are a Dijon fanatic, you could replace a significant amount of mayonnaise with it, making your egg salad a bit lighter and better for you.

If you're a fan of heat, try adding smoked paprika, curry powder, cayenne pepper, or hot sauce. There's no reason for egg salad to be drab. By adding simple pantry spices and condiments to egg salad, you can create a dish that will knock your socks off.

7. Rough-chopping the eggs

When cutting eggs for egg salad, don't default to rough chopping. If you do, you'll get a mix of everything from large chunks of egg to tiny bits of mush. The big chunks are difficult to eat, and the tiny pieces blend in with the dressing, making them indistinguishable. Instead, aim for a cut that's a happy medium — not too big, not too small, just right.

There are several ways to properly chop hard-boiled eggs for egg salad. Some people swear by a potato masher to make egg salad easier. With its larger surface, a potato masher — especially one with a waffle design — is incredibly efficient and produces more uniform cuts. You can also use a chef's knife to dice the eggs into even, bite-sized pieces. We recommend dicing the eggs into ½-inch cubes (medium dice). Do not mince the eggs; you want them to be discernible from the dressing so their texture can be appreciated. If your knife skills aren't stellar, you can use a nifty egg slicer, but don't run an egg through it more than two times. Egg salad is so much more enjoyable to eat when the pieces of egg have a little heft.

8. Using too many add-ins

We know how easy it is to overdo it when it comes to egg salad add-ins. After all, egg salad is a dish that screams for additions. Ingredients like chopped celery, bacon bits, and fresh herbs can add fantastic texture, flavor, and color to egg salad. But don't make the rookie mistake of tossing in too many extra ingredients.

The problem with using too many add-ins is that the eggs can get lost in the mix of other ingredients, turning what was once egg salad into just a salad. So, we recommend adding no more than one or two add-ins. One of our favorite add-ins to elevate egg salad is chopped onion. With its sharp aroma and crisp bite, onion adds delicious flavor. Just be aware that as onions ripen, they release liquid that can thin out your egg salad.

Pro tip: Chop your add-ins into small pieces so they don't distract from the eggs. For example, if you're using medium-dice eggs, use small-diced add-ins.

9. Excluding crunchy add-ins

There's nothing more boring than a one-dimensional egg salad made with only soft ingredients. Don't get us wrong, boiled eggs and mayonnaise are a delicious pair, but a truly satisfying egg salad has to have a crisp component that balances the softness of the dish. Chopping up crunchy add-ins for your egg salad may keep you in the kitchen longer than you care to be, but it's a step worth taking so your dish isn't a uniform consistency.

A crunchy element will add variation to your egg salad's mouthfeel, making it much more interesting and pleasant to eat. Our favorite crunchy additions include diced radish, chopped celery, diced dill pickles, pumpkin seeds, toasted pecans, and crumbled bacon. For optimal results, chop your add-ins into small-dice pieces so they don't overshadow the eggs. When you add one or two different crunchy elements to your egg salad, it will transform into a delightful, memorable dish you'll eat over and over again.

10. Not mashing the yolks with mayonnaise

The secret to ultra-creamy egg salad is mashing some (or all) of the cooked yolks with the mayonnaise. It's worth doing because it adds richness and flavor to the dressing and a vibrant yellow color to your egg salad. The steps involve separating some of the cooked yolks from the whites, mashing the yolks with a fork to a powder-like consistency, and stirring in the mayonnaise until the dressing is smooth. Then add the chopped whites, seasonings, and any add-ins.

Another benefit of incorporating egg yolks into the mayonnaise is that the protein found in the yolks helps add structure and stabilize the dressing. In cooking, egg yolks are used to add body to both hot and cold sauces. The idea is the same here, and as a bonus, the eggs are already cooked to be safe to eat, so there's no need to reheat them. Incorporating some yolks into the mayonnaise dressing makes your egg salad incredibly rich, creamy, and so, so good.

11. Using dried herbs instead of fresh

Dried herbs and fresh herbs are not created equal. Dried herbs have deeper, concentrated flavors than their fresh counterparts, and their astringent notes and rough texture can be unappetizing when used in egg salad. Dried bits of herbs floating in egg salad are not appealing to look at — or eat.

Opt for fresh herbs to make the best-tasting egg salad. Fresh herbs have mild flavors that complement the savory flavor of eggs and mayonnaise — and bright, vivid colors that are incredibly appealing. Just be sure your fresh herbs are dried well with a paper towel before using. You don't want to add any extra liquid that could make your egg salad watery. Wondering what kinds of fresh herbs go well? Chopped fresh dill, thyme, and parsley are popular choices. Or experiment using a mix of fresh herbs — we love the combination of tarragon, chives, and dill.

Sometimes substituting dried herbs for fresh herbs in your egg salad may be your only option. If this is the case, use one teaspoon of dried herbs for every tablespoon of fresh herbs. Pro tip: Rub the dried herbs between your fingers to release the oils and crush them into smaller pieces before adding them to your egg salad.

12. Serving it warm

With just a handful of ingredients and a short amount of time, you can whip up egg salad that's great in sandwiches or over a green salad. But if you don't plan ahead, all the effort you expend in making that yummy egg salad will go to waste if you serve it immediately. Why? A truly delicious, creamy egg salad must be chilled in the refrigerator and served cold for the ultimate melding of flavors and creamy consistency.

Despite what you may want to believe, if you hurriedly make a bowl of egg salad and stick it in the refrigerator, it will take quite a while to chill thoroughly. So here's a better idea: Cook the eggs a few hours ahead, then place them in the refrigerator after fully chilling them in the ice bath. Or, even better, cook the eggs the day before and refrigerate them overnight. This way, all your ingredients will already be cold, and you can serve the egg salad right after it is made.

13. Not serving it fresh

Freshly made egg salad has a bright flavor, clean notes, and a savory aroma. Even so, it can sometimes be hard to tell when egg salad has passed its prime. But knowing what to look for is important because eating rotten eggs can lead to foodborne illnesses.

Leftover egg salad should be stored in an airtight container and will stay good in the refrigerator for three to four days. If serving buffet-style or at a picnic, keep the egg salad over ice, ideally checking that the dish maintains a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Generally, egg-based dishes should not be left out at room temperature for more than two hours — even less if it's a warm environment.

Our best advice? Use your senses. Start with the sniff test. If your egg salad has a sour smell or unpleasant aroma, that's a serious cause for concern. But remember that eggs naturally have a sulphuric scent, so you may still need to figure out if your egg salad is awash. So, look closely at the salad's appearance, inspecting for discoloration or mold growth. When it comes to spoiled food, we don't like to take any chances, so we usually err on the cautious side and toss it if there's any doubt.