15 Tips And Tricks For Making Egg Salad

Egg salad is a classic recipe that never goes out of style. It only takes a few simple ingredients to make something truly tasty, and it's a coveted part of any picnic, potluck, or barbecue. It's an easy recipe to make, and you can customize it with unique ingredients. Moreover, the beauty of the dish is that there are tiny ways you can add your own creative spin while still keeping the essence of a traditional, filling egg salad.

Egg salad can be decadent and delicious, but the store-bought, gloopy recipe can turn a lot of people off of it. And it's easy to see why poorly-made egg salad can have such a big impact. These store-bought or mass-produced salads can be watery if there's too much mayo or take on the profile of undistinguishable mush with no texture. It's a dish that can go wrong in so many ways — which is why making your own is the best way to ensure a great, consistent dish. With a little bit of know-how and these tips and tricks, you can make a crowd-pleasing egg salad in no time. 

1. Don't hard boil the eggs fully

The trick to making a good egg salad is ensuring your eggs are perfectly cooked. Most people worry about their eggs coming out undercooked. After all, if the yolks are still runny, it won't work at all in an egg salad. You might even be inclined to leave them in the water for longer to prevent them from coming out soft. However, some people don't realize that overcooking your eggs will make them chalky, and the resulting egg salad can be dry, greenish, and gluey. Overcooked eggs may even taste like sulfur.

You should aim for set eggs, but not chalky ones. Some argue that a slightly jammy yolk is the perfect texture for egg salad. The soft center will have a rich taste and add moisture to the salad without making it too watery. To get this yolk texture in your boiled eggs, boil them for eight minutes. However, keep in mind that this time depends on the egg's size and freshness, so it might not be exact — but it's a good place to start.

2. Let your eggs cool down after boiling

Sometimes, impatience can lead to unnecessary mistakes. One completely avoidable error is using warm eggs when making egg salad. If you neglect to wait for the eggs to cool before you work with them, you'll risk runny mayonnaise and fresh ingredients that wilt. Not to mention, you could burn your fingers if you start peeling the eggs while they're still hot.

Many recipes suggest that you drop your eggs in an ice bath as soon as you take them off the heat. The cold water immediately stops the cooking process, which in turn can prevent overcooking. Plus, it will also pull the whites off the shell, thus making them easier to peel. However, if you're patient enough to wait, you can simply let the eggs stand out of the hot water for a little after cooking. They're ready to peel if you pick them up and don't feel any warmth.

3. Use a food storage container to peel your eggs faster

Egg salad is relatively easy to make, but the annoying part is peeling the eggs. Anyone who's boiled eggs knows that sometimes egg shells come off like a dream with barely any effort, and other times, the shells have fused to the egg so tightly that you end up butchering the egg to remove them. While there are many tricks to effectively peel your eggs, the best one involves a food storage container. It will allow you to peel your eggs in about 10 seconds.

Add your hard-boiled eggs to a shallow plastic food storage container with some water. Then, close the container and shake it vigorously for about 10 seconds. Once you take the eggs out, the shells should come off with ease (if they haven't already). The shaking cracks the shells, and the moving water helps peel away the shell. The only precaution you have to take is to shake everything over the sink in case of any spills.

4. Mash the eggs with your hands

There are many ways to mash up your eggs. Many people simply chop them up with a knife and a cutting board, while some use a fork or a potato masher. We think getting your hands dirty and mashing them up manually is the best way. This hands-on method guarantees a perfect egg salad consistency — just make sure to wash your hands first. 

Using a potato masher and fork indiscriminately squashes everything and can leave you with mushy and gummy eggs and whites that are broken down to a pulp. Using your hands won't have this effect because they're softer than a solid tool. Instead, you'll be left with whites that are more intact and yolks that are well mixed in. This is also better than using a knife because a chunky, variable texture in an egg salad is more pleasurable than uniform pieces or chunks that are too small — which would make it more like a puree. Using your hands also saves you time because you can mash all the eggs up at once, and it saves you the trouble of washing an extra kitchen tool or board.

5. Use less mayo than you think you need

A common mistake people make with egg salad is drowning it in mayonnaise. After all, it prevents a dry egg salad — right? In truth, many people add too much mayo to their egg salad, which dilutes the flavor and makes it too liquidy. The condiment overpowers the flavors of other ingredients and prevents the eggs from holding together with the seasonings and other ingredients. In turn, it will also be more likely to fall off the bread or sandwich.

You should really be adding less mayo to your egg salad than you think you need. Plus, it's always good to start with less because you can always add more. Adding too much mayo is harder to rectify and involves adding more boiled eggs. A good place to start is about 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise for four eggs. Taste it, and if it needs more, add another tablespoon and taste again. The goal is to have the eggs just coated so that everything can adhere together, but there is no mayo run-off.

6. Elevate your egg salad with aioli

These days, many modern restaurants serve egg salad with all sorts of flavor upgrades — from interesting condiments to truffles and more. There are many ways to make your egg salad a bit more fancy, and you don't have to spend a lot of money or employ any difficult techniques. For example, you can add a garlicky aioli for a rich, heavenly egg salad. 

Aioli is one of the best ingredients to elevate egg salad because it's similar in texture to mayo. Aioli is an oil emulsion like mayo but usually uses olive oil and garlic, which gives it a deeper flavor. This makes it an easy substitute that gives your egg salad an extra punch. Garlic is an underrated pairing for eggs and gives the rich, fatty food an extra kick. You can easily make your own or get a good quality store-bought aioli and watch your egg salad instantly go from classic to impressive.

7. Include something crunchy

People who don't like egg salad often complain that it's just a mushy, sloppy mess. Some even compare it to baby food. This all comes down to texture, which egg salads tend to lack. However, it doesn't have to be this way; you can deploy a crunch element to give it a more interesting bite. Recipes often call for onions or celery, but you can even add cucumber, apples, radishes, or even nuts for more crispness.

Cornichons are a great crunchy ingredient for egg salad because they're already small in size and don't need to be chopped. These pickled baby cucumbers, otherwise known as French gherkins, will easily enhance the flavor of your egg salad. The flavor of these pickles is a mixture of sweet, salty, and tangy from the vinegar they're pickled in. The acidic profile adds a hint of brightness to the egg salad and complements the mustard undertones in the egg salad dressing.

8. Try cottage cheese instead of mayo

There are ways to enjoy egg salad, even if you avoid mayonnaise. For example, you can use cottage cheese instead of mayo in your egg salad. This cheese is a great substitute for mayo because it's just as creamy, higher in protein, and offers a lighter touch to your salad. Use chunky cottage cheese if you prefer a very textured egg salad, or scoop in smooth cottage cheese for a silkier texture that will allow the eggs to shine.

Cottage cheese will bind all your ingredients together just as well as mayo and create a cohesive glue for all your seasonings to stick to. Its tart, tangy flavor is even similar to that of the mayo. Plus, cottage cheese is like a blank slate that can be played around with. You can always add more flavor with some Dijon mustard or scoop in a little horseradish to give it a kick. 

9. Use acid to lift up your egg salad

A little trick for working with any fatty food is to add a little acid to balance it out. It will cut through the oiliness and enhance the dish's flavor. The same applies to egg salad, which has a double whammy of the richness from both the eggs and the mayo. Adding a few squeezes of lemon juice or a dash of vinegar will give your egg salad an instant lift.

It's by no means a new trick or novel idea, but it's easy to overlook the importance of an acidic element in an egg salad recipe. You can also achieve a little relief by adding spicy mustard or pickles, but going to the heart of the dressing is the best way to ensure a balanced mouthful with every bite. 

If you're unsure how much lemon juice or vinegar to add, start with just 1 tablespoon per four eggs, mix it in, and taste. That's usually all the acid you'll need, but you can always add a little more if necessary.

10. Don't be shy of spices like paprika

Spices aren't often listed in egg salad recipes, but that doesn't mean they aren't a great addition. You can add a hint of complexity to your egg salad by including a pinch (or more) of paprika. Of course, if you love spice, you can play around with cumin, ground coriander, mustard powder, or even sumac. But if you prefer to play it safe, paprika is a good choice. It's a must when making deviled eggs, so why shouldn't you add it to a dish that has such a similar flavor profile?

Paprika is made from ground red peppers. It adds a little fruitiness and a hint of smoke. Unlike chili powder, paprika isn't hot, so you don't have to worry about it being too spicy. If you love spicy foods, you can combine paprika and chili flakes for a little bit more fun. 

Paprika also makes for a beautiful garnish on top of your salad. The bright red specks add a drastic contrast to the pale yellow mixture, so it's a good idea to sprinkle a light dusting on top before serving.

11. Play with za'atar

Your egg salad doesn't have to be boring and plain, especially if you add a dash of za'atar. This recipe for this Middle Eastern condiment depends on the region it's coming from, but it usually has some essentials like sesame seeds, dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, sumac, and salt. It's a sprinkle that will add herbaceousness and a little zest from the sumac. Plus, the sesame seeds add some nuttiness and a pleasing texture with a little crunch. Za'atar is a delicious addition to egg salad and isn't an unfamiliar pairing for eggs; it's a popular topping for many egg-based breakfast dishes in countries like Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.

Za'atar elevates egg salad to a new level. You can start with just a sprinkle on top, but you'll likely end up throwing it in by the spoonful after you taste it. You can find za'atar in any Middle Eastern grocery store, or you can make your own blend yourself.

12. Use fresh bread for the perfect bite

Making egg salad takes some time and effort, so you don't want to ruin it in the final hour by serving it on subpar bread. Once you've perfected a yummy egg salad, you need a vessel that's just as delicious. 

Freshly baked bread beats a slightly stale loaf every time. Start with your favorite bread, like a good loaf of freshly baked sourdough. You want the bread to have a decent bite to complement the soft, mushy texture of egg salad. The bread should also be firm enough to carry the weight of the sandwich. 

Alternatively, you can use softer bread like brioche or milk bread, but make sure you don't overload them with the salad. Otherwise, you risk the bread falling apart when you pick the sandwich up. To add extra texture, toast your slices of bread before assembling your sandwich. 

It's best to add the egg salad to the bread just before you eat it to prevent it from getting too soggy. If you're taking the egg salad to a picnic, pack the components separately and assemble the sandwiches there.

13. Include something pickled

People love the creamy and rich texture of egg salad. The fatty yolks and the velvety mayo all come together to coat your mouth in a way that feels decadent and satisfying. However, the richness can become too much if the overall flavor is unbalanced. This is where adding something pickled can help. The ingredient will cut right through the fattiness and add a pleasant acidity to even things out. The best thing is that you can use any pickled or fermented vegetable you like. The go-to is often relish or cornichons, but you can add pickled radish, cauliflower, onions, or even something spicy like kimchi.

Or, try an unexpected pickle to seriously upgrade your egg salad: pickled eggs. You can either make your entire egg salad using pickled eggs or just add a couple to give it extra oomph. Don't be intimidated by the sound of pickled eggs if you've never had or made them. Simply leave your hard-boiled eggs in the leftover pickling liquid overnight and they'll be ready to dice up and add to your salad in the morning. 

14. Add freshness with herbs

An egg salad is incomplete without a handful of fresh herbs. It's the easiest way to take your egg salad from bland to fresh and dynamic — and add a pop of green to make your salad more appealing. Moreover, this herby addition will distinguish your egg salad from the pile of yellow mush often associated with store-bought or premade egg salad.

The best herbs to use in egg salad are dill and chives. Chives are an obvious choice because they go with any type of egg, from scrambled eggs to omelets. The herb gives the salad a flavor that works well with onions and shallots in your recipe. Dill can be polarizing, but often a little bit of dill in an egg salad can convert even the dill haters. It adds a little bit of herbaceous sophistication that pairs well with the velvety mayonnaise. Flatleaf parsley also works, and while not technically herbs, green onions and scallions are great options, too.

15. Swap your regular mayonnaise for Kewpie mayo

The type of mayo you select for your salad is important because it plays such a pivotal role in your recipe. Some prefer mayo that's more tangy, while others go for something that's perhaps a little bit sweeter. One way to change your egg salad forever is to swap out regular mayo for a Japanese Kewpie mayo. It's the tangy condiment that some chefs prefer to use because it has more umami flavor. Kewpie mayo is also sweeter because it's made with rice vinegar rather than distilled white vinegar.

Kewpie is also made using only egg yolks, as opposed to American mayo, which uses whole eggs. This gives Kewpie mayo a richer, deeper flavor that works perfectly in egg salad and many other egg dishes. It's an easy, 1-to-1 swap in your egg salad recipe. You can find Kewpie mayo in any Asian grocery store or even in the international aisle of larger supermarket chains.