This pale yellow, creamy deli-style egg salad is made with smashed hard boiled eggs, two types of mustard, and a few simple seasonings — less than 10 ingredients total!
Making this egg salad takes less than 20 minutes (including hard boiling the eggs) but just like my popular deli-style tuna salad and deli-style chicken salad recipes, it needs several hours in the fridge to really bring that classic deli egg salad flavor to life.
I first learned the joy of smashed hard boiled eggs in an egg salad and bagna cruda toast recipe by iconic Michelin-star chef Nancy Silverton.
Silverton's recipe uses homemade mayo and recommends separating the cooked yolks from the whites and hand tearing the eggs "into small pieces (about 8 pieces per egg)."
Don't get me wrong, there's a time and place for putting that amount of effort into an egg salad.
But when I'm making egg salad, I don't really want to get my hands or kitchen any dirtier than I need to. I want to make my egg salad fast and get it in the fridge even faster.
Instead of separating the yolks from the whites, I use a cocktail muddler to smash the hard boiled eggs into irregular pieces. This serves a double purpose of simultaneously mashing the yolks into a creamy paste with the mayonnaise and mustard.
It may not be as elegant as delicately hand tearing each individual hard boiled egg, but it sure does get the job done.
Leaving the egg yolks still slightly soft and mashing the egg salad together while the eggs are still warm makes this deli-style egg salad creamy without being overly heavy on the mayo.
And while usually you'd need to let freshly hard boiled eggs cool completely before refrigerating, that's not an issue here. By the time you're done mixing this easy egg salad, it will be completely cool and ready to go in the fridge!
🧾 Ingredient Notes
Here are the ingredients that you'll need to make this simple egg salad recipe! See recipe card for quantities.
- Eggs - I use large eggs for this recipe. If you use XL or Jumbo sized eggs, you may want to increase the amount of mayo slightly too.
- Mayonnaise - Full fat mayonnaise will give you the best creamy texture. Homemade mayonnaise will truly take it to the next level if you feel like being extra though.
- Brown Mustard - Sometimes also called "deli mustard" or "spicy brown mustard." This mustard has a robust flavor but is used in a relatively small quantity here, so you get that mustard flavor without any real heat.
- Whole Grain Mustard - Usually found in "dijon" varieties in a small glass jar. This style of mustard is not necessarily traditional to egg salad, but I really like using it here for the added texture.
- White Pepper - White pepper doesn't just have a slightly mellower pepper flavor which goes well with the sharpness from the mustard. It also doesn't add any color to the egg salad, keeping it looking nice and bright.
- Paprika - Use regular plain paprika here; do not use smoked paprika. Smoked paprika has a more intense flavor and color and will turn your egg salad orange. Save the smoked paprika to use as a garnish.
- Salt - I use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt which half as salty as other brands. If measuring by weight, it doesn't matter what brand of salt you use. But if you're measuring by volume and using a different brand of salt, even a different brand of kosher salt, cut the amount of salt in half.
- Chives - Fresh chives, finely minced. You can also use green onions in a pinch, but I prefer the finer texture and more mild flavor from the chives for a creamy deli style egg salad.
Optional Egg Salad Garnishes: Smoked paprika, fresh dill, fresh chives, capers, bacon bits, freshly cracked black pepper, quick pickled red onion, green onions, horseradish, etc.
🧂 My Best Tip for Egg Salad
Save any ingredients that add strong flavors or colors like dill, capers, and smoked paprika to use as a garnish. Serve them on the side or use them to garnish the top of the egg salad in its serving bowl.
If you add strong ingredients when you mix the egg salad, they will overwhelm the rest of the egg salad or might even change the color.
🔪 How to Make Egg Salad
Start by hard boiling your eggs. Below I've shared my favorite method for hard boiling (direct from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt at the New York Times), but if you have an Instant Pot, hard boiled egg maker, or other method that you prefer you can certainly use that instead.
The best hard boiled eggs for egg salad will have a yolk that is fully cooked through but still soft and slightly jammy in the center. Not runny or liquid, but just barely solid.
Bring an inch of water to a boil in a small pot. Lower the eggs into the water.
Cover the pot and reduce the heat to maintain a rolling boil for 11 minutes.
When the timer goes off, strain out the hot water and fill the pot with cool water. No ice bath needed here, we just want the eggs to be cool enough to handle.
We want to crack the eggs and make the egg salad while the eggs are still warm so that the yolks break down easily and so that the membrane is still soft and peels away easily.
Crack the egg shell in firm, gentle taps all the way around the sides. I like doing this on a paper towel so I can fold the paper towel around it and gently roll the egg back and forth on the counter.
Then tap the top and the bottom of the egg against the counter. This will create a fine web of cracks around the shell, making it easier to peel.
If you have trouble getting the shell off the eggs, running the egg under water while you peel it can help. You can also gently slide a spoon under the shell to pry it off.
Place the eggs in a mixing bowl and use a cocktail muddler, potato masher, or even a large fork to break them up into uneven, irregular chunks.
You can also use a potato masher, or press the hard boiled eggs through the wires on a cooling rack to chop them up. If you don't mind getting messy, you can also tear the eggs by hand, a la Nancy Silverton.
I find the cocktail muddler works best for me, but you do you.
The goal is to get lots of irregular pieces of egg white and a nicely mashed up egg yolk.
There will be more time to mash the egg later, so don't break the egg whites down too far during this initial mashing.
Add the mayonnaise, paprika, white pepper, salt, and both mustards. Mash again with the muddler to continue breaking up the eggs until everything is mixed together.
Next, add the fresh chives and switch to a spatula to gently fold them in. Chives are very delicate and prone to bruising; incorporating them gently will keep their bright color.
While you can serve this simple egg salad immediately, it is infinity times better if you let it chill in the fridge first.
For best results, transfer the deli-style egg salad to an airtight container (or cover the mixing bowl) and refrigerate it for at least 4 hours or overnight before serving.
This gives all the flavors time to meld and mix together and gives you that classic "deli" flavor.
Garnish the egg salad with dill, smoked paprika, capers, etc. immediately before serving or, if serving buffet style, serve them on the side for guests to add themselves.
📋 Storage & Food Safety Notes
On days 3 and 4 the "deli-style" flavor will be more intense as the flavors continue melding into each other.
Egg salad should be served cold, and should not sit out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. If you're serving it somewhere where it needs to be out of the fridge, make sure you are at least serving it over an ice bath or bowl of ice to keep it cool.
👩🏻🍳 Practical Tips and Recipe Notes
- If you want to be a little fancier you can remove the cooked yolks from the hard boiled eggs and whisk them together with the mayo and both mustards before adding them to the egg whites and mashing it all together.
- If you want to add onion to your egg salad, I recommend a mild option like a finely minced shallot or the whites of a green onion. You can also soak the minced onion in water, then pat it dry before adding it to the egg salad to help cut back on the overpowering nature of raw onion flavor.
- Egg salad goes really well with super crisp or peppery lettuces like arugula, watercress, mâche (sometimes called corn salad), iceberg lettuce, or boston bibb lettuce.
The Practical Kitchen Recommends
There are a lot of ways you can customize this egg salad recipe or make it your own! Here's some simple ingredient substitutions in case you don't have everything on hand.
- Instead of white pepper, use black pepper. Or tri-color pepper corns. Or pink peppercorns. Any pepper, really.
- Instead of brown mustard, use yellow mustard.
- Instead of whole grain mustard, double the amount of the other mustard.
- Instead of mayonnaise, use sour cream.
- Instead of chives, use thinly sliced scallion greens, finely minced white onion or shallot, or ¼ teaspoon onion powder.
💭 Recipe FAQ
I usually eat egg salad cold, especially because this egg salad is best after being refrigerated. Warm eggs and mayonnaise can also pose some food safety hazards if not kept properly cool, so for everyone's sake it's best to serve egg salad cold. Do not leave egg salad out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.
If you're finding your eggs particularly hard to peel you may be working with very fresh eggs! Older eggs are easier to peel as the acidity in the egg white makes the membrane less clingy.
Unfortunately there is no 100% foolproof method for hard boiling eggs so they're easy to peel. If you're having trouble peeling your eggs, try running the eggs under lukewarm water as you peel them — the running water gets between the shell and the white making it easier to slip off. Gently sliding a spoon between the egg and the white can also help pry the shell off without damaging the egg white.
Assume 1.5-2 eggs per person! Of course, it depends on how many people you're feeding, how many other options are available on the table, what you're serving the egg salad with, and how many people you expect will eat it.
Deli-Style Egg Salad
- Cocktail muddler (Or potato masher)
- 6 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise (35 grams)
- 1 teaspoon brown mustard
- ¾ teaspoon whole grain mustard
- ¾ teaspoon diamond crystal kosher salt (use half as much of any other brand)
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon chives (finely minced)
- fresh dill
- smoked paprika
- bacon bits
- Bring an inch of water to a rolling boil in a small sauce pan. Gently lower an egg in the water, cover the pot, and adjust the burner to keep that rolling boil going. Cook the egg for 11 minutes. Drain the water and fill the pot with cool tap water. Crack the eggs gently on all sides, rolling it against a paper towel on the counter, then peel under cool running water.
- Mash the hard boiled eggs with the cocktail muddler until the yolks are pretty broken up but there are still some large chunks of egg white left. Add the mayonnaise, both mustards, salt, white pepper, and paprika.
- Mash again until well combined and the egg white pieces are no bigger than a grape. Stir in the chopped chives.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. It is best after 12 hours.
- Save any garnishes like dill, smoked paprika, etc. for when you serve the egg salad. Mixing them in will overpower the other flavors, and in the case of smoked paprika, will give your egg salad a pale orange color.
- To scale this up or down, assume 1.5-2 large eggs per person.
- Do not leave egg salad out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.
- Egg salad can be safely stored in the fridge for up to 4 days.