In South Carolina, setting a holiday table devoid of deviled eggs is considered a serious faux pas. When Southern cooks proffer platters of these zippy stuffed morsels, they puff up with a pride that would be just as fitting were they sharing a bumper crop of the Goose’s proverbial golden eggs.
As far as origins, ancient Rome is the strongest contender, with places as far-flung and exotic as Hungary, Sweden, South America and Spain laying claim to deviled egg traditions. In France, they often make them with cornichons, capers, herbs and Dijon mustard for a piquant treat, but without a trace of sweet. This version might garner an enthusiastic “oui, oui” across the ocean, but it wouldn’t get more than a “hmph” at Aunt Sarah’s Sunday dinner. (Like tea, we tend to prefer our deviled eggs on the sweet side.)
A simple internet search will yield several references to “Southern Deviled Eggs,” which begs the question: Just what is it that makes deviled eggs Southern? Some insist it’s the addition of sweet pickle relish. Another popular school of thought comes down to the mayo—Duke’s, specifically—the only choice for proper Southern cooks who like that hallmark creaminess and satisfying tang.
Lots of South Carolinians double-dip on theories, saying it’s both sweet pickle relish and Duke’s mayonnaise that give deviled eggs that quintessential Southern flair and impart the most pleasing contrast of flavors. A dusting of paprika is a common finishing touch seen largely in these parts, too. One could also argue that our claim to deviled eggs simply comes down to custom, as they’ve long been part of our picnic and dinner repertoire.
Alas, there are no definitive answers; pick one of the above and defend it as you see fit. As long as mayo is involved and there’s something spicy to make them truly “deviled”—a dash of hot red pepper sauce or a smidgen of horseradish, for instance—you’re following the most basic protocols.
One thing is sure across the board: Our devilishly eggstravagant love affair has reached heights never dreamt of back in the day of simple Southern suppers. From highfalutin gourmet iterations to renderings that hold true to handed-down family recipes, deviled eggs are starring on menus across the Palmetto State. With toppings and ingredients that know no bounds, these hand-held darlings are being downed in record numbers, with many restaurants and bars enjoying reputations for delectable deviled eggs. Chefs love their versatility as much as diners love nibbling on them as an accompaniment to a hand-crafted cocktail, a tasty side on a barbecue plate or an elegant amuse-bouche for a fine dinner.
Bottom line: While South Carolinians have adopted the deviled egg tradition, our sophisticated palates eagerly lend themselves to modern, creative interpretations of an old-timey favorite. Here are some of the many restaurants in the state where you can discover the joys of eating deviled eggs in myriad ways.
Signature deviled egg: Lobster deviled egg—chive, celery, espelette, Dijon, lobster brown butter crumb
Signature deviled egg: Jennie Ruth’s deviled egg—classic version kicked up with Thunder Sauce (a punchy, sweet pepper relish)
Signature deviled egg: Caviar deviled egg
Signature deviled egg: Spicy mustard, paprika oil, chives
Signature deviled egg: Fried oyster, kimchi relish, sesame
Signature deviled eggs: Several rotating versions, including blue cheese and bacon, ham jam and Adluh cornbread crumb
Signature deviled egg: Fried pickle, chicken tender, Jefford’s Carolina hot vinegar barbecue sauce
Signature deviled egg: Country ham, capers, pickled okra, extra-virgin olive oil