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Cracking a Classic: Southern Deviled Eggs

Libby Wiersema Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 30 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.
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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.


Old Bull Tavern
Signature deviled egg: Wasabi, prosciutto


Burwell’s Stone Fire Grill
Signature deviled egg: Candied bacon, pickled root vegetables, gastrique, truffle oil

Signature deviled egg: Lobster deviled egg—chive, celery, espelette, Dijon, lobster brown butter crumb

Glass Onion
Signature deviled egg: Jennie Ruth’s deviled egg—classic version kicked up with Thunder Sauce (a punchy, sweet pepper relish)

High Cotton
Signature deviled egg: Caviar deviled egg

Signature deviled egg: Spicy mustard, paprika oil, chives

Signature deviled egg: Fried oyster, kimchi relish, sesame


1801 Grill
Signature deviled egg: Crawfish, green onions, Cajun spices

Spotted Salamander
Signature deviled eggs: Several rotating versions, including blue cheese and bacon, ham jam and Adluh cornbread crumb


Town Hall
Signature deviled egg: Fried oyster, espelette

Wholly Smokin’
Signature deviled egg: Fried pickle, chicken tender, Jefford’s Carolina hot vinegar barbecue sauce


Fort Mill
Lucky Duck
Signature deviled egg (brunch only): Smoked salmon, crispy onions


Bacon Bros. Public House
Signature deviled egg: House Devil’s Dust spice, tasso ham, mustard seed

Southern Culture
Signature deviled egg: Country ham, capers, pickled okra, extra-virgin olive oil


Hilton Head Island
Lucky Rooster Kitchen + Bar
Signature deviled egg: Bacon horseradish egg


Mt. Pleasant
Tavern and Table
Signature deviled egg: Panko breaded and deep-fried, crispy bacon, scallion

Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 30 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.