How To Make Classic Egg Salad

Cooking Lessons from The Kitchn

I just love a good egg salad sandwich: the creaminess of the eggs and mayo, the crunch of celery, the faint but not overwhelming tang of raw onion.  So perfect!  I go for egg salad when I want the simple, unchallenging comfort of nursery food.  Unless of course I'm feeling a little reckless, in which case out comes the curry powder. But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let's nail the classic, uncomplicated egg salad recipe first.

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Egg salad is one of those things people feel very strongly about.  Throw in anything beyond eggs and mayonnaise, and you could be moving into controversial territory.  Heck, even mayonnaise has its naysayers, a situation usually solved by the addition of greek yogurt. But if you do go they mayo route, be sure to choose your favorite, as it is a dominate flavor.  (I'm a Hellmans/Best Foods fan myself.)

While hard boiled eggs and mayonnaise may be the baseline, I'm going to go out on a limb here and declare that celery and onion are necessary, too.  I say this with some confidence because basically all of the egg salad recipes I researched for this post had onions and celery, along with a little salt and pepper.  So that's what we'll call classic egg salad here.  Of course, you can go beyond this alliance with other additions or make little substitutions here and there (see Recipe Notes.)  Egg salad is definitely the people's dish and thus belongs to us all.

This recipe assumes that you already have hard-boiled eggs on hand.  If you don't, I'm partial to this method from Emma.  Or you can bake them!  But whatever you do, because this dish is made almost entirely of eggs, be sure to get the best eggs you can.  You will notice the difference.  

How you cut up your eggs is up to you.  There are those egg slicer gizmos that work really well, and I have seen people use a potato masher with good results.  However, I don't have either tool in my kitchen, so I just sliced them up with a knife.  Mashing them with a fork will work, too.  Just how finely you mash up your eggs is another place of preference.  Some people like the eggs really fine and will push them through a sieve to get them that way.  I like a little chunkiness, so the slice method worked for me.

One final note/confession before we get started.  I usually never measure my ingredients when I make egg salad.  I cut up a green onion and if it doesn't look like enough, I add a little more.  If the mixture isn't creamy enough, in goes another dollop of mayo.  So please consider this recipe a rough guide and make adjustments based on your own style.

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How To Make Classic Egg Salad

Makes enough for 2 or 3 egg salad sandwiches

What You Need

Ingredients
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled, rinsed, and dried
1/3 cup (heaping) celery, cut into a small dice
1/4 cup (scant) green onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup (or more) mayonnaise
Pinch of salt
Freshly cracked black pepper 
Diced radishes and sliced chives for garnish (optional)

Equipment
Knife
Cutting board
Medium-sized bowl
Wooden spoon or large spoon for mixing

  1. Prep the eggs.  Slice the eggs into quarters, chop them into pieces, and place in a medium bowl.  Eggs can also be sieved, mashed with a potato masher or fork, or sliced with an egg slicer.
  2. Combine and mix ingredients. Add celery, onion, mayo, a pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper.  Mix lightly until the mixture comes together.
  3. Taste and adjust seasonings.  Taste the egg salad and add more salt and pepper, onion, or mayonnaise if needed.  Serve on your bread of choice or on a bed of lettuce.  Sprinkle with optional radish and chives, if using.

Recipe Notes:

Variations and additions:

  • Curried:  Curry powder, grapes sliced in half or apple chunks, chopped almonds or pistachios
  • Herbed:  Dill, basil, parsley, tarragon either in combination or alone
  • Waldorf:  Apples, walnuts, celery
  • Any of the following: Poppyseed, sunflower seeds, mustard (smooth or coarse), paprika (usually to garnish), crumbled bacon, pickle relish, chopped olives, capers, minced jalapeño, sriracha, avocado (mashed or diced)

Onion Substitutions: I use green onions here because they tend to be mild and it's easy to chop up as much as I need.  Red onion or shallots are another good choice, if they are mild and sweet.  Chives are a good option if any raw onion is too much for you.  Just substitute in the same amount called for the onions.

Avoiding Soggy Celery (And Egg Salad): Cut celery releases a lot of water, which explains how an egg salad sandwich can get soggy if let to sit too long.  If you want to avoid this, eliminate the celery and substitute a pinch of celery seed for flavor or just chop of some celery leaves instead.  You can also keep the celery off to the side and sprinkle it on just before eating.

Building the Sandwich: I like to use a peppery green on my egg salad sandwich, such as arugula or cress.  Spinach is another good choice.  Most forms of lettuce are good, too, but I find iceberg lettuce a little too watery.
I also like radishes with my egg salad as they offer crunch and color and occasionally, a little peppery zing.  Slice them thin and add as a layer on the bread, or dice them finely and fold into the egg salad.

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(Images: Dana Velden)

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