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In the battle of white eggs vs brown eggs, you probably have a clear favorite, but what’s the real difference between them? Would you swear one tastes better, has a darker yolk, or a greater nutritional content? Well, the only real difference between white and brown eggs is the price, with brown eggs fetching a higher premium. Egg color does not affect an egg’s nutritional value, quality, taste, cooking characteristics, or shell thickness—as we learned back in 2008 from Emily Cooper, then-media spokesperson for the American Egg Board.
So why are brown eggs more expensive?
It’s not just because they seem healthier and more rustic, though that perception may contribute to people’s willingness to buy them over white at the grocery store. Brown eggs are actually more expensive to produce, because hens that lay brown eggs are larger than white-egg-producing hens, and require more feed and care; that extra expense is passed on to the consumer. Although it might be cheaper to raise white-egg-producing hens, brown eggs continue to sell well, so they’re still a smart business choice for farmers.
Myths persist that brown eggs have more protein, taste better, or are simply better for you, but if there’s any truth to it, it has nothing to do with the shell color itself. (Brown eggs may have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, but in such minuscule amounts that it doesn’t really matter.) It all comes down to the farming methods and the diets they entail. Many pasture-raised eggs, cage-free eggs, free-range eggs, and/or organic eggs are also brown, which contributes to their cachet—but those types of eggs (most likely) come from chickens that are fed better diets, which can make their eggs taste better and make the color of their yolk a deeper orange. If you fed a brown-egg-laying chicken and a white-egg-laying chicken the exact same diet in the exact same conditions, you wouldn’t notice any difference once you cracked open the shells of their eggs.
Which chickens lay brown eggs, and which lay white eggs?
So what determines whether a chicken lays white or brown eggs? It’s a widespread belief that feather color indicates the pigment in the eggs: chickens with brown or red feathers and red ear lobes lay brown eggs, while chickens with white feathers and white ear lobes lay white eggs. For the most part, this is true, but ultimately, as with so many other things in nature, egg color is a matter of genetics.
Clint Hickman, an owner of Hickman’s Family Farms, did tell us that certain chicken breeds are predisposed to produce a certain egg color. Which breed of chicken will lay which color egg is pretty well known in the industry: the White Leghorn is the most popular breed used to lay white eggs, and Rhode Island Reds are most often used for laying brown eggs. (And if you want pretty, pale blue eggs, get yourself an Araucana!)
Find out more about the difference between cage-free, free-range, and pasture-raised eggs—and try to buy local eggs in addition to ones that are humanely raised whenever possible—then, get some great ideas for how to incorporate more of them into your diet! (Because those old cautions about heart disease and high cholesterol have been pretty well debunked. You should exercise more caution if you have diabetes, but for the most part, it’s not the eggs themselves that are the issue, rather it’s what you serve them with.)
Vegetarian Spaghetti Carbonara
When raw eggs hit hot pasta, they turn into a silky sauce, further emulsified by a bit of the cooking water. Traditionally, there’d be pancetta or bacon and maybe peas involved, but in a pinch, eggs, cheese, garlic, and butter are all you really need (okay, salt and pepper too). Get our Vegetarian Spaghetti Carbonara recipe.
Egg-in-a-Nest Benedict Sandwiches
Poached eggs, especially when they’re part of eggs Benedict, are beguiling, but this more casual take on the classic is a little easier to achieve—simply make a breakfast sandwich with a hole in the top bun, crack an egg in it, and pan-fry to perfection. (Try a similar trick with Skillet Bagel Eggs, which are especially great for camping.) Get our Egg-in-a-Nest Benedict Sandwiches recipe.
Deviled Eggs with Tarragon
Perfect hard boiled eggs are good for so many things (on their own as a snack, in egg salad, all wrapped up in sausage for Scotch eggs, floating in a bowl of ramen…), but deviled eggs are one of our all-time favorites. This version uses tarragon for a little French flair. Get our Deviled Eggs with Tarragon recipe.
Fluffier omelets may be more common, but these thinner crepe-style omelets packed with fresh herbs are a nice change of pace, and perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner with all sorts of accompaniments, like crème fraîche and smoked salmon. Get the Herb Omelets recipe.
Eggs in Purgatory
Basically the Italian version of shakshouka, this easy egg dish is another one that works at any time of day. Simply crack eggs into a pan of tomato sauce and simmer until they’re done to your liking. Get our Eggs in Purgatory recipe.
Whisking egg whites to stiff peaks is usually done for dessert recipes, but here they’re gently folded with whisked egg yolks to form a delicate batter for cheese-stuffed poblano peppers that are fried to a crisp and served with spicy roasted tomato salsa. Get our Chiles Rellenos recipe.
When it comes to drinks, there’s the famous eggnog, but using egg whites in cocktails for froth and body is just as time-honored a tradition. Get our Bourbon Sour recipe.
Basic Chocolate Mousse
Mousse, pudding, crème brûlée, and flan all rely on eggs for their smooth textures, but beyond being silky, they range from light to dense and creamy to fluffy, depending on how exactly you incorporate the eggs, and which parts you use. Whipping the whites makes for an airy, ethereal mousse. Get our Basic Chocolate Mousse recipe.
Similar to a Dutch baby, classic French clafoutis is an eggy-in-the-best-way dessert pancake of sorts, studded with cherries (or other fruits). It’s also great for breakfast! Get our Cherry Clafoutis recipe.
Caramel Ice Cream
Rich, custard-based ice cream relies on lots of egg yolks (and careful cooking), but it’s definitely worth trying at home. This caramel version is wonderful on its own, or paired with brownies, pear tarts, made into sundaes… Get our Caramel Ice Cream recipe.
Pavlova with Lemon Curd
This dessert requires separating your eggs, but luckily, you’ll still use all the whites and all the yolks—four of the former in the crisp, light-as-air pavolva and four of the latter in the tart lemon curd that crowns it, along with fresh berries. Get our Pavlova with Lemon Curd recipe.