Learn how to make 1 of my favorite condiments, Chinese Salted Egg, at home using brine solution with only 3 ingredients. So good but so quick and easy, you can make it perfectly the first time: the hardest part is the waiting! (My homemade salted egg yolk recipe is passed down from my Greatgrandmother so you know it's tried and tested.)
⭐ Why Make This
If you've never had salted duck egg yolks before, you're in luck! You're about to discover one of the most delicious, most savoury and umami-packed ingredients possible. YUM!
- Salted eggs are simply scrumptious: the bold flavor is exactly the kind of recipe you can expect to find on this blog. (Not for flavor wimps!)
- It's a versatile ingredient: This popular Asian condiment is 1 of my favourites and can be used in soooo many Asian recipes. Used in Chinese cooking for centuries, it's been revitalised in modern Southeast Asia recipes such as in this sauce for stir-fried prawns, crispy golden tofu, crispy cornflake crunch, popcorn, ice cream and salted egg fish skin.
Note: For more ideas on what to do with salted egg yolks, click here.
🥚 What are Salted Eggs?
They're basically eggs (traditionally duck) preserved by using salt.
The salt brining creates round and bright orange salted egg yolks, which have incredible flavour. The firm yolk is also full of natural umami. I actually think of it as Chinese Parmesan- it even has a similar slight graininess!
The eggs can come in different colors. Some commercial salted eggs come with the salted charcoal still around them and so are black in colour. This needs to be washed off before using the egg.
In the US, it's common for the eggs to sold washed, so they'll look white. Meanwhile, in Philippines, where they're called itlog na maalat, the white egg shells are dyed into a bright fuschia colour so you get pink salted eggs.
Where to Buy
You can find it in Asian grocery stores- it usually comes in a small plastic egg carton (like regular eggs)- but is actually really easy to make at home. It's the perfect recipe for new cooks. (Even my Mom who can't cook rice made her own salted eggs when she moved to Australia in the 70s!)
I'm not going to bore you with the history, but if you're curious, scroll down to the FAQ section!
I love them but do eat in moderation. Apparently, 1 salted egg has 10g of sodium! (Note the FDA recommends that adults eat under 2300mg of sodium a day (i.e. 1 t of table salt) Children under 14 should eat even less.)
You only need 3 simple ingredients- and time- to make this savory and versatile Chinese condiment:
- eggs: fresh duck eggs are traditional (they have richer yolks and thicker shells) but you can also use normal eggs (chicken.) The resulting salted egg yolk will be a bit less orange and a bit less oily, but will still taste good! Make sure your eggs have no cracks in them before adding them to the brine. Note that if an egg breaks during preservation, you can't use the entire batch anymore.
- salt: you can use sea salt, rock salt, canning or kosher salt. (If you use table salt, it won't completely dissolve in the brine solution.)
- water: you can actually skip the water to dry cure the yolks directly in salt if you're short of time. This only takes 6-8 hours (please keep them in the chiller!)
Note: Some recipes call for extra ingredients in the brine, such as shaoxing wine, sugar, spices, (e.g. star anise) and even tea. However, these are all optional! They're said to speed up brining and to make the resulting salted eggs more beautiful/ fragrant.
However, my friends and I who've added these extras didn't notice much difference! I once brined 2 batches of eggs- 1 plain and another with rice wine- to do a side-by-side comparison but no one could tell...
In Malaysia, they have a spicy ginger version that goes really well with soy sauce.
📋 Step-by-step Instructions
1a. Clean the eggs well, checking for any cracks in the shells. (Do not use eggs with broken shells)
1b. Dry the eggs with paper towels or a tea towel, then place them in a glass (or plastic) jar.
Optional: whilst boiling the brine in Step 2, you can leave your eggs to dry under the sun.
2a. Combine the water and salt in a pot and bring to the boil. Stir to make sure all the salt is dissolved.(Start with ¼ the amount of salt as water and add more salt if the solution can take it.)
2b. Turn the heat off and allow the brine to cool to room temperature. Don't rush this process- the salted water needs to cool completely. (If you are adding shaoxing wine, now would be the time to add it. )
3a. Make sure the salt solution brine is completely cooled before adding the eggs.
3b. Be gentle and don't use too many eggs per jar. If 1 egg is cracked, the entire batch has to be tossed, so don't add too many and be gentle with them. (Examine for cracks before brining.)
3c. The eggs will float as they're lower in density. Add something light to submerge them completely, such as a Ziplock bag filled with water or rolled up parchment paper.
4a. Cover the airtight container. Store at room temperature for 3-4 weeks. (I place mine under the kitchen sink).
4b. From day 18 onwards (or day 20 if using duck eggs), take 1 egg out of the brine. Boil it and eat it.
If it tastes salty enough for you, remove all the eggs from the solution, rinse them with water and store them in the fridge.
If you'd like a saltier egg, allow the eggs to continue brining. Keep tasting every day or so till you are satisfied with the eggs. (Eggs are then washed and refrigerated)
The traditional method is to brine in salt water, as seen above. However, you can also try these 2 different ways, which do not require water.
- rolling the eggs in Chinese wine before covering them in a thick layer of salt
- EXPRESS METHOD: dry curing the yolks only in a salt cure. You can get your salted yolks in a matter of hours but you get a flat yolk and not the typical round shape. (Not so pretty.)
🕒 How Long to Cure?
This really is a matter of personal preference and varies with the size of the eggs as well as the thickness of the shells. The longer you leave them, the saltier the egg, particularly the whites. (The whites salt faster than than the yolks do.)
- Larger eggs need more time.
- Chicken eggs are usually smaller with thinner shells, so will be done more quickly than ducks eggs.
Testing: I recommend removing an egg after 2 weeks, boiling it and tasting the yolk to see if it's flavourful enough. If yes, store as per the instructions below. If not, let the eggs continue brining and test again the next week.
I'd say 30 days is the absolute maximum for chicken eggs as they become super salty, almost inedible.
🥡 How to Store
The brined eggs should be left in a cool dark place.
I live in tropical Singapore and stored mine under the kitchen sink, where there's barely any sunlight. When in London, I kept them in any of my kitchen cupboards.
Note: I'm always a little uncertain when I see "room temperature" in recipes as different countries have vastly different ambient temperatures.
However, rest assured that I've made these salted eggs in both UK and Singapore where the room temperatures differ considerably and it's worked well in both countries when in a cool and dark cabinet.
When Out of Brine
Once your homemade salted eggs are ready to be removed from the brine:
- store them raw in the fridge for 1 week
- immediately boil them, and they'll last for up to 1 month in the fridge
- If left for too long, they'll start leaking a light yellow liquid (don't use)
Also, don't leave them unbrined in the jar out of the fridge or they'll go bad.
Note: commercially made salted eggs may have different storage instructions and usually have much longer shelf lives. (If they're still covered in their salty covering, the longer you leave them, the saltier they get.) I bought one in December that will last till April.
🥘 How to Use
There are soooooo many ways to use homemade salted eggs although, sadly, the emphasis has traditionally been on the yolk so a lot of people end up throwing the white away. (Don't! Tips on using the salted egg white below.)
You usually need to cook the yolk before using them (so it's kind of a 2-cook process.)
To Cook the Yolks
- steam for about 15-20 minutes
- boil for about 8-12 minutes
I was curious if there was a difference, so tried both (see photos below.) As far as I could tell, the only slight change was that the cooking time influences the ease of peeling. It can be difficult to separate the yolks and eggs properly, so the advantage of steaming is that you can separate the 2 first, then just steam the yolks.
Note: Always soak them in cold water after cooking to make peeling easier!
Using the Cooked Yolks
Salted Eggs can be used in these delicious recipes:
- rice dumplings and moon cakes
- Cantonese jook side dish
- Chinese New Year cookie batter
- ice cream
- savoury salted egg yolk sauce
- to coat snacks such as salted egg popcorn, savoury cornflakes, potato chips, lotus root slices or fish skin (For tips on how to make pop corn on the stove, click here)
- for stir-frying salted egg tofu, pork, chicken, crab (better than Singaporean chilli crab in my opinion!)
- for fried rice
- sweet custard for Liu sha bao
- French toast (it'll take it to the next level!)
- fried on the sunny side and eaten with rice (This is more common in Thai cuisine vs Chinese food)
How to Use The Whites
The salted egg whites can be:
- added to fried rice
- steamed/ boiled, minced and tossed over regular steamed egg
- added to vegetable sauce
- boiled and eaten with porridge such as
- plain congee/ jook
- Singapore Hainanese Chicken Rice Porridge
- Chinese pumpkin poached rice
- leftover roast chicken jook (make sure your roast chicken isn't a salty one though!)
👩 Expert Tips
Tip #1: Salted egg yolks go super well with butter. Add a bit of sugar to balance out the richness. If you have access to curry leaves and can take spice, curry leaves and chilli help to add complexity that cuts through the fat and prevents it from being cloying.
Tip #2: If you've used too much salt, some of the the sodium may recrystallise around the edges of your container- don't worry too much!
Tip #3: If you don't have the 20-30 days that this homemade salted eggs recipe requires- or the 6-8 hours the dry method needs- you can always buy salted eggs from an Asian grocer or order salted egg yolk powder off Amazon (I usually use Knorr Salted Egg powder (which is pure salted egg. Some brands add other ingredients such as milk powder and sugar.) The other advantage of using the powder is that you don't have to grate the egg yolks to get a smooth, non-lumpy sauce!
The exact same way you do regular eggs- in a pot of boiling water- but for a longer period of time. (See the photo in the post showing how the salted duck eggs look after 10 vs 15 minutes of boiling.)
It depends on the seller- traditionally, they were sold uncooked but some packets are pre-cooked, so always read the label first.
There are 2 other methods, namely rolling the whole eggs in salt or curing only the yolk.
Salted eggs were 1st mentioned in Qimin Yaoshu, a Chinese text dating to the 5AD. They originated in China centuries ago as a way to extend the shelf life of eggs and are basically ducks eggs that have been preserved in a salt mixture brine or salted charcoal. (Philippines has its own production method called Pateros which uses clay from ant hills and termite mounds.) Today, we have refrigerators but preserved salted eggs are still very remain popular.
Some people do- the brine solution needs to be boiled and topped up with salt (if necessary) before doing so. However, I personally recommend using a fresh brine each time.
🍲 Recipes that Use Salted Eggs
Enjoyed this easy Chinese Salted Egg Recipe? Please leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟rating in the recipe card below! If you love this ingredient as much as I do, please consider supporting it by buying me a coffee! 🙂 (No obligation though!) Thank you and have a great day!
How to Make Chinese Salted Egg Recipe
- Glass or plastic jar
- Zip lock bag half filled with water Substitute: parchment paper
- 12 eggs traditionally duck eggs but you can substitute with chicken (I use chicken as duck eggs are not sold in Singapore. Note chicken eggs will result in a slightly less flavourful salted egg and may brine faster than duck eggs due to the difference in their shells.)
- 4 Cups water (1 litre) I use tap water in the UK and in Singapore but the safety of tap water may vary from country to country.
- 1 Cup salt (250g) Rock salt, kosher salt and canning salt all use. If using table salt, you need it to be very fine.
- Clean the eggs well, checking for any cracks in the shells. (Do not use eggs with broken shells) Dry the eggs then place them in a glass (or plastic) jar.
- Combine the water and salt in a pot and bring to the boil. Stir to make sure all the salt is dissolved. Turn the heat off and allow the brine to cool to room temperature. (If you are adding shaoxing wine, now would be the time to add it. Don't rush this process- the salted water needs to cool completely.)
- Pour the cooled brine into the jar and make sure it is sufficient to fully cover the eggs. Place the half-filled zip-lock bag on top of the eggs to make sure the eggs are totally submerged.
- Cover the container and store at room temperature for a month. (I place mine under the kitchen sink).
- From day 18 onwards (or day 20 if using duck eggs), take 1 egg out of the brine. Boil it and eat it. If it tastes salty enough for you, remove all the eggs from the solution, rinse them with water and store them in the fridge. If you'd like a saltier egg, allow the eggs to continue brining. Keep tasting every day or so till you are satisfied with the eggs. (Eggs are then washed and refrigerated)
- Do note the egg whites may become too unpleasantly salty to be consumed if you brine the eggs past 20 days. (Most recipes only call for the salted egg yolk but it's rather wasteful to throw the whites out! The whites go well with rice or porridge.)
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The photo comparing with and no shaoxing is very helpful. Going to save money and skip add ons in this case
Glad they're useful, Delia! going to update with more photos soon!
Dorene cheo says
Forgot to state my eating: here iit is
thank u! just unveiled a batch of salted eggs today! exciting!
Dorene cheo says
Thank you for your recipe. It reminds me of my student days in W.A when I used to make them using my grandmother’s recipe.That was some 40 years ago and I have forgotten how to do it. Your easy to read post jolted my memories.
Awww what a lovely comment, thank you- always love hearing family stories!