The Real Reason Why Egg Yolks Are Different Colors

The color of egg yolks can range from pale yellow to deep orange. We break down eggs-actly why that happens, and what color means for flavor and nutrition.

We’ve all seen the rainbow of colors eggshells come in, but did you know that egg yolks come in a variety of shades as well? We’ve all seen the pale yellow egg yolks found in store-bought cartons and you’ve likely encountered the richly hued orange egg yolks when you pick up eggs at a farmers market. Either way, they make for a tasty morning scrambled egg feast!

But do you ever wonder why some egg yolks are darker than others? Stick around and we’ll break it down for you.

The Secret Behind Egg Yolk Color

Despite this common misconception, the exact shade of your egg yolks has nothing to do with the chicken breed–although it can affect the color of the eggshell. The shade of an egg yolk is completely determined by the hen’s diet. Hens who are given feed full of yellow-orange pigments will lay eggs with darker yolks. It’s as simple as that! No artificial coloring is allowed in chicken feed, but some farmers will add marigold petals to give egg yolks an orangey color boost. Reddish yolks are made possible by adding capsicum (i.e. red bell peppers) to chicken feed, and throwing in a dash of paprika can have the same effect.

(Is a carton of “cage-free” eggs worth the extra cost? Here’s our guide on how to choose the best eggs.)

What Egg Yolk Color Means for Your Health

Okay, so now we know why egg yolks can vary in color. But does a darker yolk mean a more nutrient-rich egg? You may be surprised to find out that this actually isn’t the case! A pale yellow yolk and a deep orange-gold yolk will have the same amount of protein and fat, although a darker yolk may mean more vitamins and less cholesterol. But the jury is still out on that one.

That said, some folks swear (the author included!) that the darker the yolk, the tastier the egg. You may not notice it as much in a hearty breakfast casserole, but when it comes to a relatively simple French omelet with a few ingredients, an egg with a darker yolk can give your breakfast a major flavor boost.

Regardless of the color of your yolk, eggs are a great way to get extra protein in your diet–plus a bunch of other health benefits.

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Camille Berry
Part of the third generation in a family of restaurateurs, Camille was born with a passion for cooking and food. She embarked on a career in hospitality where she excelled as a sommelier and wine director. This hospitality experience has given her a wealth of first-hand knowledge about how to pair all manner of drinks with food—plus some serious kitchen skills. These days, she's hung up her wine key in favor of a pen and covers all aspects of food and drink.