Brown vs. White Eggs: What’s the difference?


What’s the difference between brown eggs and white eggs?

Ask your grandmother, and I almost guarantee that she’ll make a strong case for one—or the other.

But honestly? Aside from shell color, there’s not really much difference, at least when it comes to cooking. Nutritionally, all eggs are created (almost) equal.

When a recipe calls for eggs, you can pretty much use brown and white interchangeably, unless the shell is part of your final presentation (i.e. hard boiled eggs), and you prefer one color over the other.

When you’re cooking with eggs, size—not color—is what counts

In actuality, size—not color—is a much bigger deal when a recipe calls for eggs. After all, bigger eggs have, well, more egg to them.

I mean, if you’re hard boiling eggs for brunch, nobody’s going to give you grief for using large instead of jumbo. On the other hand, if you’re baking, you need to be more accurate than not. Bake the same cake with medium eggs, then jumbo eggs, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

In the US, eggs are graded per dozen, by weight. Here’s the breakdown, according to the USDA:

  • Jumbo eggs = 30 oz. per dozen = ~2.5 oz. per egg
  • Extra large eggs = 27 oz. per dozen = ~2.25 oz. per egg
  • Large eggs = 24 oz. per dozen = ~2 oz. per egg
  • Medium eggs = 21 oz. per dozen = ~1.75 oz. per egg

One large egg is equal to 2 oz., or about 3 Tablespoons. You’ll need 3 large eggs to make about a half a cup.

What affects an egg’s color?

As a general rule, white eggs come from white chickens, and brown eggs come from brown ones.

(Think there are just a few types of cluckers? Think again. Feast your eyes on the wonderful world of Henderson’s Chicken Breed Chart if you think I’m joking.)

The bird’s diet, however, can affect the egg’s nutritional content, as well as the color of its yolk—which can be anywhere from a pale, buttery yellow, to bright yellow, to almost orange.

In fact, a chicken’s diet is why you’ll see some egg brands advertised as high in heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids (also found in salmon, flax seed, and walnuts).

The birds that laid those eggs spent their days pecking on omega-3 rich feed. I’m no nutritionist, but from what I’ve gathered, some of those healthier fats find their way into the eggs.

That said, this is easily a point of pain for food marketers: Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce high cholesterol, but egg yolks contain cholesterol. Do they cancel each other out? I have no idea.

Caveat eater, I suppose.

What’s in an egg, anyways?

According to the Egg Nutrition Center, one large, regular egg contains about 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, and 185 mg of cholesterol. It also has vitamins like potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin D. Here, have a look:

Hey, what about blue eggs?

Blue eggs are just that: A regular egg with a lovely, pale blue shell. Most are laid by the Ameraucana, also known as an Easter Egg chicken. (Which, sadly, is not blue, nor has bunny ears.)

Want another helping of egg lore?

Check out my article on The Daily Beast, Cracking the Code on All Things Egg.

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie serves as an Associate Creative Director at PARTNERS+simons, a boutique ad agency in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.


  1. This is great. I always hear that there’s little nutritional difference between brown and white but second guess since people make such a point of buying brown. Thanks for sorting it all out!

  2. Love this post. Great information about white vs brown eggs! Thanks…

  3. Ok…I didn’t ask my grandmother, but I do know my father has a preference towards Brown eggs.
    He believes the shell is thicker and doesn’t permit as many other “odors” from other foods in the refrigerator. Is there a difference in shell thickness? If not, I am going to tell my dad he can buy the white eggs too.

  4. For some reason I always thought that brown eggs were “better” for you, but it appears not. Maybe more organic eggs are brown? I don’t know. Either way, I will keep eating eggs of any color and enjoying every minute of it.

  5. I prefer brown eggs – I have no idea why. They just look nicer to me!

    Another point on eggs is that recently I’ve noticed “our chickens fed a vegetarian diet!” on packaging in stores. People should keep in mind this is NOT natural or necessarily healthy for chickens. Left to their own devices, they eat worms, bugs, and pretty much anything they can get their beaks around. Chickens allowed that natural diet produce eggs with a much richer, darker, more vibrant yolk.

    Would highly recommend people search for local egg producers – the big surprise is that often, local free-range (REAL free range, not “our chickens have 3 x 3 space to move around in”, like the store labelled ones) eggs are actually the same cost or cheaper than what you’ll find in a grocery store. And usually the quality difference is immediately apparent 🙂

  6. Growing up in New England, I was programmed toward brown eggs, but when I later moved to New Orleans, that wasn’t always an option. I’m not a big egg fan, so I hardly ever eat them alone, but when I do, I definitely notice that brown eggs have a milder flavor. Also, my Dad would get physically ill from eating white eggs. I know he had some sort of sulfur allergy, so that might be another difference.

  7. I prefer brown eggs because I grew up with a coop in my backyard full of (mostly) Rhode Island Reds. To answer someone’s question above, the thickness of the egg shells is affected by chicken breed as well as their diet. We used to feed our chickens crushed egg shells so that they would lay eggs with hefty shells. My dad also had the belief that this helped them stay fresher in the the ‘fridge as well as protecting the eggs from cracking when multiple chickens would use a “stall” (we had about 25 chickens).

    I also think it’s funny that you can taste the difference between a “free range” egg (chickens that live on the ground and eat bugs along with their feed) and a “caged” chicken egg (factory farm eggs). It seems that the worms and crickets add a lot of flavor. I may just be making it all up in my head but it always did seem like the eggs from our Polish chickens had a slightly different flavor from those that our Rhode Islanders laid.

  8. The more orange to the yolk, the more B-12 (or B-6… the one that is beta carotene), so generally, the better the feed and the higher the nutritional value.

    While high cholesterol is bad if arranged poorly (too much LDL, not enough HDL, too many triglycerides), eating eggs is not really the problem. The problem is really crap diets without enough eggs. You get maybe 5% of your cholesterol from diet. You need a certain amount as cholesterol is the building block for hormones like testosterone, estrogen, cortisol, adrenalin, insulin, glucagon, and all those other fun substances your body makes. The other 95% of the cholesterol, your body makes, mostly in the liver, the bad stuff (LDL and triglycerides) mostly from excess sugar and starches, the good stuff (HDL) from proteins and fats.

    Really, there are few things better than eggs that you can eat in terms of complete nutrition.

    • Max, where do you get the 95% figure? We had here a bunch of U of T University of Toronto profs and I asked the guy who sounded English from Oxford even, so he should know if anybody exactly this question what %age of Cholesterol is absorbed directly form the gut and how much is synthetised de novo in the liver. He gave the answer 20/80. I have been looking for this info for decades but couldnt find it in a thousand textbooks and articles and websites and journals on cholesterol.
      I suspected that it was a substantial amount but I also suspect that it varies with diet exercise genetics and now since few weekes ago epigenetics.

  9. My sister raises chickens and there is such a difference in taste between her farm fresh eggs and store-bought. Those in the store sit for much longer, of course, and aren’t as flavorful as when they’re fresh.

  10. Actually my white Delware hens lay brown eggs! I encourage everyone to get a few hens for the backyard if possible. After eating our own free range eggs, we can’t even stand the taste of store bought. Nothing is better than a freshly laid, warm egg in the hand for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

  11. Wow thats pretty interesting about how the omega-3 rich feed for the chickens, then transfers to the actual egg. I agree with Michele, freshly laid eggs taste soo much better then the ones at the store. Plus you get to look after the chickens, knowing that your eggs haven’t come from a over crowed poultry farm.

  12. No disrespect intended, but the colour of the hen has nothing to do with the colour of the egg.

    Poultry with white ears, will produce white eggs.
    Poultry with red ears, will produce brown.

    The exception of course, is the Auruacana, which produce blue eggs. Even in the Auruacana there are shade variations ranging from almost green, through to pure blue.

    Leghorns, no matter what their colour, will lay white eggs. The same with Spanish, which are pure black and Minorcan.

    I hope this clarifies the brown/white egg situation.

    It’s actually worth looking up pictures of Spanish birds to see how the white ears stand out against the pure black feathers.

    • Eggs make up the bulk of my breakfast but I never gave much thought to this white vs brown eggs case. When I was young I used to eat brown eggs because my neighbor raised chicken and my family bought eggs from him. Now white eggs are all I can buy.

  13. The shell is thicker, the yolk is richer and a dark yellow, the taste IS different which leads me to believe that brown eggs ARE different in several ways than white eggs. As far as nutritional value, I’m not sure. I just know that I recently started buying brown eggs and love them.

  14. You need to add a MAIL THIS PAGE button to your posts so people, like me can send your site and this information to someone without having to copy a link, open my account that I usually keep closed to conserve memory or resources on my computer, etc.

  15. I know there has always been a lot of discussion about the differences between brown and white eggs, but basically the differences discussed here are mostly a factor of what the chickens eat that changes the taste and color of yolk. If one wanted darker yolks we would feed more corn and the yolks would be darker. The light colored yolks have dominated because that was what people wanted and the diet fed the chickens would be reflected in the yolk. One can feed the chickens certain dyes and it would also show up in the yolks. But, like the famous Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Suess book, most people do not like green eggs.

  16. A comment about egg thickness. This is also a factor of diet. We used to reefed the eggs shells back to the chickens to have thicker shells. If chickens lack enough calcium in their diet, the shells will be thinner. When fed more calcium, the shells are thicker.

  17. [email protected]

    I’ve just put some eggs into vinegar to remove the shells for a school experiment, and the colour of an eggshell does not run right the way through it. What comes off first is a very thin layer of brown, which collects as sludge on top of the vinegar. Is it possible that our supermarkets spray paint our eggs because we believe an egg with a tan is healthier?

    • Chickens lay the color on their eggs as the last step in the whole laying egg process. The “bloom” of the brown egg can often be washed off; the color is just on the outside of the shell. On the other hand, the blue or green of the egg from an Easter Egger chicken cannot be washed off; it goes all the way through the shell; they start the coloring earlier in the shell creation process. A green shelled egg starts out as a blue egg and has a brown bloom laid over the top of it. So interesting…

  18. My credentials? I was reared on a Virginia broiler (meat bird, aka fryer) farm. I have a combined degree in both zoology and animal (including poultry) science from the University of Maryland and an MS in physiology and genetics from the same institution. While at the university I undertook a research study in poultry egg incubation weight loss. Chickens as well as other poultry have been a large part of my life. Indeed, while a student there I actually took every poultry science course they had! I’m also a veterinary technician, for what that is worth. Okay, now comes the assertions. The nutritional differences between a brown egg and a white are very slight and these are not always uniformly so. The better eggs are those taken from the hen allowed to free range in a pasture with all sorts of insects, worms and grasses. The result is an egg which has more carotene pigment which is indicative of such life style. Since the shell gland (uterus) application is the last step in ovulation the egg quality has long been determined before the application of the shell. There is generally no connection between the production of the egg and the subsequent application of the shell. How could there be such? The better gauge is that the more orange pigment in the yolk the greater the likelihood of greater nutrition. However, those breeds of chickens, especially the white leghorn, which produce white eggs are producing an egg with a larger yolk percentage. When I was at the university, we found out that one of the better indicators of egg quality was freshness. While the properly stored egg maintains its quality for a considerable period of time, the fact is that no egg ever got better just laying (pardon the expression) around. The fresh egg while having an abundance of fat stored in the yolk, is mitigated also by an abundance of lecithin, a natural fat emulsifier. The liver picks up the emulsified fats to a greater extent in the fresh egg than from the staler egg. The emulsified fats are converted to bile which promotes the proper digestion of dietary fat resulting in much less egg fat going to the creation of circulatory cholesterol. That is the great advantage to eating the fresh egg. This old man will soon be 77 years old and I have been eating an average of two fresh eggs every day of my life and I have been informed by the medical establishment that I have no detectable presence of cholesterol lining my circulatory system. That and the fact that my B.P. yesterday was 116/68 in the doctor’s office. Yes, these constitute anecdotal evidence and not proof of my assertions but I will take that as good enough for me. Part of the story is that there is an element of genetic control with respect to most clinical values but it doesn’t hurt to be prudent in all cases and therefore to control as much of your life style as you can.