The Real Reason Why Egg Yolks Are Different Colors

Updated: Feb. 08, 2023

An egg yolk's color can range from pale yellow to deep orange. We break down eggs-actly why that happens, and what color means for flavor and nutrition.

egg-yolk-different-color-shutterstock_538399648-1200x675Shutterstock / Onanong Thongnoum

Eggshells can come in a rainbow of colors, but did you know that egg yolks come in a variety of shades as well? We’ve all seen the pale yellow yolks found in store-bought cartons, and you’ve likely encountered the richly hued orange 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 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 yolk has nothing to do with the chicken breed—although it can affect the color of the eggshell. Here’s the real difference between white and brown eggs. The shade of an egg yolk is completely determined by the hen’s diet. Hens that 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 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

OK, so now we know why 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. Don’t miss these 55 delicious ways to have eggs at every meal.

Taste of Home
Originally Published on Taste of Home