Chinese tea eggs are one of my favorite snacks from childhood. They are a savory cooked egg that has a pretty marbled look from steeping in a tea mixed with spices. This recipe is the one my mom has been making for years.
When I’m not out eating, I often am cooking a lot of Chinese food and tea eggs are something I’ve wanted to share with you for a while. I’ve been hesitant because I don’t have exact recipes for a lot of traditional Chinese recipes because I learned to cook from my mom and she doesn’t use exact measurements.
I make a lot of our family’s favorite recipes in the same way. I don’t ever use any measuring cups or spoons and instead put a dash of this and a handful of that in dishes using my senses and experience. But I really want to share some of these old recipes so lately, I’ve been measuring things out and writing things down. These Chinese tea eggs are the first thing I wanted to share because I’ve always loved them.
What are Tea Eggs?
They are savory boiled eggs that are steeped in spices. After they are boiled, the shells are cracked so when they soak in the spice mixture the color soaks in and creates a pretty design. They’re sometimes called marbled eggs because of the pattern that is revealed when you remove the shell.
They’re often served as a snack and they are a great dish for potlucks, too, because they need to be made ahead and they’re easy to transport.
There a few steps to make them so you definitely want to plan ahead. They need to cook first for a couple of hours and then soaked for 8 hours. After soaking (which I usually do overnight) they need to be cooked again for an hour or two.
So, they do take a while to make but you can make a big batch and they will keep for up to a week. They’re also easy to make and mostly hands-off as you wait for them to cook and absorb the flavorful liquid.
You will need eggs. This recipe is for six, but you can easily increase the amount if you want more. It all depends on the size of the pot you use.
For the soaking liquid, or marinade, you will need:
- Lipton red tea bags
- Soy sauce
- Spice bag
You can find the spice bags for tea eggs at Asian markets. They are a mix of several different spices like fennel, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and cumin. Sometimes the mix includes star anise but it depends on the brand.
Start with Hard-Boiled Eggs
Before you steep them, they need to be hard-boiled so they are cooked through. You can do this on your stove but I love to use my Instant Pot to make hard-boiled eggs. It’s very easy to do a big batch this way. Once they are boiled let them cool off.
Crack the Shells
Once they are cooled, crack shells but don’t let the shell come off the eggs. I usually gently crack them against the counter first and then use a meat mallet to make additional cracks. Just be gentle.
Make sure to make cracks all around for a prettier cracked eggshell look. You want the cracks to be deep enough to penetrate to the inside of the egg, but not too deep that the shell will fall off the egg.
Cook and Steep Them
- Place eggs in a medium pot and add enough water to cover them by 1”. You can always add extra water if your water level begins to get too low while they simmer.
- Add the tea bags, soy sauce, salt, and spices. Cover the pot and bring the pot to a low boil for about two hours. If the water level gets low add more. They should be completely submerged.
- After two hours, turn off the heat and leave them to steep in the liquid for eight hours. During this time, they will soak up all the flavors from the marinade. I usually do this overnight.
- After they’ve steeped, bring the water to a boil and cook them for another one to two hours.
How to Serve and Store Them
To serve, just peel and discard the shells. The eggs will have a pretty marbled look after steeping in the marinade.
You can serve them hot or cold. I like them both ways. If you don’t plan to eat them right away don’t peel them. They will keep longer if the shells are kept on. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.
More Recipes to Try
If you like this recipe you might like to try some of these recipes, too.
Tea Leaf Eggs
- 6 eggs
- 2 Lipton red tea bags
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp salt
- 1 spice bag picture in the post
- Boil eggs until thoroughly cooked (hard boiled). Then set eggs aside and let cool.
- Once eggs are cooled, crack shells of eggs, but do not let the shell come off the eggs. I usually gently crack them against the counter. And then I use a meat tenderizer mallet to make additional cracks. Make sure to make cracks all around for a prettier cracked egg shell look. You want the cracks to be deep enough to penetrate to the inside of the egg, but not too deep that the egg shell will fall off the egg.
- Place eggs in a medium pot. Fill water to about one inch above eggs. You can always add extra water if your water level begins to get too low.
- Bring to boil the water with two tea bags, soy sauce, salt, and mixed spice bag. I got this bag at Ranch 99. Inside are pre-mixed spice bags. You only need to use one bag. If you can't find this at your local Asian grocery store, you can try just using a small handful of the dried spices contained in the bag (cinnamon, fennel, ginger, cumin, clove). You can also add crushed star anise, which is sometimes used and not included in this spice blend. It's okay if you don't have all the spices. I don't think it affects the taste that much.
- Cook the eggs with the water mixture on a low boil for about 2 hours, on low heat. Keep lid on to keep water mixture from evaporating.
- Let the eggs, submerged in the water mixture sit in pot overnight (about 8 hours), to allow the eggs to absorb the flavors.
- Bring the water mixture to a boil, and cook at a low boil for an additional 1-2 hours. Eggs can be served hot or cold.
- You can store eggs in the fridge, leaving shell on. This will allow the eggs to store longer. Refrigerated eggs last about a week.
The nutrition information provided are only estimates based on an online nutritional calculator. I am not a certified nutritionist. Please consult a professional nutritionist or doctor for accurate information and any dietary restrictions and concerns you may have.