Not to be confused with yoke.

An egg yolk is a part of an egg that feeds the developing embryo. The egg yolk is suspended in the egg white (known alternatively as albumen or glair/glaire) by one or two spiral bands of tissue called the chalazae. Prior to fertilization, the yolk together with the germinal disc is a single cell, one of the few single cells that can be seen by the naked eye.

As a food, yolks are a major source of vitamins and minerals. They contain all of the egg's fat and cholesterol, and about one-half of the protein. If left intact while cooking fried eggs, the yellow yolk surrounded by a flat blob of whites creates a distinctive sunny-side up form. Mixing the two components together before frying results in a pale yellow mass, as in omelettes and scrambled eggs.


  • Egg yolk can be used to make liqueurs such as Advocaat or eggnog.
  • Egg yolks are used to extract egg oil which has various cosmetic, nutritional and medicinal uses.
  • The developing embryo inside the egg uses the yolk as sustenance.

Composition of chicken egg yolk

Chicken egg, yolk, raw, fresh
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 1,325 kJ (317 kcal)
Carbohydrates 3.59 g
Fat 26.54 g
Protein 15.86 g
- Tryptophan 0.177 g
- Threonine 0.687 g
- Isoleucine 0.866 g
- Leucine 1.399 g
- Lysine 1.217 g
- Methionine 0.378 g
- Cystine 0.264 g
- Phenylalanine 0.681 g
- Tyrosine 0.678 g
- Valine 0.949 g
- Arginine 1.099 g
- Histidine 0.416 g
- Alanine 0.836 g
- Aspartic acid 1.550 g
- Glutamic acid 0.595 g
- Glycine 0.488 g
- Proline 0.545 g
- Serine 1.326 g
Water 52.31 g
Vitamin A equiv. 381 μg (48%)
Thiamine (vit. B1) 0.176 mg (15%)
Riboflavin (vit. B2) 0.528 mg (44%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 2.990 mg (60%)
Folate (vit. B9) 146 μg (37%)
Choline 820.2 mg (167%)
Vitamin D 218 IU (36%)
Calcium 129 mg (13%)
Iron 2.73 mg (21%)
Magnesium 5 mg (1%)
Phosphorus 390 mg (56%)
Potassium 109 mg (2%)
Zinc 2.30 mg (24%)
Cholesterol 1240 mg
One large egg contains 17 grams of yolk.
Percentages are roughly approximated
using USDA Nutrient Database

The yolk makes up about 33% of the liquid weight of the egg; it contains approximately 60 calories, three times the caloric content of the egg white.

The yolk of one large egg (50 g total, 17 g yolk) contains approximately: 2.7 g protein, 210 mg cholesterol, 0.61 g carbohydrates, and 4.51 g total fat.[1]

All of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) are found in the egg yolk. Egg yolk is one of the few foods naturally containing vitamin D.

The composition (by weight) of the most prevalent fatty acids in egg yolk is typically as follows:[2]

Egg yolk is a source of lecithin as well as egg oil for cosmetic and pharmaceutical applications. Based on weight, egg yolk contains about 9% lecithin.[3]

The yellow color is due to lutein and zeaxanthin, which are yellow or orange carotenoids known as xanthophylls.

Yolk proteins

The different yolk proteins have distinct roles. Phosvitins are important in sequestering calcium, iron and other cations for the developing embryo. Phosvitins are one of the most phosphorylated (10%) proteins in nature, the high concentration of phosphate groups providing efficient metal-binding sites in clusters.[4][5] Lipovitellins are involved in lipid and metal storage, and contain a heterogeneous mixture of about 16% (w/w) noncovalently bound lipid, most being phospholipid. Lipovitellin-1 contains two chains, LV1N and LV1C.[6][7]

Double-yolk eggs

Double-yolk eggs occur when ovulation occurs too rapidly, or when one yolk becomes joined with another yolk. These eggs may be the result of a young hen's reproductive cycle not yet being synchronized.[8] Some hybrid breeds of hens also produce double-yolk eggs by default. Such eggs are produced in India. Eastern states known for that are West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.

Some hens will rarely lay double-yolked eggs as the result of unsynchronized production cycles. Although heredity causes some hens to have a higher propensity to lay double-yolked eggs, these occur more frequently as occasional abnormalities in young hens beginning to lay. Usually, a double-yolked egg will be longer and thinner than an ordinary single-yolk egg. Double-yolked eggs usually lead to observed successful hatchlings only under human intervention, as the chickens interfere with each other's hatching process and die.[9]

Higher-order yolks are rare, although heavier poultry breeds such as the Buff Orpington have been known to lay triple-yolk eggs occasionally.

Yolkless eggs

Eggs without yolk are called "dwarf" or "wind" eggs.[10] Such an egg is most often a pullet's first effort, produced before her laying mechanism is fully ready. Mature hens rarely lay a wind egg, but it sometimes happens that a bit of reproductive tissue breaks away and passes down the tube. Such a scrap of tissue may stimulate the egg-producing glands to react as though it were a yolk and wrap it in albumen, membranes and a shell as it travels through the egg tube. This is usually what caused an egg to contain a small particle of grayish tissue instead of a yolk.

An archaic term for a yolkless egg is a "cock egg".[11] Since these eggs contain no yolk and therefore can not hatch, they were traditionally believed to have been laid by roosters.[12] This type of egg occurs in many varieties of fowl and has been found in chickens, both standard and bantams, guineas and coturnix quail.

Yolk color

The color of an egg yolk is directly influenced by the quality of the chicken feed.[13] Egg yolk color is generally improved with a high quality feed with a large component of yellow, fat-soluble pigments, such as the carotenes in dark green plant material, for example alfalfa. Although much emphasis is put onto the color of the egg yolk, it does not reliably reflect the nutritional value of an egg. For one thing, some of the natural pigments that produce a rich yolk colour are xanthophylls without much nutritional value, rather than the carotenoids that act as provitamin A in the body. Secondly, a diet rich in vitamin A itself, but without A-provitamins or xanthophylls, can produce practically colourless yolks that are just as nutritious as any richly coloured yolks. Since unhealthy chickens produce fewer and smaller eggs, farmers ensure that whatever the source of their feed, the quality is adequate, so there is not likely to be much difference in the nutritional quality of the eggs.[14]

In fact, yolks, particularly from free-range eggs, can be of a wide range of colours, ranging from nearly white, through yellow and orange to practically red, but even olive green, depending on the pigments in their food. Feeding fowls large amounts of capsicum peppers for example, tends to result in red or deep orange yolks. This has nothing to do with adding colors such as cochineal to eggs in cooking.[15]


Other abnormal eggs:


External links

  • Exploratorium
  • Society of Tempera Painters
  • Odd eggs info
  • How to separate the yolk from the white in a split second
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