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Holiday Eggnog Safety

With the holidays come many traditional dishes to eat or drink. One of those traditions is drinking eggnog.


Eggnog is a drink made of eggs, sugar, milk or cream, spirit (if desired) and topped with nutmeg.  It originated in England as a drink for the upper class in the early 17th century. Due to the scarcity of eggs and dairy products, this drink was reserved for those who could afford it. The drink became popular in the Americas in the 18th century due to the high availability of eggs, milk, and rum.

Keep Food Safety In Mind

While you can buy eggnog already made in stores, many choose to make homemade nog to celebrate the holidays. Eggs are a standard ingredient in most homemade eggnog recipes, giving the beverage its characteristic frothy texture. The University of Wyoming Extension reminds you that homemade eggnog can hold a potential danger of a foodborne illness if not properly made, because eggs may contain salmonella, a bacterium that causes foodborne illness. While only 1 in every 20,000 eggs contains salmonella, no one wants to spend their holiday in the hospital.

The concern is that family eggnog recipes might not be considered safe anymore. Go ahead and use the eggnog recipe, but make a few changes so that the tradition can continue safely.

Keep Your Family Safe

To avoid getting sick from salmonella when consuming homemade goodies, the Egg Safety Center and FDA recommends using a cooked egg base. It turns out that as long as the right precautions are taken, raw eggs can be used safely in liquid form. The key is to heat raw eggs to 160°F in order to kill all bacteria. Eggs harden when their proteins coagulate, so in order for them to stay runny, their proteins must remain separate. This can be achieved by diluting the egg with a substance like milk or sugar.

Making a Cooked Egg Base:

  1. Combine eggs and half the milk as indicated in the recipe. (Other ingredients, such as sugar may be added at this step.)
  2. Cook the mixture gently to an internal temperature of 160°F, stirring constantly. The cooking will destroy salmonella, if present.
  3. After cooking, chill the mixture before adding the rest of the milk and other ingredients.

Alcohol Isn’t the Trick

Some people think that adding alcohol to the recipe will make the eggnog safe. Alcohol will not kill the salmonella – only heat can kill it!

Give Pasteurized Eggs a Try

Another way to make your eggnog is to use pasteurized eggs. Pasteurized eggs are eggs in shells that have been heat treated to kill salmonella if it is present. These eggs may cost a bit more, but the flavor and texture are generally the same as regular, unpasteurized eggs. If you use pasteurized eggs then you will not have to go through the cooking process above. For those who don’t feel the need to use fresh eggs, but still want to make safe food, use liquid, frozen, or dried egg products, which are required by law to be pasteurized; another alternative is to find a recipe without eggs. Regardless of how you make your eggnog, keep it cold so that you and your family and friends can enjoy a safe holiday tradition.

Not Just for Eggnog

Not surprisingly, this food-safety method is effective beyond its use in custards and holiday pies.  It can be used year-round when making ice cream, Caesar salad dressing, or any other food containing raw eggs. The necessary step is adding the recipe’s liquid or sugar ingredients (at least ¼ cup for every egg) to the raw eggs and heating the mixture to 160°F before adding it to cooked or solid ingredients.

Therefore, by following these safe handling and proper cooking practices, you can enjoy delicious, creamy homemade eggnog without worrying about making anyone sick!



Cooked Eggnog

Course: Drinks
Servings: 16 servings


  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 12 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp freshly grated or ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream


  • Combine 1 cup of milk and heavy cream and set aside.
  • Whisk in a medium bowl just until blended: egg yolks, sugar and nutmeg.
  • Heat 2 cups of milk and heavy cream in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.
  • While whisking, slowly add part of the hot milk and cream mixture to the egg yolks. Then slowly pour the cream and egg mixture back into the saucepan, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches a temperature of 160°F. Do not overheat or the mixture will curdle.
  • Remove from heat and immediately stir in an additional cup of milk and another cup of heavy cream. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a storage container. Chill thoroughly, uncovered.
  • Once chilled, stir in 2 cups of brandy, Cognac, dark rum, or bourbon. For a nonalcoholic alternative, 2 tablespoons vanilla or 1½ cups strong coffee can replace the spirits. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or up to 3 days. Serve sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg. Makes 16 servings.
Egg Nog

Contact Our Expert!


Extension Educator:
Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

University of Wyoming Extension

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Extension Educator:
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University of Wyoming Extension

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Issued in furtherance of extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kelly Crane, Director, University of Wyoming Extension, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming Extension, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071.

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