Several years ago I began researching natural alternatives to food dyes. My quest began with trying to find new ways to color frosting for birthday cakes. There are natural food dyes that work well, but I wanted to figure out how to make my own food dyes. There are so many foods that bleed their color willingly so it is fun to experiment. This year I decided to try dyeing Easter Eggs with natural colors. I started with some of the foods I already knew would dye items willingly and easily (like blueberry and pomegranate juice) and then went to the internet for more ideas. There are so many ideas out there, of course, so I had to try the ones I could easily get my hands on! I spent three days and five dozen eggs (thanks Mom!) playing with these ingredients. I still have more things I want to try out, but for this year I feel I have a pretty good list of natural Easter Egg dyes.
Easter Egg dye kits come with a “magic crayon” that when used on the egg before dyeing will leave a white picture on the egg. All you need for that is wax or a white crayon. The white crayon works just as well on these naturally dyed eggs; creating a barrier from the dye and leaving the white (or brown depending on the egg) design of your choice. The one exception was the paprika dye! It created a tone-on-tone effect instead of blocking the dye which I thought was pretty neat.
I used white and brown eggs to see what different colors I could come out with. I encourage you to use a mix of white and brown as well. You’ll get so many different shades and textures and that just adds to the fun! Most of the colors will work after just a 20 minute soak in the liquid, but I really liked most of the colors best after 24 hours. Add 1 Tablespoon Vinegar to every 1 Cup of liquid to help the dye adhere to the eggs. After your eggs are dry give them a quick polish with a dab of olive oil to help show off their rich new coats.
Red Onion Skins (dark blue, red, and rust) – 1 Cup of Water plus the skins of 2 Medium Red Onions. Bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes to 1 hour. The longer you simmer the deeper the color will be. I started to see color change after 20 minutes, but the deepest and prettiest colors were after 24 hours of soaking.
Yellow Onion Skins (orange, rust) – 1 Cup of Water plus the skins of 3 Medium Yellow Onions. Bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes to 1 hour. The longer you simmer the deeper the color will be. The color begins to change after 20 minutes, and continues to deepen up to 24 hours.
Blueberries (shades of blue and purple)- 2 Cups of Frozen Blueberries will yield about 1 Cup of juice. Thaw at room temperature or on the stove then mash with a fork to get out as much juice as possible. Do not dilute with water. I started to see the color change after 20 minutes to a pretty, light blue color. The color continued to deepen and change over 24 hours. Blueberry juice is a great one to use if you want quick results.
Red Cabbage (shades of blue, purple, and rust) – 1 Cup of Water plus Half a Head of Red Cabbage, chopped. Bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes to 1 hour. The longer you simmer the deeper the color will be. The most dramatic color change was after 24 hours. Not much color in the first 20 minutes, but just 1 hour is sufficient.
Turmeric (yellow) – 1 Cup of Water plus 1 Tablespoon Ground Turmeric. I did not find any difference between boiling the mixture and not boiling. The powder did not dissolve when boiled. Powder will adhere to your egg, but it will brush off easily after the eggs are dry. Turmeric will turn everything yellow including hands and utensils! The eggs began to change color as soon as they touched the liquid. The longer the eggs soak in the liquid the darker shade of yellow they will turn.
Paprika (orange, rust) – 1 Cup of Water plus 1 Tablespoon Ground Paprika. Mix together and shake. Like the turmeric this mixture changed the egg color immediately, and the powder stuck to the egg. There wasn’t much difference between the color of the paprika and the color of the red onion skins. I would rather use the onion skins to avoid the mess of the powder.
Raspberry Juice – 2 Cups of Frozen Raspberries, defrosted, will yield about 1 Cup of juice. Thaw at room temperature or on the stove then mash with a fork to get out as much juice as possible. Do not dilute with water. The color began to change after just 20 minutes and lent a nice, soft pink. After 24 hours soaking in the fridge the raspberry juice congealed into a jelly! So I was left with an egg jelly mold. The eggs didn’t seem to ever dry completely. The color sort of peeled off of the egg when I handled it.
Pomegranate Juice – No matter what I tried this did not work. Like the raspberry juice, it peeled off of the egg, but it never colored the egg much to begin with, even after 24 hours.
For all of the dyes above add 1 Tablespoon of Distilled White Vinegar to every 1 Cup of liquid. This helps the dye adhere to the egg.
Spinach – I tried so hard for this to work and it just didn’t for me! I boiled 1 Cup of Spinach in 1 Cup of Water. I tried 1 Cup of Water with 4 Cups of Spinach. I simmered for 20 minutes, and I simmered for 2 and a half hours! My whole apartment smelled like spinach. I soaked the eggs in spinach water for 15 minutes, 1 hour, 4 hours, and 24 hours, and only one egg turned slightly grey. All the other eggs remained their natural color.
Orange Peels – I boiled and simmered orange peels for 1 hour and then soaked the eggs for 24 hours and they did not color at all.