Dying colorful Easter eggs is such a fun craft (yes, for adults, too!), but if you aren’t a fan of store-bought artificial dyes, you may have been avoiding it. But, like, everything, there’s a way to use food to make the experience better! Namely, making your own dyes from colorful foods, perfect for a hungry Easter Bunny.
Making food-based coloring doesn’t have to be complicated, messy, and time-consuming despite what the internet may lead you to believe. We’ve simplified the process, using less expensive, low-prep ingredients. Let’s get started!
Creating food dyes is as easy as steeping water-soluble ingredients in hot water long enough for the colors to be distributed into the water. We add distilled white vinegar to help the colors adhere. You likely aren’t tuned in to the water solubility of basic pantry items, so we’ll give you some tips to get started.
Step 1: Choose Your Colors
Food-based dyes are not as consistent as the ones you buy at the store, but that’s part of the fun. The most consistent and predictable results can be found by using some go-to ingredients: red cabbage leaves for light blue; yellow onion skins for orange; ground turmeric for yellow; cooked or raw beets for pink; dried hibiscus flowers or tea for dark blue; and coffee for brown.
Of course, the world is your pantry, so don’t be afraid to explore other ideas. After all, the worst result you can achieve is no result at all—and then you dunk your egg in another dye and start again. We already know that ingredients like matcha green tea powder, grape juice, and blueberries will also work, but maybe you have an idea of your own! Kids are often pretty imaginative here.
Step 2: Prepare Your Dyes
This is the only part of the process that takes a little longer than the store dyes, but it’s all waiting time, no hard work.
Select as many vessels as you’ll need for your colors. A wide-mouth pint-sized jar is the perfect vessel, but you can use a glass, a container, or bowl. Choose something that is taller than it is wide so that you will eventually be able to fully submerge your eggs.
Put a full kettle on to boil while you fill your jars. The ratios of ingredients to water does not need to be exact, but these amounts will yield you the colors you see in our photos.
Orange: Stuff your jar with the papery skin of about 8 onions. It may feel too full, but the skins will soften and shrink. Top with 1 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar, then fill to the top with boiling water.
Pink: Stuff your jar with raw or cooked beets. For raw, shred 1 medium-sized beet (for about 1 cup). For cooked, mash the beet in the bottom of the glass. Raw may seem more convenient, but most grocery stores sell cooked, shrink-wrapped beets that make this process far less messy. Top with 1 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar, then fill to the top with boiling water.
Dark Blue: Add about 2 tablespoons of loose hibiscus tea (from 4 or 5 teabags) or about 1/4 cup hibiscus leaves. Top with 1 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar, then fill to the top with boiling water.
Light Blue: Stuff the jar with the outer leaves from 1 medium head of cabbage. Top with 1 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar, then fill to the top with boiling water.
Yellow: Add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of ground turmeric to the jar. Top with 1 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar, then fill to the top with boiling water.
Brown: All 2 tablespoons ground coffee to the jar. Top with 1 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar, then fill to the top with boiling water. You can also just add vinegar to a jar full of brewed coffee (cold, leftover, and days old is fine).
Loosely cover the jars and set them aside to soak overnight. The next day, you can strain the dyes if you like, but the ingredients will help add some texture and pattern to your finished eggs, so we like to keep them in.
Step 3: Dye Your Eggs
White eggs will yield the most vibrant colors, but you’ll also experience good, albeit different, results with brown eggs. We used all white eggs. Hard-boil the eggs and let them cool.
Use a spoon, ladle, or any other small tool to dip the eggs into the jar. Let them soak until they have reached a color you like. Hibiscus, onion, and coffee will yield the quickest results, but the others may require more time to absorb the dye.
Use tape, rubber bands, stickers, or wax crayons to create patterns and designs, or layer the colors to achieve new ones.
Step 4: Dry Your Eggs
Natural dyes take a few minutes to dry, so try not to handle them too much before the color has set. Of course, you can use this to your advantage by carving designs in the unset color or rubbing the eggs with towels or cotton balls for a denim effect.
Once the eggs have dried, you can drip or brush dye onto the eggs (this is especially effective with the dark blue hibiscus) to create a print or pattern.
Dry the eggs on a rack set over a baking sheet to catch any dripping dye. From there, they can be stored or displayed however you like.