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Homemade Food Coloring

So, I've written a fair bit here at Nourishing Joy about homemade food coloring and natural food dyes.

However, the first post I put up on the subject was Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs, which is a very helpful post if you're making Easter eggs, but as time has gone on, I've realized the post hasn't been all that helpful for other food-related uses, such as buttercream and play dough.

So, I've decided it's high-time to give homemade natural food dyes their rightful place in a post all their own.

{It's about time, don't you think?}

Especially since conventional food dyes are petroleum based and are linked to such things as hyperactivity in children, increased food sensitivities, and even rashes and eczema, it's more and more important to know how to make your own homemade food coloring. (I wrote a whoooooole lot about that in my post about The Fake Food You Don't Know You're Eating.) Who wants to deal with that? Natural is definitely the way to go on this one!

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So, without further ado, I give you homemade, natural food coloring!


Making your own homemade food coloring is easier than you think!
These dyes are displayed in a standard American buttercream.



Homemade Food Coloring: Best Practices to Make Sure Your Dyes Work


First things first. Four things to keep in mind:

1. Natural colorants often lend a more demure hue than their petroleum-laden cousins. This is merely due to ratios : a concentrated store-bought food coloring requires only a few drops to add color and thus doesn't change the texture of the food by adding vast amounts of liquid. By comparison, it's difficult to get a true “red” from beet juice rather than just pink, not because the beet juice isn't red enough, but because most recipes can't stand up to the amount of liquid required to obtain a true red.

HOWEVER, you CAN make concentrated natural food dyes. See below to learn how.

On the other hand, just a few drops of beet juice will create an absolutely lovely pink in frostings and ice creams without adding even a hint of beet flavor. (See the list below for a number of gorgeous examples….)

2. Since these colorants are foods themselves, remember that strongly colored foods also tend to be strongly flavored foods, so try – as much as possible – to avoid using large quantities of any of these (a small amount of cinnamon, for example, might make a frosting heavenly, but a large amount would render it inedible).

Also keep your final flavor in mind so that the colorants don't overwhelm it. I'm assuming you don't necessarily want paprika spiked buttercream or parsley ice cream! Again, small amounts of those colorants won't even be noticeable, but large amounts most certainly will.

3. Vegetable powders are great ways to add vivid colors without adding excess liquid, so if you're wanting a deep red, for example, use beet powder rather than beet juice. Another alternative is to reduce your liquid to a concentrated syrup, so see even farther below for a two quick tutorials on how to make vegetable powders and how to make concentrated homemade food coloring, just like you'd buy in a store.

4. Vegetables-based dyes can turn brown when baked, when otherwise put in an alkaline environment, or when sufficiently oxidized. Thus, vegetable dyes WILL NOT WORK when baked unless the batter or dough includes sufficient acid medium, such as buttermilk, lemon juice, or vinegar. I highly recommend stirring lemon juice into your vegetable juice (e.g. parsley juice, carrot juice, or beet juice) in at least a 1:6 ratio if making a rainbow cake or red velvet cupcakes.

You can also help keep the dyes at their vibrant-y best by cooking the vegetables ahead and blending them into a purΓ©e rather than using the raw juice.

Making your own homemade food coloring is easier than you think!


Natural Food Dyes / Homemade Food Coloring

Start with a small pinch or a few drops of these colorants and add more according to your desired shade.


  • pure beet juice
  • beet powder
  • pure pomegranate juice
  • red raspberry purΓ©e, strained to remove seeds


  • pure beet juice
  • pure cranberry juice
  • pure raspberry juice


  • pure carrot juice
  • carrot powder
  • paprika


  • fresh turmeric juice
  • ground turmeric
  • saffron



(FYI: Blues and purples are notorious for being the most difficult dyes to produce, either naturally or in a lab, so it can be tricky to get the right hue. Blue butterfly pea flowers, interestingly enough, are by far the most reliable way to get a beautiful blue or violet. Purple sweet potatoes lend a lovely deeper purple.)

  • blue butterfly pea flowers (see where to buy butterfly pea flowers)
  • red cabbage juice
  • stir a bit of baking soda in with red cabbage juice or a purple dye for a brighter blue


  • purple sweet potatoes
  • blue butterfly pea flowers + an acid, such as lemon juice
  • pure blueberry juice
  • purple grape juice, concentrated



  • cocoa powder
  • pure espresso
  • instant coffee granules
  • heavily steeped black tea
  • cinnamon


And of course, if you can't get the color you want from making your own homemade natural food dyes, you can always buy a vegetable-based food coloring, but they're pricey: See Vegetable-based food coloring.
Homemade Food Coloring printable for handy reference


See recipes that feature natural food dyes

Pretty Pink Buttercream

Homemade Play Dough

Naturally-Colored Rainbow Cake

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Matcha Shortbread

Strawberry Ice Cream

Rhubarb Marshmallows

Fresh Homemade Pasta

Perfect Yellow Mustard

And one example of one recipe that totally FAILED with natural food dyes: Homemade Crayons


Making your own homemade food coloring is easier than you think!


The SECRET to Successful Homemade Food Coloring

This is more common sense than secret, but it still took me several years of tinkering to realize what makes a great natural food coloring – and that is:

The best homemade food colorings are intense in both color AND opacity.

Again, this may seem oversimplified, but consider this: if you take pure pomegranate juice and look at it, it looks rather intense, doesn't it? It's a deep red! But then pour some in a clear glass and hold it up to the light. Even though it's bright and intense, it's also translucent. You can sort of see through it. Now do the same thing with freshly juiced beet juice. It's intense too, but when you hold it up to the light, it's absolutely dark. You can't see through it at all.

THAT's the mark of a good food dye. And if even those intense dyes aren't intense enough – say, you're wanting to make a fire-engine cake or Cookie Monster cupcakes for your child's birthday – then that's when you need to concentrate that dye even further so you can use A LOT of it without changing the texture or the flavor of the frosting.

Thus, the most successful natural food colorings are:

  • powders made from deep colored vegetables
  • fresh juice or purΓ©es from intensely colored fruits, vegetables, or herbs
  • concentrated syrups from fresh fruit or vegetable juices


How to Make Vegetable Powders for Homemade Food Coloring

To make any herb or vegetable powder called for here, slice the desired vegetable paper thin (or merely place whole herbs or berries on a tray) and dehydrate in a food dehydrator or oven set at about 150Β° until fully, absolutely, completely dry (2-6 hours, depending on the vegetable).

Place dried vegetable/fruit chips or herbs in a coffee grinder or blender and grind until you have a fine powder.

Store in an airtight container for up to 1 year.


How to Make Concentrated Liquid Homemade Food Coloring

Another option for making a more concentrated dye is to reduce a deeply colored liquid, such as beet juice or the juice from purple sweet potatoes, into a syrup. This will allow you to make more vivid colors without affecting the flavor or texture quite as much.

To make a concentrate, place about 1 cup of freshly squeezed juice over very low heat. The only way I've been able to do this successfully is with a mini-crockpot. I use this one.

Leave the lid off the pot so the liquid can evaporate and heat until the juice begins to thicken and drips slowly off a spoon rather than running off easily, about 24 hours, give or take 8 hours depending on your climate and pot. The liquid will be less than 1/4 of its original volume.

Use this concentrated liquid as your colorant directly OR mix it with a bit of glycerin in a 2:1 ratio (colorant:glycerin) and store in the refrigerator for 2-4 weeks.

Making your own homemade food coloring is easier than you think!

All-natural blue dyes can be difficult to get a good tint AND actually taste good. However, we've got a nearly fool-proof method for making beautiful blue hues that are very neutral in flavor. Making your own homemade food coloring is easier than you think!

Making your own homemade food coloring is easier than you think!

Making your own homemade food coloring is easier than you think!


UPDATE: Using natural dyes as natural fabric dyes

In the comments, several people have wondered about using these natural food dyes for dyeing fabric. I am woefully ignorant in this regard, but I just ran across a post that might be helpful: Condo Blues: How to Dye a Shirt Minion Yellow with Turmeric.

This woman dyed a white t-shirt bright yellow using ground tumeric and gives detailed instructions and notes. So, perhaps the same process would work with beet juice or other natural dyes? I don't know – has anyone else tried it? Does the dye stay once it's been set?

Update: Here's one comment from the discussion thread below that I thought helpful enough to add here:

“I can speak to dyeing fiber. It’s a different process that needs different recipes. Some are colorfast and some are not. Turmeric is a very easy dye and makes a very bright deep yellow, but is NOT colorfast at all. It will fade or wash out quickly. Beet doesn’t adhere well and is far more likely to make tan than pink. There’s a different recipe for each dyestuff, so one should search for specific dyestuff. Fruit and berry juices tend to be quite weak and don’t last long. Don’t use heat with them for the best result. Some of the best food fiber dyes are avocado pits and peels (red), carrot *tops* (yellow), onion skins (yellow & green), black beans (blue), tea, coffee.”

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  1. Love this!!! I have been looking for ways to naturally color my soaps and thanks to you I have a whole new arsenal to work with, not sure why I didn’t think of it, but thank you :))

    1. You’re welcome! I’ve only used micas in my soaps, so now you’ve given a good idea too! I’ve seen activated charcoal in soap before – I would how beet powder would do? πŸ˜‰

      Good luck and have fun!

      1. Oh I can’t wait to try the beet powder, can’t imagine the colors!!! The tumeric so far is my favorite, a nice coppery color.

    2. I use natural colorants in my soaps too. Soooo many of them have phenomenal topical benefits. Spirulina (the Holy grail), Nettle Leaf, & Slippery Elm Bark (all powders) are some of my favorites – AND they don’t shorten the shelf life. Thanks for the info on Beet Root. I’ve got an idea for a PMS/Menopause soap & have been wondering how I would color. Now I know! Thanks so much!

  2. Thanks so much for posting this! It came at the perfect time! I’m trying to see what plant based dyes will work best with chapstick, and crayons!

    1. Fabulous! I’d love to hear your results! I suspect that you’ll need to use dry powders, as my attempts at crayons with liquid natural colorants were a major fail. πŸ˜‰

    2. I’ve been wanting to try natural colorants in my lip balm recipes as well. Which do you think will work better, powders or liquid

      1. Hmmm… well, if you’re only going to use a few drops, a concentrated liquid, like beet juice, might work just fine, but if it’s more than a few drops, you’ll likely offset the chemistry that’s happening between the oils and it would either soften them too much, keep them from setting, or seep out if the lip balm was ever set in a warm place.

        Thus, powders would likely be more stable and more potent, but I don’t know at what point they would make the lip balm go from smooth and satiny to grainy. I suspect mica powders are used in commercial brands, so I’m sure it’s possible.

        Was that helpful? Or clear as mud? πŸ™‚

        1. Thank you for you input. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before, but I’ve used cocoa powder before without it getting grainy so I suspect beet powder may work as well. I will try a small batch.

          1. I have tried everything to naturally color my home made lip balm and nothing works. Beet root powder is like adding sand, and beet juice does not mix in with the fats and beeswax. I even tried to use organic glycerine and seeped beets and beet powder in it and that didn’t work either. If anyone knows a sure fire was to naturally color lip balm please let me know…thanks!

          2. Kristen,

            I’ll put this in my notes to research.

            In the meantime, I know the store-bought “natural” lip balms often list mica as the colorant. Is that an ingredient you’d be willing to use or would you prefer to stay with various food-based colorants?

  3. I’m going to experiment with beet powder. My son wants a fireman birthday cake. Can’t wait to try it! Thank you!

    1. Kerri, just curious about how the fireman cake turned out. I’m looking to make a superhero cake for my daughter and I was also thinking about using beet powder. Hope you can let me know. Thanks πŸ™‚

  4. I appreciate this – lots more ideas for dyeing cottons a variety of colors. Is there a preferred way to use these for cottons? πŸ˜€

    1. I have NO idea but I’m definitely intrigued! πŸ™‚ I’m sorry I can’t be of more help.

      I’ve never tried these on fabrics, so DEFINITELY do a test run and see how much the colors bleed in the wash before doing large scale projects. And then please let us know how it goes – like I said, my interest is very piqued!

      1. Thank you, Kresha. This is a future project but will come back with results. I hae used different teas to dye cotton for an aged effect so am looking forward to experimenting with this. πŸ™‚

        1. Ok this took some time, but according to my sources, food dyes weren’t really used for clothing, simply because there was no way to “set” in the colors, they used them for rugs and such, things that weren’t washed all the time or never, as the color would bleed out. I know this isn’t helpful, but I’m thinking with a little web searching you may be able to find a way to set the colors.

          1. Dharma Trading company not only sells natural fabric dyes and mordants (the stuff that sets the dye in fabric) but they have tons of information on their web site as well as a very knowledgable staff–if you call.
            For me, I found you looking for natural food coloring. We (finaly discovered) that our kids are VERY sensitive to artificial colors. They might as well use meth as have a cupcake with red frosting–or one of the millions of things that have color (especially red #40). About 15 minutes after ingesting food that is artificially colored they start to act wild, completely out of control. Since we have given it up entirely at our house I am always looking for ways to provide healty treats that don’t make them feel like they are missing out, especially around the holidays. Thank you so much for the tip about using veggie powders. We have been buying the very expensive natural food coloring to do our christmas cokies but this year we have something new to try!!! Thank you!!!

    2. I live in NM, home of the Navajo Nation, master crafters of all I swear. They use natural dyes for their wools to make their blankets and so forth. I will see if I can ask around as to what is best for “setting” the color. I know just the person to start with too πŸ™‚

      1. Oh, that’s wonderful! Yes, you are so right – the Navajo are amazing weavers and crafters. I will definitely look forward to hearing about what you hear!!! Thank you so much.

      2. I am also curious about dying fabrics – I have been eating beets a lot lately and I boil them. The remaining water is a beautiful color.

  5. I love your ideas! HOWEVER……the natural vegetable based colorings you link to as a recommendation (India Tree) uses Sodium hydroxide as an additive in their yellow coloring! This Is a poisonous ingredient! Paste this link into your browser and see……….
    We all need to be diligent and read every ingredient, even though a product advertises itself as natural. I will, however, use the ingredients you suggested……

    1. Yes, I have sodium hydroxide in my cupboard to make soap. It is indeed toxic. πŸ™‚

      However, I’m curious why you say the India Tree colors have sodium hydroxide, as on India Tree’s own website, they state that the only ingredients in their yellow dye are deionized water, glycerin, and turmeric:

      Perhaps it’s different in different countries???? I don’t know where you are, but perhaps they have different formulations, or have changed their formulation?

      Thank you, though, for the always-needed reminder to check every ingredient, even on products that claim to be “natural.” πŸ™‚

      1. As my dermatologist says about “natural” products – “Poison Ivy is natural, but would you want it on your skin?” Good discussion, though. Many thanks to you all for some great ideas.

      2. BTDubbs – sodium hydroxide (lye) IS a natural product. Still toxic- but a natural product! And cooks out when making soap, so maybe it neutralizes other ways too. That would be neat to know- has anybody worked with it other than in soaps (& unclogging drains)?

    2. actually, lye is a natural ingredient, it is achieved by dripping water (rain water is best-no chemical additives) through wood ash. the liquid is then boiled til a chicken feather melts when placed in the liquid.
      it was used to make soaps for centuries. yes, it is dangerous and caustic and should be used with precautions but i don’t view it as NOT natural.

      1. oops, my computer posted before i was done.
        lye or soduim hydroxide is normally neutralized by the heating (either in cold process soap making or hot process soap making) and therefore not harmfull.
        if someone is putting it into food or body products, there is a different issue going on because it will burn like mad on the skin (ask me how i know.)
        the only way to neutralize lye without cooking is using vinegar (yes, it give instant relief on the back of hand or finger that touched it.)

    3. Apparently, they went back to the older, original recipe which does NOT contain the harmful chemicals like anti-freze. They USED to but now don’t…unless you got an older package before they went back to the glycerine/food/water recipe.

      I’m looking for colorings for playdough. I did buy the β€˜natural’ food dye from Amazon, but want to try making my own first…
      I’m also thinking about drying some organic blueberries to put in my homemade mascara to give a blue/purple tint.

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  7. Hi I’m going to attempt to make my sons first birthday cake and want to make it blue, could I make a blueberry powder? Would that work?

    1. How fun!

      And yes, I would think a blueberry powder might work very well, but it will take a few days to dehydrate, as they’re pretty juicy. πŸ™‚ Also, how blue are you wanting it? Like Cookie Monster blue or a light pastel blue? If you’re wanting a deeper blue, I would definitely choose a cake that tastes good with blueberry, as if you’re wanting a deep blue, the flavor will definitely come through.

      I hope that helps!

      1. Hi Kresha,

        I came across your site looking for ideas for natural food colorings. As far as blueberries go, since the berry itself is not blue (sort of brownish/yellowish) couldn’t you pop the berry out of the skin, enjoy the berry (as in eating it), and dry the skins to pulverize?

        I think that would also mitigate the flavoring you would get from the coloring. I may not have a clue what I am talking about since I have not tried to make food colorings, but I do eat blueberries. πŸ™‚

        1. I haven’t tried it, but that sounds like a fantastic idea! It might take awhile to pop all the berries out, but it would shorten the drying time considerably for sure.

          Thanks for a great tip! (And if anyone tries this before I get a chance to, please let us know how it goes! πŸ™‚ )

    2. to make a blue colour boil red cabbage between 10 – 30 minutes strain the liquid the add less than 1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda (baking soda). the bicarb changes the ph which changes the liquid from purple to blue

    1. I haven’t, but I know Robin over at has done a lot with homemade natural make-ups, so perhaps ask there too! πŸ™‚

  8. I am considering using this in homemade hand soap. If I use beet juice do you think that will stain hands add they use the soap? Thank you.

    1. Hmmm… I think if you use just a small amount, it wouldn’t be noticeable, but for any really defined pink, it might! I haven’t tried it, so I can’t say, but would it be possible to add just to one bar to try? Or do you use a block mold for your bars? If it’s liquid soap, could you try it in just a small amount?

      (And if you do, please let us know how it worked! I know others are wondering the same thing!)

  9. I wanted a natural food coloring for some frosting for Valentines Day. I didn’t have time to drive all the way in to my Whole Foods store, so I googled natural food colorings and found your site. When I read about the beet powder I remembered that I had a beet powder supplement in capsules. I just opened a few of them and added it to the frosting to the desired color. They worked beautifully with no discernible taste. Thanks for the great idea!

  10. Thank you so much., we recently found out my son is allergic to artificial food dyes (maybe flavor too) and it’s so hard to see everyone enjoy colorful cookies except him:( this will definitely make him a happier 7 year old!!

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  12. Good Morning πŸ™‚ Thank you so much for this very informative post! I have begun making my own dyes as well so that my children can enjoy the brightly colored treats! I am the blog author of Three Kids And A Fish and I am writing a post today on natural food coloring, and I wanted to let you know that I mention this post as a great place to go to know what to use to make your own natural food coloring! Again, thank you very much!

  13. I own a juice bar so it seems to me you could run the vegetable through a juicier and then dehydratethe pulp and then grind it up….just a thought….

    1. If you’ve got a good juicer, that might work really well! Thanks for a great idea. πŸ™‚

  14. I want to create some black (or at least pretty black) wooden kitchen and serving pieces: cutting boards, a salad bowl… (and a challah board), and I can’t find a wood dark enough. Do you think the charcoal powder would work and be food safe on wood? How would you apply it? Thanks!

    1. Oh, goodness. That’s a great idea and unfortunately I don’t have any expertise in this! If you use activated charcoal, it should be fine, food-safe-wise, but I don’t have any ideas on how to actually stain the wood. Perhaps rub charcoal and olive oil alternatively into the wood in several coats, like you do when you’re oiling a new cutting board? I have no idea if that would actually work? But honestly, I think that would give a shadow to the wood, but wouldn’t actually give a lovely deep dark stain to it.

      Do any other readers have any ideas?

      Thanks for a great question!

      1. Fantastic article! Thanks for sharing!

        I would think squid ink would make an excellent dye for wood utensils and boards. Certainly food-safe, and I would think pretty effective.

        Would love to hear about the results if you decide to try it P.J.

  15. You can also take dried hibiscus flowers and crush them with a mortar and pestle, or make a powder in a food processor. This gives a pink hue when added to dishes. The hibiscus I buy is a loose-leaf tea. It tends to add a sour strawberry-like taste to foods.
    Annatto can also be used to color foods yellow. From my experience, it needs fat to bring out the color. Like adding butter to cake batter. I tried dye-ing soup with it, but it would not dye the liquid, only the fat floating on top. Used the pure seeds in a tea-infuser, maybe it would be different crushed?

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  17. This is great…I try to reduce artificial dyes from my sons diet…but eliminated red40 altogether…but don’t want him feeling left out when decorating cookies or cakes…does the charcoal powder or squid ink have a strange taste at all?

    1. It depends on how much you use and in what application. For example, are you just making typical chocolate cupcakes or are you making a soccer ball cake where you want half the frosting very black? Those two may require different amounts of dye.

      For black frosting, I would actually tint the frosting green first to get it dark, along with a strong flavor such as vanilla, then add the charcoal or squid ink. (I suspect squid ink may vary by brand as well. The one linked to above is the only brand I’ve used and it’s rather mild – you have to use a fair bit before you actually taste or smell anything but the frosting.) As for the charcoal, it should be ground very very fine, like cocoa powder, if you’re going to use it in something silky and soft like frosting. A mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder work well for this.

      This also would be an excellent application in which to use chocolate. That way you can get the frosting quite dark and quite strongly flavored before you even add the charcoal or the squid ink, so you don’t need as much.

      So, good luck and I hope that helps!

  18. Wow! I was so excited when I found this. My 11 year old was been baking and we have had a lot of fun experimenting. I can’t believe the beauty of the colors!!! They are better than artificial. The carrot juice made a beautiful yellow as well as orange. The beet juice was beautiful. It was fun to experiment with different shades. After juicing them, I put the leftovers in ice cube trays and froze them and we used them again! Have you tried Or have any suggestions about coloring candy(white chocolate)? Maybe powders because I don’t think it is suppose to get “wet”.

    1. Yay! And what a great idea to freeze the leftovers! I’m going to have to do that the next time I juice…. πŸ˜‰

      I haven’t tried coloring white chocolate, but my instinct is the same as yours – to use a very fine powder with the melted chocolate. Any liquid could definitely make the chocolate seize and turn grainy.

      Thanks for a great comment!

  19. I was thinking of making my own Tempera paint with natural colouring. Do you think these recipes would work for paints? Thank you

    1. Hmm…. that’s a great question! I would think if you use powders or very concentrated liquids (by reducing them on a simmer on the stove) and then mixing them in your egg yolks, that could work very well. There’s a great link about this over on our How to Make Crayons post, because during my first foray into making crayons we tried every natural colorant in the book. πŸ˜‰

  20. i would love to know if you have tried any of these in either melt and pour soap or cp and how it turned out.

    1. I have not tried them in melt and pour soaps, but I’ve tried beet powder and activated charcoal in cold process soap and they worked wonderfully. I haven’t tried any juices or liquids in cold process soaps, but I suspect the chemical reaction might change the color. (Like when I used them in crayons….) But again, I haven’t tried it, so who knows. πŸ˜‰

  21. Excellent for natural cool rants. Not checked out the rest of the site yet but this was the reason I was researching today. My children like red velvet. I tried it with the beet root but found it too wet, too much beet root, probably. My main man would like a football (something to do with soccer, that is) cake so I am thinking of either a football pitch or a team shirt so reds, yellows and green are perfect.

    Let you know how it turns out.

    Well done Kresha

  22. Hi you talking about food coloring because I’m going to do it with my mom today. I like food coloring .

  23. Hi! Thanks for the article, it’s very informative. I going to stain some untreated new wood and was curious how much of the stain would oxidize over time, like the purple in the beets turning brownish. And if this happens only with fresh beat juice as apposed to beet powder.

    Any experience with this?

    Thank you!

    1. Ai! I have no idea. It’s a GREAT question, but I have no experience with this. Anyone else care to chime in or point us in the right direction?

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  26. I love this article and all of the comments. Thanks for posting. I’m interested in using spinach juice to color my bath bombs. But I’m worried about it spoiling. I left the juice out for 3 days and it started smelling funky. How can I preserve the juice in the bath bomb so it can be stored for a long period of time? I’ve been wracking my brain thinking of ways to do this but haven’t come up with a good solution. Hoping you can help. πŸ™‚

    1. Hmmm… Well, do you use citric acid in your bath bombs? That would certainly act as a preservative, as would salt. However, I have no idea HOW long the shelf life would be. Anyone else have any experience with this?

      Sounds like a great project for St. Patrick’s Day, too! Oh, the possibilities…. πŸ™‚

  27. After introducing fresh beets at dinner to Grandchildren tonight and having them actually eat some we got into discussion of using red beet juice for dying.. Can one dye some simple tee shirts as a project for them and get a fairly bright color?. Their enthusiasm is high about such a project and I want to take advantage of it. Would putting beets in a blender with water get to the consistency where I could achieve a bright color?. I really want to seize the moment and get them involved in creating something for them to show off to their friends..

    1. That would be SO cool!

      Let’s see – I haven’t tried dying fabric with beet juice, but after seeing the turmeric dying tutorial linked above, I have high hopes. If so, I don’t think blending raw beets with water would be potent enough – I think you’d need to juice them so that you have 100% beet juice as your dye.

      But again, I haven’t tried it, so perhaps someone else who has had more experience with dying with natural dyes could chime in?

      Good luck and HAVE FUN! πŸ™‚

  28. the information you have given is so good.i loved this.
    how can i make cabbage 65 into a blue colour one

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  31. I want to color epsom salts bright red for Christmas to use in homemade bath salts. Was thinking beet powder and then add a little water to it, then toss with the salt??

    1. Hmmm…. I’m not sure whether the red of the beets will transfer to the salt or not. I haven’t tried it. Definitely try it before you give them as gifts. πŸ™‚ Also, I suspect pure beet juice would work better than reconstituted beet powder – if you don’t have a juicer, you can blend raw beets with a few teaspoons of water (just enough to get it moving in the blender), then strain the liquid through a cheesecloth.

      Good luck!

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  34. Really great ideas here, thank you everyone for sharing! My most successful natural color is using chlorophyll for green (looks amazing). I am however having a lot of trouble with blue. I was able to find the sweet spot for how much baking soda to add to my boiled cabbage juice to create a nice blue hue and flavor. My problem is that once I add the coloring (which has to be very quickly or it starts turning Aqua marine and then green…) to the product, the color is nothing more than a subtle grey. Very unappetizing and definitely not blue as requested by 4yr old.
    Any suggestions as to what I may be doing wrong?! Thank you πŸ™‚

    1. You’re not doing anything wrong! Blue is SO HARD to make. I even once bought a box of natural food coloring from the store and the blue did EXACTLY what you described.

      The only thing I can suggest is perhaps start with a deeper purple, like purple sweet potato (which, unfortunately, is difficult to find outside of large urban areas) and use it either alone or with a bit of baking soda. Other than that, blues are so so difficult!

    1. Ooooo!!! Thanks for the great tip! I’ll hunt some down and then update the post. πŸ™‚

      So, you recommend using JUST the peels, not the black cherry juice itself? In that case, do you tend to grind them, macerate them, dry them, or do something else to add them to your various foods (like frosting)?

      Can’t wait to try it! I love black cherries…….. πŸ™‚

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  38. What is the shelf life for these food dyes, specifically the blue dye made with red cabbage and baking soda? I’m wondering how far in advance I can make the blue dye for cake icing.

    1. If you’re making the concentrated version of these dyes with glycerin, they typically keep for at least two weeks in the refrigerator, although – admittedly – the blue dye is the most volatile, so using it as fresh as possible is the best option. (By the way, if you’re going to make a concentrated blue dye, I would reduce the cabbage juice and THEN add the baking soda, rather than adding the baking soda before reducing.)

      If you’re making the dye fresh and are not concentrating it, I would make it with 24 hours of use. I find the blue discolors faster than the other ones, so the fresher, the better.

      I hope that helps! πŸ™‚

  39. So glad I came across the article today! I came across chalkboard cakes this morning in my newsfeed and was thinking I should be able to do that all natural..Black Cocoa royal icing yes! I have this very expensive bag I never use for anything and now I can use it to make black icing. for the chalkboard cookies! Woot Woot!

  40. Thank you for all the wonderful information about natural food coloring! I am wondering if using homemade food colors in royal icing would change the shelf-life of the finished product? Since the natural food coloring has a much shorter shelf-life than artificial coloring, would that extend into the finished product as well – once the royal icing has hardened?

    1. No, once the royal icing has hardened it shouldn’t be an issue.

      There are two reasons homemade food colorings have shorter shelf lives:

      1. The color changes as it sits or is exposed to light.

      2. Molds can grow on them since they’re not preserved (using glycerin as described above helps avoid this).

      However, once royal icing has hardened, the moisture has pretty much evaporated, so molds are no longer an issue, and the colors are fairly well set, so again, that’s not much of an issue. I might be inclined to make your icings a bit darker or brighter than you’d like the finished colors to be, as they might fade a bit as they sit over time, but the color issue in a fixed, hardened icing isn’t nearly as dramatic as it can be as food dyes sit by themselves.

      I hope that helps!

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  43. Can anyone help me make a natural dye to color white chocolate and turn it teal for ovarian cancer awareness? I want to make awareness ribbon candy in candy molds for a fundraising event. Valerie

    1. That’s a great question! For white chocolate I would probably use red cabbage juice, but that might be a bit more blue than you’d like, so maybe a bit of parsley or spinach juice too. But those won’t necessarily work if you’re making a ribbon candy made of a sugar syrup….

      Has anyone else tried this? What worked for you?

      The best with your event!

  44. I have wanted mint jelly forever but just couldn’t justify the artificial green coloring. Now, thanks to you, I have other options. AND, I am using agar agar for the gel. Thank you.

  45. This is awesome! One edit though: Opaque actually means that something can’t be seen through. So the opposite would be transparent. Low oppacity= transparency, so you can see through it. High opacity=opaque, solid, can’t be seen through. Just a tip from your friendly neighborhood graphic design student.

    1. This is a great comment and thanks for pointing out where this article is confusing. Thank you!

      A quick note, however, because you’re ALMOST right – actually, you’re totally right from a graphic design standpoint (like how we define the opacity of layers in InDesign or Photoshop), but not in reference to how opacity refers to reflecting light as a 3D object.

      For example, like you said, “opaque” means something that is not transparent – you can’t see through it. The opposite of transparency IS opacity, yes. However, the second part of its definition is that it is also not translucent, which means that it allows some light through but diffuses the light so that no shape or shadow can be defined. Thus, a more concise definition of “opaque” is the degree to which light is blocked from passing through an object and the degree to which it is refracted as it does so.

      So, in thinking about these food colorings, this has everything to do with light. If you pour a bit of juice into a shot glass (which I use as an example only because they tend to have thick walls and work well as prisms) and set it on a counter in the sunlight, a very concentrated food coloring will cast a dark shadow where the liquid is, but around the edges will cast a prism of colors according to the color of the liquid – it absolutely cannot be seen through, yet is not totally black or devoid of color and is still reflecting light – namely, opaque. However, a not-so-concentrated food coloring will appear dark, but you can sort of see through it and when it’s set in the sun, a shadow will be cast that’s the color of the liquid – it’s *somewhat* opaque.

      But really, all this is merely a descent into semantics, and your comment makes me realize that my wording is confusing, so really, I need to rephrase that sentence to make it clearer. Perhaps a less confusing wording would be to use “translucent” there. So I’ll definitely make that change.

      Thanks again. And the best to you in your studies. Graphic design is a blast. πŸ™‚

  46. Hi,
    I want to make blue “jello”/ (using Great Lakes Gelatin) for my son’s class party – beachy theme – I have the recipe for the jello, but the blue part is hard.
    I see that people are using red cabbage, then adding baking soda to alter the color, but I am pretty confident that will also alter the gelatin to not firm up, and add a strange taste.
    I’m looking for a blue coloring that won’t add weird flavor or change the gelatin?
    Any ideas? TIA…

    1. Hmmm… blue is very difficult and you are spot on in your assessment, both of how it will affect the gelatin and in the flavoring.

      HOWEVER, using blue pea flowers is the only solution I’ve found – it’s a great way to make a deep blue without adding an undesireable flavor. There’s a link above for where to find them.

      Also, perhaps you could make it clear or lightly colored with something like blueberry juice and display it it in a pan that is blue (or lined with something blue) so that it still gives the illusion of being water without actually having to dye it?

      Those are my grand ideas – anyone else have any other ideas to share?

      1. Debbie, is that what you use in your bakeshop? I just looked at your website and your cupcakes look gorgeous! πŸ™‚

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  49. For blue you can use butterfly pea tea and for red you can use hibiscus tea or hibiscus powder.

    1. The butterfly tea barely has a flavor and you can make the tea very blue. This is used to color rice and other foods in Asia. If you add lemon or lime juice to it it will turn a beautiful purple.

      1. Brandi – I have never heard of Butterfly Tea… where would one find it? I am always looking for a new way to make a natural blue coloring!

  50. Thank you very much for this post! I have been looking for a while at ways of colouring our products with the use of natural ingredients and it has been a challenge when you’re doing cosmetics πŸ™‚

    So once again, Thank you!

  51. Thank you for your excellent article! I love the printable list! I have one son with Autism and both of them have ADHD and we avoid artificial dyes at all costs. I have used several of your suggestions for years, but a few are new – the black especially – which is handy, since my older son wants Star Wars for his 8th birthday. Can’t have Star Wars without good ol’ Darth, right? and you can’t have Darth Vader without black icing… I’m going to give it a go with chocolate icing a activated charcoal (since I have it on hand for other beauty products).

    Thanks again!

    1. I would definitely suggest seeing if you can find black cocoa powder too! That gives a really nice black – it’s what I use for Oreo cookies, so that’s the kind of black it produces. πŸ™‚ The activated charcoal will certainly work, but it will be grittier than cocoa powder, if that matters.

      Sounds like a fun party! Happy birthday to your son!

  52. This is such a great post! Thank you so much for writing this and sharing it! (I have to give a little shout out to pinterest because I may have never found it with out the site). I appreciate you not only giving ingredients for colors but also explaining how to use them…. for instance, “bold color can also bring bold flavor!”. I nearly ruined my son’s 1st birthday cake using natural coloring I purchased from the store while trying to get the frosting the color i was I was looking for. Definitely altered the frosting flavor :-/ But that will not happen for his 2nd birthday thanks to you πŸ™‚

  53. Hi I’m from France. . I will just add that for the blue you can use butterfly pea tea ; I haven’t used it yet but just found it on the internet, so it might prove easier than cabbage….
    In passing I intent to make macarons and use natural coloring obviously; By chance do you have an idea if it would be easier first to tint the sugar (and dried it) before using it in the recipe for the shells of the macarons ? Or make powders and mix it with the amount of sugar I need before using it in the recipe ?
    Anyway, thanks very much for your website and sharing your knowledge and especially your recipe for making vegetable powders
    Best wishes

    1. Hmmm… that’s a clever idea about tinting the sugar with a liquid vegetable and then drying the sugar. Although making the powder might be easier! Since macarons are so light, perhaps you wouldn’t want to add any dry powders, though, so perhaps the first idea is best.

      Obviously, I’m guessing here, but I think you’re on to something. πŸ™‚

      Good luck!

  54. I steeped some hibiscus flowers for a gorgeous and really bright/dark pink! I used the liquid to replace the water in my peppermint marshmallow recipe. The original recipe called for plain water and red food coloring.

  55. Any chance these colors would work for making hard candies? Or would the heat and/or composition neutralize or change the colors? We make hard tack candy and my nephew is now sensitive to red food coloring…

    1. That’s a great question. I would assume the liquid dyes might change color as they oxidize, but powdered dyes would likely be more stable in that application. However, depending on the texture of your candy, that might not be desirable. If it was taffy, powdered dyes might work very well!

      On the other hand, even candy cane makers use powdered colorants, so perhaps give them a try????

      I’m sorry I can’t help more!

    1. If you’re looking to make all natural food dyes, everything you need is in the article above.

      If you’re looking to make all natural fabric dyes, I’m sorry I can’t help you, as I truly know nothing about fabric dyes and we’ll have to rely on other readers chiming in with their favorite tips and resources.

  56. I want to make Meringue kisses and I was wanting to know if I could use these recipes to color the meringue without deflating it.

    1. If you make a liquid concentrate (so that you don’t have to use so much coloring to get a deep color), it should work just like store-bought food coloring!

      Of course, keep in mind that while you can get deep colors with homemade food coloring, they are more demure than the store-bought artificial ones.

      Have fun!

  57. I made a lot of sauerkraut with red cabbage last fall and like many have said baking soda does make that brine blue. I don’t want to make dental disclosing tablets per se, but I’m wondering if anyone has had any success making a natural substitute for those tablets since they are sweetened and have artificial colors and maybe other not great ingredients too? Thanks!

    1. Hmmmm… that’s a great question and I honestly have no idea since it’s the dyes that react with the plaque and I’m not sure what natural dyes would do such a thing. You could TRY swishing with the blue pea blossom tea I linked to above, perhaps? Other than that, I’m not sure! I’m sorry I’m not more help…

      Perhaps other readers could chime in?

      1. Thanks for that suggestion, I’ll get some blue pea blossom tea and report back. Swishing with blue kraut brine had no real effect. I have some powdered turmeric and rubbed some into my teeth but you only want to do that if you want your teeth to have a really pretty Yellow glow :-), oops. It brushed away easily.

  58. I can speak to dyeing fiber. It’s a different process that needs different recipes. Some are colorfast and some are not. Turmeric is a very easy dye and makes a very bright deep yellow, but is NOT colorfast at all. It will fade or wash out quickly. Beet doesn’t adhere well and is far more likely to make tan than pink. There’s a different recipe for each dyestuff, so one should search for specific dyestuff. Fruit and berry juices tend to be quite weak and don’t last long. Don’t use heat with them for the best result. Some of the best food fiber dyes are avocado pits and peels (red), carrot *tops* (yellow), onion skins (yellow & green), black beans (blue), tea, coffee.

  59. I used three tablespoons of salted beat juice (to try to make red dye) in a recipe that I found online for red velvet brownies. The resulting brownies were a medium brown. πŸ™ So, it was a failure.

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  61. Hello! I was wondering if these recipes would hold up and work well in bath bombs? Thank you so much!

    1. Yes and no. Most of the liquid ones will be absorbed by the salts well, but they would also then be released into the bath water as the salts dissolve, so I guess it would depend on how you want them to function.

      Definitely test them before you give them as gifts to know whether they work they way you want them to!

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  63. Thank you Kresha, an amazing resource! Dried beetroot powder certainly does the trick.

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  66. I want to make orange frosting for cut-out pumpkin cookies. Would it be best to make carrot powder to add to the frosting, or to try to make frosting with pureed carrots?

    1. I would use either carrot powder or carrot juice. You could use pureed carrots as well, but the color might be paler than you’d like (although – just like pumpkin puree, carrot puree is a great consistency all by itself, like frosting, although the flavor is a bit obvious πŸ˜‰ ).

      Have fun! I love pumpkin cut-out cookies and I hope yours turn out fabulous! πŸ™‚

  67. Pingback: How to Make Your Own Food Coloring the Natural Way - Kitchology, Inc
    1. Hmmm…. are you wanting the dye for food (meaning, it needs to be edible) or are you looking for a colorant for some other purpose, such as dyeing cloth or staining wood?

      Sometimes elemental minerals provide dyes (such as was used to make paint in medieval and Renaissance times), but that depends on your end usage. Also, keep in mind that just because those minerals are “natural” and straight out of the earth, they’re still toxic, so they couldn’t be used for anything that children would touch or might put in their mouths. (I mention that only due to a discussion we had over on our How to Make Homemade Crayons post – )

      Does that help at all?

  68. Hi Kresha, I need to make edible ink for common felt markers. For a strong red, for example, would you suggest I use a blend of these and dilute in water and then absorb it onto the felt?

    pure beet juice
    beet powder
    pure pomegranate juice
    red raspberry purΓ©e, strained to remove seeds


    1. Wow! What an amazing idea!

      I’ve never tried it, but yes, that does sound like a great idea! The only suggestion I would have is that if you find the ink too runny, to thicken it by evaporating it off (the instructions are in the post if you need them), although it sounds like you’ve already accounted for that by using beet powder. But again, I’ve never tried it, so I’m not sure of the best viscosity!

      Let us know how it goes! It sounds like a fantastic project. πŸ™‚

  69. Hi Kresha,
    When making concentrated food coloring what do you mean by low heat? How low?
    if you leave lid unclosed and cook it for 24 hours, how is it possible that everything wont be evaporated?

    Cheers from Estonia!

    1. Well, it will all depend on the size of your pan, the volume of liquid, etc. When I say “low heat,” I mean the absolute lowest you can allow your stove or appliance to go and still have it on. And you’ll just have to watch it – for some people, the liquid will be nearly entirely evaporated after 8 hours and some will need at least 24 to evaporate it just by half. That’s why I like the small slow cooker.

      So, I hope that helps and good luck!

    1. The closest we get is by reducing the liquid colorants, such as beet juice, until they’re thick and syrupy, but they’re still water-based, so they won’t act entirely like a gel color, unfortunately.

  70. I want to color whipped cream naturally, and I know from experience that liquid added to whipped cream can create a mess, so I like the idea of trying a syrup or powder. You mention that one can add glycerine; what is the benefit of that? Does it act as a stabilizer? Or just give it more of a syrup consistency? Or…?

    1. Well, I have a few thoughts. First of all, don’t use glycerin – you’ll want to use gelatin as your firming agent or stabilizer, and which gives it a texture like Cool Whip. This helps it keep from weeping or wilting, as well as allowing you to use a liquid as a colorant or flavoring. Because syrups are liquids just as much as others, so you’ll need to take care with how much you use of those as well. However, gelatin will firm those too, so you can use far more of a liquid coloring or flavoring if you also use gelatin. And typically, liquid only creates a mess (without gelatin) if you use a fair bit of it. I usually use at least 1/4 cup in a recipe of this size without issue.

      So, I hope that helps!

      1. Thank you!! I’m not sure if I had heard of that gelatin tip before. I made my healthy cake today, and here’s what I did: I whipped up some cream and poured in some of the gelatin mixture after a certain point. It whipped up well. I blended cream cheese until soft and smooth and sweetened it with stevia. I added the whipped cream and got a “frosting” that was easy to pipe (though not as stiff or quite as nice as buttercream icing, but still able to be decorated with). I had juiced a beet in the morning and left it in a small pot on lowest heat until it had evaporated into a thick and almost crystallized substance. I ended up adding just a little glycerin to create more of a paste, because it was so nearly dry (I guess it was left on heat a little too long?). I added this to an amount of my “icing” and used a spatula to distribute the color. I spread it on my heart cake and did a darker pink for some decorating, with more beet juice paste. I also made black icing by adding activated charcoal.

        And no, the beet paste did not affect the flavor. It tasted just like a cream cheese/whipped cream topping. πŸ™‚

        Thanks for all your tips and ideas on this post! I will certainly be referring to more in the future. Maybe I won’t have to use artificial colors anymore!

  71. How can you make your frosting white with natural options, and you seem to forgot to list that color.

    1. No, I didn’t forget that color, for two reasons:

      1. Most frosting starts as white. Powdered sugar, cream cheese, beaten egg whites – they’re all white. If you want white, simply don’t color them. Granted, yes, they can be slightly OFF-white, but unless you’re wanting to snap pictures to show how perfectly white something is or you need it for a commercial bakery, it’s generally not needed.

      2. White food coloring is generally a specialty item found only at craft stores and baking supply shops. I’m appealing to the home cook. So I left it out.

      That said, if you want white, I’d recommend powdering dried coconut or making sure you use highly processed and bleached white sugar (the stuff I usually recommend my readers stay well away from). Both work well in most situations.

      Commercial white food coloring is made from mixing titanium dioxide with glycerin and water, but I most certainly don’t recommend using it, as that’s what makes sunscreen white and gives it its SPF – titanium dioxide is NOT meant to be inside the body.

  72. I can’t wait to try this!
    I want a thicker substance rather than just juice, so I’m going to try the syrup method.
    I wonder if adding the juices to vegetable glycerin would make a nice gel coloring.
    I’m mainly interested for my bath bombs and bubble bars, but i can definitely try it in my baking too.

    1. That’s completely up to you – as the more you use, the more intense the color of the water as it dissolves, and the less you use, the more pastel.

      And I would definitely use liquid turmeric or beet juice to color whichever minerals you’re using, as the powder will end up coating the bottom of the tub.

      If you’re wanting to make them for gifts, I would DEFINITELY recommend making a trial batch or two before giving them away to make sure they look and act the way you want them too!

      Have fun!

  73. Something I wrote on natural dyes and mordants, which might amuse:
    Granny’s Mordant

    As a kid I used to play in Granny’s garden
    An amazing place of mystery and intrigue
    It seemed to go for miles in each direction
    And I’ve not since found a gardener in her league.

    There were aisles between the runner beans and sweet corn
    I could fly like a mosquito…world war two
    And I’d shoot up her tomatoes, bomb the compost
    ‘Cause the compost was a sub-nest bunker too.

    But the rule that I learned early, one rule only,
    Use the pissoir by the little wicket gate
    Every drop that hits the garden is a menace
    So be sure to fill the pot and don’t tempt fate.

    Now there was no seat in the pissoir, just a funnel
    In a tube about a metre from the ground
    And this fed into a jerrycan she’d buried
    Which made a muffled plinky sort of sound.

    Still at that age I had no idea the value
    Of the urine in those sunken jerrycans
    Just an inkling that my tinkling was a treasure
    And it somehow all worked into Granny’s plans.

    But then at nine or ten I popped the question
    What she did with all the pee that I had made
    So she took me by the hand around the garden
    And she sang this as we marched her grand parade

    I always plant in rainbow beds
    Though it’s very hard to see
    Because the colour’s hidden well
    Until you set it free

    The bark of that crab apple tree
    And the beets all down that row
    The madder roots, tawhiwhi leaves
    Are all for red you know.

    Then for pinks there is the lavender
    The strawberries and cherries
    The roses are my favourites
    And poroporo berries

    Now there’s lilacs and there’s butternuts
    And my onions, jolly fellows,
    Then there’s celery and Queen Anne’s lace
    For oranges and yellows.

    For green there are these artichokes
    The fennel and the nettle
    There’s lemon balm and thyme as well
    But thyme takes time to settle.

    The black beans and the hyacinth
    Make lovely blues that glow
    The larkspur and chicory
    Though they’re both hard to grow.

    And the last patch is for purple
    Those red cabbages and borage
    There’s maple bark and iris root
    And don’t forget the forage.

    ‘Cause on the farm there’s other plants
    There’s dandelion and clover
    And walnut shells and acorns made
    The brown in your pullover.

    And now you need an answer
    To the question that you pose
    I can make these lovely colours
    But without your pee, it goes.

    I mix it with the boiling
    When I’m dying up the skeins
    And it makes the colours sticky
    So they won’t run when it rains.

    And now I know the secret of the mordant
    How my bladder helps to make the colours fast
    And my granny said that I’m a magic pisser
    Which is why my tie-dyed ponchos last and last.

  74. Hi there! Love this! My daughter was wanting to print out the handy guide, but for some reason when we click on it, it just refreshes the page.

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  76. I’ve been researching alternative dyes for a school project and I can’t believe how much this site has helped me! I’m writing and taking notes to share with everyone so we all stop eating artificial dyes! I hope that my research will make a difference! =)

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