Naturally dyed Easter Eggs - they're easier to make than you think!

How to Dye Easter Eggs Naturally (and get vibrant colors)

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Naturally dyed Easter Eggs - they're easier to make than you think!

Want to know more about natural food dyes? Check out our post on Homemade Food Coloring. That article has even more ideas to help you make the most of your natural dyes, although they're not all perfect to dye Easter eggs with – just sayin'. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Yup – it's officially spring. My mother found the first buttercups of the year, my daughter is picking cherry blossoms to take to school, and the weather vacillates between heavy rain and bright sunshine. Sure signs of spring, indeed.

This also means Easter is just around the corner. And although Easter eggs have nothing to do with the true celebration of Easter, we enjoy the tradition of coloring eggs on Easter weekend.

Of course, being the slightly crunchy, granola, natural-minded parents that we are, we want to minimize our children's exposure to overly-processed, chemical-laden dyes, so we make our own using spices and vegetables we readily have on hand. (Not to mention the store-bought dyes are incredibly expensive! Using homemade dyes is a much more frugal option.)

It's taken us a few years to figure out the dyes we like the best, as it's been hit and miss (some dyes were waaaaaaay too pale, some wiped off, and some just insisted on being… sludgy brown…), but in this post, I'm sharing the versions we like best.

(And while you're getting all your supplies ready, grab a cup of tea and take a moment to read this highly enjoyable article from Edible Vancouver magazineย (PDF) about the adventures of using natural dyes – it begins on page 25 of this PDF download.)

But first, let's address some of the most burning questions I've been asked over the years. I originally wrote this post in 2012 and in the decade since, there have been more than a few emails/Facebook comments/blog comments that have appeared asking about the finer points of dying Easter eggs (in general) and using natural Easter egg dyes that work and still achieving vibrant Easter egg colors (specifically).

So first up, let's address the elephant in the room:

Can you really get vibrant colors on Easter eggs with natural dyes???

Yes, most DEFINITELY your Easter eggs can sport vibrant colors using natural dyes, BUT – and this is a big BUT – they won't be ending up like that neon pink or electric purple you might be expecting like it was a store-bought kit.

Natural dyes come from nature. There are gorgeous colors in nature, to be sure, but in this case, by “vibrant” I mean “deep” or “intense” or “exciting” more than “so-bright-you-won't-even-be-able-to-look-straight-at-it” type of vibrant.

How to Make Natural Easter Egg Dyes

There are two types of natural ingredients to make dyes:

  1. those that are sufficient as dyes on their own (e.g. espresso, beet juice, or wine)
  2. those that need to steep in water in order to create the dye (e.g. spices, onion skins, and cabbage leaves). I've marked the ingredients that need to be steeped first with an asterisk (*).

How to Make Steeped Dyes

To make the steeped dyes, combine the water and colorant and bring to a boil. Boil gently for approximately 15 minutes, then cool the liquid to room temperature.

As for how much of each ingredient to use, count on 4 tablespoons of spice or 4 cups of coarsely chopped vegetables per quart of water.

For example:

  • if you want to use chili powder as your colorant and you want to make 2 cups of dye, you would use 2 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of chili powder;
  • if you want to use beets as your colorant and you want to make 1 quart of dye, you would use boil 4 cups of water with 4 cups of cubed beets.

And remember to compost all your ingredients when you're done. ๐Ÿ™‚

COLORINGREDIENTS (listed in order of intensity of hue, best option bolded)
Red Onion Skins*
Hibiscus Tea, heavily steeped
Red Wine
BlueButterfly Pea Flowers,* heavily steeped
Mashed Blueberries – enough to completely cover the eggs in juice
Red Cabbage Leaves*
Purple Grape Juice
GreenBlueberry Juice + Ground Turmeric
YellowFresh Turmeric*
Ground Turmeric*
Ground Cumin*
Green Tea, very heavily steeped
BrownVery Strong Coffee (Espresso shots work best)
Instant Coffee, made very dark
Black Tea, heavily steeped
Dill Seeds*
OrangeChili Powder*
Fresh Pressed Carrot Juice
Yellow Onion Skins*
PinkFresh Pressed Beet Juice
Liquid from a jar of pickled beets
Pure Cranberry Juice (NOT cranberry cocktail)
RedLots of Red Onions Skins*
Canned Cherries with Juice
Pure Pomegranate Juice

Tips for Getting the Best Colors on Easter Eggs

  • Use a scant 1 tablespoon of white vinegar per 2 cups of liquid to help the color adhere to the eggshell.
  • Wipe eggshells completely dry before decorating.
  • Use rubber bands and crayons to decorate the eggs before dipping to create fun effects.
  • Let the eggs steep in the dye for at least 10 minutes to deepen the color. Keep in mind that even the most “intense” dyes that come from natural sources will still produce a mostly-pastel shade on your egg.
  • If you prefer a deeper, more vibrant color on your Easter eggs, steep the eggs again after they have fully dried. You may repeat this process as many times as you desire, but remember that the more the egg sits in the dye, the more flavor may permeate to the egg, so you'll have to play it by ear according to your preferences. Perhaps crack one open after a second dip just to see how much has permeated up to that point and make an informed decision from there. ๐Ÿ˜‰


Naturally dyed Easter Eggs - they're easier to make than you think!



How to Use Natural Dyes for Food and Play Dough

These dyes can be used for food and homemade play dough, too, and you're only limited by flavors.

For example, beet juice works beautifully to color buttercream a gorgeous pink and turmeric creates a perfect yellow mustard while also enhancing the flavor of the mustard. However, you don't necessarily want chili powder flavored buttercream or oniony play dough.

Therefore, choose colorants whose flavors that can easily “hide” behind the “real” flavor of your food. (Since you're using them in very small concentrations, generally the flavor isn't hugely present, anyway.) Use a few drops of fresh parsley juice for a lovely green in your buttercream or matcha powder in the white cupcake base, then use a flavor that fits the occasion.

For example, with our Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Pretty Pink Frosting, we've used both raspberry and rhubarb juice as a flavor and the beet juice colorant happily fades into the background. For play dough, it just becomes a matter of preference. If you're using it for fresh homemade pasta, use complimentary flavors, such as spinach juice, beet juice, tomato sauce, or chili powder (sparingly if you don't like heat!).

For using the colors in baking, such as in a rainbow cake, one of the moms over at Itsy Bitsy Foodies has experimented with various options brilliantly (and photographed her results), so definitely check out their naturally colored Rainbow Cake.

Resurrection Eggs

If you'd like a more meaningful way to celebrate Holy Week and Easter, make Resurrection Eggs, which use 12 symbols to help children better understand all the events leading up to Christ's death and the power of his resurrection. It's a Lenten version of the Jesse Tree and  a wonderful, intentional tool as we teach our children.

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  1. Hi! I love the list you’ve put together for natural egg dying. I was wondering if this list works as well for food. My daughter wants rainbow cupcakes for her birthday and I was thinking of using natural food dyes to do it. Just curious if you’ve used any of the above in baking. Do they alter the taste? I wouldn’t want to serve Red Wine, onion skins and turmeric flavored cupcakes to 5 year olds, lol! Thanks for your help. Audra

    1. Yes, these work for food as well, but you’re exactly right – an onion cake isn’t exactly desirable. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Some of the flavorings (like beet juice or carrot juice) are used in pretty small amounts, so I don’t think it would matter much, but definitely check out the Itsy Bitsy Foodies link – that mom did some great experimentation to figure out what would work well in a rainbow cake.

      I hope that helps. Happy birthday to your daughter! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Yay for you! I’m so happy to have this resource. I’ve seen other formulas that were so complicated and expensive, I would’ve been better off buying the natural dyes. I can’t thank you enough. Pinning!

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  5. Last year I remember dying eggs red using brown onion skins like you mention here, but it was just that individual post. Now I can’t find that post! I wanted to contact you directly, but didn’t see any way to do so, so I am leaving the comment here. I remember there was more specific information about how to do it, and some interesting information about the Greek Orthodox tradition of dying eggs red, and now I can’t find that information anywhere (here or elsewhere on the internet). Can you please direct me to where I might find that? Thank you!

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