So you want to dye your Easter eggs naturally – without chemicals and artificial colors? While it takes longer than the commercial egg dye kits you buy at the store, dyeing your eggs with natural foods is better for you and your child(ren)’s health, produces much more interesting colors and is, quite arguably, more fun!
Why dye with natural colors instead of artificial?
According to Organic.org, “Many food colorings contain color additives such as Red No. 3 and Yellow No. 5, which, according to a 1983 study by the FDA, were found to cause tumors (Red No. 3) and hives (Yellow No. 5).” I wrote about the drawbacks of artificial colors a while back if you’d like to read more on the topic.
It is more time-consuming than using a store-bought conventional egg dye kit (and I highly recommend preparing the egg dye baths a few hours before you plan to dye the eggs with the kiddos), but it is healthier for your kids and the environment. “Dyeing eggs the natural way gives you the opportunity to spend more time with your family, teaching kids to use alternative project methods that are healthier for them and the environment.” I think it will be a lot of fun and a great family project.
To get started you will need:
- Hard boiled eggs (preferably white eggs since they take on the dyes better than brown eggs)
- Ingredients to make your dyes, which I will discuss in more detail below – As a guideline, use up to 4 cups for vegetable solids and 3–4 tablespoons for spices per quart. Mash up fruits.
- White vinegar (2 Tablespoons for every quart of water)
- Several pots and bowls
- Optional: stickers, rubber bands, and crayons for decorating the eggs and making interesting patterns
- Egg cartons for drying the dyed eggs
Natural egg dyes can be made from a variety of ingredients. Here’s a list of what I used last year along with comments on the colors that resulted.
- 3 cans of beets in cranberry juice (instead of water) – produced a dark reddish hue
- Frozen cherries – made a very light pink
- 3 tablespoons of chili powder produced a nice reddish-orange color
- 3 Tablespoons of tumeric produced a great yellow
- A mix of spinach leaves, canned blueberries and their juice and a few tablespoons of tumeric produced a gorgeous earthy green color – I think it would work without the spinach leaves, but I happened to have some that were wilting so I threw them in.
- 3/4 of a head of red cabbage (chopped) made a beautiful blue
- 2 cans of blueberries and their juice made a grey-blueish color
- Frozen cherries mixed with blueberries yielded a grey color (not the purple I was going for).
Last year I found a couple great web site with tips on “Natural Easter Egg Dyes” and Natural Dye from Organic.org. The natural dyes come from spices like paprika, tumeric and cumin; vegetables like spinach and red cabbage; fruit juices and even coffee. All of your dye ingredients can (and should) be composted after you are done.
On Organic.org, there is a boil method (which produces darker results) and a cold-dip method, which is suggested for children or if you plan to eat the eggs, which is the method we used last year.
The two methods are:
Place eggs in a single layer in a large, nonaluminum pan. Add the dyeing ingredient of your choice—it’s best not to mix until you are comfortable with experimenting. Cover the eggs and other dyeing “agent(s)” with one inch of water. Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar per quart to help the color adhere to the egg, and bring to a boil. Next, simmer for 20–30 minutes or until the desired shade is achieved. If you cook the eggs longer than 15 minutes, they will become rather tough.
The cold method is the same as the hot method with the following exception. Once ingredients have simmered 20–30 minutes (depending on desired shade), lift or strain the ingredients out of the water and allow the water to cool to room temperature though you may wish to try keeping the ingredients in the colored water to give the egg more texture as the dye will become concentrated in areas where the vegetable touches the egg. Submerge the eggs until the desired color is achieved. You may keep the eggs in the solution overnight as long as it is refrigerated.
The longer the egg stays in the dye, hot or cold, the deeper the hue will be. Using vinegar will also help the color deepen.
Definitely feel free to experiment and try out other foods and spices. For me, that was a big part of what made it so much fun, trying out different things to see what colors would come from them. For example, the dye from the spinach, tumeric, blueberry mix looked orange or brown, but the eggs came out green! And the red cabbage dye was purpley-pink, but the eggs came out blue. It was like a fun science experiment that the whole family could get involved in. Happy egg coloring! :)
The process of making the dyes:
And the results:
Links to other people’s natural egg dyeing results:
- Michelle at What’s Cooking Blog tried three different concoctions and got three lovely results
- Phyllis at Ima On and Off the Bima created Passover eggs using cilantro leaves and onion skins
- Shutterbug Mama, who had good luck using turmeric and curry powder, paprika, and blueberries
- Inexplicable Ways tried out a variety of ingredients and got some beautiful results
- Green Baby Guide – Natural Silhouette Easter Egg Dyeing
If you dye your eggs naturally and blog about it, please leave me your link and I’ll add it to the list. :)