Colorful cookies and cakes bring a little extra magic to the holiday season. Sadly, they also can bring unwanted chemicals to your dessert table. Wouldn’t it be nice to create the same vibrant look with natural ingredients?
Using fresh and powdered fruits and vegetables, you can infuse every color of the rainbow into your frostings, icings – even your cake batters! The best part is you’ll know every single ingredient going in – and you can actually pronounce the name of each one. In fact, you may even have many of these ingredients in your kitchen cupboard or refrigerator right now.
It’s easy to get hyped up about all-natural ingredients, but much more difficult to follow through, which is why bakers so often default to plastic jars of “beetle-based” dye (yuck!) and other weird ingredients. But, with the DIY food coloring recipes below, you can make natural food colorings a cinch!
DIY Food Coloring from Natural Ingredients
When creating your own food coloring, you have two options: liquid and powder form. While powder can be quicker and easier to use, liquid is more concentrated and can create more vibrant colors.
For quick and easy, natural food colorings, follow the recipes below, and feel free to adjust the amount as you experiment with different hues. For some added giggles, make these all-natural food dyes with the kids!
- Powder: Dissolve 2 teaspoons of strawberry powder in 2 tablespoons of water. Add this mixture into every 1 cup of icing.
- Liquid: Combine ¼ teaspoon beet juice (fresh or bottled) into 1 cup of icing.
- Powder: Dissolve 2 teaspoons of beet powder in 2 tablespoons of water. Add this mixture into every 1 cup of icing.
- Liquid: Blend ¼ cup cooked beets in a food processor, then strain the mixture through a mesh sieve. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of beet juice for every 1 cup of icing.
- Powder: Dissolve 2 teaspoons of carrot powder in 2 tablespoons of water. Add this mixture into every 1 cup of icing.
- Liquid: Add 1to 2 teaspoons of fresh carrot juice for every 1 cup of icing.
- Powder: Simmer 2 teaspoons of ground turmeric in ½ cup of water for 3 minutes. Allow mixture to completely cool, then add 1 to 2 teaspoons of liquid for every 1 cup of icing.
- Liquid: Add a pinch of saffron thread (? teaspoon) to 1 cup of water, then bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain out the saffron threads, then return the liquid to the stovetop, allowing it to simmer and reduce to about 3 – 4 tablespoons. Allow mixture to cool, then add ½ to 1 teaspoon of liquid for every 1 cup of icing
- Powder: Dissolve 2 teaspoons of matcha powder in 2 tablespoons of water. Add this mixture into every 1 cup of icing.
- Liquid: Simmer 1 cup fresh spinach in ½ cup of water for 3 minutes (do not cover with a lid as this will dilute the color). In a food processor, blend simmered spinach and water for 2 minutes or until completely smooth. Strain out leaves with a sieve, then allow the liquid to completely cool. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of liquid to 1 cup of icing.
- Powder: Dissolve 2 teaspoons of Blue Butterfly Pea Flower Powder in 2 tablespoons of water. Add this mixture into every 1 cup of icing.
- Liquid: Combine 1 ½ cups water with 2 cups shredded red cabbage. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat and allow to steep for 15 minutes. Strain out the cabbage, then return the liquid to the stovetop, allowing to simmer and reduce to about 3 to 4 tablespoons. Now for the magic: stir in a pinch of baking soda and watch as the liquid transforms from purple to unicorn blue! Allow the liquid to cool completely, then add ½ – 1 teaspoon of liquid for every 1 cup of icing.
- Powder: Dissolve 2 teaspoons of Indigo Blueberry Powder in 2 tablespoons of water. Add this mixture into every 1 cup of icing.
- Liquid: Combine ½ cup frozen blueberries with ¼ cup of water, then bring to a simmer on the stovetop until the berries burst and break down. Remove from the heat, mash up the berries, then strain the mixture to separate the berry chunks and seeds from the liquid. Return the liquid to the stovetop and allow to simmer until it’s reduced to ¼ cup, then allow the liquid to completely cool. Add in ½ –to1 teaspoon of liquid to every 1 cup of icing.
Important considerations with natural food dyes
Before you start whipping up these DIY dyes, it’s important to consider that natural food coloring:
Has a shorter shelf-life – Since there are no preservatives in homemade food dye, it needs to be kept refrigerated and in an air-tight glass container. Be sure to use up your natural food dye within 4 to 6 weeks.
Brings added natural food flavors – Since you’re using real food ingredients, it’s normal that some of the flavor will transfer to your icing. It will be very subtle (if present at all), but be sure to add dye to your icing little by little and keep taste-testing it to make sure your desired flavor shines through.
Creates subtler, paler colors – Artificial colors have one thing going for them: they’re supremely bright and vibrant! Natural food coloring, no matter how much you add, will likely never give you that flashy, bright-as-Skittles color. But those beautiful, pastel hues you’ll achieve will be just as lovely and perfect for every party – from princess-cupcakes and Easter-egg hunts,to classier tea parties.
Is heat-sensitive – Natural food dyes are much more sensitive to ambient temperatures, especially heat. Be sure to always let your natural food dyes cool off to room temperature to see what color you’re left with. And, most importantly, when creating a colored cake batter, bake a few tester cupcakes to see how much natural food dye you’ll need to achieve the look you want.