Natural Food Coloring

Natural Food Coloring Recipe

Keep in mind that this natural food coloring recipe (and by “natural,” I mean actually natural—not the kind of “natural” you read on processed junk) creates pastels rather than bright colors when mixed in frostings or icings.–Cara Reed

LC At Last Note

At last, after literally years and years and years of searching, we have the DIY natural food coloring recipe we’ve been wanting, seeking, needing—and minus the monumental price tag attached to the store-bought variety of natural food coloring. Perhaps you heard our sigh of relief wherever you are?

Natural Food Coloring Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 5 M
  • 10 M
  • Makes 1/4 cup each


  • For pink food coloring
  • 1/4 cup (62 grams) canned beets, drained
  • 1 teaspoon drained beet juice from the can
  • For yellow food coloring
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • For purple food coloring
  • 1/4 cup (35 grams) blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, thaw and drain)
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • For green food coloring
  • 1 cup (30 grams) spinach, fresh or frozen (if frozen, thaw and drain)
  • 3 tablespoons water, plus more as needed


  • 1. Choose your color below and simply follow the instructions.

Choose Your Color

  • Pink
  • In a high-speed blender or food processor, mix the beets and juice together until smooth. Strain if desired.
  • Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Add 1 teaspoon to icings, frostings, or batter for starters to impart a pink hue. Add more coloring, if necessary.
  • Yellow
  • In a small saucepan, boil the water and turmeric for 3 to 5 minutes. Allow to fully cool.
  • Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Turmeric can stain, so use a container you don’t mind turning yellow. Add 1 teaspoon to icings, frostings, or batter for starters to impart a yellow hue. Add more coloring, if necessary.
  • Purple
  • In a high-speed blender or food processor, blend the blueberries and water together until smooth. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the skins from the mix.
  • Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Add 1 teaspoon to icings, frostings, or batter for starters to impart a purple hue. Add more coloring, if necessary.
  • Green
  • If using fresh spinach, in a small saucepan, boil the spinach in enough water to cover for 5 minutes. Drain, discarding the cooking liquid. If using frozen and thawed spinach, skip to the next step.
  • In a high-speed blender or food processor, blend the spinach and water together until completely smooth. If the mixture clumps or stubbornly refuses to blend, add more water as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time. Strain, if desired, and let cool.
  • Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Add 1 teaspoon to icings, frostings or batter for starters to impart a green hue. Add more coloring, if necessary.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

Recipe Testers Reviews

These recipes for making natural food coloring are easy to follow and come together quickly, each one taking less than 5 minutes (if you don't count the half hour to allow some of the mixtures to cool). Our color testers included a 10-year-old and an 8-year-old. They swirled the final colors into bright white vanilla yogurt, and and the results were delightful. Each color is a pretty hue—soft green, lemony yellow, light purple, and a pale pink from the beets that got the most enthusiastic chorus of "Ooooh!" and "Ahhhh!"

A few notes: Our blender must not be as powerful as some, as the mixtures were a bit chunky so we ended up straining each. It was easy to do and added maybe another 30 seconds to the overall time. We had fresh beets and fresh turmeric in the house, so we used those, grating each finely. The lemon yellow from the fresh turmeric is especially bright and fresh and satisfying. (Be aware! Turmeric REALLY stains. Make sure everyone is wearing an apron when playing with the colors.) We had a great time with this simple recipe and definitely will make these colors again.

Testers Choice
Robert Castagna

Nov 29, 2014

With the problems of artificial colorings in our food chain, this natural food coloring recipe was a pleasure to try. For the pink, I believe you can use fresh beets that have been cooked and use the cooking water. For the purple, the total time, including clean up, was just 5 minutes. For the green, I used fresh spinach.

  1. Kirstin says:

    Does the flavor of the items come through in the frosting?

  2. Dona K. says:

    For the beet (pink) version, you can also use beet powder. This ingredient is used as a colorant in Indian cooking, and is more concentrated yielding a brighter deeper pink/magenta. I found it on Amazon; it makes a lovely deep red-colored curry when combined with turmeric.

  3. Vicki says:

    I recently made plum jam, for the first time, and it ended up being a pretty red color when finished. I was thinking, while I was cooking it, if there would be a way to use plums to get a red food coloring. I’m not great in a kitchen, but am trying to learn. Do you think using plums would result in a red food color & if so, exactly what would the process be to use this for food coloring? Thank you for the recipes to make food coloring from natural sources :)

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Vicki, we did not run plums through our testing process so I’m reluctant to guarantee results or try and guess at proportions. That being said, the skins of the plums should yield a beautiful color when simmered in a bit of water. I would play around with amounts to get to the perfect color and intensity.

    • love says:

      did you ever try that ? if so how did it come out. I tried the beets, and it came out tasting like beets and i hate beets.

      • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

        Hmmm. Sorry to hear that, love. We tried it and couldn’t detect beets, although diff varieties do have diff levels of, uh, earthiness, shall we say? Vicki, did you happen to try the frosting using plum? Many thanks, both of you.

  4. Love this! Thanks for sharing. I will be sure to pass this along.

  5. jamie says:

    Thanks for these. Has anyone ever figured out how to make blue food coloring? Just curious…

  6. Jiji says:

    Boiled purple cabbage soup + baking soda = blue color

  7. Cari says:

    Where can I get little bottles like that?

  8. Jeff says:

    Annatto seed gives a brilliant and flavorless yellow.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Ah, another terrific suggestion for yellow! Thank you, Jeff.

    • Sarah says:

      Just be aware that some kids (like my son) react badly to annatto (we end up with a day of tantrums whenever he has something with it in). Others are fine with it (like my daughter). Thanks for all the ideas!

      • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

        Sarah, thank you for making us aware of this. I’m sure so many parents appreciate you raising their awareness of this issue.

  9. kitchenbeard says:

    Upthread Dona K. suggested using beet powder for a more vibrant pink color. Do you think dehydrating and pulverizing some of these ingredients would have a desirable effect?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      I haven’t tried it so I can’t say for certain, kitchenbeard. The only hesitation I have is whether the ingredients may lose some of their innate vibrancy while being dehydrated. I imagine beets would work fine since they seem to have sufficient color to more than offset a little loss. But the others I’m concerned may turn out a little drab. Also, they would need to be very finely and evenly ground so as to impart a color that’s not speckled. What are your thoughts?

  10. Hattie says:

    Can these be frozen instead of refrigerated? I would love to make a bunch to have on hand and pull out whenever needed.

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Hattie, we didn’t try freezing it during our initial test, but one of our testers is going to make up a batch today and freeze it. Stay tuned, we’ll be back in touch.

  11. Elizabeth Alvarez says:

    We tried freezing our two favorite of these colors, the yellow and the pink. The process did not effect the brightess of the coloring one bit. Seems like a great way to use this recipe – portioned out in teaspoons or tablespoons, then into the freezer.

  12. Kimberly says:

    Do you have any experience with adding the colors to DIY lotions, lip balms, etc? Will the colors when mixed into the body products, stain skin and/or clothes and does it have any smell?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Kimberly, we have only tried these natural food colorings in icing for cookies, not in any sort of DIY beauty products. But we like the way you’re thinking and wish you good luck with your experimenting!

    • tamara says:

      Did you try this in any beauty products, Kimberly? I am wanting to make bath bombs, but wondering if the colouring will ‘go off’ if not used within a few weeks.

  13. Eunice says:

    My blueberry juice seems to be oxidising and becoming brown! Made the colours for use tomorrow and I think it’ll totally be brown by tomorrow morning… :(

    • Beth Price says:

      How did you store your juice, Eunice? If you are having problems with the juice oxidizing, store them in an appropriately sized airtight container filled to the brim with juice. Or you might try freezing them. Or adding a smidgen of lemon juice.

  14. Amanda Faber says:

    Hi…I have been on a mad hunt for a way to make a natural pink cake for my daughter’s birthday. I’ve been down the beet road without success. The color bakes out! Eek! Such a bummer. Do you have any other suggestions to get a pink color naturally? If you would like to see my failed attempts, please peek at my blog…

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Ah, we’d been using the food coloring only in frosting, Amanda. Sorry to hear the color baked out. I’m wondering, what if you simmered some pomegranate juice down to a syrup so as to concentrate the pigment and then stir some of that into the batter?

  15. Amanda Faber says:

    Thanks for the fast reply! No worries, I did my baking before I found your site. The pomegranate idea sounds like a possibility. If I try it, I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks again!


  16. Kat says:

    Hi. You say with the green food colouring to discarded the water but then to blend the spinich with water? Is that with the same water or different water?
    Thanks in advance.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Kat, you discard the water that the spinach was cooked in and then you add the amount of water in the ingredient list. Does that clarify things?

  17. Lupita Perez says:

    Can I use this to paint my frosting with my spray gun ?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      We haven’t attempted that, Lupita, so we can’t say for certain, but I see no reason why it wouldn’t!

  18. rigglez says:

    I’m making a cake for my son’s birthday but want to make it a day in advance. If I use these colorings for the icing, will the icing turn brown or anything if it sits for a ~day?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      rigglez, no, none of our testers had that happen. Also, just a heads up, keep in mind the colors of these tend to be slightly less intense than the ones with all the preservatives and artificial colors.

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