Knowing how to make natural food coloring from scratch is something we’ve been wanting to do for literally years and years and years. And after trying countless different approaches, we finally we have the DIY natural food coloring recipe we’ve been wanting, seeking, and needing. No artificial colors. No preservatives. And no monumental price tag. Just vegetables and fruits and water.–David Leite

Natural Food Coloring FAQs

How do natural food dyes compare to store-bought food coloring?

Keep in mind that when mixed into frostings or icing, natural food coloring will create shades of pastels rather than incredibly vibrant and nearly neon hues. But, on the other hand, these all-natural, one-ingredient colors are kinder and gentler to everyone involved. And there’s something to be said for softness, no?

Will I be able to taste the food coloring ingredients in the frosting?

Yes, to some extent, although it should be minimal. The more food coloring you use, the more noticeable the flavor will be. In some cases, this is desirable, such as with blueberries. However, if the food coloring uses an ingredient that may be off-putting to some, start with a small amount and monitor the flavor.

Four bottles of natural food coloring in different shades.

How To Make Natural Food Coloring

4.89 / 9 votes
How to make natural food coloring? The answer’s easy. You can make it from scratch in shades of pink, purple, green, and yellow, with no artificial coloring, no preservatives, and no monumental price tag. Just fruits and vegetables.
David Leite
Servings48 teaspoons
Calories1 kcal
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time10 minutes


For pink food coloring

  • 1/4 cup 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 blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, thaw and drain)
  • 2 teaspoons water

For green food coloring

  • 1 cup spinach, fresh or frozen (if frozen, thaw and drain)
  • 3 tablespoons water, plus more as needed


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




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.


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. [Editor’s Note: Be careful when working with turmeric as it tends to stain whatever it comes in contact with, including countertops and wee fingers.]


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.


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.
Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking Cookbook

Adapted From

Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking

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Serving: 1 teaspoonCalories: 1 kcalCarbohydrates: 0.1 gProtein: 0.03 gFat: 0.01 gSaturated Fat: 0.001 gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.001 gSodium: 1 mgFiber: 0.04 gSugar: 0.1 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2014 Cara Reed. Photo © 2014 Celine Steen. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

These instructions for how to make natural food coloring are easy to follow and everything came 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 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.

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.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    This idea I learned in school and decided to do with my preschool class and they loved the whole process!! Thanks for the easy steps.

    1. You’re very welcome, Mateo! Loved that you introduced preschoolers to this! We can almost imagine the lovely chaos that class must have been!

  2. Hi, I’m making natural bath bombs and I need natural coloring for them and what you have shown here is such a great idea, but I’m wondering what the shelf life is for each of the different colors? As I won’t be making bath bombs all the time and it would be a pain to have to make the color every time. And also will these work for bath bombs?

    1. Bree, thanks for the kind words and love that you’re making your own all-natural bath bombs without those crazy multisyllabic preservatives and fizzy things! Completely understand the need for shelf-stable colorings so you can make large batches at a time. We can’t assure you that the color will last longer than a few weeks as food does tend to naturally start to break down. Also, we only tested these on foods, so we’re not certain how they’d work for bath bombs. The vibrancy of these natural food colorings is less than that of artificial ones, for what I suppose are natural and obvious reasons. I guess the best advice I have is to make a batch of the color(s) you like and try them in a small batch of your bombs and see how they work. And reserve some of the coloring and then try again? Sorry I can’t speak to the non-recipe application of these colorings. Kindly let us know if you try how things work out…!

  3. I am seeking a coloring agent that can be applied to the inside wall of a pastry bag nozzle so that the agent will “color” butter cream frosting as it passes from a pastry bag through the nozzle.

    I was thinking of an agent that might dry upon application to the inside wall of the nozzle and then be “activated” by the moisture of the butter cream in a slow release manner as the butter cream passes through the nozzle.

    1. Chuck, love what you’re aspiring to do. I’m not confident these will be sufficiently activated by the moisture to release easily. Also, natural dyes in general create a paler, subtler color than artificial coloring and I worry you may be slightly disappointed. I’m sorry we can’t say whether this will work or not, but I don’t want to promise it will and then have you be frustrated. Kindly let us know if you try it…