How To Make Natural Food Coloring

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.

Four bottles of natural food coloring in different shades.

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.

How To Make Natural Food Coloring

Four bottles of natural food coloring in different shades.
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.
Cara Reed

Prep 5 mins
Cook 5 mins
Total 10 mins
Dessert
American
48 teaspoons
1 kcal
5 / 5 votes
Print RecipeBuy the Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking cookbook

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Ingredients 

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

Directions
 

  • Choose your color below and simply follow the instructions below.
Print RecipeBuy the Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking cookbook

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Notes

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. [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.]

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.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1teaspoonCalories: 1kcalCarbohydrates: 0.1gProtein: 0.03gFat: 0.01gSaturated Fat: 0.001gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.003gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.001gSodium: 1mgPotassium: 5mgFiber: 0.04gSugar: 0.1gVitamin A: 59IU (1%)Vitamin C: 0.3mgCalcium: 1mgIron: 0.03mg

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.

Originally published November 29, 2014

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I love these ideas for natural food coloring! I personally love the colour spirulina made, but that’s a great idea to use spinach to get that lighter green! Definitely going to be trying this out. 🙂

    1. Erika, love the spirulina idea! Especially if you have that sorta turquoise Blue Majik, which I’ve seen food stylists use a lot though I haven’t tried it myself. Thrilled that you’ll be trying these! Keep in mind, they make a less vibrant hue than regular dyes, but I think you already know that…

  2. What about food coloring other than pink, yellow, purple and green? What other foods or spices can be used for different colors, Please.

    Would carrots work for an orange color?

    1. Michele, we know the options are sorta limited colorwise, but we offered only those options that we tested with great unfailing success. (Keeping in mind that hues from natural ingredients are going to be less vibrant than the ones we’re accustomed to from artificial dyes.) We have had positive results from people who used purple cabbage for a shade of blue, though we find it to be more of a shade of purple. We haven’t tested this yet but we have heard from several sources that blueberries work for blue and yellow onion skins work for an orange-ish or faint redish hue and beets for a deeper reddish color. Good luck and kindly let us know how it goes…

  3. Hello! I’m 16 years old and planning to become a preschool teacher. I think this idea is really great! I love the idea of reducing the use of chemicals and I will probably use this in the future.

    1. Eli, I encourage and applaud you in your quest to be a teacher! It’s a noble and fine profession. We need more committed people to teaching our youngsters. All of us here at LC wish you the very best.

  4. Dried hibiscus petals soaked in vodka for a few weeks gives you this AMAZING, deep crimson food color! Dilluting it with a little water reveals an endless array of reds and pinks too!

    Soak goji berries the same way and you have a really vibrant vermillion (if red and orange had a baby 😆).

  5. Hi I was wondering would the colourings flavour the food? I don’t want spinach flavoured cupcakes! 🙂

    1. Reader, completely understandable concern! A lot depends on the ingredient and how much you use. A lot of people use these colorings for things like Easter eggs. These colors are paler than the artificial dyes you buy and so if you’re okay with a subtle color, I would start by adding just a little and stirring it into the batter. Better yet, if you’re the sort who likes to live dangerously and are okay with tasting raw batter, pour a little cupcake batter into a small bowl, add enough of the coloring to attain the hue you like, and then taste it. Better yet, bake it up in a single cupcake and fill a couple of the other cupcake wells with water, and then give it a taste test. I’m sorry I don’t have a simpler answer for you but that’s really the only way to know given that there are so many variables. Kindly let us know how it goes…!

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