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. 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.–Renee Schettler

How To Make Natural Food Coloring

  • Quick Glance
  • (3)
  • 5 M
  • 10 M
  • Makes 48 (1-tsp) servings | 1/4 cup
5/5 - 3 reviews
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  • For pink food coloring
  • For yellow food coloring
  • For purple food coloring
  • For green food coloring


Choose your color below and simply follow the instructions.

Print RecipeBuy the Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking cookbook

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    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. Originally published November 29, 2014.

    Recipe Testers Reviews

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


    #leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


    1. Hi! I kept seeing people struggling with the color blue but it’s honestly the easiest! Use butterfly pea flower, it’s tea so it doesn’t change the taste of your foods. Is it easy to attain in your country? It’s a very popular ingredient in Asia

      1. Thanks, Nedd! Fantastic tip. I do believe you can order butterfly pea flowers online here.

        1. I was requested to pipe a name with purple wordings … using butterfly pea flower is such a great idea! Would it work on cheesecake?

          1. Cynthia, I think it would work as long as your cheesecake was fairly firm and dry on top. I would be concerned that if the surface was wet, the piping might bleed.

            1. Thank you for your reply, Angie! i have tried using strawberry puree with some corn starch to pipe some hearts on cheesecake, it did not bleed, however, the surface was dull after some time. Will try using butterfly pea and blueberries this time to test it out!

    2. 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…

    3. 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…

    4. 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.

    5. 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 😆).

      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…!

    6. 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.

    7. 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…!

    8. 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…

    9. I am thinking of using one of these recipes to color homemade play dough. Will the play dough need to be kept in refrigerator afterwards?

      1. Love your use for this coloring, Susan! Yes, I think refrigerating is essential to prevent the natural ingredients from degrading. And kindly keep in mind, natural food colorings tend to be much less vibrant in color than their artificial counterparts, so perhaps adjust your expectations accordingly (or simply use lots of the coloring!). Let us know how it goes, please and many thanks!

    10. Hi, Can i use the same method to infuse oils as well? I am hoping to use these in lip balms and such.
      thanks, Anu

    11. I’m a barista and I’m doing Latte Art, and I want to use organic food coloring, but I just want to make sure that the ingredients will not affect the taste of the coffee?
      Thank you for your time!

      1. Hi Ceasar, I love the idea of adding a bit of color to a latte! Although we did not detect a flavor in the food coloring, several readers mentioned that they did. I would whip up a small batch and try a taste test before serving to your patrons.

    12. my LO has allergies to blueberries and spinach… any other food I could use to do purple or green? and what about blue?

      1. Hi Rebekah, there are several things you can try to get these colors. Liquid chlorophyll, parsley or matcha green tea for green, blue spirulina powder or red cabbage for blue, and a berry or acai powder for purple. An easy way to test the color outcome is to mix with a bit of yogurt, you can get a feel for the amount needed and have a treat to boot. Some of these powders can be expensive if pre-packaged, I find buying them from the bulk bins at a natural food store saves a bit on the pocketbook.

    13. Can the natural food colour be used in DIY body scrubs? If so how long can the scrub be used for (since there are no added preservatives)…thanks in advance.

    14. Hello,
      Is there a way to make these natural food colors oil based? I make my own lip balms, lotions, and soaps, and it is very difficult to blend water based colors into the oil/bees wax mixtures and powders are gritty in the lip balm. Thank you! Kelly

      1. Kelly, I’m afraid we don’t have any experience with making these oil based. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but we simply lack the know how. ButI love the way you’re thinking. Best of luck to you!

    15. Onion juice works for yellow and matcha green tea powder or spirulena for green. I’ve also had good results with very concentrated homemade purees or reduced and pureed homemade jams. Hope it helps someone. I love the article and have printed it. Thank you!

      1. Camira, when we added just enough ingredients to tinge the frosting a pastel color, we didn’t taste the ingredients. It all depends on how much you add. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

    16. Hi,
      I’d like to apply the recipes to make edible fake blood. Any suggestions? Do the colorants stain on skin and textiles? Are they washable?

      Thank you for these great recipes…

      1. Zulal, thanks so much for your interest in our natural food coloring! As we mention in the note above the recipe, these colors tend to be a little less vibrant than the color you obtain with the usual bottled food dye. As much of a proponent that I am of natural food coloring, I’m worried that you might not be able to get a dark enough shade of red to imitate blood. If you wish to try it anyways, please be warned that yes, beet juice does stain. Pomegranate juice is another natural red dye but that, too, stains. I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help. Kindly let us know what you decide to try!

      1. Evan, I like the way you’re thinking! I haven’t tried this so can’t say for certain but I think the resulting coloring may be a touch grainy. This would be more noticeable in, say, colored icing for cookies than it woulds a cake batter. Whether or not it turns out grainy depends, I suppose, on just how finely you can grind the dehydrated fruit. If you do try it, you may wish to stir the dried fruit powder into a little warm water to try to evenly disperse it before adding it to the icing or batter or whatever you wish to color. Good luck and kindly let us know how it goes!

    17. I have made a pale pink icing simply by subbing a dark fruit juice for the milk in any frosting recipe. Grape juice makes a pretty mauve.

      1. Oh and thank you for the recipes—was looking for a natural green for St. Patrick’s Day. Planning to make the kids spiced zucchini pancakes tinted green for a breakfast treat!

      1. Jodi, I’m sorry to hear that, perhaps you used a little more than we did or maybe your turmeric was fresher. As for an alternate, saffron would work quite nicely. It’s a little pricier, but with less potential aftertaste. Simply crush a thread or two into a bowl and cover with a small amount of hot water. When the liquid is infused with color, stir it, a few drops at a time, into your icing until you achieve the desired color.

    18. For green I simply use liquid chlorophyll. A finy drop will do ya. Beet powder for pink, turmeric for yellow. Beet powder and spinach powder are available by the scoop at my local natural foods store — I believe they are from Frontier.

      1. Hi Patricia/All, Have you used the liquid chlorophyll in any recipe that you cooked/baked? I would like to use a natural green colorant to boost the “greenness” of a key lime pie. I would like the end result to be “fresh green” not “cooked olive green” color. Thanks in advance.

        1. Hi Cheri, we are awfully curious about using liquid chlorophyll in baking recipes. Here’s hoping that Patricia has some advice for you and us.

    19. 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?

      1. 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.

        1. So I should be able to make the colors and mix them with the icing the day before I want to ice the cake (as long as I keep it in the refrigerator).

    20. 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.

    21. 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!


    22. 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…

      1. 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?

      2. I haven’t read all the comments yet, but hasn’t anyone tried Pom juice? Seems like it would be easier and have a better flavor?

    23. 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… :(

      1. 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.

        1. Thank you for the tip! :) I ended up using fake colouring for blue but the others turned up a nice pastel :)

    24. 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?

      1. 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!

      2. 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.

    25. 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.

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

      1. 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.

    27. 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?

      1. 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?

      1. 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!

        1. Annatto contains salicylates. it also might have sodium benzoate as a preservative. Both salicylates and benzoates can trigger bad behavior, moodiness, and attention deficit in people with a sensitivity to them. If this happens with other foods as well, or at times when tiredness is not a likely cause, you might want to check in on the Feingold Group or Feingold Diet. It worked for my son.

          1. for a brightish blue you can add a tiny bit of bicarb (baking soda) to concentrated water of cooking red cabbage. Cabbage is a pH indicator I believe. Only thing is that it must be just enough, because it may give a bicarb taste. I tried it once for blue icing. It did end up a nice pale blue.

      1. Use blue butterfly pea flowers for a nice shade of blue, should be able to order organic ones online, its been used for the longest time in some asian cooking/desserts. Try here and here.

    28. 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 :)

      1. 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.

      2. 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.

        1. 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.

    29. 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.

        1. Hi! I have been making natural bath bombs and my friends were asking for other colors besides my pink. Can these recipes be used for the bath bombs which are stored in the fridge?

          1. Barbara, we haven’t used these colorings in that capacity and so I can’t say for certain but I don’t see why not. Just a heads up, these natural colorings produce paler shades and not the crazy vibrant neon colors that artificial dyes create. If you do use these in homemade bath bombs, kindly let us know how it goes!

          2. I’m pretty late in the game but found this comment and can’t help to chime in. I had a turmeric-based bath bomb and it stains the tub, even with just a wee bit of turmeric, like the author wrote in this three-year old article. BUT, it was easier to bleach away than the neon hues I get from other bath bombs. Still, if it’s a gift, you might want to think twice before giving the gift recipient the burden of having to bleach their tubs. If it’s for yourself and you don’t mind, go for it! Turmeric has been used in ancient Javanee and Balinese spa cultures (like turmeric milk baths with rose petals) and is supposedly good for your skin.

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