Guest Post: Natural Easter Egg Dyes

Today I’ve asked a fellow “real food” blogger to share her natural Easter egg dye method with us…so please “meet” Christina with Spoonfed (a Jamie Oliver blog of the month)!

So here’s what we do come Easter time, egg dyeing at its simplest (with recipes inspired by my friend Kris Bordessa of Attainable Sustainable):

1. Hard-boil a bunch of eggs. Doesn’t matter if they’re white or pastel or brown. Each one lends itself to great color variations. (But choose local, pastured eggs if you can. Check out Local Harvest for why that’s important and where you can find good eggs near you.)

2. On your stove, set out four pots* with two cups of water each.

3. To one pot, add a hefty teaspoon of turmeric powder (that’s your yellow). To another, add a couple handfuls of chopped red beets, either fresh or jarred (that’s pink). To a third, add two cups of frozen blueberries or blackberries (your blue). Bring the pots to boiling, then let them simmer five minutes.

4. For the fourth pot, boil the water separately, then turn off the heat and add the contents of six chlorophyll capsules, which can be found in natural-foods stores (that’s your green).

5. After everything has cooled, strain out the chunky bits, then add a teaspoon of vinegar to each the beets (pink) and berries (blue).

6. Dunk eggs. Maybe mark them with crayons for fun designs. Keep dunking and cross-dunking and letting them soak a bit until you get colors you like. Be happy.

*If you don’t have four pots, use a teapot to boil the water for the chlorophyll capsules. That one doesn’t need to simmer, so you can easily pour out two cups of water and mix the green in a separate bowl.

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60 thoughts on “Guest Post: Natural Easter Egg Dyes”

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  1. It’s not like we eat the shell though, is it really necessary? I tried the blueberries and turmeric last year on our brown eggs. the blueberries left a faint blue tint and the turmeric did not even show up at all.

    1. Blair: That’s really a personal choice, but dye often seeps through cracks in the shells, plus I’ve just grown wary of fake dye in general, so I’ve decided it’s worth the little extra effort to use natural dyes. It’s odd you didn’t have any luck with the blueberries and turmeric. In my experience, those two produce strong colors, even on brown eggs (though they will be more muted on darker shells). Did you follow these directions exactly?

  2. I am planning to dye eggs with my 2 year old using whipped cream (for a fun sensory experience). Is there a special way to make these dyes in a more concentrated form, or do I just use less water? I don’t want to water down my whipped cream, and I don’t want to use artificial dyes – which is typically what is used.

    1. Gina: Hmmm, not sure about that. You can purchase natural dye powders, so that might be your best bet if you’re set on the whipped cream. Otherwise I think it would get too watered down. Good luck!

  3. I put my eggs in a large pot and cover with water, fill to 2 inches above top of eggs. I bring the eggs to a roiling boil, remove from heat and cover. Let stand 12 – 15 minutes. Then I put the pot in the sink and add cold water, while pan is filling up I swish them gently around in the pot with my hand. Sometimes in the summer I add a tray of ice cubes to the water. In winter my tap water is ice cold (well water). I tap them gently on counter in several different areas, then roll them gently between my 2 hands. Peel gently, insuring you get the thin film under the egg shell. Never had a problem, works great every time.
    Your natural dyes for the eggs work great, even on fresh from the coop brown eggs.

  4. A related note – boiling eggs that are easy to peel and that have virtually no cracking make dyeing eggs more fun and more edible.

    Note: I never like hard boiled egg yolks that were so dry that you choked while eating them. Step four is the secret!

    Depending on the size of pan, how many eggs you boil, and stove flame intensity, times may vary for you. Also, since you’re working with boiling water, protect yourself. Oven mitts and long sleeves can protect you from boiling water splashes.

    1. Boil water (enough to cover 6 eggs by about 1 inch).

    2. Warm eggs to room temperature by using tap water…start cold and gradually increase temp ’till pretty hot (not all the way hot)…about 3-4 minutes. The last two minutes with hot temp.

    3. With a slotted spoon, carefully lower eggs, one by one, into boiling water.

    4. Boil eggs for about 12 minutes for a softer egg yolk (my favorite). About 15-16 minutes for hard egg yolk. Your times may vary.

    5. Before the eggs are done boiling, prepare a pan/bowl filled with water/ice that is will hold all the eggs. About 25% ice. Too much ice won’t leave enough room for eggs.

    6. Turn off heat. One by one using a slotted spoon, take eggs directly from hot pan and gently lower them into ice cold water.

    7. Let sit for about 10 minutes.

    8. Try starting peeling at the narrow end where there’s a gap between the shell and the egg. Tap on hard surface, if necessary.

    9. Great for dyeing and/or eating.

    9. Done!

  5. I tried dyeing eggs this way a couple of years ago and, while the colors were beautiful, they rubbed off! Where did I go wrong? (last year we used a pan of German watercolors to paint eggs–not the same, but the kids had fun)

    1. We’ve done natural dyes like this for the last 3 years and the colours always rub off for us as well. We’ve tried more vinegar, overnight soaking and various other things and the colours still rub off. I make sure to scrub the eggs before we start as well.
      Also, why on earth is it so difficult to find white eggs from well-raised chickens??

      1. Thanks. Yes, I know the colour of egg depends on the breed of chicken. Where I live, though, the only organic eggs available are brown eggs.
        Do you know why the vegetable colour would rub off?

      2. That’s great that it *shouldn’t* rub off, yet it does. For me, at least 3 years now, and for Kathleen, who originally asked about it. If it shouldn’t, what are we doing that is causing something that shouldn’t happen to happen?

  6. I did this last year and had success, but the trick is to use a bit more vinegar and store the eggs with the dye in mason jars overnight (or 2) in the fridge. They look pretty too, and the kids loved watching them get brighter. They looked cool in the glass mason jars!

  7. Last year we wrapped our eggs in onion skins (the whispy, dry part)and then in old tea towels and tied them with string. Boiled them like normal, and they were the most beautiful eggs. Some we put flower petals and grass inside the onion skins and they gave the eggs a little more color and design. We also used turmeric, canned blueberries/cherries. Haven’t had much luck with red cabbage….Now that we have gone “natural,” we will never go back!

  8. Thanks for posting. My daughter was asking about dying eggs. We haven’t done it in a few years. Will have to do a test batch to try it out. We get brown eggs now so I’m not sure how much colour will show.

  9. Have we forgotten that green is a secondary color and not a primary color? It doesn’t need it’s own pot, you can make green with yellow and blue.

    (Just like the reality show, The Great Escape. Two teams are stuck with primary colors that stick out for their tshirts, unlike the third team, which is blessed with green, the only nonprimary color, and a color that blends well with grass, when they’re escaping in grass fiends. Red and blue really stick out. Not exactly fair to the other 2 teams. I have not researched which color tshirts has won most often.)

  10. I read this post this year and the comments and ended up dying 15 dozen eggs for the neighborhood kids. It was fun. The yellow onion skins and cabbage I boiled for a bit. I did not warm up the water I added turmeric (yellow), paprika (light pink), beets and blueberries. I mixed a bit of the blueberry mixture and turmeric for a nice green. I did not strain any of the vegetable/fruit matter since I liked the texture they would leave on the eggs. The onion skins actually produced an orange color, not just a yellow. I didn’t dip the eggs but but the color in large bowls and let like a dozen eggs at a time sit for quite a while. It really was fun and I would do it again. My boyfriend had doubts and couldn’t figure out why I didn’t just by food coloring, LOL. Thanks for all the advice.

  11. Rebecca, it sounds like you tried a different method and different ingredients from what I detailed here. I know that spinach doesn’t work at all, so it’s possible some of your other ingredients weren’t effective, either. Or it could have been the dilution or any other number of things. Try the methods here next time! ;-)

  12. I did red onions which ended up very brown, and red cabbage which ended a pale blue, this was after I soaked them all night, My paprika, cumin & spinach did not pick up any colour at all. :( Maybe it was just me & the way I did it. The blue was beautiful & I was looking forward to the yellow but better luck next year, I could have put in too much water and maybe diluted it too much?

  13. Rebecca, I’m so sorry to hear this. Lots of other folks have told me they got great results, and that’s definitely been our experience as well. I’m trying to figure out what might have been different in your case. Which colors/ingredients did you try?

  14. I have followed the directions and after 4 hours of soaking, none of my eggs have picked up any colour … frustrating! :)

  15. Michelle: We eat our eggs, so that’s why we use natural dyes. The color won’t seep through a wholly intact eggshell, but most hardboiled eggs have some cracks, so the dye will get in that way. And for me, anyway, part of the appeal of using natural dyes is that you never know quite what color you’ll get, plus it’s a great way to teach kids about all the colors found in nature. From a pure food perspective, though, you’re right — no need to use natural dyes if you don’t plan to eat the eggs!

    1. Thanks for the answer, I feel much more informed now. Me and my toddler will have fun with easter egg dying knowing where the colors come from.

    2. Hi, I am also a little confused. In my too many to count years of dyeing eggs (and only new this past year to the real food thing also)I have never seen any dye on the egg whites when I’ve peeled them, unless of course there is a huge crack already in the shell due to getting knocked about when boiling – and then I don’t really want to eat an egg that has had the interior exposed to the air for days or weeks. But, I do think it would be fun, like you said, with using food as dyes would be not knowing what colors you’re going to get.

  16. Just curious, if you don’t plan on eating the eggs is it that important to use all natural dyes? I’m new to the real food thing so if it’s a silly question, please excuse me. And does the food dye really seep through the egg shell? I just find it so silly to waste food to color eggs? I saw on another blog someone that blew out the eggs and then used expensive natural food dyes and it really confused me. Pardon my ignorance….

  17. Leigh Anne: Crayons certainly have stuff in them that I wouldn’t want to ingest, but they won’t seep through cracks like a liquid dye would, so I don’t stress about it. And you can always buy all-natural crayons if that worries you!

  18. Im curious about writing on the egg with crayons…..I’m sure there is some serious dye in crayons and I know the kids aren’t eating the shell. I just wonder if maybe the crayons aren’t a great idea.

  19. Hi. I know why red cabbage turns blue! Well when you mix vinegar and the red cabbage a chemical reaction turns it blue. I found this out when I was cutting cabbage to eat. The tray that I cut it on had lots of cabbage juice. To kill the bacteria I put vinegar and baking soda on the tray and it turned the red cabbage juice into a beautiful blue! So that is how I figured out that red cabbage and vinegar mixed together turns the cabbage blue. Also, if you don’t want to buy disinfecting wipes then just mix vinegar and baking soda into a bottle. Vinegar and baking soda can kill germs and bacteria. So I hope this explains.

  20. Annalisa: Not stupid at all! I’ve never made them in advance, but I have soaked eggs in the dye in the fridge overnight (to deepen the color). And that worked great. So I’m guessing you could make them ahead.

  21. this might be stupid but can I make these in advance (like a couple days)? We go camping for our “religous” observation of easter and this would be easier if I had them ready?

  22. For Church (Eastern Orthodox) I dye 8-9 dozen eggs with yellow onion skins. This is very traditional for the priest to hand out on Pascha (Eastern Orthodox Easter). I make my dye by boiling a couple handfuls of the skins until the water is deep brown/red. I cool it. Then I put eggs in (I do 18 or so at a time) and boil as you would to hard boil eggs. I use my own brown chicken eggs for this. They all turn out so beautiful…dark reddish/brown.

  23. There is also the Armenian tradition of hard boiling the eggs with onion peels. The eggs take on the color of the peels, so you have to options of a great yellow color, and a vibrant red. The eggs take on a hint of an onion flavor.

  24. We’ve been been travelling too much for work this year so we didn’t get to it, but last year we made our own natural dyes: beets (red), red cabbage (a great blue, believe it or not), tumeric (yellow), and yellow onion skin (orange), as well as green and purple by mixing. We also sidestepped the issue of needing many pots by using canning jars.

    Naturally Colored Easter Eggs

  25. You have no idea how happy I am to read this post! I was just wondering yesterday what to do about eggs this year. Thank you so much!

  26. Shauna: With brown eggs, you’ll get deeper colors, and you may have to soak them a bit longer, too. And brown eggs tend to do best with reds and blues, I’ve found. The ones in my picture above all started off white, beige or pastel, but mostly beige and pastel, so you definitely don’t need to get new eggs! Half the fun of natural dyes, I think, is seeing the color variations that develop both from the dyes themselves and from the eggshells.

    (Thanks again, Lisa, for the opportunity to share this with your readers!)

  27. How do the brown eggs turn out with the natural colorings? I have 4 dozen local pastured eggs in my fridge – some green, some brown, speckled, etc…but no “true” white and I was dreading having to get more eggs – just to get white ones to dye.

  28. Thank you! I tried this last year with mild success, so I was planning to look for a new method this year. I’m excited to try this out! Someone shared your top 7 reasons…food dyes, which is how I found your site. Thanks for all the excellent info!

      1. 100 Days of Real Food

        That’s okay! Yes, the Matthews Farmers’ Market does sell great local pastured eggs…just be sure to get there early before they run out!