A few years ago we published a guest post that explained the process for dyeing Easter eggs naturally. The outcome in that post was a pretty rainbow of pastel colors, and today I wanted to set out to see exactly what it took to result in bright, vibrant colors.
The Right Expectations
Before we dive in though I think it’s important to set the right expectations. We all know when you use the packaged artificial Easter egg dyes that you dunk in your hard-boiled eggs and in no time at all you’ve got a rainbow of colors.
BUT, as I’ve learned, when it comes to using natural dyes it can take hours to achieve those same bright colors. So if you’re an “instant gratification” kind of person just know that this is instead a fun kitchen project that will take some time, but be rewarding when you’re all done!
When you’re ready to make these, make sure print out your free copy of instructions at the bottom of this post!
A Word of Caution: What Does Not Work
After looking through several different natural egg dye tutorials (including our own) I figured out they all wanted you to start with hard-boiled eggs and then go on to boil different types of food to make the colored water. So I thought to myself I’d outsmart them all by skipping the first step of boiling the egg by itself. Haha, well as it turns out the joke’s on me.
I bought ready-to-eat beets, chopped them up a little, and put them in a small pot with a couple bright white eggs and boiled them away. Let me tell you what the color of the water was as rich as blood – but even after the full 15 minutes those bright white eggs came out …bright white! So I would not recommend trying that. :)
How to Make Vibrant Colors
We referenced the egg dye post from The Kitchn for this experiment, and as you’ll see below only 2 of our 3 colors turned out as we’d hoped. And by “we” I mean my husband and me – he had to jump in and “save the day” when I suddenly had to leave town before I could fully finish this project! Oops :)
- 3 wide month pint jars: They just barely fit 3 eggs and 1 1/4 cups of dye each.
- 9 hard-boiled eggs: Yes, boil them in advance – see above!
- 1 cup onion peel (from 2 onions): This created the yellow/orange color, although ours turned pretty orange so for yellow try less time. Bonus – use the rest of the onion for something else!
- 1 cup thinly sliced red cabbage: This created the blue color.
- 1 – 15 ounce can of beets + juice: This was supposed to be pink, but instead gave us an icky brown color. I guess I am forever cursed when trying to dye Easter eggs with beets!
Check out both our original post and the other inspiration post for more ideas on how to make different colors.
- Combine the food ingredient (such as onion peel or sliced cabbage) with 1 1/2 cups of water in a small pot. Bring to a light boil and then lower to a simmer, and cook covered for to 20 minutes.
Note: If you don’t cover the pot you will need to add more water as it will boil off. Also, you could boil for less time (i.e. 10 min) for lighter colors or more time (i.e. 30 min) for darker colors.
- When done, pour the dyed water through a strainer (discard or save the food), add 2 tablespoons of white distilled vinegar, and cool to room temperature.
Note: We accidentally added the vinegar before boiling the food by mistake, but (thankfully) it still worked.
- Place 3 hardboiled eggs in each jar, cover with the different batches of colored water, and affix the lid. Let soak for a few hours or up to overnight, depending on desired color intensity (see below).
How Long to Let Them Soak
Blue: Made From Red Cabbage
Orange: Made from Onion Peel
As you can see – it depends! But I think that’s part of the fun of dyeing your eggs naturally. It’s exciting to see how each batch turns out after so much soaking, and hopefully these examples give you an idea of what to expect (and how much results can vary).
Our full batch, including the beet ones (in the back) that turned brown!
Why Use Natural Dyes?
I know someone is going to ask me why using natural dyes matters when you don’t even eat the shell. While I haven’t personally conducted any studies to see how much dye seeps into to the edible part of the egg, this is just another area of my life where I wanted to ditch the factory-made conventional stuff.
I do passionately hate artificial dyes in food so going through this extra effort for Easter just seemed like the right thing to do. I also thought it was a pretty enjoyable kitchen project with a fun element of surprise! To each their own. :)
DIY Natural Easter Egg Dye
- Small pot
- 3 Wide mouth pint jars
- 1 cup onion peel from 2 onions, created the yellow/orange color
- 1 cup red cabbage thinly sliced, created the blue color
- 1 15 ounce can beets plus juice, created the brown color
- 9 hard-boiled eggs white and brown eggs will produce different results
- Combine the food ingredient (such as onion peel or sliced cabbage) with 1 1/2 cups of water in a small pot. Bring to a light boil and then lower to a simmer, and cook covered for to 20 minutes. See notes about color variation based on boil time.
- When done, pour the dyed water through a strainer (discard or save the food), add 2 tablespoons of white distilled vinegar, and cool to room temperature. Note: We accidentally added the vinegar before boiling the food by mistake, but (thankfully) it still worked.
- Place 3 hardboiled eggs in each jar, cover with the different batches of colored water, and affix the lid. Let soak for a few hours or up to overnight, depending on desired color intensity.
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39 thoughts on “How to Make Bright Colors with Natural Easter Egg Dye”
What about artichokes, has anyone ever tried using soaking the eggs in the cooking water?
We got a lovely pinkish red on white eggs last year using steeped dried hibiscus flowers (jamaica) that you can buy in the herb bulk bins at natural foods stores or open up a bag of Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger tea!
We always add peeled boiled eggs to the remaining liquid when we finish a hat of pickled beets …makes gorgeous eggs … And delicious … Pink through to the yolk.
A jar of beets not a hat! Lol
I am assuming you put the egg jars in the refrigerator? Overnight seems a bit long for them to be out.
Hi there. Yes, put them in the fridge.
Your eggs are beautiful. I can’t figure out why the beet juice is giving you troubles when it works so well for us. I always use a Tbs. of white vinegar in the dye bath because (if I’m remembering correctly) it opens up the pores of the egg to allow the dye to penetrate better. However, our favorite way to dye eggs is to dye them with the shells on, then, when we are ready to eat them, remove the peels and dye again. This is where the beet juice looks the prettiest–and a very valid reason for using natural dyes. In fact, I’m responsible for the class snack today and I have to go dye the cooked whites for Deviled eggs!
When you dye the cooked whites does it change the flavour? I’ve never done this but think that would be fun! Has anyone tried blowing the eggs empty first? I was gonna make a frittata and thought we could dye the shells, does that work?
My sister bought me fresh, organic eggs from the Queens County Farm in Queens, NY. THey are naturally beautiful colors. Next year I am going to just buy these and boil them!!
I have had success with all colors I’ve tried except for any of the greens but I will try using the brown egg with red cabbage for that green! I was trying to put a picture of ours eggs this year but it won’t let me.
so fun! such a variety. i never would’ve thought of red cabbage for a blue dye. lovely when things can be natural. great post, and happy Easter!
Great ideas! I think your labels are incorrect for the onion though. You forgot the brown egg I think. I got the picture though. I was thinking Turmeric for yellow but it does stain almost everything so you have to be careful. Great to know about the vinegar helping the dye soak in.
Artificial food dyes are pretty much the devil in my opinion! It’s great to have natural alternatives for kiddos to work with.
They’re beautiful! I found another blogger who also had some good recipes for natural dye: http://84thand3rd.com/2013/03/11/6-food-based-dyes-for-easter-eggs-fabric/
My mom used to do it every Easter. I’ve just asked and the method is this – boil onion peels, the more the better, leave boiling for about 10 minutes
– put eggs in and hard build them in the onion peel water
– cool down and polish with paper towel and a tiny bit of oil
No artificial colour in sight, eggs are beautiful shiny and each a different shade – tomorrow I can post picture of mine :-)
I used fresh beets last year and they turned out a beautiful deep pink color. This year I’m doing red cabbage, a beet, turmeric and onion skins (browny-orange). I’ll also try carrot tops, they’re supposed to make bright yellow but I’ve never used them before.
Something else I’m repeating this year – gather up small leaves, flat flowers (like daisies), ferns, etc and lay them on the egg. Slip both into a bit of panty hose, tie the ends so that the flower is held tightly to the egg, and then put it in the dye solution. You will end up with wonderful designs on the egg. My favorites last year were the ferns and daisies. This post explains it better – http://www.inhabitots.com/how-to-dye-easter-eggs-naturally-with-leaf-imprints/
As for the artificial dye seeping into the egg itself, I vividly remember peeling conventionally-dyed Easter eggs and finding that the colors had gone through the shell and onto the egg white. As a kid, I thought it was pretty cool to eat a multicolored egg! Now, of course, I know better and won’t use the regular dyes anymore.
We tried red cabbage, red onion skins, blueberries, turmeric and spinach. Red onion skins gave white eggs a sienna brown color (not exactly the Easter hue we were going for :). I loved the red cabbage ones and the turmeric ones the best. Somehow my blueberry dye didn’t penetrate very well and sat on the surface of the shell and bubbled up. I wonder if chili powder or paprika would give the red or pink. It was fun.
The key to good color with beets is to use fresh beets, chopped, about 3 or 4 to about 4 c. water. Simmer 30 min., cool and add 2 Tbsp. vinegar. (The longer you leave the egg in, the deeper the color.) Don’t forget to pull the beets out and add them to your dinner salad.
Beets work amazing!! BUT you need to use FRESH BEETS!. Just slice them, put them in the microwave, and use the juice from the beets. Works great for pink frosting also. These make a beautiful pink (even looks artificial!).
I love these ideas!
For the eggs soaked overnight, did you leave them at room temp? If so, are they still okay to eat after that? Or did you refrigerate and soak them? Thanks for the great tips!
Hi Kim. Hard boiled eggs should be refrigerated. Soak them overnight.
these colors are gorgeous!
looks like fun! Just wondering if there’s a typo in the Orange eggs. On the far right, did you mean a brown egg soaked overnight? Both of the end eggs say a white egg soaked over night. If not a Islam, how interesting that they turned out so different.
Oops, didn’t catch the autocorrect! “If not a Islam” should be “if not a typo”
It was not a typo and yes different results with the same color egg! :)
I love the set of 3 that soaked in the red cabbage! They are beautiful, especially the brown one!
Just clarifying, the brown egg that ended up green. :)
The artificial dye kits often recommend 1 tbsp of vinegar to enhance the color. I believe it makes the egg shell more permeable. I’m wondering if that technique would work with the natural dyes also?
I think I’m going to attempt to use turmeric, paprika, and maybe even some grape juice today…with our farm-fresh brown eggs. We shall see how they turn out!! We’ve only used the artificial dyes in the past.
I read that raspberries, cranberries and red onion skins will give you nice reds to pinks.
Our favorite natural egg dyes are:
Blueberries that are mashed and simmered makes a blue dye
Tumeric that is simmered makes a bright golden orange dye
These are strong enough that they do not need to soak too long before the color begins to soak in. Tumeric, though is a strong enough dye that it will also discolor the pots/containers that you are using.
I wast just thinking about using both blueberries and turmeric! Glad to hear they work.
Anyone have luck with pink or red colors?
I used beets and they turned out as a beautiful deep pink. And our blueberries ones were a great shade of purple. Here’s link (it’s really old I don’t blog anymore :) ) for how ours turned out. http://thoughtsunperfected.blogspot.com/2010/04/our-easter-eggs.html?m=1
Have you tried the natural dies sold? I recently bought one on amazon called India Tree but I haven’t tried it yet.
I mean ‘dyes.’ When did I become so illiterate?
I have not tried that brand for eggs (does that exist?) but I have used it for frosting and such.
It is the food dye. I was going to try it on the eggs.
I started making natural egg dye myself, then 3 years ago I saw this kit for $6 at whole foods.
It was cheaper then buying produce to make my own dyes, not to mention the time I saved. The kit contains 4 dyes, blue red, green and orange/yellow (depending on how long you leave the eggs in). The dye comes powdered and then you add 1/2 cup of hot water (NARROW cups/glasses are necessary to fully submerge egg). Eggs are submerged for 15-20 minutes. This year Whole Foods was charging $8.50 for the kit, pricey, but still better then having to make my own dye!
Sorry, it includes VIOLET dye not red.