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!
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 :)
These were our supplies…
- 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!
- 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. :)