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Homemade Food Coloring (All Natural + Vegan)

By |March 25th, 2016|

Some years ago I wrote what is still one of the most popular articles ever written on Your Daily Vegan, Warning: What You Don’t Know About Food Coloring. The article is all about how artificial food coloring is tested on animals and how you can make food colors yourself at home with stuff you probably already have in your fridge.

I know, I know: I talk about animal testing a lot.

I’ve talked about how honey is tested on animals and I’m constantly talking about how artificial food colors are tested on animals. Seriously, animal testing sucks and can yield dangerous results when physicians treat patients using medicine based on the results of these studies.

I mention these things a lot because not everyone knows how pervasive animal testing really is. More than just health & beauty products and medications are tested on animals, we should be talking about that.

It’s the whole “the more you know the more informed choices you can make” thing.

A Quick Note About Artificial Food Coloring

Hold on, before I get too far; please don’t send me hate mail — yes, it happens — with a bunch of angry emoji faces saying, “what is wrong with you?! if something is tested on animals that doesn’t mean that it’s not vegan!!!” Honestly, please stop.

Here’s the thing: Veganism is an ethical philosophy that begins with the idea that humans shouldn’t be using animals in any way. If we are testing artificial food colors on animals, then we are using animals. While it’s true, nearly every substance we consume was once tested on animals at some point; this doesn’t mean we should continue to consume something that we know is currently being tested on animals like artificial food colors are.

As an aside, if you’ve never read my article on artificial food coloring, please do. I talk about the seven most commonly used synthetic food colors that you’ve seen on some the ingredient labels of your favorite foods. Find out how artificial food colors are made, where you’ll see them used, and which animals are used to test their safety on. Spoiler Alert: The tests performed on animals results in the death of 100% of the animal participants.

Artificial food colors are unnecessary, toxic to our health, and tested on animals. There’s a better way, I promise. Let me show you how.

Homemade Food Coloring Tutorial | Your Daily Vegan

Since I dislike artificial food colors so much, I thought I’d show you how to make your own homemade DIY food colors. Like a pretty food color tutorial if you will. None of these colors are hard to make and they won’t hurt you, your family, or any poor animal destined for a life in a lab. Bonus, they’re cheaper than buying the pre-made versions too!

So, let’s talk all natural and vegan food colors.

How to Make Homemade Food Colors

Homemade Food Coloring Tutorial | Your Daily Vegan

Look at those colors! Yellow, blue, red, purple, and green. All of the colors can be made at home with simple ingredients found in your fridge or pantry. No weird synthetic chemicals required.

And since you’re looking, check out those miniature mason jars! Adorable! My love of all things tiny has been long documented on this blog, so really you should have expected that from me by now ;)

Let’s take a look at how to make each color. Trust me, it’s not complicated or expensive.

All Natural DIY Red or Pink Food Dye

Homemade Food Coloring Tutorial | Your Daily Vegan

Of all the colors, red is probably the easiest to make. Beet juice is the best choice because it will give you the most in-depth red color, although cherry juice will work just as well. However, it’s more expensive.

To make red food coloring, just run one beet through a juicer and use the juice in the same way you would other synthetic dyes.

If you don’t have a juicer, no worries. Just wash and thoroughly scrub one organic beet. Next, place a paper towel over a large plate. You could use a thin, clean dishtowel as well but keep in mind that it will be stained red. Using a box grater, finely grate beet onto the paper towel taking care not to get any on the countertop. Once the beet is grated, gently pull the paper towel around the beets and squeeze the beet juice into a separate bowl. Easy peasy.

Homemade Food Coloring Tutorial | Your Daily Vegan

I like to mix the beet juice three parts beet juice to one part apple juice to help sweeten the taste of the red coloring. This way you won’t end up with an underlying beet flavor to your pretty red foods. I tend to use red apples in my food colors because of their sweetness, but green ones would work just as well too.

It needs to be said that you don’t have to sweeten your beet juice to use it as food coloring. In fact, using straight beet juice will give you a darker, more vivid red color. Plus, beet juice doesn’t taste awful. But it’s nice to have options so now you have two. Choose the method that will best match the recipe you’re using it in.

The icing in the above photo was made using organic confectioners sugar, organic corn syrup, and red homemade food coloring in a ratio of 3 parts beet juice to one part red apple juice. Adjust the apple juice ratio to achieve different shades of red, including pink.

All Natual DIY Yellow Food Dye

Homemade Food Coloring Tutorial | Your Daily Vegan

Much like homemade red food dye, making a vibrant yellow dye is easy too. The first thing you’ll need to get your hands on is some turmeric. Fresh or powdered, it doesn’t matter. Either will work with this method.

You’ll find powdered turmeric in the spice section of the grocery store. Pro tip: Buy your spices in bulk whenever you can. It’s insanely cheap to do so because you are only paying for what you need and not the packaging. Or, skip the powdered turmeric and go fresh. Fresh turmeric is where the fresh garlic is located, it looks a bit like an orange ginger root.

Fresh & Grated Turmeric Root | Photo: The Kitchn | Your Daily Vegan

Fresh & Grated Turmeric Root (Photo: The Kitchn)

Turmeric has a very strong taste, especially when it’s fresh. To balance its strong flavor, I mix fresh apple juice with the turmeric juice just like I do when I make the homemade red food color from beets. I use the same 3 to 1 ratio too, only in reverse. For a bright, vivid yellow food color, use 3 parts fresh apple juice to one part fresh turmeric juice.

If you are using powdered turmeric, don’t worry, you can still get a bright, vivid yellow color by mixing it with apple juice. However, you won’t use the same ratio. Instead, stir a tiny amount of powdered turmeric in a small amount of fresh apple juice and mix well. Start with the tiniest amount possible and see what the color looks like and adjust until you get the color you’re looking for.

Keep in mind, you won’t need a lot of apple juice when mixing up the color so only make as much as you need. A little color can go a long way.

Homemade Food Coloring Tutorial | Your Daily Vegan

This icing in the above photo was made using organic powdered sugar, organic corn syrup, and a few drops of the homemade yellow food coloring. The yellow dye was made with the juice from one red apple (not all of it – only a few tablespoons because that’s all I needed) and a scant amount of fresh turmeric juice. As you can see, the yellow color is bright and vivid!

All Natural DIY Green Food Dye

Homemade Food Coloring Tutorial | Your Daily Vegan

Honestly, I’m starting to feel bad even calling these food colors recipes they’re so simple. Homemade green food coloring can be made using an array of foods like matcha or green tea powder, or the juice of green vegetables such as kale or spinach. One ingredient and done.

Some people have said that they can taste the kale or spinach of the food coloring in the foods that have been dyed, but this has never been my experience. If you are concerned that your green food coloring will leave a “too green” taste to the foods it’s used in, simply use the apple juice method to sweeten things up.

All Natural Green Food Dye - Homemade Food Coloring Tutorial | Your Daily Vegan

I used one part green apple juice to three parts kale juice to make the green food coloring you see in the photo above. The icing was made using organic powdered sugar, organic corn syrup, and 4 – 5 drops of the green food color. You can adjust the color of the green by using color — add yellow for a spring green color or blue for a pretty teal color — or by changing the ratio of color to apple juice. Keep tweaking until you get the color you’re looking for.

All Natural DIY Purple Food Dye

All Natural Purple Food Dye - Homemade Food Coloring Tutorial | Your Daily Vegan

Look, pretty homemade purple food coloring! Both purple and blue food coloring are made from the same ingredient but in very different ways. Believe it or not, they’re both made using purple cabbage.

Yup, purple cabbage and it’s super easy to do, too. Here’s how.

Pull off four or five outer leaves of the cabbage and run them under cold water to remove any dirt. Next, give the leaves a rough chop and toss them in a pot with two cups of filtered water.

Bring the pot of water to boil and then simmer for 5 – 10 minutes. Remove the leaves and the water that remains is a deep, deep purple. Pour it into a glass jar and let it cool down completely.

Congratulations, you now have all natural purple food coloring.

All Natural Purple Food Dye - Homemade Food Coloring Tutorial | Your Daily Vegan

Generally speaking, I don’t mix the purple with apple juice because I want the deepest purple color possible. The purple food color is going to smell like cooked cabbage because, well, that’s what it’s made from.

To test whether or not you could taste the cabbage in a dyed food, I made the icing above using organic confectioner’s sugar, organic corn syrup, with a small amount of the purple food color and asked a friend to taste it. She wasn’t able to detect the flavor of cabbage, and neither did I.

I know I keep saying how pretty these homemade food colors turn out but they really do. This purple is just as pretty as those artificial concoctions and it’s made with some something I’m not afraid to eat. Solid.

All Natural Blue Food Dye

All Natural Blue Food Dye - Homemade Food Coloring Tutorial | Your Daily Vegan

Last, but certainly not least, blue. That’s right unicorns; you can finally have pretty blue for your confections! While blue is trickier than the other colors, it’s still easy to do.

You’ll start out the same way as you would the purple color, by washing and chopping a few red cabbage leaves, placing them in a pot with two cups of filtered water, and boiling them for 5 – 10 minutes. Then you’ll set it aside to cool completely.

Cooling the purple color is very important. If the purple color is even slightly warm, the blue color won’t process correctly. Once the purple color is completely cool, pour it into a mixing bowl. Add the tiniest amount of baking soda possible, and whisk until thoroughly dissolved.

The color change from purple to blue is almost immediate, so you’ll be able to tell what shade of blue it is pretty quick.

All Natural Blue Food Dye - Homemade Food Coloring Tutorial | Your Daily Vegan

Be careful in the amount of baking soda you use. Only use just the amount you need to get the blue color you’re looking for because adding too much could mean that you’ll be tasting it later in the food you’ve dyed.

No one wants to have a sweet baking soda-flavored cookie, trust me. Gross.

To get the blue color above, I added 1/8 teaspoon (maybe less) of baking soda to my purple base. Next, I made a batch of test icing using the same recipe as all the others only using the homemade blue dye. I was satisfied that I couldn’t taste any baking soda, and neither could my taste tester. Just be cautious when mixing and you’ll be fine.

But look! Blue! So pretty!

Want More DIY Food Dye Colors?

Of course, there are more homemade food dyes color choices than I’ve covered here, but it’s pretty easy to use these basics to make other colors.

If you’re looking for orange color, mix yellow and red colors. If you are looking for black, mix them all together or use swiss chard juice. Just be aware that swiss chard juice is super, super bitter so use it sparingly. If you want brown, use coffee or tea.

The possibilities are endless.

How Long do the Colors Last?

Good question! These colors are made only from natural ingredients, so they won’t last as long as their artificial counterparts. I make mine the same day that I want to use them because I’m interested in the most vibrant color possible.

If you must, you can store some of the colors for about a week in an air-tight container in the fridge. The red, yellow, purple, and green will probably keep but the blue will absolutely not. For best results, use blue the same day you make it.

Keep in mind, pre-making colors and storing them in the fridge is not what I recommend, so store these colors at your own risk.

What About Pre-Made Colors?

Does the thought of juicing and mixing to create your own homemade food colors make you cringe? If you would prefer to buy natural food colors, no problem. India Tree has a full line of food coloring and sprinkles that are colored with vegetable juice or spices and contains no synthetic dyes. These are the food dyes and sprinkles that I use and I love them.

A note about India Tree products, not all of their product line is vegan-friendly. Some of the colored sprinkles contain beeswax, so be sure to check the label prior to purchasing. Look for sprinkles made with raw sugar and carnauba wax, which is made from the leaves of the palm plant.

The India Tree Decorating Sugars Variety Set and this 3-pack of India Tree Natural Decorating Colors Set make a great starter set combo and are both vegan-friendly and free of artificial junk.

Show Me Your Colors!

I hope I’ve shown you how easy it is to get pretty colors from plants. If you run into any trouble, have any questions, or want to show off your pretty colored confection please just leave me a comment or find me on Twitter. Better yet, tag me on Instagram using #yourdailyvegan!

This article contains affiliate links; I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Thank you for the support! Read my full affiliate disclaimer.

Homemade Food Coloring Tutorial

About the Author:

Founder & Creator of Your Daily Vegan. Twitter: @YourDailyVegan

24 Comments

  1. […] also love DIY Natural Dyes at Home. Many ingredients are already in your pantry or […]

  2. […] Vegan purple food dye (try mixing these blue and red […]

  3. elizabeth March 25, 2018 at 4:13 am - Reply

    thank you for posting this. anyone who sends you hate mail or anything critical because you are trying to save animals is not worth paying attention to!!! no one should have to apologize for trying to make the world a more humane place.

  4. ElaineG November 28, 2017 at 10:37 am - Reply

    Can any of the colors be frozen? Many of these ingredients can be frozen. If so, would it matter if the liquid is stored in glass or BPA-free plastic? How long might the true color hold and still be fresh when defrosted?

    • KD Angle Traegner November 29, 2017 at 11:08 am - Reply

      I have never tried to freeze the colors before, so I’m not sure it would work. My initial thought is that the extra water from freezing/unfreezing would water down the color (and anything else it was added to)…but this is just a guess. I recommend trying it and then letting me know ;) I’ll update this post if/when you do!

  5. Esther sch October 30, 2017 at 1:54 pm - Reply

    Thank you for all the info. I have everything I need to make a LEGO vegan cake!

  6. […] controversial ingredients, like artificial green food coloring, all you have to do is make your own plant-based green food coloring using either spinach or kale. Just juice either one of those vegetables and add a dash of the juice […]

  7. […] controversial ingredients, like artificial green food coloring, all you have to do is make your own plant-based green food coloring using either spinach or kale. Just juice either one of those vegetables and add a dash of the juice […]

  8. Jen May 29, 2017 at 9:09 am - Reply

    As for green, I actually like to use pandan leaves.
    I live at Southeast Asia, so pandan is easier to find than kale…
    But thanks for the blue coloring. You just saved my vegan unicorn ;)

  9. marissa May 5, 2017 at 4:10 pm - Reply

    Will these maybe work in candles?

    • KD Angle Traegner May 5, 2017 at 6:03 pm - Reply

      Hi Marissa! Honestly, I don’t know if these would work for candles. You could try to reduce them greatly into a thick syrup and try it. If it works out, let me know! Good luck!

  10. […] are an astounding amount of healthy, whole-food ways to dye frostings, cakes, and drinks at home! Here is a super cool link to get you […]

  11. rawraj December 18, 2016 at 11:09 am - Reply

    Have you tried boiling them and reducing them? Anyways thanks for the post this encourages me to boil them and reduce them so that they also lose their strong flavors I am assuming and the color would also become intense. Maybe if you want to use them sweets then adding sugar and making them into a colored syrup would also help with masking the original taste

  12. Tina December 7, 2016 at 1:21 am - Reply

    Green tea powder would also be a good substitute for green coloring.

  13. […] Source: Homemade Food Coloring (All Natural + Vegan) […]

  14. Chance August 23, 2016 at 3:22 am - Reply

    Could i use these for soap dying?

    • KD Angle Traegner August 23, 2016 at 1:15 pm - Reply

      Chance- I’ve never tried to use them for soap dying before so I can’t say for sure that they’d work. That said, I’ve accidentally dyed light colored towels yellow using turmeric so maybe. I’d think you want to use a more concentrated form of color in soaps so that there is less liquid? I’d omit any of the apple juice in my recipes if that is the case. If you try it let me know how it goes, I’d be interested to know.

  15. The Hill March 28, 2016 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the info. I will give them a go. I think it will take a few tries to perfect – if they should really be used the day they are made, then it sounds like it will be hard to make it in tiny amounts each time without creating waste.

    I have used turmeric for yellow colouring before when making vegan cream eggs. But I was so afraid of the taste being overpowering I was too sparing with it and no one noticed my ‘yolks’ at all. I comforted myself by deciding that I didn’t want to make something that looked like an egg anyway because that’s not very vegan…

    • KD Traegner March 28, 2016 at 6:44 pm - Reply

      It won’t be too hard to use the “leftovers” from the juice if you like to drink fresh juices. That’s what I did, I dumped all the extra into one glass and enjoy :) If you try them out, let me know how it goes!

  16. N March 26, 2016 at 7:36 am - Reply

    OMG !! I *want* the blue thing so bad !!! I am always coloring my ice creams, sour cream, kulfis, cakes, and other desserts a vibrant pink with beet or green with spinach !! Have to try your method for the blue, it’s too pretty !!

    • KD Traegner March 26, 2016 at 8:33 am - Reply

      Glad to give you another option! I can’t wait to see what you create! I have plans to make aquafaba fluff with the purple :)

  17. saniel March 26, 2016 at 7:16 am - Reply

    How long do these last? Can I make week in advance? What about storage cabinet or fridge -how long? 6 months – year. How to incorporate in other recipes- links to your royal icing, cookies, marshmellow dye and other treats. Thanks

    • KD Traegner March 26, 2016 at 8:32 am - Reply

      The red, yellow, and purple last about a week in the fridge. The blue you must use immediately. For the richest colors I’d use them all immediately and not store any of them. You use these as you would any other food coloring so simply add as much or as little as you want to the item you are coloring. Keep in mind, these are not concentrated so if you are adding a lot to a recipe, compensate for the extra liquid by reducing the liquid somewhere else. You can find a recipe for my royal icing here -> https://www.yourdailyvegan.com/2012/12/the-ultimate-vegan-sugar-cut-out-cookie-with-royal-icing/ Thanks for the comments/questions :)

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