Homemade Food Coloring (All Natural + Vegan)

By Published On: 25 March 2016Last Updated: 18 May 2023

Let me show you how to make all natural homemade food coloring from plants! Yup, vegan food coloring! Pictures and tutorials included!

What's in this post

First things first, friends

Some years ago, I wrote one of the most popular articles on this site, Warning: What You Don’t Know About Food Coloring. The article is about how artificial food coloring is tested on animals, and it’s possible to make them at home with stuff you probably already have in the 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 because not everyone knows how pervasive animal testing 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 make” thing.

A quick note about artificial food colors

Before I get too far, please don’t send me hate mail with 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 don’t.

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, we use animals. And 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 use products we know are currently being tested on animals, like artificial food colors.

If this is all new to you, read this article about artificial food coloring. In it, you’ll learn about the seven most commonly found food dyes in some of your favorite foods. And you’ll discover how these food dyes are tested on animals. Spoiler alert; the tests cause death in 100% of the animal participants.

Artificial food colors are unnecessary, toxic to our health, and tested on animals.

There’s a better way.

A colorful array of vegan food dyes / Source

Introduction to homemade food colors

Since I hate artificial food colors, I thought I’d show you how to make DIY 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!

Let’s talk about all-natural and vegan food colors.

Look at those colors! Yellow, blue, red, purple, and green. All colors can be made at home with simple ingredients in your fridge or pantry—no weird synthetic chemicals are 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 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.

Red food dye / Source

All-natural red and pink food dye

Of all the colors, red is probably the easiest to make. Beet juice is the best choice because it will give you the most deep red color, although cherry juice will also work. However, cherry juice is more expensive.

To make red food coloring, run a raw beet through a juicer. Use the beet juice in the same manner as you would synthetic dyes.

If you don’t own a juicer, you can use this method to extract juice from raw beets. Start by placing a paper towel over a large plate. You could also use a clean tea towel but keep in mind that beets stain. Using a box grater, finely grate a raw beet onto the paper towel taking care not to get any on the counter. Once grated, gently pull the paper towel around the grated beet and squeeze the juice into a bowl.

Easy, peasy.

Also easy is buying a bottle of pre-made beet juice, though I found that making your yields the best results.

Icing made with confectioners sugar, corn syrup, and homemade red food coloring using a ratio of three parts beet juice to one part red apple juice / Source

Tips for using homemade red food dye

To help sweeten the flavor of beet juice, mix one part apple juice with three parts beet juice. I tend to use red apples in food dyes because of their sweetness, but green ones would also work. Adjust the ratio of apple juice to beet juice to achieve different shades of red, including pink.

It should be noted that it isn’t necessary to sweeten the beet juice before use. Straight beet juice offers a darker, more vivid red color. And since beet juice doesn’t taste awful on its own, it’s fine to use as is. But it’s nice to have options, so now you have two. Choose the method that works best with the recipe you’re using.

Yellow food dye / Source

All-natural yellow food dye

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.

Pro tip: Buy your spices in bulk whenever you can. It’s insanely cheap to do so because you only pay for what you need, not the packaging.

You’ll find powdered turmeric in the spice section of the grocery store. Or, skip the powdered turmeric and go fresh. Fresh turmeric is located alongside fresh garlic; it looks like a pretty orange ginger root.

Icing made with confectioners sugar, corn syrup, and homemade yellow food coloring using apple juice and powdered turmeric / Source

Tips for using homemade yellow food dye

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

Powdered turmeric will still yield a bright, vivid yellow color. You’ll use the same method of combining it with apple juice; however, you won’t use the same ratios. Instead, start with the amount of apple juice you’ll need for the amount of coloring you want. Next, add the tiniest amount of turmeric and stir well. Add more turmeric as necessary to achieve the color you’re looking for.

Remember, you won’t need a lot of apple juice, only make as much as you need. With turmeric, a little color goes a long way.

If you’re looking for orange food dye, mix some yellow and red food dyes together until you get the shade you want.

Green food dye / Source

All-natural green food dye

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. You could opt for powders like matcha or green tea. Or, use the juice of green vegetables such as kale or spinach. One ingredient and done.

Just to let you know, some people claim that they can taste the kale or spinach juice in foods that have been dyed using this method. However, this has never been my experience. If you are concerned that your green food coloring will have a “too green” taste, simply use the apple juice method to sweeten things up.

Icing made with confectioners sugar, corn syrup, and homemade green food coloring made from kale juice / Source

Tips for using homemade green food dye

You can change the color of green by becoming a mixologist. For a pretty spring green color, mix yellow and blue dyes together. Or, if you’re going for a lovely teal color, mix blue and green together. Remember that using the apple juice method for sweetening will dilute the color ever so slightly. Add more or less juice to achieve the perfect level of color.

Keep tweaking the color until you get the exact shade of green you’re looking for.

Purple food dye / Source

All-natural purple food dye

I have to be honest; while I love all colors, I really love this pretty purple food coloring. Interestingly, both purple and blue food dyes come from the same ingredient but are used in very different ways. And believe it or not, that ingredient is purple cabbage.

Yes, purple cabbage.

Here’s how to do it. Start by removing the cabbage’s four or five outer leaves and washing them to remove any dirt. Next, give the leaves a rough chop and dump them into a pot. Add two cups of water to the pot. Then boil the pot of water and cabbage, and simmer for five to ten minutes. After ten minutes, turn off the heat and remove the cabbage leaves from the pot.

Don’t discard the water! It should be a deep, deep purple. Pour the water into a heat-safe jar or bowl and allow it to cool completely.

Congratulations, you now have all-natural purple food coloring that’s ready to use.

Icing made with confectioners sugar, corn syrup, and homemade purple food coloring made from purple cabbage / Source

Tips for using homemade purple food dye

Generally speaking, I don’t use the apple juice method when making purple food color because I want the deepest color possible. And you should be aware that the purple color will smell like cooked cabbage because that’s what it’s made from.

To test whether or not the cabbage flavors foods dyed with this color, I made my standard royal icing. Then I asked a friend to taste the icing. They couldn’t detect any cabbage flavor, and neither could I. 

I know I keep saying how pretty these homemade food colors turn out, but they really are. This purple is just as pretty as those artificial concoctions and isn’t made with ingredients I’m not afraid to eat. And that’s something I like a lot.

Blue food dye / Source

All-natural blue food dye

Lastly, blue food dye. 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 the same way as when making purple food color. Remove four or five leaves from purple cabbage, wash and roughly chop them, and add two cups of water to a pot. Bring the pot to a boil, and simmer for five to ten minutes. After ten minutes, turn the heat off and remove the cabbage leaves from the pot, saving the purple water.

Pour the water into a bowl and allow it to cool completely. Cooling the liquid is very important. If it’s even slightly warm, the color won’t process correctly.

Once the cabbage water is completely cool, add the tiniest amount of baking soda, and whisk until thoroughly dissolved. The color will change from purple to blue almost immediately, so you can quickly tell what shade of blue it is.

Icing made with confectioners sugar, corn syrup, and homemade blue food coloring made from purple cabbage and baking soda / Source

Tips for using homemade blue food dye

Be careful about how much baking soda you use when mixing the color. Only use the amount you’ll need to get the exact shade of blue you’re looking for. Adding too much baking soda could add a not-so-pleasant taste to the final product.

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

I added approximately 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda to my purple base to get the blue color above. Just be cautious when mixing, and you’ll be fine.

To test the flavor, I made a batch of royal icing and dyed it using the homemade blue dye. I was satisfied that I couldn’t taste any baking soda, nor could my taste tester. Or any other of the taste testers in the plenty of times I’ve made it since.

I know I said how much I love purple, and I do, but anyone who knows me knows that blue has always been my favorite among all colors.

Frequently asked questions

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

If you must, store them in an air-tight container in the fridge. They’ll last for about a week. The red, yellow, purple, and green will probably keep, but the blue will not. For best results, use blue the same day you make it.

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


Would you prefer to buy vegan food dyes? No problem. Here are a few vegan options that are colored with vegetable juice or spices and contain no synthetic dyes.

Color Kitchen Food Colors from Nature

I picked up a few packets to test out on my favorite sugar cookies.

I’m a fan.

First, the colors come packaged in individual packets, so I don’t over-buy. Second, the colors mix easily and create beautiful colors. I don’t even mind that they’re more pastel than bright. Lastly, they’re budget-friendly.

Here’s a 10-pack, Color Kitchen Food Colors from Nature that makes a good starter pack.

McCormick Nature’s Inspiration Food Colors

By far, these colors are the cheapest and the most widely available. The powdered colors come in a pack of three colors which you can mix for a variety of colors.

I bought this McCormick Nature’s Inspiration Food Colors pack when I made these unicorn sugar cookies. Just look how vivid the colors turned out!

I hear you! There are way more colors available than I’ve covered here, but it’s pretty easy to use these basics to mix up any color you like.

If you want orange, mix yellow and red dyes together. Try mixing red and blue together to get a wide array of purples and magentas. Blue and greens will give you every shade of green possible. Black and greys come from a mix of all colors. Alternatively, you can use swiss chard juice, but it’s super bitter so use it sparingly. If you’re looking for brown, use coffee, tea, or boiled onion skins.

The possibilities are endless.

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!

Homemade Food Coloring Tutorial | Your Daily Vegan
All food coloring photos / KD Angle Traegner
Turmeric / Nirmal Sarkar


  1. Jill McGraw October 7, 2022 at 12:20 pm - Reply

    Any ideas for making tofu crumbles look more like browned burger? My taco filling looks pink!

    • KD Angle Traegner October 17, 2022 at 4:45 pm - Reply

      What type of tofu are you using, and are you using it in a savory or sweet recipe?

  2. Niharika Tank September 24, 2021 at 6:55 am - Reply

    One can use spirulina for both blue and green….Activated Charcoal powder for black as well….carrot-turmeric-beet-apple-lots of powdered orange zest to make orange food coloring!

  3. Jessica March 12, 2021 at 9:26 am - Reply

    I’m excited to make my own food coloring! I will say that I work in the medical field treating cancer patients and we do researching using animals and it’s been wonderful how treatments can be more advanced to save lives because of the research that is done. I understand not using animals for beauty products but when it comes to the medical field we are under strict guidelines and modern medicine and surgeries and procedures would not be where they are now without research. I advise you do more research if you are going to be putting your personal option on everything you write.

  4. Dina May 12, 2020 at 12:59 am - Reply

    I tried the purple and the blue clours
    I coloured coconut flakes to make some sprinkles
    The blue turned out amazing at first but turned into turquoise after two hours
    Any idea what went wrong?

  5. Jodi May 29, 2019 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    Hello!! Any idea for a gray color? Thanks in advance. Can’t wait to try these!

    • KD Angle Traegner June 10, 2019 at 10:34 am - Reply

      Generally speaking, mixing equal amounts of red, blue and yellow colors to makes a grey color, but I’ve never tried it myself. Let me know if you try it and it works out!

  6. […] you want, you can even make your own, natural, green food coloring. My favorite recipe was found on Your Daily Vegan. It is basically green apple juice and kale […]

    • Erin January 2, 2023 at 10:56 am - Reply

      I can’t wait to try to make my own! How would you nake white?

  7. Yang February 25, 2019 at 5:12 pm - Reply

    I’m never really a fan of artificial food coloring. I almost always never add artificial food coloring to my desserts. These vegan food coloring though looks really good! I can finally add color to my decadents, thanks to your recipe! Thank you so much!

  8. […] As always when it comes to alcohol, you can check whether your spirit is vegan friendly using alcohol checkers such a barnivore. If food colouring is required, why not make your own vegan friendly dye? […]

  9. ShyGirl October 1, 2018 at 6:13 pm - Reply


    I am excited by the idea of making natural food colours. However, I am allergic to turmeric. What could I used instead to create yellow food colouring?


    • KD Angle Traegner October 3, 2018 at 10:58 am - Reply

      Hi! You could try using the saffron. It’s expensive, but it creates a vibrant yellow color. Don’t use too much, saffron has a distinct flavor. Good luck :)

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

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

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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!

  15. […] 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 […]

  16. […] 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 […]

  17. 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 ;)

  18. 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!

  19. […] 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 […]

  20. 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

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

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

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

  23. 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.

  24. 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!

  25. 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 :)

  26. 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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HELLO! I'm KD Angle-Traegner.

Writer, activist, and founder of Four Urban Paws Sanctuary. I’m on a mission to help people live a vegan life. Read more about KD…