DIY Non-Toxic Food Colorings – Red, Green, Yellow, Orange, Purple, & Pink

When I was in college, I took a handful of Food Science classes. For better or worse, they forever changed how I look at food.

One of the things that has stuck out to me over the years are the dyes they put in food.

Now I make my own food dyes, just like they used to ages ago in Victorian times. Want to make your own too? Here’s how.

Red/Pink
Orange
Yellow
Green
Blue
Purple

The blue? It didn’t turn out so well, and we still haven’t found a good natural, diy blue dye. But the rest of the dyes work incredibly well!

Red/Pink

For red, use red raspberries. For purple, use blackberries.

First, you need to extract the clear juice of the berries. I wanted my kids to be part of the process – I try to involve them in the kitchen whenever I can.

I have a mortar and pestle (that I absolutely love – affiliate), and I didn’t want it to get stained. So I wrapped them both in tin foil, which did an excellent job at keeping it safe from berry stains, poured in a handful of berries and let the kids pound away.

diy natural food colorings

They loved it, from the squelchy sounds to the rich color produced by the berries.

Next thing you need to do is strain the berry pulp and juice through a very fine cloth (I use white kitchen towels similar to this kitchen/butter muslin – but I wish I could find the source for the ones I currently have! affiliate). You want as clear a colored liquid as you can get (so there are no solids in it).

straining the berry pulp

Strain it twice. The first time, put a little pressure on it and squeeze it a bit, so that as much juice as possible will get past all the berry pulp.

straining berry pulp for natural diy food coloring

Then strain it one more time and the juices will flow through easily, leaving behind the small amount of solids that get squeezed through the first time. You’ll be left with a clear, deeply-colored liquid.

straining raspberry pulp for diy natural food coloring

 berry pulp for natural diy food coloring

What to do with the juice?

  • Once you have a clear liquid, you could gently boil it down to concentrate it.
  • Use it immediately to dye any food product you care to color.
  • Or you could freeze it for later use.
 diy make ahead natural food coloring
Don’t throw away the leftover berry pulp! It makes a great jam, with or without a sprinkle of sugar.
berry pulp - use it for jam
homemade raspberry jam


Orange and Yellow

For orange and yellow, we use paprika and ground red pepper.

First question you’re probably wondering…

Does it end up flavoring the food?

No, surprisingly! I think it’s because the flavor/scent concentration is in the oils (hence the market for essential oils), so using water to extract the color leaves you with a pretty much odorless, tasteless, colored liquid.

spices to make natural diy nontoxic yellow and orange food coloring

Put a small amount of the spices in a jar or other heat-safe glassware. Add a bit of water.

making natural diy yellow and orange food coloring dye nontoxic

Heat it in the microwave, or in a double boiler on the stove. (It does make it look darker, like in the picture below.)

natural nontoxic diy homemade yellow and orange food coloring dye

Strain through a finely woven cloth (like kitchen muslin or something, as mentioned above) and you’re left with a deeply colored liquid.

natural diy food coloring nontoxic yellow and orange food dye

If you use different spices, be sure to test out the color in a bit of white flour or white sugar to see how it will really color food. We tried several different spices, and got a variation of reds, oranges, browns, and yellows.

Green

It’s amazing how much color spinach has! The first time I attempted it, I wondered if it would turn out rather dull and watery… but instead, I got the most beautiful deep, emerald green color. The best of it is, it’s easy, AND you can make it ahead, freeze it, and have it available for whenever you need it in the future!

To extract the color of the spinach, put a large handful of leaves in a food-processor (this is a small food processor that we were given on the occasion of our wedding).

spinach to make homemade diy food coloring

Add a tiny drizzle of water.

pureeing spinach to make homemade diy green food coloring

Blend until it’s pretty thoroughly pulped (is that a word?). :)

spinach pulp for natural diy food coloring

spinach pulp for green nontoxic diy natural food coloring

Strain it through a fine-woven cloth (I use kitchen/butter muslin affiliate) and you should have a clear green liquid.  If you see tiny solids still in it, strain it one more time.

green juice from the spinach for natural green nontoxic food coloring dye

You can make it ahead and freeze it (which is what I do).

Note: Don’t throw away the leftover spinach pulp!

You can use it in a myriad of ways – toss it into a soup, add it to an omelet, mix it with a bit of cream cheese and spread on a bagel…  If you don’t have a way to use it now, just put it in a container and pop it in the freezer.  You don’t want to waste that nutrition and fiber!

spinach pulp - freeze it and use it later

Purple

Making purple food dye.

Here are some pictures of turning blackberries into a deep purplish food dye. You’ll use the same steps used for making the red food dye (above).

Pounding the blackberries.

purple homemade non toxic diy food coloring dye with blackberries

Straining the blackberries.

blackberries used for nontoxic natural homemade food coloring dye purple

Blue Fail

Now, let me tell you the blueberry story.

We started by pounding the blueberries like we did with the other berries. We got a good pulp, but the skins stayed in big chunks.

blueberries for natural nontoxic food dye coloring

So I poured the pulp in the blender and blended it for a good while.

blueberry pulp for natural nontoxic diy blue food coloring dye

The skins still stayed in chunks, but smaller.

I strained it through the cloth like the other berries, and it did turn the cloth a darker, purple-blue color, but in the end, when added to food, the color just wasn’t very strong. So ix-nay on the blueberries. We’re still looking for a good natural blue food dye.

We’ve used these food dyes to color frosting, play dough (check out our post on Sensory Play Dough made with these natural food colorings!), cake batter,… and to make Green Eggs and Ham. :)

diy nontoxic food dye 012

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7 Responses to DIY Non-Toxic Food Colorings – Red, Green, Yellow, Orange, Purple, & Pink

  1. N September 29, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

    Wow !! I’m a vegan & was looking for non-toxic, chemical options for food colors. Glad to find this post :-) Btw I hate milk & love cats

  2. Rox December 4, 2015 at 9:44 pm #

    Blue dye, to blue violet – I know it sounds weird – red cabbage. I was very highlighted blonde on my natural brown hair, and always pulled an orange cast. I don’t like chemicals, so needed a way to cancel out the orange. I thought ‘blueberries’ – but their juice is actually red. It was by accident I found the red cabbage. I slice about 1/4 inch round of an organic red cabbage; put it in a Pyrex or other heat resistant glass (it stains everything, so glass is best); pour over 2 – 3 cups of hot/boiling water and stir the cabbage a bit. In less than 10 minutes you will see the water turning vivid blue. I can add sea salt to get a bluer-blue, as well. Love your post! I’d been just using spinach in the same way to get green, and it is very pale. Love the idea of processing and pulp – should be great!

    Reply
    • Anni December 7, 2015 at 10:15 pm #

      Interesting! Thanks for the comment!

      Reply
  3. L July 6, 2016 at 11:30 pm #

    Hi this is fantastic
    Would beetroot mmwork for purple? I’m trying to make indigo
    Thanks

    • Anni August 30, 2016 at 9:19 pm #

      I expect it depends on the beet. Some are dark red, some are more purple. Best way to know is to try it. :)

  4. Lauren March 14, 2017 at 7:07 am #

    Did the green food dye taste like spinach? I want to add it to frosting or whipped cream for angel food cake. However, I don’t want it to taste like spinach.

    Reply
    • Anni March 15, 2017 at 8:35 am #

      No, not at all. It is odorless and tasteless. It tastes like water to me. Good luck!

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