Make Your Own Natural Food Colors and Dyes

Made from petroleum and chemicals, artificial food colors are something you won’t find in any NVL recipes or DIY projects. Instead, we turn to the plant world for our colors. Yup, vegetables and fruits can easily be transformed into a rich, bright color palette. Here’s our guide to creating your own natural food colors and dyes in your own home with everyday kitchen scraps or pantry staples. (This is a fun one for the kids.)

You can use these natural colors and dyes in a variety of ways:

    • In place of chemical colors in foods
    • To color fabric by soaking or simmering cloth in the dyes
    • For crafts, like making your own paint

Color Guide

Red hues: Beets, raspberries, plums, elderberries, strawberries, cranberries

Orange hues: Yellow onion skins, paprika, carrots

Yellow hues: Lemon peels, orange peels, turmeric, saffron

Green hues: Spinach, parsley, mint

Blue/purple hues: Blueberries, blackberries, red cabbage, black beans, purple grapes

Brown hues: Coffee grounds, cinnamon, walnut hulls

You can also mix the colors together to create a desired hue. For example, mix turmeric and blueberries for green, or saffron and beets for orange.

Directions for Fruit-and-Veggie-Based Colors

To create your colors you can use produce that’s fresh or when it’s too wilted or ripe to eat. For bright colors, chop up fruits and veggies before use to allow more color to bleed through.

  1. Place fruit and/or vegetables in a pot and cover with twice as much water—i.e., if using 1 cup of spinach, use 2 cups of water.
  2. Bring the water to a boil and allow it to boil for about 10 minutes.
  3. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about an hour, or more, depending on how dark or bold you want the color.
  4. Pour through a strainer and save the liquid.
  5. You have your coloring.

Directions for Spices

  1. Use 1 tablespoon of spice to 1 cup of water.
  2. Boil the water with the spices for about 15 minutes.
  3. Turn off the heat and allow the spices to seep and drop to the bottom—about another 15 minutes.
  4. Carefully pour the liquid into a container, leaving the spices sitting in the bottom.
  5. You have your coloring.

To keep colors for later use, pour into a jar and add a little white vinegar, then refrigerate.