Are you someone who likes a project with predictable results and simple directions? This post is not for you. Are you someone who likes surprises and is willing to experiment? Carry on my friend.
Recently I went a little bit crazy and was determined to find the best natural Easter egg dyes. Over 2 dozen tries later I bring to you this comprehensive, no-nonsense guide to natural Easter egg dyes.
To dye your Easter eggs, you’ll need to choose your food-based dyes from the colour options below. You’ll also need a bowl & spoon for each colour of egg, water & a pot for boiling, vinegar, patience, and a sense of adventure.
Natural egg dyes take a lot longer than their synthetic counterparts!! The fastest dyes needed a minimum of 10 minutes, but I was usually happiest with their colour after 30 minutes. Average dyes needed 2-6 hours, and less efficient ones needed to sit overnight in the refrigerator. (Don’t worry, I’ll go through every dye in painstaking detail, lol.)
After some trial and error, I found it was the most efficient to boil the eggs and the food to make the dye in the same pot. It gives a bit of a head start on the colour. I tried adding the vinegar in the boiling step to one batch, but didn’t notice much of a difference. Yes, you’ll be boiling three eggs at a time, but you’ll also be saving yourself the step of boiling the dye then boiling the eggs.
Be very careful when you remove your eggs from the jar. Some of the dyes leave a film over the egg for their colour, and it is very easily scratched off.
You’ll also find in my notes that you need more food to make the dye than you may have bargained for. In my first round of trials, I generally used a cup of the food for ones that needed to be boiled, and 2 tbsp spice to one 1/2 cups water for the spice-based ones.
Pink Natural Dye
Juice from Canned Beets: We have a winner! Juice from canned beets gives a beautiful bright pink colour and is one of the quicker dyes. An egg dipped in canned beet juice and 3 tbsp vinegar needs only 10-20 minutes to reach a lovely shade of pink. You can also colour the egg by making your dye from fresh boiled beets, but this method takes a lot longer.
Cherries: I did my trials with sour cherry jam that I had canned in the summer. I expected my eggs to turn pink, but they actually turned a beautiful shade of blue/purple. I think if you used maraschino cherries you would likely get pink instead. If anyone tries it, please let me know how it turns out! My cherry jam dye took 8 hours to get to the desired colour.
Raspberries: Another beautiful option. This produced more of a purply-pink and took 4 hours. I only used 1 cup of strawberries to make my dye. 2 cups would likely yield quicker results.
Red Onion Skins: I’ve seen this make a beautiful deep red on Pinterest, but I ended up with a rich brown. It was one of the quicker dyes, but I didn’t like the colour I ended up with, so I don’t recommend it. However, if brown is your thing, carry on!
Side note: I wonder if the variety of onion makes a difference? Mine may have been too purple?
Options I did not try: Red plums. They’re definitely not in season around Easter where I live.
Yellow Natural Dye
Turmeric: All the other yellow dyes can just pack up and go home. Turmeric is the clear winner, needing only 8 minutes to dye an egg. The colour is bright and sunny and so much prettier than anything else I tried. Use two heaping tbsps for a pot of water to boil your eggs in.
Orange peels: While the orange peels worked, the colour was not vibrant enough to warrant leaving the dye overnight in the fridge.
Celery seed: I only had celery salt, so my results may not have been as good. It produced a lovely yellow-green colour after 6 hours.
Options I did not try: Carrot tops. Again, it’s a little harder to find carrots with their greens during this season. Cumin and Green tea. I’m reluctant to try them because turmeric works SO well.
Blue & Purple Natural Dye
Purple Grape Juice: You must use a brand that has only purple grape juice and no other juices. I used one that had a blend of mostly grape with some cranberry and apple. It turned out dark brown. If you do use this dye, boil your eggs directly in the juice. Don’t add water unless your juice is actually pure grape juice with no water previously added.
Red Cabbage Leaves: This gives the most beautiful blue colour ever and is one of the quicker dyes. Some pins on Pinterest show a gorgeous turquoise colour. Maybe a different variety of red cabbage than was available in my grocery store?
Blueberries: Blueberries are incredibly expensive this time of year, so I used frozen Saskatoon berries. It worked well and gave a lovely blue/purple colour. Use two cups of berries for best results.
Blackberries: Lovely blue/purple colour and only 2-4 hours to dye. 1 cup of berries is sufficient.
Chokecherry Juice/Syrup: This was one of the faster dyes and left a really lovely blue/purple colour. I used chokecherry syrup that I had canned in the summer. I don’t think you’ll be able to find this ingredient in the grocery store, although I know there is a vendor at the Saskatoon Farmer’s Market who has chokecherry jam for sale. Don’t add water to your juice or syrup for best results.
Options I did not try: Mulberries. We don’t have them in Saskatoon. I also think Haskaps would work beautifully if you have any stored away.
Red zinger tea, red wine (who wants to waste wine on eggs?!?).
Orange Natural Dye
Yellow Onion Skin: Beautiful colour and quick results. I used the skin from one onion and 1 1/2 cup water. If you’re boiling your eggs with the onion skins, use two onions.
Chilli powder: This worked well. It took about 4 hours for my desired colour. My chill powder egg ended up a bit on the brown side.
Paprika: Same as chili powder. It worked well and took around 4 hours.
Carrot Peels: I expected this to work a lot better than it did. Don’t waste your time.
Tomato Sauce: This was an epic fail. Sure, there was some orange dye, but it was not consistent. I think pure tomato paste would work much better.
Green Natural Dye
Spinach: Spinach works really well, needing only 2 hours to desired colour. However, I was looking for a much brighter green, so I’m not a huge fan.
Kale: Kale gives off more of a yellow green, but it takes overnight to get to my desired colour. I tried it a second time using more kale and it still took too long for my liking.
Zucchini Skins: Just. Don’t.
In my research on natural egg dyes, there seemed to be only two options: spinach or grass. There is no green grass at Easter in Saskatoon, so kale and zucchini skins were my experiments to try and get a better green. In the end, I was happiest combining my turmeric and red cabbage dyes.
Options I didn’t try: Grass, but I’ll be trying it as soon as I can!
Brown Natural Dye
Coffee: Just use coffee. You likely already have it on hand and it makes a lovely brown within an hour or two. If you make your coffee twice the normal strength you could make that time faster.
Side note: you can also use black tea. I wasn’t as eager to dye eggs brown because you can easily buy brown ones at the store.
Dyes that weren’t supposed to be brown but ended up brown: Grape juice (mixed juices), red onion skins, chilli powder. Again, I think this could vary wildly depending on what variety of each product you use. If someone knows which variety works best, please leave it in the comments!
With traditional dye, it’s easy to dye eggs one by one and be done the whole project in under an hour. Not so with natural dyes. I suggest boiling the amount of eggs you want a certain colour in the same pot as those ingredients.
For example, if I wanted 3 blue eggs, I would boil the three eggs in a pot with at least 2 cups of shredded cabbage and just enough water to cover the eggs. Once the water comes to a boil, let them cook for 12 minutes. Remove the eggs from the pot and place them in a bowl. Pour some of the liquid from the pot into the bowl. (Enough to cover the eggs). Add 2-3 tbsp of vinegar and let sit for 10-30 minutes, or until your desired colour is achieved. For really dark or vibrant colours, put the bowl of eggs in the fridge and check every couple of hours, or leave overnight.
As a general rule, if you’re using a food as a natural dye, use two cups or more of that food. If you’re using a spice, use 2 tablespoons. If you’re using juice, use straight juice, and only add water if there is no water already added in the ingredients.
You can make your eggs shiny by rubbing a small amount of oil over them.
**UPDATE** Check out this page for reader results and photos! Send me your pictures to be featured here.
For the brightest and fastest colours, use turmeric, red cabbage, blackberries, yellow onion skins, and pickled beet juice. Combine turmeric and red cabbage juices for your green.
For the best neutral or earth-toned eggs, use raspberries, red onion skins, yellow onion skins, celery seed, and chokecherry or sour cherry syrup.
Will you give this a try? If you liked this post, please give it a share, like, or pin. It was a labour of love, but long posts like these are a lot of work! Thanks friends.