Recipe for Dying Easter Eggs Naturally
Two years ago, when I was a brand new Mama of two, in the same week that my three month old got diagnosed with some food sensitivities, my three year old got diagnosed with a food dye allergy. This came at the end of her having nine months of nearly consistent hives, and from our third allergist. While I’ve always prided myself on my families healthy eating habits – we were never the soda and Doritos type of family – needless to say, we couldn’t live with hives all the time, and I obviously didn’t want to constantly medicate my four year old with Zyrtec.
With some subsequent research I found that, unfortunately, artificial (think: Red 40) and “natural” (think: annatto) food dye, both of which were causing these negative reactions in my daughter, are in much, much more than soda and Doritos. For example, here’s a tiny list of some things that food dyes lurk in. Some may surprise you as much as they did me.
- Marshmallows (yes, the white ones; they have Blue 1)
- Nearly all store bought cookies and cakes, even white sugar cookies, white cake, white cake mix, and white frosting
- Nearly all store bought macaroni and cheese , goldfish, and cheddar cheese products (it didn’t come out of that cow yellow, you know)
- Many yogurts , frozen yogurts, and ice cream (even if they are white, cream, chocolate or seemingly other natural looking colors)
- All colored candy, colored jello, colored sports drinks, colored sodas, etc.
Yikes, right? Even though most of these (and many more) products we only enjoyed on occasion, we had some changes to make. So we made them.
I can’t say they were easy to navigate or implement at first, but like any healthy lifestyle change – that exercise routine you implemented, that cholesterol you lowered, those last five pounds you dropped – once we put it into practice, we never regretted it once. Even though only our three year old was at the time displaying hives as an immune response to fighting off these dyes, I knew they weren’t by any means good for the rest of us. (I could go on and on about the negative effects of dyes and other synthetic material in our food, but I won’t bore you here and now.) Our whole family is now, by choice, dye free.
On Being Dye Free
One of the more difficult times to be a dye free family is on holidays and special occasions due to the simple fact that so many of these holidays revolve around not only food, but food that is festive – COLORED! Valentine’s – Pink! St. Patrick’s Day – Green! Easter – Yellow, green, pink, blue!!!
Fortunately, now that I’ve been at this dye free lifestyle nearly two years, I have found many – and dare I say even more fun! – alternatives to make things for our family just as fun as if we were throwing around the food coloring on holidays.
Without further ado, here are five fun, festive and naturally dyed Easter egg recipes. These recipes had our kitchen meeting a science lab and my four year old absolutely loved it! She started out vigorously guessing which vegetable would produce which color, and could not believe that carrot tops yielded a pretty pastel yellow, and red onion skins an earthy green. Who’da thought!
Now, keep in mind that these are natural dye recipes, and as such they yield a more natural looking egg. You aren’t going to get those fluorescent, glittery shades that you might from a dye kit. But what you do get, in my opinion, is beautiful in an earthy sense, and oh so fun and educational. And you can actually eat that hardboiled egg inside without any concern of dye seeping through. Yay!
Five Natural Egg Dye Recipes
The first step is to prepare your dyes. There are varying recipes around the internet that you can test out, but here are five that are approved by my little dye experts, which yield a nice array of color.
Blue Mix 1 cup frozen blueberries with 1 cup water, bring to room temperature, and remove blueberries. Stir in 3 tsp. white vinegar
Peel the skin from 4 large red onions. Simmer skins in 2 cups water for 15 minutes; strain. Stir in 3 tsp. white vinegar.
Simmer one bunch chopped carrot tops in 1-1/2 cups water for 15 minutes; strain. Stir in 2 tsp. white vinegar. (Tip: carrots with tops can be found at health food stores such as Sprouts and Whole Foods, some grocery stores with a good produce section, and farmer’s markets.)
Mix 1 cup grape juice and 1 tablespoon white vinegar.
In a juicer, juice enough beets to yield 1 cup of juice. Stir in 3 tsp white vinegar. (Tip: if you do not have a juicer, there are two options: 1. Go to a juice bar such as Nektar or Juice it Up and order a cup of plain beet juice. Easy as that! Go ahead and get a healthy snack or drink while you are there! 2. There is an alternative recipe to cut 1 medium beet into chunks and add to 4 cups boiling water. Stir in 2 Tbsp. vinegar and let cool to room temperature; remove beets. However, this recipe did not yield a satisfyingly deep shade of pink for our linking.)
Once you have your dyes, simply arrange them in vessles of your choice; we used mini glass mason jars, which were just the right size to fit the eggs, but not so big that the approximately one cup of dye for each color spread too thin on the bottom to sufficiently cover the egg. Perfect!
Natural Egg Dying Tips
The longer you let the eggs soak, the deeper the color. If your eggs aren’t quite the shade you like them, let them get nice and pruiny just like you in a bath!
While dying our eggs, my four year old asked why we had to add vinegar in each. Well… I didn’t know! So to Google we went, and got a little science lesson. Because dyes work best in acidic environments, using plain dye (natural or otherwise) with water and no acid (vinegar) won’t take well. Vinegar (a cheep and accessible acid) is used to assist in dye absorption. Therefore, if a particular color is not taking as well as you like, try adding a bit more vinegar (small amounts at a time).
Warm temperatures also aid in dye absorption, so leave your dyes at room temperature, or out in the warm sun for a little while to bump up their color-giving properties.
Here is a glimpse of our naturally dyed Easter eggs!
No matter how you dye your Easter eggs this year – with a Princess Dye kit from Target or trying out some of our natural dye recipes here – have a blast with your little ones creating memories that will last much longer than those fun colored eggs!
*Recipes adapted from bhg.com