A few weeks before Easter, egg-dying kits pop up near every grocery store checkout. These kits are convenient and include everything you need to create a rainbow of egg colors. They are, however, full of chemicals and while it’s disputed whether any chemicals leach through the egg shell, there’s no reason to take a chance when you can create your own dyes naturally and get holiday colors without harmful dyes. Natural dyes are a result of spices and foods from your kitchen along with produce fresh from the garden. The techniques are a little different then with the boxed dye kits, but here is your guide to creating natural Easter egg dyes without a lot of hassle.
- Ingredients of your choice
- White dish or napkins
- Fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth
Technique One: Boil the Color Out
Colorful vegetables offer a source of dye for your eggs. However, in order to extract the color, you will need to boil the vegetable for 20-30 minutes or longer, depending on your preference. The goal is to get the color a few shades darker than the color you want on the egg since it appears lighter when applied to the egg. Take test drops from your boiled mixture every five minutes or so. Put them on a white plate or napkin to see the shade. Stop boiling and let the mixture cool a few hours after you achieve the desired result. Once the mixture is cool, strain through a fine mesh colander or cheesecloth. This process works well for things like purple cabbage and red onion. Use one cup of shredded or chopped vegetable per cup of water.
Technique Two: Direct Extraction
Some fruits make natural dyes without the hassle of extracting color through boiling. Instead, you can use the juice directly from the fruit. Blueberry and grape juice both result in varying shades of blue to lavender. You can also experiment with the juice from marionberries, blackberries, raspberries, and others.
Technique Three: Spices
Spices are another fabulous resource for your natural egg dyes. Even though they may not technically be from your garden, they are in your kitchen. Try vibrant turmeric, paprika, or dill seed. Extracting the colors typically requires the boil method. Similarly, teas are a great place to source ingredients for dyes. Try Red Zinger, black, saffron, turmeric, and green by steeping them normally.
- Dying eggs with natural colors generally results in pastel shades. However, you can darken the shades by re-applying the dye as many times as you like. Richer shades are more effectively achieved through repeated applications rather than longer soak times.
- Note that applying natural dyes to eggs takes a bit longer than traditional egg kits. Typically the eggs will sit in the dye overnight. One technique is to place your eggs into a casserole dish and cover with liquid before placing into the fridge overnight. For several colors, place a few eggs into each jar of colored liquid instead.
- However you prepare your liquid, always add one tablespoon of white vinegar per cup of color before applying to your eggs.
- Expect one dozen eggs to consume about four cups of dye liquid.
Now that you have a better understanding of the process, let’s get started! Here are some traditional colors and suggestions on how to achieve those shades.
A true, deep purple is difficult to obtain with dyes, but you can make a wide variety of shades within the purple family. Boil purple cabbage to any shade of purple, from lavender to royal. Use one cup chopped cabbage for each cup of water. Note that this may create more of a blue tone on white eggs and could bring out green shades on brown eggs. Extracted fruit juices can also net a purple finish.
Pink and Red
Like purple, it’s challenging to net a true red color. Repeated applications is the best option to deepen the color. You may end up with more of a pink hue. Use cranberry, raspberry, or other juices. Also try boiling red onion skins for a color that ranges from lavender to red. A boiled mixture from one cup of shredded beets will result in turning white eggs pink and brown eggs maroon.
Yellow, Orange, and Rust
Experiment with boiled yellow onion skins, which can create an orange to yellow finish on white eggs and turn brown eggs a rusty red. Two tablespoons of turmeric boiled in one cup of water provides a deep mustard yellow tone. Paprika also makes a nice red-orange. For a very pale yellow, you can try boiling the skins from several yellow apples. Fennel tops create a similar greenish-yellow color too.
Coffee is another readily available natural ingredient that might not be directly from your garden, but is sourced from a plant. Soak coffee grounds that haven't already made it to your compost pile to the desired richness and use the liquid for a brown dye. Again, you can achieve different results with longer brew or repeated applications of dye.