Natural Easter egg dyes are a healthier way to decorate Easter eggs, especially for those with allergies to food dyes.
One of my favorite Easter traditions growing up was coloring eggs. I was enamored watching the stark white eggs taking on sassy bright colors. Ever since I can remember, I’ve colored hard boiled eggs the week leading to Easter–including my first year of collage when my roommate and I feebly attempted to boil the eggs in our
perfectly legal contraband electric tea kettle in our dorm room.
Did you know that under the right conditions, it is possible to burn hard boiled eggs? Or that burned hard boiled eggs smell as if they’ve been stored in your sock drawer for the past month? True story.
Given my life-long affinity for coloring Easter eggs, just imagine how excited I was when Son #1 was nearly two and old enough to pull up a chair to help color the eggs! I unpacked the usual store-bought dye pellets as I explained the process to my boy. He listened in earnest, seemingly mesmerized by my every word. I paused to turn around to fill the dye cups with water. When I turned back around, Son #1 whimpered and looked at me with horror-filled eyes. The kid who had never once drooled in his short little life had a long stream of blue spittle slowly making its way down his chin. He had chewed the blue dye pellet!
The first-time-mom in me was certain this could only mean impending doom for my baby. One quick peace-of-mind trip to the pediatrician later, and I was resolved not to use those silly little dye pellets again.
That incident was the catalyst for starting a new tradition of making natural Easter egg dyes.
The method for making natural Easter egg dyes is pretty simple. Boil colorful vegetables or tea in water, strain and stir in a little white vinegar. My boys have a ball sorting through whatever colorful foods we have on hand to make the dyes. We make a game out of trying to predict what the eggs might look like when they come out of their colorful bath–they’re always a little bit different.
The hues of natural Easter egg dyes are more subdued than the artificial dye tablets, but I think they’re every bit as beautiful.
For natural Easter egg dyes this year, we tried baby spinach, yellow onion skins, chamomile tea, frozen cranberries, and purple cabbage.
When dying with homemade food dyes, eggs need to soak for a few hours to really absorb color. I soaked our eggs overnight in the refrigerator to see how vibrant the color would get.
The Sons were definitely intrigued by the patterns our eggs took on. I’m not sure how we did it, but a few of the eggs have a speckled or marble appearance. I think it’s because I’d forgotten to stir the vinegar into the dyes until after the eggs were already soaking.
I just splashed a little vinegar in each glass and let them soak without stirring. As an acid, vinegar works to rough-up the surface of the egg shells, which enables the coloring to better penetrate the shell. If you’ve ever done the Acid and the Effect on Teeth experiment for a science fair, then you understand the principle.
Perhaps by not stirring the vinegar, it scratched the surface of the shell unevenly and caused the dye to absorb in motley patterns. Or maybe the few pesky cranberry seeds that slipped through my mesh strainer had something to do with it. Whatever the catalyst, the cranberry egg is our favorite.
The spinach gave the egg a sweet, pale yellow-ish green tint. The onion skins made the most vibrant orange color. We were most surprised with the cranberries because we’d expected they’d give us a bright pink, but ended up creating a variegated blue-gray egg; the boys thought this one looked like a dinosaur egg.
You know, because we have such a huge dinosaur population here Up North. 😉
My favorite chamomile tea made cool, mustard colored speckles; while the purple cabbage yielded the faintest of lavender hues.
Our Easter egg coloring is part tradition, part nostalgia, and part chemist mixed with just a dash of mad scientist, and all fun. My boys were so amused by mixing dyes that they want to develop All-Natural Pigments to sell at the Farmer’s Market this summer. Their business plan needs a little work, but I certainly admire the entrepreneurial spirit inspired by an Easter craft.
Natural Easter Egg Dyes
Boil one cup of chosen food in two cups of water until desired color is achieved. Strain solids, stir in two teaspoons of white vinegar, and allow dye to cool to room temperature. (If using onion skins, use the papery outer skin of 3 to 4 onions.)
Soak clean, white shelled, non-cracked, hard boiled eggs in the dyes until the desired hue is obtained—at least two hours. For more vibrant color, soak the eggs in the all-natural dye in the refrigerator overnight.
Once color is achieved, remove the eggs with a slotted spoon. Allow them to dry completely on a cooling rack set over a few sheets of paper towel. Dye will be tacky until it dries.
|Brown||Black Tea, or Strong Coffee|
|Yellow||Chamomile Tea, Green Tea, or Lemon Peels|
|Orange||Yellow Onion Skins|
|Pink||Red Grape Juice, Cranberries, or Red Grape Juice|
|Violet Blue||Hibiscus Tea, or Red Onion Skins|