Natural food color is a big deal for all kinds of reasons. A lot of you have challenges with artificial food dyes, some of you just want to avoid chemical additives, and some of you just like to try cool food stuff because you want to. Either way, I've decided to post what I know about Natural Food Dyes for y'all, so you can make hot pink cookies the way nature intended.
Several companies sell natural food dyes, my favorite brand is India Tree, both for color quality & stability. I've found a few other sources online too, so Google around. While we're on the topic, LorAnn is the best source I've found for Natural Flavors beyond vanilla. Wanna make your own Extracts? Here's how. If you buy natural food dyes, store them in the fridge after opening.
But I want it REALLY Blue! - Notes About Using Natural Dyes/Color
Natural colors can be a little tricky - acidity, temperature, and exposure to light and air can all affect the final outcome. Also, natural dyes are less intense than artificial colors, and their pigments are true to the plant they are derived from. Ever seen a blueberry the color of Cookie Monster? I haven't either. Get what I'm saying? You'll need to appreciate the natural tones, and experiment a little when mixing colors.
Here's how to Make Your Own Natural Food Colors:
To Make Red & Pink Dye:
Beets are a clear winner here. Try Beet Powder or Beet Juice Concentrate for the clearest reds. You can also use Pomegranate Juice Concentrate, Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate, or Puree of Raspberries or Strawberries.
To Make Natural Orange & Yellow Color:
Carrot Juice Concentrate is your best bet for real orange color, that's what big food companies use as a natural food dye. You can also add Turmeric or Pureed Mango to dishes, or mix Turmeric or Saffron in a bit of hot water.
To Make Natural Green Food Color:
I know it sounds nuts for baked goods, but use Pureed Spinach, Pureed Basil or Spinach Juice Concentrate for real green. Many health food stores carry Liquid Chlorophyll, which also works well. Green Tea Powder (matcha) offers a lighter green tone.
To Make Homemade Blue Food Color:
Pureed Blueberries will give you a blueish-purple tint, as will Blueberry Juice Concentrate. For real-deal blue, wash, de-stem & chop a head of red cabbage. Place the cabbage in a pot with just enough water to cover it all, and simmer for 10-12 minutes. Drain & reserve the liquid. Add baking soda, ½ teaspoon at a time to the purple liquid, stirring to fully incorporate before adding more. The baking soda will cause the liquid to turn blue. Only use this process for items that are fully cooled, like icing, cream cheese, ice cream, etc. as heat will alter the blue color.
For Purple Natural Food Dye:
Pureed Blackberries will work, but I really like Grape Juice Concentrate for purple (check the freezer section of your grocery store. I mean Welch's or similar.).
Or, make Cabbage Juice Concentrate: wash, de-stem & chop a head of Red Cabbage. Place the cabbage in a pot with just enough water to cover it all, and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the liquid is darkly colored. Drain & reserve the liquid, use as desired.
For Homemade Natural Brown Food Color:
Adding Cocoa Powder or Espresso Powder are your best bets here. Or, for eggs or something similar, steep in super-strong brewed coffee.
Powders & Juice Concentrates are sold online & in Natural Grocery stores.
Or, Make your own Juice Concentrates on the stove by reducing 1 cup of juice down to ⅓ cup.
Happy Dyeing, G-Free Foodies!
Photo credit: Kyra's Bake Shop