Learn how to use your food scraps to create an all natural food coloring and dye to color Fabrics, Paper, Frosting and Easter Eggs with this easy natural dye recipe
Making dyes has long been a favorite hobby of mine. It is a neverending fascination trying to figure out the optimal method to coax the colors out a plant, fruit or vegetable. There are just so many different variations to it!
For this experiment, I gathered a bunch of fruits and vegetables (spinach, carrots, blueberries, avocados (skins and seeds), beets*, red cabbage) and some spices (turmeric and paprika).
(* I was not able to find fresh beets so this time I used canned including the liquid which worked out just fine)
While there are different dye methods out there, let me show you how to make natural dyes from food my way which is also super easy.
- Which plants and vegetables make the best dye?
- Are dyes made from food permanent?
- Natural Dye Recipes
- Making dye from Vegetable and Fruit Scraps
- Dye from Powdered Spices
- How to make a dye from beans
- Changing the color with PH modifiers
- What materials can be naturally dyed?
- Will dye made from food fade or wash out?
- How long does it take for natural food color to fade?
- How do you set natural dye in fabric?
- What is the best natural food coloring?
- Can food dye clothes?
Which plants and vegetables make the best dye?
Basically, any plant material that has some kind of liquid in it can be used as a dye but of course, some are better suited than others.
You can take this a step further by sourcing only organically grown vegetables to make an organic food dye.
Also note that in some instances, the color can be altered by changing the PH. This can be done by adding vinegar and/or baking soda. (See the Red Cabbage example below)
Following is listing of fruit, vegetables and spices that provide pretty good color:
Lemon, Turmeric, Golden Beets, Saffron
Oranges, Paprika, Onion Skins, Carrots
Beets, Pomegranate, Cherries
PINK OR PEACH:
Avocado, Strawberries, Raspberries, Red Cabbage
Red Cabbage, Blueberries, Blackberries
Black Beans, Red Cabbage
Spinach, Parsley, Artichoke
Coffee, Tea, Onion Peels
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Are dyes made from food permanent?
In general, no, food dyes are not permanent. They will fade when exposed to sunlight. They also do not stand up to washing and will wash out over time.
Mordanting may help the dyes (stains) last a little longer but there are no guarantees.
What is a mordant?
A mordant is a substance that helps natural colors adhere to fabrics. Since most dyes made from plants and food have no adhering compound of their own, you have to provide that in the form of a mordant.
This process is necessary to keep the colors from washing out and is generally not needed for staining papers or coloring cake frosting.
The good thing about making dyes with food is that you really don’t need any special tools or equipment.
Since you are not handling any potentially toxic chemical dyes, you can use whatever pots, pans, measuring cups, etc. that you already have available.
Other than that, all you need to do is head to the grocery story and pick up the produce and spices.
- Produce: Blueberries, Red Cabbage, Spinach, Carrots, Beets, Avocados
- Spices: Turmeric, Paprika
- Chopping Knife
- Cutting Board
- Box Grater
- Measuring Cups and Spoons
- Medium Saucepan
- Stove or Hot Plate
- Mason Jars with Lids
Here is how I dyed paper using these all natural eco friendly dyes!
Natural Dye Recipes
If you have searched the Internet, you know that there are many different recipes out there.
Some dyers use a 1:2 ratio vs. 1:1, others heat their dyestuff for a longer time and so on. Everybody has their own style and preferences. This is simply how I make my food dyes.
Making dye from Vegetable and Fruit Scraps
For most vegetable scraps, the actual dye recipe is basically the same:
Chop up your vegetables, combine with water, bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour. Then you pour the mixture through a strainer and the dye liquid is ready to use.
My ratio of food stuffs to water was 1:1 which means use 1 cup of chopped veggies to 1 cup water.
To make an onion peel dye, gather as many onion skins as you can and cover with water, then simmer.
(You will use these same step by step instructions for red cabbage dye and the other vegetables below)
Using a sharp chopping knife, cut the cabbage into roughly bite size pieces. (In general, the smaller you cut it, the more dye color you get)
Place the chunks of cut up red cabbage pieces in a saucepan or medium sized cook pot.
Next, add an equal amount of water or at least enough to cover your cabbage completely.
Bring the pot to a light boil and then lower heat. Cover the pot and simmer the cabbage for about 1 hour.
Strain the liquid from the red cabbage. (Be careful as the liquid will be very hot!)
Pour your fresh dye liquid into a mason jar and then place it in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Repeat the above steps with the rest of your vegetables and all of the blueberries.
Optional: to extract a little more color, blend or process your cooked vegetables with the water.
If you do, you will also need to strain them through a coffee filter or paper towel to get the majority of the pulp out of the liquid.
As I said above, I had trouble finding fresh beets so I just used a can. This 15 oz can contained roughly 1 cup cut up beets to 3/4 cup liquid so I used water to make up the difference.
Carefully grate all of the carrots into small pieces. Graters are super sharp so watch your fingers and knuckles!
No make a natural green dye, with a big knife, roughly chop all of the spinach leaves and stems. (The smaller the pieces, the more dye color you will get)
Avocado Seeds and Skin
For the avocados, remove the flesh and scrub the peels and seeds. Roughly chop the peels.
(Note: I think my avocado peels were a bit too old to give a good color. The last time I used them, I ended up with a pretty pink color)
To make a natural blue food dye, whole blueberries can be simmered whole or you can use a potato smasher to open them up.
Dye from Powdered Spices
To make a dye from turmeric, paprika or other spices, you will simply simmer 1 Tablespoon of the spice with 1 Cup of water for about 15 to 30 minutes and then strain.