DIY Diva: Natural Food Dyes

One by one, FD &C food dyes—those that had been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—have been taken off the market in the U.S., and there are now only seven left. The rest have been removed because they are toxic, carcinogenic, and may cause hyperactivity. Pediatricians in Great Britain now recommend that parents remove synthetic food dyes from childrens’ diets because they are suspected of causing behavioral problems.

The FDA has estimated that between 47,000 and 94,000 Americans are sensitive to food dye Yellow No. 5, one of the most commonly used dyes for one. It can cause asthma, hives, headache, and is linked to behavioral changes. In a double-blind study reported in the Journal of Pediatrics, the study clearly demonstrated a relation between ingestion of Yellow No. 5 and behavioral changes in children who are allergic to it.

Happily, dyeing Easter eggs or baking with natural food dyes is easy and well worth it. Natural dyes are lovely and easy to make on your own for coloring frosting and other decorations such as cookies, cakes, and candies, using the juice from fruits and vegetables. Here is how:

Choose a few primary colors you want to focus on, and from these you can blend new colors. You want to use the juice of colorful produce, and canned, frozen, and fresh produce are equally good choices. One half-cup will make plenty of food dye.


red grapes


ground turmeric
onion skins


strong tea
strong coffee
Add water as needed.


Add the juice straight from thawed berries, or juice drained from canned beets to a small saucepan, and add water as needed, but not too much so as not to dilute the natural colors. Simmer for 15 minutes or so, using a potato masher to squeeze out as much juice from the fruit or vegetable as possible. Strain and cool. Mix colors for various colors as desired.

Photo credit: ANDI2...will be back soon and is OK/Flickr

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