Go greener at the holidays this year! With Easter just a couple of weekends away, forgo the food coloring and kits, and go for naturally safe, naturally kid-friendly, and naturally beautiful “homemade” egg dyes instead. Dyes can be used on hardboiled or fancy blown out eggs. Most of what you need is probably already in your own kitchen and pantry.
Step 1: Gather your supplies.
Stainless steel utensils and glass containers won’t stain; always rinse utensils as you go from color to color, so there’s no contamination.
- Pint and half-pint Ball jars or heat-safe glass bowls (the better to watch stuff happen!)
- Non-reactive stainless steel or enamel saucepans
Step 2: Gather your ingredients.
Vegetables, fruits, and spices can all create lovely, earthy colors. Vegetables, fruits, and spices can all create lovely, earthy colors. We hardboiled large white eggs and used plain white vinegar, which helps to set the color. Here are the dozen dyes and “recipes” we tried, in order of color intensity (after about 20 minutes of steeping):
- Beets = Purple. 1 large beet (cut into chunks) + 4 cups boiling water + 2 Tbs. vinegar. Cool and strain.
- Yellow onions = Yellow-orange. Skins only of 6 medium yellow onions + 2 cups water; simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and add 2 tsp. vinegar.
- Grape juice = Magenta. 1 cup all-natural grape juice + 1 Tb. Vinegar.
- Coffee = Gold. ½ cup ground coffee + 2 cups boiling water. Steep, strain and add 1 Tb. vinegar.
- Red onions = Blue. Skins only of 6 red onions + 2 cups water; simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and add 3 tsp. vinegar.
- Green tea = Light green. 6 green tea bags + 1 cup boiling water. Steep 5 minutes and strain.
- Red cabbage = Pale blue. ½ head red cabbage (cut into chunks) + 4 cups boiling water + 2 Tbs. vinegar. Cool and strain.
- Turmeric = Yellow. 2 Tbs. turmeric + 1 cup boiling water + 2 tsp. vinegar.
- Paprika = Orange. 2 Tbs. paprika + 1 cup boiling water + 2 tsp. vinegar.
- Blueberries = Blue/Gray. 1 cup frozen blueberries + 1 cup water. Let stand ‘til room temperature and strain.
- Carrot tops = Pale yellow. 2 cups chopped carrot greens + 1½ cups water; simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and add 2 tsp. vinegar.
- Orange peels = Palest yellow. Peels of 6 oranges + 1 ½ cups water; simmer for 20 minutes. Strain and add 2 tsp. vinegar.
Step 3: Gather your family.
Kids love to color eggs. Guided by the recipes above, experiment with veggie/spice quantities and steep times. The longer you steep, the deeper the color—steeping eggs can even be left overnight in the refrigerator. Hardboil eggs or blow them out:
- Use a heavy needle or bent paperclip to poke holes in each end of a fresh egg.
- Wiggle the needle around inside to pierce the yoke.
- Blow strongly through one hole, collecting the contents from the other in a small bowl.
- Rinse eggs thoroughly inside and out.
- Don’t waste your egg contents—scramble them or use in baking.
Kids with the urge to decorate can:
- Wrap rubber bands around eggs before dyeing for striped designs.
- Wrap onion skins around eggs and secure with rubber bands for marbled looks after coloring.
- Write names, etc. in wax crayon on eggs before dyeing: magic!
Step 4: Embrace the imperfect!
Naturally dyed eggs sometimes splotch or dye unevenly—we had great success with beets and green tea, but our paprika-dyed egg looked marbled and our orange peel dye gave up just a tinge of color. Nonetheless, all look beautiful in an Easter basket!
We loved the look of natural-colored, shredded kraft paper with white baskets. Tell us below: How did you display your naturally dyed eggs?
Enjoy brunch and an Easter egg hunt at the Garden and spend the rest of the day viewing all that spring has to offer.
©2013 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org