Food Coloring Substitutes

By Tiffany Silverberg

Nowadays, people are becoming more and more conscious of avoiding processed, preservative-filled foods. Food coloring might seem like one of the more difficult items to purge. Cookie and cake frosting and Easter eggs just wouldn't be the same without it, right? Fortunately, Mother Nature offers many food-grade color alternatives.

Beetroot slice closeup.
credit: sagarmanis/iStock/GettyImages
Beetroot slice closeup.

Red

Beets are so red and richly colored that they can actually stain your fingers for a few days. This root vegetable also has a slightly nutty flavor that complements some sweet baked goods. Simply puréeing or juicing a beet is a good way to get very effective red dye. Mix a drop of this juice into a frosting or dough to make it pink, and add more for red. Just keep your fingers protected to avoid getting stained.

Red cabbage also has a red pigment, but it has more bitter flavor, so not as good for baked goods. If you want to use it for another purpose, like Easter eggs, boil the vegetable to extract the pigment.

Yellow

Turmeric has a bright yellow color that works beautifully for dying foods. Mix it with boiling water to dye eggs.

Boiling lemon, orange and onion peels releases yellowish pigments ranging from bright yellow to dark yellow to orange.

Boil dark leafy vegetables like spinach, kale and bok choy for greenish-yellow tints.

Tea and coffee give a yellowish-brown color.

Blue

Blue is a fairly rare ingredient in natural foods, with the most popular being blueberries, which can be juiced to create dye. Purplish-blue hues may be easier to come by, as they're more readily found in red grape skins, red cabbage and red or purple potato skins.