Plant-Based Food Colors, Chemical-free

Here’s a healthy solution to commercial dyes. Artificial dyes are one of the worst toxins in our food, found in candies, ice cream, and Oh No! Christmas cookies! These chemical poisons are linked to cancer, brain tumors, and child hyperactivity, yet USA food manufacturers pour 15 million pounds of artificial dyes into our foods each year.  These easy homemade colors are made from everyday foods, and they work perfectly in frostings, cakes, candies, etc. Even better, they’re quite nutritious! I first prepared the liquid color concentrates below, and then added them to Royal Icing, non-glycemic. Here’s how to make the liquid colors.

(Yes, you can find commercial “non-toxic” food dyes in grocery stores and online. Watkins Food Colors has “no artificial dyes”. However who wants to eat glycerin, invert sugar, potassium hydroxide, polysorbate 80, trehalose, and sodium citrate? Food Coloring by Color Kitchen is made from whole foods like spirulina, turmeric, and beets. However their colors are laced with maltodextrin, a corn sugar which I would not use in my kitchen.)

Make brilliant colors with these everyday foods:

  • Green: ChlorOxygen
  • Yellow: Turmeric
  • Orange: Goji berry
  • Pink: Beet
  • Red: Beet + Goji berry
  • Lavender: Red cabbage
  • Blue: Red cabbage + baking soda
  • Mix the above to make other colors. You can create every shade imaginable!

Helpful tools include a set of 7 white cups or bowls, a small heat-resistant pitcher, an eye dropper, a small and medium gauge strainer, and an ice cube tray. The advantage of an ice cube tray is that it stores the colors for future use, and makes a convenient color palette.

Green: Use a few drops of ChlorOxygen by Herbs, etc. You can use this straight as it is a powerful concentrated dye by itself. Or you can dilute it like I did, adding 3 dropper fulls of ChlorOxygen to 1/4 cup water, stirring together in a small pitcher, and adding to my ice cube tray.

Yellow: In a small saucepan, stir 1 teaspoon turmeric powder into 1/3 cup water. Bring to a boil, turn down and simmer 3 minutes. Strain with a fine strainer into a small pitcher. When it cools, pour into your ice cube tray. Add the liquid bit by bit to your food until you reach your desired shade of yellow.

Orange: In a small blender, liquefy 1/4 cup dry goji berries in 1/3 cup water. This may take a minute or two, so have patience. Strain with a fine strainer into a small pitcher. You may need to stir the bottom of the strainer with a teaspoon. Pour the liquid into your ice cube tray. Add this liquid bit by bit to your food until you reach your desired shade of orange.

Pink: In a small blender or food processor, add 1 diced beet and 1/3 cup water to cover. Blend until as liquefied as possible. In a small saucepan, bring the beet puree to a boil, and turn down the heat to simmer for 3 minutes. Strain with a medium strainer into a small pitcher. When it cools, pour into your ice cube tray. Add the liquid bit by bit to your food until you reach your desired shade of pink.

Red: Start with the above pink beet liquid. Add goji liquid a dropper at a time until your desired brilliant red color is achieved.

Lavender: In a food processor, add 1/2 red cabbage coarsely chopped and 3/4 cups water. Process until it is fine mush. In a saucepan, bring the mixture to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer 5 minutes. Then strain with a medium gauge strainer into another pan. Pour that liquid into your small pitcher. Pour half of it into your ice cube trays for lavender color. Use the remaining half for blue. (Save your red cabbage mush, it’s yummy sautéed with coconut oil and garlic.)

Blue: Follow the instructions above for Lavender, separating it into two containers for lavender and blue. In a small pitcher, stir in a small amount of baking soda, and it will turn blue! The amount of soda needed may vary. I added soda 1/8 teaspoon at a time, and ultimately used 7/8 teaspoon to arrive at a lovely blue liquid. If you use too much soda, it will affect the flavor of your food, so go easy. Test your color by dripping the liquid onto a white surface. Oh, and clean it up soon, as this will leave a stain.

Teal: Notice in the photo at the very bottom, you can make a beautiful teal by mixing blue with a little Chlor-Oxygen.

You can store your liquid concentrates in ice cube trays for future use. This batch will last me for years! From left to right: Orange, Pink, Lavender, Yellow, Green, and Blue.

Freeze the liquid concentrates in zip-lock bags for the future.

This was really fun! The icing colors turned out brilliant, beautiful, and completely non-toxic. Yay!

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