Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs
I’m not a fan of food dye. I try to avoid unnatural red, blue, green and yellow in anything I eat. So this year, I said goodbye to my childhood friend PAAS and went to the produce section to prepare naturally dyed Easter eggs. I’m claiming victory. While the technique for dying eggs with fruits, veggies and spices is fairly simple, it does take some time and patience, to allow the eggs to absorb all of the natural dye goodness. And the outcome is not always what you may expect. But the color combinations from naturally dyed Easter eggs can be surprisingly stunning and yield an array of real beauties. I’m a convert.
So here’s what NO other recipe will tell you (well, at least none of the dozens and dozens I scanned.) A few days after I completed my first round concocting several dye brews, which I’d declared a relative success, my initial pride and satisfaction dimmed, or you might say, “dyed out”. My goal was to create a softer, more muted range of yellows and blues, to coordinate with my Easter Table design and specifically, the beautiful linens I chose. But something didn’t seem right. I’d left a few of the eggs to bathe in the natural dye overnight. Surely, they would have been deeper in color than those I’d dunked for 20 minutes to an hour. Right?! Wrong. So I went back for round two and learned THE SECRET. There is ONE ingredient you should NOT include in your natural dye… VINEGAR! Yep. I know. It’s almost blasphemous. But, my side by side comparison proved my suspicions were correct. Adding vinegar to natural dye does nothing more than dilute the color, and in some cases, rendered a perfectly beautiful batch of dye virtually ineffective. I imagined there was some scientific reason, far beyond my home cook understanding, that vinegar was essential to successful dying. Alas, I can find none. At least none that my eyes or design senses can detect. So my final verdict, NO Vinegar. There you have it.
Here’s how I naturally dyed Easter eggs and you can too. I’m including a fool proof way to boil eggs as well.
What You’ll Need
- Fruits, Vegetables and Spices
- Paper Towels
- Old Washcloth (or More Paper Towels)
- Fine Mesh Strainer
- Small Bowls for Dyes
- Egg Carton
- Place the eggs into a pot of tap water and bring it to a boil.
- Turn off the flame, cover the pot and let the eggs sit for 10 minutes.
- Empty the pot of hot water and fill it with cold water, allowing the eggs to cool completely, changing the water one time. (If you don’t plan on eating the eggs, it’s not necessary to change the water, as doing so cools the eggs more quickly, which stops the cooking process and helps to eliminate an unappealing ring around the yolk.)
- In a small pot, prepare the fruit, vegetable or spice blend as indicated below.
- Bring to a boil, reduce the heat then simmer the mixture for 10 – 20 minutes.
- Strain each blend. (Do not add vinegar!)
- Bath the eggs for between 15 minutes and 1 hour. (Did I mention time and patience is required here.)
- Robin’s Egg Blue – One Half Purple/Red Cabbage (Roughly Chopped) + 4 Cups Water
- Grey Lavender to Light or Grey Blue – 1 Cup Grape Juice Concentrate
- Light or Grey Blue – 2 Red Onions (Roughly Chopped with Skin) + 1 Cup Frozen Raspberries + 2 Cups Water
- Yellow – 2 Tablespoons Turmeric + 2 Cups Water
- Green – Mix Blue Dye with Yellow Dye
Tips and Truths
♥ Natural, yes. Dye, yes. So take care when working on porous surfaces, like marble. I use a clear cutting mat under the dying station I created to prevent staining. I also used an old washcloth to wipe the eggs dry and catch the occasional counter drip.
♥ Some of the dye left a residue on the egg from the food sediment, especially the grape juice. You can easily wipe this away. That old washcloth came in real handy for this. Depending on the egg, some will appear marbleized in color. If you like this look, great! If not, just use an abrasive sponge and rub out the color, almost completely with a bit of water and elbow grease.
♥ I like using egg cartons to drain and dry the natural dyed Easter eggs. Instead of placing the eggs vertically in each space, as they are when they come packaged, I prefer to lay them horizontally across the top of the space for more even drying and color distribution.
♥ Sometimes, a slightly lighter spot of color appears on the dyed egg from where it rested against the container. This was less so when I allowed the eggs to soak in the dye longer. But I found the natural variegation in color on these eggs was very pretty.
♥ Some of the oddest colors appeared from my mad scientist mixing and dipping. I just went for it and had fun experimenting and I hope you and your children will too. For instance, mixing either of the blue dyes with the yellow (turmeric) dye created green. A few eggs looked positively putrid the after the first or second dunk. And so, I gave one or two a good rub and scrub and just started over.
♥ There are countless recipes for creating beautiful, bold and subtle colors. I chose a more muted palate to go with my Easter Table design. Since you, and your children, may have other designs in mind, I scanned dozens of Pinterest pages and websites and found the Better Homes and Gardens site to be most comprehensive and easy to follow, save for some of their more, shall we say, sophisticated, color combos (I for one am not skinning 6 avocados and chopping amaranth flowers – but that’s just me.) Just remember, do not add vinegar – trust me!
So, while I hope I’ve given you a good place to start, this is indeed only the beginning for my foray into naturally dyed Easter eggs, and I hope it will be yours too!