Published on March 16th, 2008 | by Stephanie Evans
Simple Recipes for Natural Egg Dyes
Easter is nearly upon us and the familiar tradition of painting hard-boiled eggs is an easy one to “green,” as so many natural dyes are already at our disposal.
Many kitchens and pantries are already stocked with the spices, fruits, vegetables, and other food items that can be used to create beautiful, all-natural colors.
Even better, the dying ingredients can be composted as soon as the activity is done and of course, the eggs enjoyed as a healthy snack later. The colored egg shells can also be composted without any worry about putting synthetic dyes or other chemical materials into your compost pile.
The cold-dying process is safe too—children and adults alike will not have to worry about hands stained with artificial dyes and the process ensures that the eggs are safe to eat later.
Preparation requires only:
- hot water
- dying ingredients
- a strainer
- later, containers in which the eggs can be dyed
- a measure of patience and tolerance for a messy work area!
Make sure the hard-boiled eggs have cooled and are wiped free of any residue before getting started. Fortunately, dying eggs with these natural ingredients is a very inexact science; experiment and see what matches your personal color preference.
It is easy to dilute a particularly rich color with more water later, so perhaps erring on the side of heavy-handedness is better. For example, solid vegetable or fruit ingredients can be boiled in equal proportions.
- Heat the water and “cook” the ingredients until desired color is achieved. The eggs will turn out a lighter shade than what appears in the pan.
- After straining the ingredients, add one tablespoon of vinegar to the dye in order to ensure staying power. Allow dye water to cool until it is warm to the touch.
- Dye eggs in containers that are deep enough to cover eggs completely. Use a slotted spoon to place eggs in containers to prevent accidental breakage.
Traditional pastel colors like yellow, pink, pale blue, and lavender are easy to accomplish with these common grocery items:
- Yellow — steep two or three green tea or chamomile tea bags in a cup of hot water and then soak eggs in tea until desired depth of yellow color appears
- Pink — use cranberry or red grape juice thinned with water
- Light Blue — add purple grape juice and canned blueberries to the water
- Lavender — steep hibiscus or “Red Zinger” tea bags in hot water
Does the spice cabinet need some thinning out? Put old spices to good use with these ideas and measure about one tablespoon per cup of water:
- Vibrant Yellow — boil ground cumin or turmeric in water
- Orange — cooking paprika in hot water produces an orange color
- Earthy Rusty Brown — add chili powder to heating water
- Light Brown-Gold — boil dill seeds in water for this muted earth-tone
Save these ingredients during the week while preparing meals and use them over the weekend to dye eggs:
- Beige — add old coffee grounds, or simply old coffee, to water
- Bright Red — boil red onion skins to achieve a bright red dye
- Orange — boil yellow onion skins for an orange color
- Greenish-Yellow — cook Yellow Delicious apple peels in hot water
Once eggs are dry, they will typically have a matte teture. Shine them up with a touch of cooking oil on a dish cloth.
The longer you soak the eggs, the darker the color. But be careful not to soak eggs you want to eat later for too long—a soaking that extends beyond one hour can cause the dye to seep through the shells and taint the eggs underneath. Though these dyes are natural, the flavors and naturally occurring byproducts may not be suitable for consumption.
If solid colors are not aesthetically interesting enough for your Easter celebration, try out some of these creative techniques to vary the textures and appearances:
- Use white wax crayons—give beeswax or soy crayons a try—to gently decorate eggs before dying. The wax will resist the dye and patterns or words will jump out!
- Carefully apply rubber bands of varying thicknesses to hardboiled eggs before dying to create stripes or random rings of color. Take a chance and give striped eggs another dye bath in a different color to see if the layers blend into a new look! Just make sure eggs are completely dry before removing rubber bands.
- Use a Chinese tea egg recipe to create delicious and delicately marbled eggs. These tasty eggs are definitely not suitable for hiding or for baskets, as the shells are crackled and later removed to reveal the edible marbled wonder!