Food and Cuisine

Published on December 1st, 2011 | by Vivian Nelson Melle


Natural Culinary Dyes

While birthdays, weddings and anniversaries are all occasions calling for festive and colorful treats, the holiday season screams for bright and beautiful decorations to don cakes, cookies and candies. There is ongoing concerns, however, about the safety and healthfulness of artificial dyes and it’s hard to ignore the research showing side effects ranging from head aches to attention difficulties. This holiday season you can still enjoy a myriad of glorious colors by purchasing the following dyes or making your own. Here are a few options for natural culinary dyes.

Christmas cookies

Christmas cookies

India Tree Culinary Dye

India Tree culinary dyes are made with natural ingredients including vegetable juices and spices. The products contain no allergens and are perfect for both buttercream frosting, royal icing and batter. They come in red, yellow and blue requiring mixing and blending to achieve a wide spectrum of color choices. You can also add the colorants to white chocolate for truffles or other confectionary treats.

{cc photo courtesy of TidyMom {Cheryl} on Flickr}

Christmas cupcakes

Christmas cupcakes

Seelect Tea Organic Natural Food Coloring

Seelect’s food coloring ingredient list sounds like a farmer’s market stall. Made from a cornucopia of nature’s own rainbow of purple Carrots, hibiscus Flowers, grape Skin and beets, the company offers several vibrant color choices. Seelect’s colorants are also organic, Kosher and vegan making them even more appealing. It’s important to add the dye in small amounts to achieve the perfect shade. While the colorants do not add flavoring when used appropriately, too much can alter the natural creaminess and texture of frostings and glazes.

{cc photo courtesy of Sugar Daze (f/k/a LittleMissCupcakeParis)  on Flickr}

festive red velvet cake

Festive red velvet cake

Fruits and Vegetables

Before there was artificial dyes bakers used what nature offered and sometimes the original is still the best option. In this case, it’s actually the cheapest. Some of the same fruits and vegetables used for egg dying can also be used for dying frostings and cake batters. Grape juice, blueberries, orange, beets and spinach are viable options for coloring frosting and batters. For frostings, the secret is concentrating the vegetable or fruit down with water and using a small amount to dye the product without introducing the flavor, unless you want to. For batters, you can add the concentrate or the actually fruit or vegetable. One of the best red velvet cake recipes I have ever used is not only vegan, but free of red 40 dye. Hannah at Bittersweet was on a search for a gorgeous red batter for the traditional red velvet cake and did all the ground work for us. She found her prize in sliced beets, yes that’s correct, a rich, beautiful red was found in a water-packed can of sliced beets. Luckily, you can enjoy the vibrant red while introducing a little more nutrition into your cake creations this holiday season.

{cc photo courtesy of texascooking on Flickr}

{sources: India Tree and Seelect Tea}

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About the Author

Vivian Nelson Melle is a writer and life coach helping individuals, families, and businesses thrive. She supports small businesses especially in the areas of Green Living, Health, and Wellness. She can be found at and

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