Easter is a season full of vitality, fun, and family, making memories made of candy-filled baskets and egg-hunts. Get your season underway with a plan for coloring eggs that doesn’t include a box of prepackaged supplies. Whether you simply want to get back to a more natural way of coloring eggs or you want to make do with materials you already have during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, dyeing eggs is easy to do with a variety of foods and spices you’ll likely find in your cupboards and refrigerator.
Step 1 - Choose Your Materials
Choose fruits and vegetables with copious color for the best results. A range of pinks and purples can come from beets, for example. See below for a variety of colors and which materials to choose in order to achieve them. Spices are another fabulous resource for your natural egg dyes. Try vibrant turmeric, paprika, or dill seed. Extracting the colors typically requires the boil method. Similarly, teas are a great place to source ingredients for dyes. Try Red Zinger, black, saffron, turmeric, and green by steeping them normally.
Step 2 - Boil
Of course you need to boil your eggs, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. To get the rich colors you need, boil vegetables for 20-30 minutes or longer, depending on your preference. This process works well for things like purple cabbage and red onion. Use one cup of shredded or chopped vegetable per cup of water. Make your color a few shades darker than your goal since they appear lighter when applied to the egg shell.
Step 3 - Take a Test
After the initial 20 minutes, check your color every five minutes. Place a few drops on a white napkin or white plate as a sample. For a range of colors from the same mixture, begin with a larger batch and remove some when you like the color. Then boil it longer and remove some of a darker color. In this way you can achieve three or more shades.
Step 4 - Cool and Strain
Completely cool each batch of color for a few hours and then strain it using a fine mesh colander or cheesecloth.
Step 5 - Extract Juice
Some fruits make natural dyes without the hassle of extracting color through boiling. Instead, you can use the juice directly from the fruit. Simply mash the fruit manually or using a blender. Then strain it through cheesecloth. Blueberry and grape juice both result in varying shades of blue to lavender. You can also experiment with the juice from marionberries, blackberries, raspberries, and others.
Step 6 - Dye Eggs
Applying natural dyes to eggs takes a bit longer than traditional egg kits. To start, add one tablespoon of white vinegar per cup of color before applying to your eggs. Expect one dozen eggs to consume about four cups of dye liquid. Allow your eggs to sit in the dye overnight. You can do this in separate glasses or mason jars for different colors or place your eggs into a casserole dish and cover with liquid before placing into the fridge to make a tray of the same color.
Note that it is challenging to achieve rich tones with natural dyes so expect mostly pastel shades. However, you can darken the shades by re-applying the dye as many times as you like. Rather than long soaks, try repeated applications with dry time in between to achieve richer shades.
Now that you have a better understanding of the process, here are some traditional colors and suggestions on how to achieve those shades.
A true, deep purple is difficult to obtain with dyes, but you can make a wide variety of shades within the purple family. Boil purple cabbage to any shade of purple, from lavender to royal. Use one cup chopped cabbage for each cup of water. Note that this may create more of a blue tone on white eggs and could bring out green shades on brown eggs. Extracted fruit juices can also net a purple finish.
Pink and Red
Like purple, it’s challenging to create a true red color, but a pink hue is the common result. Use cranberry, raspberry, or other juices made from crushing, blending, or boiling. Avoid concentrated juices that contain a lot of water. Try boiling red onion skins for a color that ranges from lavender to red. A boiled mixture from one cup of shredded beets will result in turning white eggs pink and brown eggs maroon.
Yellow, Orange, and Rust
Experiment with boiled yellow onion skins, which can create an orange to yellow finish on white eggs and turn brown eggs a rusty red. Two tablespoons of turmeric boiled in one cup of water provides a deep mustard yellow tone. Paprika also makes a nice red-orange. For a very pale yellow, you can try boiling the skins from several yellow apples. Fennel tops create a similar greenish-yellow color too.
Coffee is another readily available natural ingredient sourced from a plant. Soak coffee grounds to the desired richness and use the liquid for a brown dye. Again, you can achieve different results with longer brew or repeated applications of dye.