Sunday, April 29, 2012

All Natural Food Dyes Made @ Home: Pink

My three year old's birthday cupcakes with naturally dyed pink icing using this cream cheese icing recipe
Food dye has been reported to contribute to a number of known behavioral conditions (ADHD, for example- source), and also digestive issues for me and my loved ones.  So I started thinking about ways to develop healthier food dyes that I could make at home for things like dying icing and Easter eggs.

Well, sorry that I'm too late for your Easter festivities, but I thought I would share anyways because this is helpful stuff! 
If you have tried to find a natural alternative to the food dyes that come from the grocery store or a Hobby Lobby/ Michael's type craft store, you most likely were met with a pretty steep price.  I think I once paid $20+ dollars for natural versions of a 3-pack of red, blue, and yellow.

Formerly having decorated cakes professionally, with the "bad" dyes that worked so well, I also never found any natural dyes that fit the bill for my dying needs.

Until now, that is- and I made them myself so even better!  Here is my recipe for pink icing and a couple of tips and how-tos for home dye used for icings.

Home-made Icing/ Food Dyes: Pink (see below for other color possibilities)
This recipe ends up yielding about 3-4 Tbsp of concentrate (depending on how concentrated you make it), which I used to dye about 4 cups of icing for a light pink color.  Use more beet and honey if you want it to be more fuchsia or dark pink.

The slightly tan icing on the right is what I started with before adding this dye recipe
  • Beet, shaved or grated with a microplane (a microplane is particularly helpful if you don't have a high powered blender)
  • Honey
  • Water
  • I used equal parts grated beet and honey- 2 Tbsp of each, and filled the bottom of a pot with water- just enough to cover.  The main part is to have equal parts honey and equal parts grated food you are using for color.
  • Bring to a boil and then simmer until most of the water has evaporated off.  You can let it simmer for up to 30 minutes if you want it to be really concentrated- which will emulsify better with an icing or frosting.
  • When it has reached desired consistency- like a thick sauce, puree, preferably in a high powered blender, but you can also use a food processor or a magic bullet type blender.
  • When you blend with icing or frosting (or ice cream base, etc. the possibilities are endless :), make sure all parts are at room temperature so they will emulsify better.  Add concentrate one tsp at a time for easier emulsification.
  • And pipe, prepare, eat. etc.- that's it!
 Tips and Tricks:
  • The trick to a good dye is for it to be viscous (very thick) and concentrated.   You want it to emulsify well with the icings or frostings since your they will most likely contain a good amount of fat (water- or runny icing dye and fat would not mix well together).
  • You will want to also have a thick sweetener handy.  Honey, I believe, would be best here.  But you could also use glucose (although somewhat hard to come by), coconut nectar, and perhaps maple syrup.  I have had the best results with honey.
  • The honey neutralizes the beet flavor so no, there is no funky beet taste :).
  • If you have found that your color is too bright or bold, and you want to make it more muted, then try adding a color from the opposite of the color wheel, which you can find here.  For example, if I wanted more of a salmon color- like a muted pink, I could have used a pinch of spinach or mint added to the beet dye to mute the pinkness some.  If you notice that the icing above seems somewhat muted anyways because I started with a brownish (because of the coconut sugar) icing.  Brown mutes everything- all colors interact with each other so experiment, experiment!
  • There are many colors found in nature; however, when it comes to food dying I believe the lower the water content of the food, the better.  Also avoid foods that oxidize easily (like bananas- they turn brown) when heated.
  • Possible other foods that could be used with this recipe formula:
    • Red/ pink foods- raspberries (although higher in water content), beets, red cabbage.  I would not recommend using strawberries- even if ripe because they are extremely high in water content.
    • Orange/ Yellow foods- turmeric (one tsp of this goes a long way without adding any kind of funky taste), lemon or orange zest.
    • Green Foods- spinach, even though it has a high water content is the best I have found for turning things green, also mint.
    • Brown- dates and prunes are a great source for brown
    • I'm still trying to come up with ideas for bluePurple is easier- blueberries I'm sure could do the trick. 
This post has been linked up to:
Sugar Free Sunday @ Flip Cookbook
Slightly Indulgent Tuesday's @ Simply Sugar and Gluten Free
Allergy Free Wednesdays , a wide variety of allergen-free recipes hosted by six different bloggers


  1. Blue! One one of my favorite blogs here:

    1. Thanks so much! Baking soda- of course! Since it's basic it reacts with acidic ing. I know this because I once made PB & J cookies with grape jelly and a high baking soda PB cookie recipe. When I pulled them out of the oven they had a blue ring around the purple jelly in the center :)

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your great and informative post on Allergy-Free Wednesdays! Be sure to check back next week for recipe highlights (including the top 3 reader choice submissions and hostess favorites).

    Be Well!


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