Natural Food Coloring - Homemade, Organic and Healthy

Most parents know that cheap red cordial drinks, candies and snack foods heavily laden with various artificial dyes and colorings causes hyperactivity in their kids at parties and on other occasions.

Some kids are allergic to various dyes. Although extensive research over more than 30 years has failed to find conclusive evidence of a causal link between food colorings and Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), there is good evidence that artificial food colorings can cause hyperactivity.

A study by the Food Standards Agency in the United Kingdom in 2007 showed that drinks containing artificial food colors increased the hyperactive behavior of children from 3-9, particularly the older children.

Red and yellow dyes appear to be the most problematic.

Other behavioral changes that have been linked with artificial dyes and colors, which are essentially inorganic chemicals, derived from petroleum, are:

The good news is that there are many fabulous natural, organic food colors available that are derived from natural foods that provide healthy alternatives. You can make many of these yourself or buy them from health food stores.

Many foods have rich natural colors
Many foods have rich natural colors | Source
Artificial food color dyes are chemicals, mostly derived from petroleum
Artificial food color dyes are chemicals, mostly derived from petroleum | Source
Fruits have natural colors that can be used to color various dishes
Fruits have natural colors that can be used to color various dishes | Source
Artificial food color additives are just chemicals
Artificial food color additives are just chemicals | Source

Commercial Natural Food Colors

Various natural food dyes are now being produced as alternatives to the synthetic and petroleum derived ones. Of course, natural food colors, while organic can sometimes trigger allergic reactions in some people, just like the allergic reaction caused by peanuts and other foods. Natural colors known to cause problems include cochineal, annatto and carmineare. Some examples of commercially available natural food colors, derived from spices, vegetables, fruits and insects include:

  • Butterfly pea, produces a blue food dye
  • Pandan produces a green food coloring
  • Elderberry juice
  • Lycopene (E160d)
  • Paprika (E160c)
  • Saffron (carotenoids, E160a)
  • Turmeric (curcuminoids, E100)
  • Betanin (E162) derived from beets
  • Cochineal (E120), a red dye derived from the cochineal insect
  • Chlorophyllin (E140), green dye derived from chlorella algae
  • Annatto (E160b), a reddish-orange dye derived form achiote seeds
  • Caramel coloring (E150), made from caramelized sugar

Homemade Natural Food Colors

Natural, homemade food colorings are never going to have the intensity of the artificial chemical dyes, nevertheless they do an excellent job for most foods and dishes. You can simmer various fruit and vegetable extracts to concentrate the color.

Natural Pink and Purple Food Colors

Beets are the best option for purples and pinks. You only have to look at your hands after handling beets to know the strength and intensity of beet dyes. You can use the juice from tinned beets or kind, or make your own by boiling, juicing, or homogenising the raw or cooked vegetable.

For many dishes adding pureed beets adds nutrients as well as color. Beets, mashed or shredded add a slight sweetness and intense purple or pink color to frosting, puddings and cakes.

Another option is grape juice concentrate.

Red cabbage can be used to make both purple and blue food coloring. For purple, cut and boil the cabbage until the water is very dark and concentrated. This will give you a pretty purple dye. Adding a little baking soda changes the color to blue.

Cake Frosting Suggestions

To make pink frosting, mix 1/4 teaspoon beet juice with 2 tablespoon frosting. To make purple frosting, mix 1/4 teaspoon grape juice concentrate with 2 tablespoon frosting. To make green frosting, use 1/2 teaspoon of concentrated spinach juice, orange 1/2 teaspoon of carrot juice.

Natural Red Food Colors

Red colors can be derived from any red fruit such as like raspberries, cranberries or pomegranate. These fruits can be juiced or homogenized to yield the colored juice. For baked goods, lemon juice reacts with cocoa powder to produce a red color. You can concentrate the red color of raspberries or other red fruits by heating gently to evaporate some of the moisture. The thick syrup will have an intense color.

Natural Orange Food Colors

Carrots are the obvious source of orange colors, but you can also try golden beet juice. Citrus peel dies not yield much color but it can be used to create orange spots.

Natural Yellow Food Colors

Mix fine turmeric powder with a little hot water to form a paste. You can also try golden beet juice. Saffron is also excellent, but it is expensive. Vanilla extract also provides a yellow color. The outer skins of yellow onions can also be used to make a yellow color. Various yellow flowers such as daffodil and buttercups can also be used.

Natural Violet Food Colors

Cook frozen or fresh blueberries gently over low heat, stirring frequently, until a thick syrup is formed. Sieve the mixture to remove pulp. Reduce again. Allow to cool.

Natural Blue Food Colors

Cook blueberries or blackberries over low heat, sieve to remove the pulp. Red cabbage can be used to make both purple and blue food coloring. For purple, cut and boil the cabbage until the water is very dark and concentrated. This will give you a pretty purple dye. For blue, stir in some baking powder which will change the color to blue.

Natural Green Food Colors

Homogenised or freshly juiced spinach or other green leaved vegetables, provide dark green colors. Use turmeric paste to get lighter green colors. Blueberry juice can also be combined with turmeric to make green

Natural Brown Food Colors

Sifted cocoa, carob powder and coffee are the obvious ways to get brown colors.

ENJOY!

© 2013 Dr. John Anderson

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Comments 13 comments

rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

I wonder if these dyes could be produced, marketed and replace the current dyes? That would be so great. Thanks for an informative article!


janderson99 profile image

janderson99 3 years ago from Australia on Planet Water Author

There are already a range of natural dyes available, but they are hard to find.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 3 years ago from California

Very useful!


StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 3 years ago from New Jersey

I am glad you wrote this article. I have been researching for about 6 months to get the most range of natural colors for products. My business is based on natural herbal blends, and finding commercial, natural dyes was close to impossible or very expensive. So I have found so ways to solve the issue. But this article gives some additional "food"--pun intended--for thought.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

Thanks for this look at using natural food colorings that are much healthier than the store bought dyes. I was thinking about using the black/purple grapes as a food coloring just yesterday. This hub is a good reminder of what works well.


peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

I use pandan leaves for green color, carrot juice for orange and dragonfruit for red. Original fruit makes good quality food color.


Doodlehead profile image

Doodlehead 3 years ago from Northern California

I predict over time this hub will climb high on Google search as it is a needed topic and there are few articles on it.


Mommymay profile image

Mommymay 3 years ago from Ohio

Great to see this post! We have gone to an all organic lifestyle and with that comes some strange food colorings sometimes....think Starbucks and red...i am a vegetarian so sometimes organic colorings are a no-no for me. Thanks for the tips on how to make things at home!!!


Efficient Admin profile image

Efficient Admin 3 years ago from Charlotte, NC

These are some really great ideas and your photos of the fruit and powders are just beautiful, and blueberry juice I have noticed will stain anything in sight so it's natural that it would be a great (and healthy) food coloring. Thanks for sharing this very useful and needed article. Voted up.


carol7777 profile image

carol7777 3 years ago from Arizona

What great ideas and so nice to know they are healthful without all the science project ingredients. Great job and this hub is worth voting up, sharing, pinning and making sure I bookmark.


DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Excellent choice of colors and these foods are beneficial too. You accomplished an informative and to the point Hub


ARUN KANTI profile image

ARUN KANTI 3 years ago from KOLKATA

Thank you for sharing such useful information illustrated with beautiful photos.


ARUN KANTI profile image

ARUN KANTI 3 years ago from KOLKATA

Thank you for sharing such useful information illustrated with beautiful photos.

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