How to Make Natural, Nontoxic, Vegan Dyes for Easter Eggs at Home

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Vegan is not necessarily an all-or-nothing choice, and some vegans don't want their families to miss out on an occasional treat like Easter egg hunts. However, the regular food dyes you buy for coloring Easter eggs may or may not be safe for your family (the FDA has removed some dyes from the market, after they were used for many years); there is still some controversy about some of the dyes that are used in kits. In addition, some dyes are made from non-vegan sources, and if you are trying to make the switch to a more vegan lifestyle (yes, we know eggs are not vegan), then you may want to experiment with vegan Easter egg dyes. This list of dyes is nowhere near complete, but will give you some great ideas on what alternatives to the commercial kits you can use not only for Easter eggs, but for foods all throughout the year!

Basket with Easter Eggs, by Jim Barber
Basket with Easter Eggs, by Jim Barber | Source

Some Basics

A small amount of vinegar will help to set dyes. Unless you are dyeing eggs red or yellow, use white vinegar, rice vinegar, or white wine vinegar to help set the dyes. If you are dyeing eggs red, you can use wine vinegar; if you are dyeing eggs yellow, you can use apple cider vinegar. Almost all of these dyes will work better if the liquid is hot, and the longer you leave the eggs in the dye, the stronger the color will be.

Because these dyes are made from nontoxic sources, if a little gets through the porous shell onto the egg white, the egg is still safe to eat.

For more interesting designs, wrap your eggs in cheesecloth, tissue paper, onion skin, or color on them with clear wax from vegan sources. Wrapping eggs will give you a marbled effect; wax will form white designs because the color will not soak in where the wax prevents it. (In textiles, this technique is called batik.)

Brightly Colored Easter Eggs Wait to Be Hidden for an Easter Egg Hunt, by Joel Sartore
Brightly Colored Easter Eggs Wait to Be Hidden for an Easter Egg Hunt, by Joel Sartore | Source

How to Achieve Different Colors

Remember that these batches will turn out to be a bit unpredictable, so you are not going to get even results. However, that is part of the fun, and this project can even be made into a science lesson!

  • Red, pink, purple: Use cranberries or raspberries; beets or beet juice; red onion skins; red wine; pomegranate juice; grape juice; avocado skins (boil for 20 minutes to extract color); annatto.
  • Green, olive: cooked kale or spinach in the simmering water; green tea; red onion skins may also sometimes have this effect.
  • Yellow or orange: turmeric; cumin; paprika; chili powder; yellow onion skins; apple peels; carrots; saffron; or curry powder.
  • Brown: coffee or tea.
  • Blue: red cabbage leaves; blueberries; or red wine (may come out grey or black).
  • Kool-Aid will produce many different colors.

Other Ideas

  • Basically, anything that stains clothing or fingers will dye eggs, if strong enough and the eggs are left in long enough.
  • If you have dye left over, don't throw it out: use it to dye other objects, such as paper or fabric, or even your hair!

© 2012 classicalgeek

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