Food & Drink

How to Dye Easter Eggs Without Food Coloring

You may be asking yourself -- wait, why would I want to use anything but food coloring to dye my eggs this Easter (or whatever non-denominational, spring-based, egg-dyeing holiday you are planning to celebrate)? Food coloring is safe, easy, and allows you to craft nearly any variance of color and design on your egg-canvasses, right?

Well, you're not wrong. But what's more rewarding: building a table from scratch, with your bare hands, or schlepping down to your local Swedish-owned furniture mega-store and picking out a premade option with an alarming number of vowels in the name? Dyeing your eggs without the aid of store-bought food coloring is obviously much simpler than building furniture from scratch -- but you should still feel that same tingle of self-assurance when you can get some technicolor dream eggs with nothing but beets, onion skins, and elbow grease. Bonus: you don't have to leave the house to get dye -- you have all the tools probably stocked in your pantry.

Think of this as DIY holiday fun, on a reasonable scale. And save your food coloring for green beer… even if it might be out of season.

Onion skins

This all-natural method has long been a holiday tradition in Armenia, Russia, and other parts of Eastern Europe. But be warned: it's not going to be super-easy to do, and -- like most things worth doing in life -- you're going to need a pantyhose and some parsley to make it work. The results speak for themselves though, as this is one of the most efficient ways to get elaborate egg designs that will wow your friends and fill your enemies with burning jealousy. The stencil-esque use of the parsley leaves also make sure that those of us lacking the fine motor skills can still make an egg worthy of a Fabergé treatment. Ultimately, this is not a shortcut though. It's more of a longcut.

Red cabbage

Don't be fooled, DIY-dyers: despite the name, red cabbage will -- or at least should -- turn your eggs a vibrant, gleaming blue. Please note that this method is insanely cheap, as red cabbage is traditionally the kind of thing Dickensian antagonists feed to orphans in order to keep costs down. But, it is admittedly labor intensive as you need to cook the cabbage, and wait longer for the dye to stick. The cost/time ratio is offset by the bright, shining teal color that will eventually emerge -- and hey, you might still have some cabbage leftover for supper. Which is always a plus.

Turmeric

As this jolly aunt gleefully explains in the video, with turmeric, you can easily control the level of pigment you are adding to your egg… which basically varies between a deep yellow to a light color of yellow. Still, they end up looking pretty cool -- and if yellow is your favorite color than this is the method for you. Overall, the whole operation should be a fairly low lift and deliver a solid result.  

Beets

[Skip ahead to 1:51 to see the beet action, as we went over the rest already!]
Beets, once famously described as nature's candy by Doug Funnie on his eponymous Nickelodeon show (also the name of his favorite band!) are an ideal natural option to give your eggs a deep red or pinkish hue. Anyone who has chopped beets -- or even touched them, really -- should know how strong their natural dye is. Ideally, you're also going to use some vinegar and salt along with the deep red veggie, and take some time boiling them to bring out the full depth of color. So again, this isn't really the most time-conducive way to dye your eggs. But hey, if you are reading this article, you probably have resigned yourself to spending some time on this, anyway. And think of all the noble beet farmers you will be supporting in the process.

Kool-Aid

So using Kool-Aid might not be the most au natural way to eschew food coloring... as Kool-Aid seems to be sugary food coloring in the first place. But this method can be especially handy if you realize you don't have food coloring in the house, or if you are trying to dye eggs at 3am (no judgement) and 7/11 is the only place open in town. The colors are vibrant and solid, Kool-Aid packets are cheap, and the dye should only take slightly longer to stick than traditional food coloring. You do need to add vinegar to your Kool-Aid in order for this to work though, so make sure you keep your sipping cup and your dyeing cup separate during this experiment -- lest you end up with a mouthful of wannabe kombucha.

BONUS: Shaving cream

While one can't use shaving cream alone to dye eggs (and if you can... you should probably switch brands), adding shaving cream to your egg dyeing tradition is certainly a mini-DIY project that will result in some -- frankly -- dope AF, marbled egg colors. In layman's terms, it will make them all swirly. Now, you still don't need to use traditional food coloring here, as you can combine some of the natural coloration methods listed above. That being said, going through these various steps will certainly take up a few hours of your time -- but, you know, Easter only comes once a year. You might as well get your hands dirty. It's what that giant, invisible bunny from your youth would have wanted, after all.

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Wil Fulton is a staff writer for Thrillist. If you told him he could only eat one food for the rest of his life, he'd be confused and scared. Follow him: @wilfulton.