How To Make Natural Food Coloring From Plant-Based Ingredients?

How to make natural food coloring? Well, that’s easy. But the question is, is that necessary? With the growing culinary world, it’s no wonder that people demand a variety of foods. Apart from taste, one thing that attracts consumers to buy food is the appealing color. Color is included in one of the sensory components that can stimulate appetite. Thus people want to try the food. However, food circulating in the market now mainly uses synthetic colors. Data shows a jump in food dyes consumption in the United States by five folds since 1955.

Despite being safe, there are some issues revolving around these kinds of colors. Some of them are cases of health, such as allergies, hyperactivity in kids, as well as cancer. Another reason why people prefer natural edible colors is that they are sustainable.

You can even make safe and non-toxic coloring from vegetables and fruits. But before we know how to make natural food coloring at home, we should thoroughly understand why natural pigments for food are better.

Introduction To Natural Food Coloring

Have you ever wondered why people start making kitchen-made fruit- and vegetable-based food coloring? If you are speaking about the price, artificial ones are affordable. So, that is, perhaps, not the main issue. We argue that most of them consider DIY food coloring as less harmful to their health.

How To Make Natural Food Coloring
Natural Food Coloring

There are many alternative food colorings made of natural ingredients you can try. But before jumping into how to make natural food coloring at home, we would love to walk you through the negative impacts of artificial food colorants and the features of sustainable food coloring that people have started to get interested in.

1. Is Artificial Food Coloring Not Healthy?

When shopping at the supermarket, we will encounter various food products with colorful tones. A high portion of them is occupied by snacks, candies, gummies, beverages, and other confectionery products.

The bright colors, which generally come from synthetic food dyes, are indeed added by manufacturers to attract consumers’ attention. And guess what? The biggest target of those ultra-processed foods is children. No wonder there’s a spike in food dye consumption among children in the US. However, is artificial food coloring safe?

Artificial food colorings are actually under the supervision of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). And thus, they are safe to feature in food. Contrary to this claim, some studies reveal some side effects of these artificial dyes consumption. One of the most interesting is research showing that synthetic pigments promote hyperactivity in kids.

How To Make Natural Food Coloring
Artificial Food Coloring Not Healthy

Besides that, some of the artificial colorants also contain cancer-causing contaminants that will stimulate cancer development in prolonged consumption. Some of the food dye products you should be aware of are Red 40, Yellow 5 (tartrazine), and Yellow 6.

Although the contaminants are present in a small amount and are presumed safe by the FDA, many are still concerned about the long-term effects. In addition to cancer, some people show allergic symptoms in response to Yellow 5 consumption. They experience asthma and hives, to be specific.

Moreover, a study reported that 52% of the respondents experienced allergic symptoms, such as hives and swelling. Considering these facts, many shift to kitchen made, safe, and non-toxic food coloring.

2. Natural Food Coloring VS Artificial Food Coloring

Despite having side effects, artificial food coloring is still a favorite among consumers who want intense bright colors for their meals. They are made of synthetic ingredients, such as petroleum and other chemical substances, to achieve the color consumers love.

Besides their striking colors, these synthetic pigments are more stable even when you keep them longer on your kitchen shelf. Moreover, they are affordable and widely available in the market. Artificial food coloring is the best choice for those who don’t have time to make alternative food coloring from vegetables or fruits.

Natural Food Coloring VS Artificial Food Coloring
Natural Food Coloring VS Artificial Food Coloring

In contrast to the previous colorant, natural ingredients are the key to natural food coloring. In general, popular ingredients used in the manufacture of natural food dyes are fruits and vegetables.

They are rich in antioxidant pigments like chlorophyll, anthocyanins, curcumin, and carotenoids. Some favorite food color ingredients are beets, kale, spinach, turmeric, red cabbage, blueberries, and carrots. Since they are natural, you can easily make them at home with your kitchen ingredients. Even though it requires extra effort compared to artificial ones, you will get healthier alternative food colorings.

3. Why Is Natural Food Coloring Better?

Given that artificial food dyes share significant negative impacts on long-term consumption, natural food colorants are better and healthier options for attractive and safe-to-consume meals. These colorants are made of plant-based ingredients that not only give you stunning colors but also health benefits.

Their colors come from antioxidant pigments that help tackle free radicals that often cause trouble to your health. Antioxidants also have anti-aging, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammation properties. And if you make natural food dyes from juices, you will also get fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which are excellent for your body. So, natural food dyes are completely safe and non-toxic options for those seeking a healthier and sustainable lifestyle.

4. How Long Natural Food Coloring Last?

Since natural food coloring includes natural ingredients without adding more chemicals, the shelf life is shorter than artificial food dyes. Generally, they will expire around 2 to 6 weeks after storing in the refrigerator, depending on the form and temperature. The liquid homemade food coloring will deteriorate faster. This is because the solvent for dissolving the pigment is water, a suitable medium for growing microorganisms.

How To Make Natural Food Coloring
How Long Natural Food Coloring Last?

Meanwhile, the water in the natural food dyes in powder form has been removed through evaporation by heat. However, both of these products contain ingredients prone to spoilage (veggies and fruit extracts). Suppose you want to make them last longer. In that case, you have to store them in a vacuum container so that there is no contact with oxygen which speeds up the process of product deterioration.

Common Natural Food Coloring Sources

Believe it or not, you can make food colors easily at home with kitchen ingredients! The colors they produce are no less attractive compared to artificial ones. Among all the excellent options, we love to recommend beets as the top list.

Beets contain antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins. In beets, this pigment is dark red, slightly magenta. This is because the pH level of the beet is somewhat acidic, causing the color to become lighter. Another alternative to get a natural red color is to use red cabbage. If you want a lighter color, mix in a bit of lemon juice.

How To Make Natural Food Coloring
Achiote Seeds, One of Natural Dye for Cooking and Food

Apart from red, you can make several other colors, such as green, from chlorophyll pigment. Kale and spinach are the two favorite vegetables to get this color. They are often added to smoothies with frozen bananas to have a fresh, mouthwatering green color. As for orange with yellow hints, you can opt for turmeric and carrots.

Spinach As A Natural Dye
Spinach As A Natural Dye

Meanwhile, blueberries are great for those demanding blue or purple tones. If you want to have a lighter lilac, add some beet extract and blend it away. In addition, you can also try charcoal which is now increasingly popular for getting the grayish to black colors, thanks to the mineral content! And for brown tones, cocoa or coffee will be your best bet! But of course, you will feel a bitter aftertaste.

Basic Steps To Making Natural Food Coloring

As we briefly mentioned in the previous section, you can have liquid or powder forms of natural food coloring, depending on your preference. Whatever you want to make, there are some basic steps on how to make natural food coloring at home.

What are those and what things you need to prepare in advance to making natural food coloring?

  • Choose the ingredients. You can start with thinking about what kind of color you want. If you want red, go with beets or red cabbage. For green, there are several options, including kale and matcha, to try. Meanwhile, blue and orange pigments you can get from blueberries, spirulina, and carrots.
  • Consider the taste. Knowing the color will be made of natural ingredients, they will also come with their authentic flavor. For instance, beets will leave an earthy and little bitter aftertaste. So, you must find out how to cover the taste when you want to add it to your meals.
  • Buy them! After choosing natural ingredients, you can now buy them in the market or even harvest some in your garden. Opt for fresh ones if you wish to have liquid natural food coloring and freeze dried or dried ones for the coloring powder.
  • Make concentrated liquid. It is the first base before we go further. You can use slow-pressed juice as it will give you an intense color. This method also keeps vitamins, minerals, and fiber in the extract. Then, put it into heat. Use medium heat to not destroy the rich contents. For the coloring powder, you can simply blend the dried ingredients and sieve them into smooth powder.

How To Make Natural Food Coloring Powder?

Even though natural concentrated liquid food coloring is easy to apply, the coloring powder has a better stability and shelf life. It is also handy to store. For that reason, many prefer powdered natural food dyes to spice up their food.

How To Make Natural Food Coloring
Making of Natural Dye From Dehydrated Beetroot Flakes

If you are one of them, you can try the following step-by-step on how to make natural food coloring in powder form at home.

  • Choose the ingredients. Some already come in powdery form, like coffee, cocoa, and matcha, so you can add it to your meals anytime. But for veggies and fruits, you must buy them in freeze-dried packs. Thus, they are easily blended with your food processor.
  • Prepare your food processor. Make sure it is clean and not wet to avoid the powder sticking out in the processor’s walls. Dry processor also allows the coloring powder to last a bit longer. Also, choose a food processor according to the size and number of the ingredients. If you want to blend a tiny portion of fruits or veggies, pick a smaller one.
  • Add the materials. Put the freeze-dried fruits or veggies of your choice into the processor and blend them until they form smooth powder. Use medium power to prevent excessive heat that potentially destroys the vitamins in the plant-based ingredients.
  • Sieve the powder. It is necessary to ensure there’s no contaminants or parts of the ingredients left in the coloring powder.
  • Store the coloring powder in the refrigerator. But before that, you must keep the powder into a clean, dry, and, if possible, vacuum container. It is crucial to prolong the shelf life and make the color stable during the storage.

Tips for Using Natural Food Coloring

As much as you love to make your own natural food coloring, adding it directly to your meal may influence the taste. Besides, the color you get can be intense. Instead of doing that, we highly encourage you to dilute the powder or concentrated liquid with water, milk, or other natural solvents you prefer.

Tips for Using Natural Food Coloring
Tips for Using Natural Food Coloring

Here are some tips we have prepared for you to boost the color of your food but not overwhelming:

  • Green – Add one tablespoon of matcha or kale powder you have prepared into a bowl, then offer water with twice the amount of the natural colorant you choose. Blend them evenly and pour the mixture to your frosting, smoothies, or cakes.
  • Red – If you have beet powder, add one to two tablespoons with two tablespoons of water. You can also replace it with milk. But the color will likely change to a bit pink pastel and lighter.
  • Yellow/Orange – Either you use turmeric or carrot powder, add a half teaspoon of the coloring powder with ¼ cup of water. Next, boil them with medium heat until they form a paste-like texture. Let the paste cool down before adding it to your food.
  • Blue – While blueberries are a great option, we recommend adding spirulina powder instead as it is easier to use. You can dilute one teaspoon with water around the same amount or simply add it directly to your smoothies.

Best Natural Food Coloring You Can Buy

If you’re on the hunt for the best natural food coloring options, you’re in for a treat! Natural food coloring has gained immense popularity as a healthier alternative to artificial dyes, allowing you to add vibrant colors to your recipes without any guilt. With a wide variety of choices available, you can unleash your creativity in the kitchen and create visually stunning dishes that are as beautiful as they are delicious.

How To Make Natural Food Coloring
Best Natural Food Coloring You Can Buy

When it comes to selecting the best natural food coloring, quality and ingredients matter. Look for brands that offer products made from natural sources like fruits, vegetables, and plant extracts. From beetroot powder to turmeric and spirulina, there are countless natural ingredients that can provide vibrant colors to your culinary masterpieces.

Make sure to choose products that are free from artificial additives and allergens, ensuring a clean and natural coloring experience. With these fantastic natural food coloring options at your disposal, you can elevate your dishes and delight your taste buds while embracing a healthier approach to cooking and baking.

1. Suncore Premium Midori Jade Matcha

Suncore Premium Midori Jade Matcha

Want to make frosting or icing for your birthday cake or cookies with natural green color but are too lazy to get up and make one? Look no further than Suncore Premium Midore Jade Matcha. Its pastel green color offers natural green that isn’t overwhelming.

Even though it’s a little pricey, costing $37.64 for 3.5 oz, it’s worth it as this product has a variety of uses that compete with its competitors. Apart from being used for bakeries, you can add this matcha powder to smoothies, garnish your dessert, and make afternoon tea. 

What We Love: 

This is a vegan-friendly product with no GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) ingredients, a perfect pick for those who pay attention to ethics in the product. In addition, it is a one-in-a-package product you can add to your beverages and meals. 

What To Consider: 

The price is a bit expensive compared to other products. If you are a newbie, you may want to opt for other options.

2. Organic Luminous Blue Spirulina Powder

Organic Luminous Blue Spirulina Powder

If you can’t find blueberries or red cabbage to create your own natural blue food coloring, you may want to look at this alternative. Organic Luminous Blue Spirulina Powder gains its popularity for its intense blue color. But somehow, the color turns pastel when you add it to your favorite smoothies or green juices.

Unlike other natural food dyes that need dilution, you can immediately add this coloring powder with your favorite acai bowl! And most importantly, it is pretty affordable with only $36.99 for 27 servings!

What We Love:

We love the fact that this spirulina powder not only gives color but also works great as an energy boost, thanks to protein and amino acids content!

What To Consider:

If you are used to adding natural food coloring to make desserts or beverages, this product is for you. But, you may want another one if you are a newbie knowing the product’s size is a bit too much.

3. Ancient Roots Dragon Fruit Powder

Ancient Roots Dragon Fruit Powder

Aside from green and blue, here’s come the red! You can simply rely on this Ancient Roots Dragon Fruit Powder when you don’t have energy to formulate red food coloring from beets. It is easy to use as you can add it in your acai bowl or juices without requiring dilution. Or perhaps, making a morning drink with this coloring powder.

What makes it special is the coloring powder is loaded with antioxidants that are beneficial for your health and also fat-free! In addition, the producer puts a reasonable price, only $17.99 for 3.5 oz.

What We Love:

Made of dragon fruits,it is rich in fiber and prebiotics, allowing better digestion and excretion. So, you don’t have to deal with constipation anymore!

What To Consider:

The color is not as intense as natural food coloring from beets. If you want a brighter tone, we recommend making your own by crushing the beets and taking the extract (check on our step-by-step guide to formulate your natural food dyes above!)

4. Natural Yellow Goldenberry

Natural Yellow Goldenberry

Turmeric indeed provides you a striking yellow with orange hints for your meals. But sometimes, the smell and flavor is a bit overpowering. For that reason, we offer you an alternative, the Natural Yellow Goldenberry. It is an easy pick for those lazy folks who want an instant natural food coloring to spice up the food and beverages.

You can add the powder to your smoothies, acai bowl, color up the cakes, or even make it a drink! In addition, it won’t interfere with the flavor of your meals, making it one of the best natural food coloring with yellow tones in the market. Moreover, it offers a great deal with $37.84 for 5 oz!

What We Love:

The interesting part of this product is it claims to be a superfood with loads of health benefits, as it contains antioxidants and vitamins to fight free radicals. You also don’t have to worry about the flavor as it won’t make your meal taste like goldenberry!

What To Consider:

Similar to the one made of Dragon Fruit, this product doesn’t give you a strong yellow color. If you wish to have an intense one, turmeric is the hero. But make sure you know how to cover the flavor since it may interfere a bit with your cuisines.

5. Watkins Assorted Food Coloring

Watkins Assorted Food Coloring

We have provided you with tons of options in the previous sections. But you must buy each separately. If you are the one who wants to get everything in one package, Watkins Assorted Food Coloring is truly yours. It blesses you with four colorants: red, green, yellow, and blue.

Even though each of the colors only comes in a limited amount, you get a chance to be more creative in combining those shades. And what’s even more exciting is the price is cheap, only $13.89! Since the products are concentrated liquid, you must dilute it with water or milk before adding to your frosting, smoothies, or cakes.

What We Love:

The product comes with various colors that make a perfect kit for beginners in baking who want to experiment with colors. You can also do sensory play with your kids using these natural colorants to make colorful doughs.

What To Consider:

Since the colorants are liquids, they may be tricky to evenly blend in with your doughs. But for smoothies and acai bowls, they are perfectly fine.

Final Thoughts

The key to make natural food coloring at home is knowing the ingredients, colors, and flavors you want. Since it is made of natural ingredients, the food dye may influence the taste of your food. Some fruits, veggies, or minerals that are commonly used as natural food dyes are beets (red), matcha or kale (green), turmeric (yellow), carrots (orange), blueberries (blue), and charcoal (black or gray). You can make either powder or liquid. However, we recommend the powdery one because it has a longer shelf-life. In addition, coloring powder is also easy to use with better stability.

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Can you use juice as food coloring?

In addition to natural coloring for food that has been widely sold in the market, you can actually formulate homemade organic food coloring from vegetables and fruits juice. Most of those natural ingredients contain edible pigments, like anthocyanins and chlorophyll, that will beautifully dye your food.

All you need to do is prepare your favorite ingredients to make plant-based coloring. Beets, spirulina, carrots, and kale are few excellent options to have your homemade food colorings. Then, pour water and blend it away. Next, filter the mixture with a strainer to obtain herbal color extracts you can use for your smoothies!

What is organic food coloring?

Organic food coloring is food dyes made from natural ingredients, such as fruits and vegetables. These ingredients contain antioxidant pigments that give a natural color, such as anthocyanins, chlorophyll, turmeric, and carotenoids. Not only that but nowadays, scientists also use insects, like Cochineal, to make natural coloring.

Considering the formulations, organic colorants are often referred to as sustainable food coloring. You can also make your homemade organic food colorings by adding water and your favorite plant-based materials and then blending them.

How can you naturally color your food red?

There are several ways to make your meals turn red naturally. You can make a natural coloring by blending beets and water. Then, strain the mixture, leaving the herbal color extracts. If you want to have a brighter shade, add a bit of lemon juice.

Though the addition of lemon to this plant-based coloring may affect the taste of your meal, you can mix other ingredients, like salt and sugar, to cover the flavor. We highly recommend adding this DIY food coloring to your smoothies or frosting to make the color appealing.

What can you use instead of food coloring?

Instead of adding artificial colorants, it will be better to use natural pigments for food. You can obtain bright tones from vegetable-based food coloring, such as kale, carrots, and beets. Kale contains chlorophyll that will give you a deep green color, while carrots have carotenoids that offer an orange tone.

Meanwhile, beets have edible pigments called anthocyanins that add a red shade, making it perfect to spice up your smoothies, soup, or even syrup. In addition to those amazing healthy food coloring options, you may try adding blueberries as edible colorants if you wish to have blue to purple tones to your cuisines.

What is homemade blue food coloring?

You can get homemade organic colorants from blueberries. These delicate and sweet fruits obtain their color from anthocyanins. People usually add berries to their smoothies and juice to add sweet flavor as well as a stunning color.

In addition to blueberries, you can use red cabbage for other healthy food coloring options. Unlike the berries, red cabbage doesn’t taste sweet, making it perfect for your soup. Nonetheless, you must include baking soda when you make organic colorants from this vegetable as it will increase the pH, turning the shade into blue.