Natural Egg Dye: A Rainbow of Options
By radmegan on April 03, 2014
Featured Member Post
You can dye Easter eggs with all-natural ingredients like spices, vegetables, and even wine! I made recipe cards for eggs dyed with everything from cran-raspberry juice to onion skins—plus instructions, tips, and pictures of what your finished eggs will look like.
This project came about a while ago, when the television show The Doctors contacted me to see if I would be interested in coming on their program to share ideas for natural dyes! I was honored and STOKED that they had reached out. And even though my segment was cut way, way down (so far down that I'm not even in the segment -- it's really just a cameo of my eggs...) I wanted to share the full recipes for each of the dye colors I made.
A lot of natural dyes take quite a bit longer to set than chemical-based commercial dyes. When I used dry ingredients such as turmeric, tea or cabbage leaves and instant coffee, I always started with a room-temperature egg (to prevent cracking during the boiling process) in a small saucepan with two cups of lukewarm water.
I wanted to set a constant for my dyes, and 2 cups liquid was it! I would bring the liquid to a boil and cook the egg for at least 11 minutes, sometimes a bit longer. I used white vinegar as my mordant. During my first few dye jobs, I omitted the vinegar, and found that the color didn't hold as well.
When the eggs were cooked, and I was confident that the color had begun to release from the dyeing agent I was using, I would remove the egg(s) from the saucer, and pour the hot liquid into a glass mason jar. Then I would carefully lower the egg into the jar, being sure it was covered completely.
If I had not been using my trusty Sharpie and roll o' masking tape to label these jars, I would have had no idea how I'd made each color...
I let the jars cool on the counter, and then placed them ALL in the bottom shelf of our refrigerator overnight.
When it was time for the unveiling the next morning, I was thrilled with the unexpected colors! I had read that natural dye can leave an egg looking dry, and that you could give your egg a little gloss using food-grade oil, like olive oil—a trick I used and VERY much enjoyed.
Read on for the individual "recipe cards" for just about each egg color I made...
Cabbage and Blackberry
This blue was my personal favorite! It should be noted that red cabbage is a PH indicator, and that it creates carbonation when combined with the white vinegar, so you will want to open your jar of cabbage dye at least once a day to release the gas buildup.
Dill Seed & Onion Skin
This army green was my second-favorite color.
Turmeric REALLY stains everything, so be careful when you use this stuff!
I loved the speckled result I got when I boiled an egg in straight cran-raspberry juice.
Carrot and Onion
The onion and carrot tops made the egg look like scorched earth!
Adding the oil polish to some of the eggs really did provide amazing textural contrast to the ones I left in a natural matte finish.
When I dyed this egg in half white wine and half red (the cheapest Trader Joe's carried), these INCREDIBLE crystals formed all over the surface of the shell. It looked like a snow-encrusted version of the cran-raspberry egg! I tried dyeing an egg in straight red wine, and got the same crystal formation with a more plum-colored egg. If anyone can explain the science behind this, I would LOVE to know!
Red Onion Skins
Using red onion skins gave off a beautiful, mottled red and turquoise look.
Straight dill seed, water and vinegar came up with this really nice lemon-lime color.
I love that some of the eggs came out of the dye with an overall, even color, while others were very textural and almost looked scarred. I was surprised that beets didn't give me enough of a pink hue to really want to share with you; they sort of made white eggs just look like brown eggs. Aside from that, there were no disappointments in the whole lot!
Cabbage, Orange, and Dill
I used these eggs for television purposes, so I didn't eat any of them to see if the flavor was imparted into the egg—but I suspect it was, based on my experiments withChinese Tea Eggs.
Paprika and Tea
One more note about vinegar and eggs: If you allow your eggs to soak in a natural dye with MORE than a tablespoon of vinegar, the shell will begin to soften over time. It's both cool and gross.
If anyone has anything to add about natural dye, or if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below! I feel like I could write a book on dyeing eggs with all-natural materials now.