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Would you like to know how to create beautiful plant-based dyes for this year’s Easter eggs? Use these instructions to naturally dye eggs with vegetables, flowers, and spices from the kitchen cupboard. It includes a comprehensive list of natural dyes for eggs, and the steps will walk you through what to do. Also includes how to make stunning botanical impressions on the eggs using flowers and leaves.
The thrill of finding vibrantly colored eggs on an Easter egg hunt is a memory that you will never forget. While there are chocolate eggs and other treats waiting to be devoured inside, the excitement of the morning is eagerly looking high and low for eggs you dyed with a family member the day before. No questions are asked about how they were handed off to the Easter Bunny to hide because the moment is now all about the hunt. Calmly scouring the grass and patio and squealing with excitement when you spot one. Then making a mad dash at it before your siblings or cousins spot it too.
This precious childhood memory stays with us, but also the fun of decorating the eggs beforehand. Quality time with loved ones and the thrill of watching eggshells change hue by bobbing them in pots of colored water. It’s a tradition worth passing on and reliving with your littles. As adults, we can have just as much fun dyeing Easter eggs and can help teach the art to the younger generation.
Natural Easter Egg Dyes
Now, when I was young, we used artificial egg dyes – the type that comes in Easter egg dye kits. But one year, I remember my great-grandmother dyeing eggs orange with onion skins. Onions skins, can you believe it? Pure magic! There’s something much more fascinating about simmering up colorful potions from plants and flowers than using food coloring. The hues that you get from vegetables and edible plants can be incredible, but they’re also fun to experiment with and perfectly safe for kids.
This year I’ve experimented with many of the common natural egg dyes and some unusual ones. I’ve also experimented with dipping times and using leaves and flowers to create botanical patterns on the shells. It’s not difficult at all to replicate, and I’m more than pleased to share my tips with you. For the record, I only dyed white eggs for the photos in this piece but more on using other eggs of different colors later on. First, let’s look at some ingredients you can use to make natural egg dyes. Whatever natural ingredients you use to make your dyes, make sure that they’re edible so that the boiled eggs will be food safe.
Two Ways to Dye Easter Eggs
Dyeing eggshells with vegetables and other plants can be done in two different ways. You can make individual dye pots or make hard-boiled eggs in water with added vinegar and dye material. The latter is the traditional method; for example, you’d place eggs in a pot of water with vinegar and onion skins. That way, you cook the eggs and dye them at the same time. This works perfectly fine as long as you’re not planning on making botanical Easter eggs, as I describe further below. The delicate plants and flowers that you use for the impression could be damaged by boiling water.
Make Easter Egg Dye Pots
Making dye pots allows you to be more creative when dyeing Easter eggs. It works by first creating a color-rich infusion. You take the plant material, be it fresh, dried, or powdered, and either simmer or steep it in hot water. The usual ratio is two cups of plant material to two cups water, and after you’re satisfied with the color, you strain the plant material out and pour the liquid into a wide-mouth mason jar or container.
In this step, the natural color from the vegetable, flower, or fruit infuses into the water, creating a vibrant liquid for coloring eggs. Some plant-based dyes don’t need much time or heat to completely color the water, and some need a good fifteen minutes at least to create a color-rich infusion. A rule of thumb is that thick pieces of plant material need 15-30 minutes at a slow simmer to create the dye. If the thick material is dried, you’ll probably need the full thirty minutes.
Also, I’d recommend sticking with simmering and trying to keep the pot under a boil. Too much water can be lost through boiling, and the heat might also affect the end color. I found this out when boiling pre-cooked beetroot for a dye. Instead of reds and pink, it gave me a brown dye.
Make Natural Dye by Steeping
You can also create homemade egg dyes by pouring scalding water over the plant material. This works well with dried and powdered ingredients like spices, coffee, black tea, or dried hibiscus. I also used scalding water to make beet dye with freshly shredded beets. Juicy beets often don’t need much encouragement to release their bright pink juice into the water! A note on hibiscus tea while we’re on the topic. It is a beautiful bright red. You’ll find that eggs dyed with it come out brown or even green, though.
How to Make Natural Dyes
The ingredient that transforms the colorful infusions you make with plants into actual dye is white vinegar. While a bowl of beet juice can certainly stain, the color adheres much better to egg shells if the pH of the solution is lowered. White vinegar does this while also not affecting the end color of the eggs. As an ingredient, it’s even more important for other plant infusions that won’t leave any color at all if vinegar isn’t added. To upgrade your colored infusion into dye, add one Tablespoon of white vinegar for every cup of colored water in your dye pot.
One thing that you may notice when adding vinegar to certain infusions is that the color changes instantly. This happens with butterfly pea flower and grape hyacinth infusions. With butterfly pea flower, the liquid changes from deep blue to purple in the blink of an eye! Don’t worry, though; the purple liquid still colors eggs blue. Butterfly pea flower infusion without vinegar doesn’t leave any color at all on eggshells. Even more dramatic is grape hyacinth infusion. It goes from having only a whisper of blue in the infused water to electric pink after adding vinegar. I could barely believe my eyes to see it. It also dyes eggs light blue.
Natural Dye Ingredients
Use the ingredients below to naturally color Easter eggs. Unless otherwise noted, strain the liquid from the plant material and add two Tablespoons of distilled white vinegar.
|Beets (fresh)||Pink, mauve, and maroon||Steep two cups of grated beetroot in two cups of water, or if using chopped, simmer on the stove for thirty minutes.|
|Beets (pre-cooked)||Medium to dark brown||These are the beetroot sold pre-cooked in plastic bags. If simmered, it can give you shades of brown. Use two cups sliced cooked beetroot to two cups water.|
|Black tea||Brown||Make two cups of strong tea and add two TBSP vinegar.|
|Blueberries||Blue-gray||Simmer two cups of blueberries with two cups of water for fifteen minutes.|
|Butterfly pea flower||Light blue||Steep 2 TBSP of dried flowers in two cups of hot water. It will turn a deep blue but will then turn purple once adding the vinegar.|
|Coffee||Brown||Make two cups of fresh coffee and add two TBSP vinegar.|
|Forsythia flowers||Pale yellow||Simmer two cups of fresh flowers with two cups of water for fifteen minutes.|
|Gorse flowers||Pale to vivid yellow||Simmer two cups of freshly picked flowers (they smell of coconut!) with two cups water.|
|Grape hyacinth||Light blue||Simmer two cups of fresh flowers with two cups of water. The liquid will be very pale until you add the vinegar. It then turns hot pink.|
|Grape juice||Purple to dark purple||Mix two cups of grape juice with two TBSP vinegar.|
|Grass||Mustard-yellow||Simmer two cups of fresh, chopped grass in two cups of water for fifteen minutes.|
|Hibiscus flowers||Soft gray-green to brown||Mix up to four TBSP dried hibiscus flowers/tea with two cups of scalding water. Allow to infuse for fifteen minutes.|
|Paprika||Light orange to red-orange||Mix up to four TBSP paprika powder with two cups of scalding water. Allow to infuse for fifteen minutes.|
|Pomegranate juice||Red||Mix two cups of pomegranate juice with two TBSP vinegar.|
|Purple cabbage (red cabbage)||purple, green, blue, and turquoise||Simmer two cups of chopped cabbage with two cups of water for thirty minutes.|
|Red onion skins||Red to maroon||Simmer two cups of red onion skins in two cups of water for thirty minutes.|
|Spinach||Green to faded brown-green||Simmer two cups of fresh or frozen spinach in two cups of water for fifteen minutes.|
|Turmeric||Yellow||Mix up to four TBSP turmeric powder with two cups of scalding water. Allow to infuse for fifteen minutes.|
|Yellow onion skins||Orange to caramel||Simmer two cups of yellow onion skins in two cups of water for thirty minutes.|
Uncooked Eggs & Brown Eggs
Though most people dye hard-boiled eggs, you can also dye uncooked eggs. Eureka moment, hey? The good news is that the shells dye just as well as cooked eggs. You also won’t have to eat a dozen hard-boiled eggs after Easter and can use the eggs for whatever you generally use eggs for. The downside to dyeing uncooked eggs is that they’re much more fragile, so there can be accidents during the Easter egg hunt.
Now we come to the color of the eggshells themselves. For the most vibrant colors, stick with white eggs. Once a supermarket staple of the past, they can be incredibly difficult to find in some places. I found white eggs in a larger supermarket and through my friends who have a smallholding and chili farm. Brown eggs and other colored eggs can work, though, too! The color of the eggshell gets overlaid with the dye, so you’ll find that brown eggs will come out darker shades compared to white eggs. Green eggs will lend their natural color to the final shade as well. You could have a lot of fun dyeing different colored eggs to see what you get!
How to Dye the Eggs
With food coloring-based dyes, you can dip eggs in for mere seconds to color them. Coloring eggs in natural dye pots usually needs a bit more time. Some dyes, like beet dye or cabbage dye, can be strong, and a simple dunk will leave white eggs a pale pink or purple. To get deep and vibrant colors, it’s better to leave the eggs in the dye for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator. The fridge part is important to keep the eggs edible. The vinegar in the dye erodes the eggshell enough to make the egg inside more vulnerable to spoiling.
After their soak in the dye, use a slotted spoon (or an ordinary spoon) to lift the dyed eggs out of the dye and then leave them on a rack to drip dry. I recommend doing this on a surface that the dye won’t affect, like a standard kitchen countertop. A paper towel under the rack helps absorb the liquid that drips off. After they’re dry, you can rub the eggs with light vegetable oil to make them shine and then place them back in their cartons and refrigerate. Hard-boiled eggs are good for one week if kept chilled.
Dye Eggs in Multiple Colors
What I also did with some of the eggs in the photos was to over-dye them. A couple of the ingredients I used to make dye, such as forsythia flowers, didn’t work out well. So I took those eggs that had dried on the rack and popped them into another dye pot. I also tried dyeing eggs in first beet dye and then cabbage dye, giving me a dark, muted purple. Seeing what would happen if I dyed an egg one color and then put it in another dye was fun!
Create Botanical Easter Eggs
Single-color Easter eggs can be stunning, but there are fun ways to create patterns and decorations on them too. The most well-known technique is using a white crayon to draw or write on the eggs before dyeing. It’s a bit like revealing a secret message once you pop them into the dye! You can also wrap washi tape or rubber bands around eggs; where they cover the egg, they’ll protect it from the dye bath.
That same principle pertains to creating botanical Easter eggs. With this method, you use food-safe leaves and flowers to block out areas from being dyed. I used salad greens, primrose flowers, herb Robert leaves, rose leaves, and edible weeds that I found in my garden. When selecting the flowers and plants for creating botanical impressions, make sure that they are food-safe. Also, the thinner and more serrated the leaves and petals, the more effective the pattern they leave behind. Herb Robert was by far my favorite!
What you do is wet the eggshell and gently press the botanical into place. You then use a cut segment of sheer nylons (pantyhose) to hold it to the eggshell. Tie knots on either side of the nylon and slip the egg into the dye pot. The color will flow through the nylons to dye the eggshell in places the leaves or flowers don’t block out. Once you’re happy with the color, you can either untie or cut the nylon to release the egg. It’s so exciting to see the impression that’s left behind, and sometimes, the leaf will leave an outline of color around it too.
More Creative Color Ideas
- How to Naturally Color Soap
- Apple Pie Recipe with a Colorful Twist
- How to Extract Woad Pigment
- Crystallize Edible Flowers (using egg wash)
How to Naturally Dye Eggs With Vegetables, Spices, and Flowers
- 1 Saucepan Two is even better
- 4 Heat-proof containers Mixing bowls, jugs, pans, etc.
- Sieve or colander
- Cutting board
- Slotted spoon or ordinary spoon
- Mason jars or other wide-mouth jars or containers
- You can prepare each vegetable dye at the same time or one by one if you wish. Place the cabbage and onion skins into their own saucepan and with two cups of water each. Heat on high until a simmer, then reduce heat to low and continue simmering for fifteen to thirty minutes.
- Place the turmeric, hibiscus, butterfly pea flowers, and freshly grated beetroot into their own heat-proof containers. Pour two cups of scalding water over each and allow to steep for fifteen minutes. Stir occasionally.
- After fifteen minutes, strain the liquid from the vegetable matter and pour each into separate wide-mouth containers. I use pint-sized Mason jars.
- Add two Tablespoons of distilled white vinegar to each dye pot and allow them to cool to room temperature.
- Using a spoon, gently place hard-boiled or uncooked eggs in the dye liquid. Leave them to soak for one to twelve hours in the refrigerator. Two eggs should fit into each dye pot.
- After the time is up, gently lift the eggs out using a spoon. Leave to dry on a rack set over paper towels.
- For more intense colors, you may wish to take the eggs out and allow them to dry before putting them back in the dye again. Each dunk can build up layers of dye on the eggshell*. You can also try dunking eggs dyed one color into another.
- When dyeing is complete, and the eggs are fully dried on the rack, place them back into their cartons and refrigerate. Use them for eating within a week of dyeing them.