- Dish type
- Side dish
If you like to dying eggs at Easter, do it the natural way - with onion skins! It's a fun project to do with the children.
Be the first to make this!
- 4 white eggs
- skins from 2 to 3 onions
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
MethodPrep:15min ›Cook:10min ›Ready in:25min
- Place the eggs and onion skins in a saucepan with cold water to cover, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Remove the eggs; drain. Dip a cotton bud into vinegar, and draw designs on the egg with the cotton bud. The vinegar will remove the onion-skin dye, leaving the natural colour of the egg.
- Arrange the eggs in the centre of the Easter table, or place one in an egg cup at each place. Serve with a bit of mayonnaise.
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Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs
Use these natural ingredients to create colorful dyes for holiday eggs. Follow our simple instructions to create multiple colors, shades, and designs. This is a fun and creative activity for children and adults!
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Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs
- 2 cups purple cabbage, shredded
- 2 cups red beets, shredded
- 2 Tbsp turmeric powder
- ¾ cup distilled white vinegar
- 1 dozen white eggs (or brown for more muted colors)
- Olive oil, for polishing (optional)
- In a medium saucepan, bring cabbage and 2 cups of water to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Do the same for the shredded beets and turmeric. After the dyes are cooked, strain through a fine strainer into separate bowls or glasses. Stir in 2 Tbsp vinegar to each bowl of dye. Allow to cool at least 20 minutes before using.
- Combine ¼ cup vinegar and 8 cups water in a large pot, bring to a boil. Gently add eggs to the boiling water, taking care not to crack them. (Allowing eggs to come to room temperature first may reduce cracking.) Boil gently for about 10 minutes. After cooking, place eggs in an ice bath or very cold water to cool, about 15 minutes.
- Place hard boiled eggs into the dye, and let them sit for at least 5 minutes. Remove with tongs to a rack and allow to dry completely before dipping again. Eggs will be very pale at first, but will become more vibrant with each cycle of dipping and drying.
- Gently polish with a soft cloth dipped in olive oil, if desired
Red: Dip 3 or 4 times in red beet dye
Orange: Dip 2 times in red beet, and 1 time in turmeric dye
Yellow: Dip 3 times in turmeric dye (you may need to gently wash off turmeric powder)
Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs
One of my fondest memories of Easter when I was little, was dying Easter eggs with my grandma and siblings. I loved watching the little tablets of concentrated food dye swirl and dissolve in the water before dipping the eggs in.
As I got older and became more aware of what I was putting into my body, I realized that food dye was on the naughty list. When I had my son, I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t giving him harmful foods, making me even more vigilant.
Food dyes have been under scrutiny for several decades, with multiple studies linking them to hyperactivity and behavioral issues. In response, the European Union required most foods containing dyes to carry a warning label. This prompted many manufacturers to simply eliminate the food dyes added to the European versions. (source)
The American FDA’s response to the issue? They decided the evidence didn’t warrant a warning label or banning of the food dyes (source).
Making your own naturally dyed Easter eggs is a simple and safer solution. Chopped beets, cabbage, onion skins, turmeric powder, henna powder and even berries can be used.
I used both brown and white eggs for this, and for the most part the dyes worked on both types of eggs. It can be hard to find pastured white eggs though, so use light brown if you can’t find white ones.
Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs
- Glass jars or bowls
- Plant matter
- Hardboiled eggs, washed in castile soap and rinsed
- Coconut oil (optional)
Add 2 cups of water to the saucepan and 2 cups of your desired plant matter. If using turmeric or henna, add 1/4 cup of the powder to 2 cups water.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer with a lid on for 20-30 minutes. The water will reduce somewhat, but be sure you have about 1 cup of liquid for every egg you want to color.
Strain out the plant matter and add 1 Tbsp of vinegar for every 1 cup of water to the strained food dye.
Pour the dye into your container and carefully add the eggs. For best saturation, put them in the fridge overnight.
Carefully remove the eggs and pat dry with a paper towel. To add a sheen, use a paper towel and buff a little oil onto the shells.
Some Color Options
Beets- Yield a vibrant, deep pink to reddish purple on both brown and white eggs.
Beet stems- Give a light pink color, more visible on white eggs
Turmeric root- Yields a yellow color to white eggs. Other sources report it makes brown eggs look golden, but I couldn’t get it to have an effect.
How to Naturally Dye Easter Eggs
Each dye color requires the same process&mdashjust substitute the final ingredient to change the color.
Bring 1 quart of water, 1 tablespoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of vinegar, and 2 tablespoons of the respective fruit, vegetable, or spice (to create the color) to a boil.
Let simmer for 30 minutes, and then remove pot from burner. Be sure to strain the dye, and let sit until it reaches room temperature before dipping your eggs.
Dip hard-boiled eggs one at a time to get even coverage for at least five minutes. The longer they sit in the dye, the more saturated the color will be.
How To Make Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs
There are plenty of pretty amazing, craft-tastic Easter egg ideas online and in magazines, making it entirely possible to devote days to creating museum-quality ova. But I prefer a less design-y and more rustic approach. If you have a small child in the house, you likely don’t want a project that involves X-Acto knives and tiny electrical tape stencils.
Easter is a reminder of fertility and abundance, so I say turn on nature’s color (in the form of using scraps and food you probably already have on hand) and let loose.
The tradition of dyeing Easter eggs has wandered in many directions throughout history, from the early practice of staining eggs red in remembrance of Christ’s blood to what a lot of kids will tell you now: They color eggs to make them look like jelly beans.
A long time ago, I wrote about dyeing eggs with onion skins, which gives the eggs a pretty spectacular result, especially if you rub them with oil to add shine. Then, I decided to take coloring eggs with vegetable scraps a step further and created a larger palette. This year we’ll push it further, and as the kids around me just keep getting older, we just might add a few extra flourishes. No razors and no tape, but maybe a few of those rubber band tricks. I’ll let you know.
Keep in mind the effect of the dyes varies depending on how concentrated the dye is, what color egg you use, and how long and how many times the eggs are immersed in the dye. I used half a purple cabbage, shredded, to dye four eggs. Err on the side of more material rather than less when creating your dye. Here’s a handy guide to follow.
How to Make Natural Easter Egg Dye
- Combine 1 qt water and 2 Tbsp white vinegar in a medium pot.
- Bring it to a boil and add your dye ingredients for the egg color of your choice (listed below). Lower the heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.
- Let cool. Strain the dye to remove any food fragments.
- Add the eggs to the strained dye and let soak for at least 30 minutes. When it reaches the desired color, remove the egg with tongs and pat it dry with paper towels.
- Hard boiled eggs (as many as you want to color)
- 1/4 head red cabbage, chopped 4 cups of water 2 T of vinegar – makes blue
- Skins of 3 red onions and two handfuls of spinach 2 cups of water 3 T vinegar – makes a jade green
- 2 T paprika 1 cup water 2 T vinegar – makes a pale orange
- 2 T turmeric 1 cup water 2 T vinegar – makes a vibrant yellow
- 1 beet, peeled and chopped 4 cups water 2 T vinegar – makes a pretty pink
- Skins of 3 red onions 2 cups water 3 T vinegar – makes a purplish brown
I’ve heard you can do 1 cup frozen blueberries soaked in 1 cup of water (without vinegar) and get a grayish-blue if you want another color.
- With each colored ingredients in a separate pot, bring to a boil with the designated amount of water. Boil for about 15 minutes.
- Turn off the flame, remove the ingredients, and add designated amount of vinegar. Allow mixture to cool.
- Pour the colored waters into separate dying containers with a hard boiled egg in each (you can do more than one if you want some of the same color).
- Let your eggs soak in dye over night. We made them in the afternoon, and removed them from the dye the next morning and let air dry.
So for example for blue: Combine 1/4 head cabbage, chopped with 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Boil for 15 minutes. Remove the cabbage from the water, and add 2 tablespoons of vinegar. Allow to cool before transferring to your dying container with the hard boiled egg. You would repeat this for each of the colors.
Any leftover ingredients can be put to use after! We love boiled beets in salads, spinach with eggs, and cabbage with a number of other things. Ingredients you do not eat, can be composted.
And since these eggs were dyed in food, feel free to use them for your favorite deviled egg recipe. Enjoy!
Dyed Easter Eggs
Special Equipment: Patience. Lots and lots of patience.
- Eggs, preferably white and not brown
- White (distilled) vinegar
- Cold water
- Dye ingredients (ideas follow, but feel free to follow your instincts and go all zany)
To prepare the eggs, gently place them in a large pot and add enough cold water to completely cover them. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn off the heat. Let the eggs stand in the hot water for 20 minutes. Using a spoon, carefully remove the eggs from the water and pat them dry. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
To prepare the dyes, for each color bring 3 cups water to a boil in a large pot and then add 1 to 2 tablespoons vinegar and the dyeing ingredient for the desired color. Return the water to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Carefully strain the dyeing liquid into a bowl or wide-mouth jar, discarding the solids. Let the liquid dye cool. Repeat with each dyeing ingredient.
To dye the eggs, when both the eggs and the dyeing liquid are cool, add an egg or two to each bowl of dye. Set aside, turning occasionally, until the desired hue is achieved. (Naturally, the longer you leave the eggs in the dye, the more robust the color. Depending on the desired color, the eggs may need to sit as little as a few minutes or as long as overnight.) Transfer the eggs to a plate lined with a paper towel or return them to their egg carton until dry to the touch. Originally published March 26, 2012.
Color Me A Rainbow Variations
Use 6 medium red beets, grated, or 4 cups canned beets, chopped. (The longer the eggs remain in the solution, the closer they become to brown. For a more true red, use brown not white eggs.)
Use 4 cups chopped red cabbage, 4 additional cups water, and 3 additional tablespoons white vinegar Then add a pinch of baking soda.
Use 3 to 4 tablespoons garam masala (an Indian staple that’s a blend of up to 12 spices).
Use 4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries.
Substitute strongly brewed coffee for the full amount of water.
Substitute red wine for the full amount of water. (Not your best Cabernet Sauvignon, mind you. Any plonk will do. And bear in mind, the egg will turn a darker shade as it dries…sort of like that splotch of carmenere on your rug.)
Use 3 to 4 tablespoons curry powder.
Use 3 to 4 tablespoons ground turmeric. (Wipe the excess ground spice from the eggs with a damp cloth after extricating them from the dye.)
Use 4 or more yellow onion skins.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
It's fairly easy to cook enough eggs all at once to do each dyed Easter egg variation, although I didn't do all the color variations. One does need to watch that the boiling water doesn't go crazy or the eggs may crack. I put the eggs into each dye and then let them sit overnight. Then I pulled each one out and set them on a rack to dry.
BLUE: This result was so beautiful and so different from the store bought packages. The amount of effort is quite high, though. I did have so much leftover that I could just take the dye out of the fridge to use with more eggs later.
YELLOW: I used curry powder. It was hard to strain out the powder. I ended up just rinsing them off. This required a little bit of work but not excessive.
Prior to testing these dyed Easter eggs, I already knew about a few of these dyes, as I always prefer to do them this way rather than use the chemical store-bought dyes. Most colors are certainly not as vivid, but that is part of the reason I love these techniques, as Easter for me is all about pale colors.
Using white eggs is indeed important so that the colors really stand out more. The toddler LOVED the eggs dyed with red beets. My teen loved the lavender ones and our exchange student liked the red wine ones. As for me, truthfully, I just love them all together.
Also, feel free to glue some string or tiny shapes such as hearts, circles, triangles, and so on, cut out of paper. After dying, the shapes underneath are colored, but not as strongly.
This is a great way to use up stuff in the kitchen and the dyed eggs come out rustic and beautiful. It's nice to have a chemical-free alternative to dying Easter eggs.
These dyed Easter eggs are not a quick project. It’s wise to plan on the better part of a day to make the dyes and color the eggs.
Because red is my favorite color, I began with beets. It’s easy enough grate the beets and simmer the dye. Once the cooking of the beets finished, it took a lot of pressing to get to the liquid from the solids. I quickly added a cooked white egg and waited 15 minutes. The egg emerged from the dye more magenta than red. I reheated my dye in the microwave for 20 seconds and tried again with a brown egg. This time, I added a longer dying time (about 45 minutes), and a beautiful red egg surfaced! Next, I tried the wine dye. My first egg came out burgundy, but turned purple as it dried. I gave the next egg a longer soak, and it came out of the dye purple. I also used turmeric and coffee. The coffee produced a latte-colored egg. The turmeric dye was thicker than the other dyes, even after straining. When I pulled my egg out of that dye, it was covered with a thick blanket of turmeric. When I wiped the egg clean, it was colored a bright sunny yellow.
My teenage son really liked the eggs dyed in the wine. The purple color was muted but very cool. My favorite was the brown egg dyed in the beet dye that came out a true red.
HUNGRY FOR MORE?
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Last night I decided to play around with a few more eggs that were previously hard boiled. I had some skins from beets and I boiled them in water with a tad of white vinegar. Once done I decided to use the same technique as above for the onion skins and wrapped the eggs with the skins. I have yet see the final result but from what I can see from peeking at them something tells me they will come out really cool and similar to the onion ones but in a light pink/red!
Naturally Dyed Easter Egg Recipes
Start by making a batch of hard-boiled eggs. Next, prepare your natural dyes in containers large enough to hold the eggs. Place the hardboiled eggs in the dye solution for at least one hour, or as long as you’d like. The longer the eggs stay in the dye, the more vibrant your eggs will be.
Try out these natural dyes below, or make up your own based on what you have in the kitchen:
- 1 cup red cabbage water (¼ head of red cabbage boiled with 4 cups water and 2 Tbsp. vinegar)
- Leftover turmeric water from the mustard yellow mix
- Leftover grape juice water from the lavender mix
- Leftover chili powder water from the brown-orange mix
• Alex Panas is the Communications and Development Manager at Wheeling Heritage. She earned an undergraduate degree in health communication from Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and a master of arts in communication studies from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Since moving back to the Ohio Valley, Alex has been involved in a variety of organizations dedicated to revitalizing Wheeling, including the Wheeling Young Preservationists, Generation Wheeling and the United Way. A self-proclaimed cat lady, Alex lives in St. Clairsville with her two cats, Zoey and Millie, and her husband, Aaron Moore.
Naturally dyed Easter Eggs:
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 quart of water
- Pink: 4 cups beets, rough chopped
- Yellow: 4 tablespoons ground turmeric
- Green: 6 cups spinach, 1 tablespoon turmeric
- Blue: 4 cups purple cabbage leaves, rough chopped
- Red: use the skin from 3-4 onions
These eggs are colored using natural dyes made from coffee, red cabbage, beets, spinach, yellow onion skins and turmeric. The eggs on the left in each pair were soaked overnight while the eggs on the right were in the dyes for three hours.
We were most pleased with the yellow, red and blue eggs. Pink and green did not turn out like we hoped, and if we tried those again we might try boiling the eggs in the strained mixture. Of course, we are excited thinking about other possibilities of produce to try, such as blueberries and strawberries. For more information on naturally dyed eggs, check out the N.C. Egg Association.
Check out the graphic below for a photo essay of the eggs during the dyeing process.
This time sequence shows the color depth progression of this naturally-dyed blue Easter egg. The natural dye for blue eggs was made using red cabbage.