When it comes to food at Easter it’s all about the eggs. Chocolate eggs filled with cream, plastic eggs filled with jelly beans and hard-boiled eggs dyed every color of the rainbow. We’re going to focus on the last type this month and take the process a step further using natural dyes to color eggs. Yes, this requires a few more steps than simply dropping a color tablet into a mug of vinegar and water, but think of using natural dyes as a kind of science experiment and the minimal chopping and boiling involved is worth it to create natural, beautifully dyed eggs.

Here’s what you need:

  • Dozen eggs: $1.50
  • Red cabbage: About $2
  • One bunch of red beets: $1.60 at grocery
  • One bunch of spinach (optional): About $1.50
  • Turmeric spice: $4
  • Vinegar: 80 cents
  • Quart-size mason jars and lids
  • Saucepans

The first step to making natural dyes is to get out every saucepan you own. Or, at least four. And an apron, especially if children are helping. If you don’t have some already, hard boil a dozen eggs.

Prep your natural dye ingredients while the eggs are cooking. First get out the red cabbage, which will give your eggs a wonderful royal blue color. I used half a normal-sized red cabbage and roughly shredded it.

Bring two cups of water to boil in a saucepan and simmer the cabbage for about 10 minutes, then turn off the heat and let it steep for another 10 minutes. Strain out the cabbage and let the colored water cool completely.

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Follow the same basic steps for the beets, spinach and turmeric. For the beets, which will turn eggs an awesome pink to rust red color depending on how long you soak them, I trimmed the ends and roughly chopped them before simmering the vegetables in 2 cups of water for 10 minutes. Then steep for 10 minutes and strain. (I also saved these simmered beets and roasted them for dinner that night).

Don’t trim the spinach, simply put the whole bunch in 2 cups of boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes. To retain as much spinach-colored water as possible, I placed the simmered leaves in a towel and squeezed out any remaining juice once the bunch had cooled. Spinach yielded the weakest color, but still turned the eggs an interesting greenish/yellow.

For the turmeric, dissolve 1 tablespoon of the spice into 1.5 cups boiling water. Turmeric will leave your eggs a delightful golden color.

All of the vegetables and spices should simmer for 10 minutes, steep for 10 minutes and cool completely once the ingredient to make the dye is removed.

Once cooled, pour each liquid into a 1 quart Mason jar and add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar to help set the dye. Then add the eggs. I found I could fit two eggs per quart. Then place the jars in the refrigerator and check the color as often as desired. My children had a lot of fun checking the eggs hourly for any changes. For the richest color, we let ours sit for 24 hours, but it doesn’t take long for the cabbage and beet dye to work their magic. Additional eggs can be placed in the dye once the first batch is removed, however I would dispose of the dye after about 72 hours.

Once dried, you’ll have a dozen rustic, richly colored eggs to use as a beautiful and tasty addition to your Easter table.