For Easter this year, Miss M and I decided to dye our own Easter eggs. I decided that it would be a good learning egg-sperience for her to use only natural dyes. It turns out our experiment was a bigger learning experience than I anticipated. Here is how to dye Easter eggs with natural ingredients – and how not to.
When I asked Miss M what colours she wanted to dye the eggs, she predictably chose blue and pink.
To dye our eggs these colours naturally, we chose beetroot for the pink and red cabbage for the blue. Yes, red cabbage actually dyes eggs blue. I am not sure why.
Other colour options for natural Easter egg dye
We have not tried any of these, but here’s how to dye Easter eggs with natural ingredients for the following colours (according to Country Living):
- yellow: saffron
- sunflower yellow: turmeric, carrot
- orange: onion skins
- tan: coffee
- mint: spinach
- green: parsley
- dark blue: blueberries
- dark purple: red wine
Our preparations – and where we went wrong
When I went to the supermarket (solo in times of COVID-19) to get our ingredients, not everything was available. We got eggs – white is best when it comes to dying the eggs. We already had some white vinegar and salt at home.
Happily, we were able to get a fresh red cabbage. I actually only wanted half of one, so I will have to find something else to do with the rest.
We weren’t able to get fresh beetroot though. Instead, what we found was 4 beetroot (about 250g), which had been peeled and steamed and cryo-packed. Couldn’t hurt, right?
That is when we decided to see whether this would make a difference to the outcome. I was not prepared for the result.
What difference – if any – does it make that the beetroot was precooked?
We cut both vegetables into slices, using roughly the same amount and size. We boiled them for the same amount of time in enough water to just cover the vegetables in the pot. After they had boiled for an hour, we removed the beets and cabbage using a slotted spoon, then added 2 tablespoons of vinegar and a good pinch of salt.
We let the eggs soak and took them out at various intervals so that we could see the intensity of the dye.
The red cabbage turned the eggs some of the most beautiful shades of blue or dark turquoise. They are going to look wonderful on our Easter table.
The beetroot eggs were very disappointing. Instead of beautiful shades of pink – as I was expecting and Miss M was hoping – our beetroot turned the white eggs beige or brown, with the slightest pink tinge. In fact, the looked like the eggs were brown eggs, with a few irregularities.
The only real difference – apart from the fact that they were different vegetables – was that the beetroot was precooked. The precooking must have removed the best of the pigments or acidity from the beets so that subsequent boiling resulted in a dye that was not as intense as it would have otherwise been.
Beetroot trial No. 2
It wasn’t just the precooking…
Beetroot recently came into season again, so we got some to dye some eggs. Unfortunately, even when the beetroot we used was not pre-cooked, the results were disappointing and not at all like we were looking for. To be fair, though, they do have a blush hew with spots that reveal a darker pink.
Beetroot trial No. 3
Three times a charm, right?
I had about 250 mL of beetroot juice leftover from a gorgeous beetroot and bacon risotto and decided to try using it to dye some eggs (I wasn’t going to drink it, so what else would I do with it?).
As the liquid was already the desired colour, I decided to dye the eggs a little differently. I added some salt and vinegar to the juice and then boiled the eggs in the juice.
If you use a submerged egg timer like we do, do NOT boil it with your eggs.
These were by far the best eggs. And the best one was the one that I removed from the dye immediately after it cooked. Over time, the eggs got so dark: 24 hours resulted in dark maroon, almost brown eggs.
For beautiful pink eggs, boil them in beetroot juice, salt and water for no more than 10 minutes.
silver purple lining
It’s not all bad though.
- The egg-speriment didn’t take much time, but we had to keep looking at the eggs to decide whether they were ready to be removed from the dye. An easy experiment for those stuck at home with their kids.
- We learnt a valuable lesson: if possible, use fresh fruit or vegetables as your base when making natural dyes!
- In an attempt to get more gradient in our egg colours, we boiled more eggs (after getting more from the supermarket) and dyed them in the red cabbage too. Aren’t they pretty! We are yet to work out the ideal intervals though.
- We finally placed the beet dyed eggs into the red cabbage dye to see what would happen. Here‘s the result.
What are we going to do with them?
Now that we know how to dye Easter eggs with natural ingredients, what are we going to do with them?
These eggs are going to take pride of place in the middle of our Easter table. The few family members who will be gathering will each be given one to take home with them. We might even make a traditional German potato salad to use some of them: I’ll share the recipe this Summer.
Until then (when they are not in the refrigerator), they will join our other Easter decorations, especially our beaded bunny ears, which we can use for egg cups. I may even give some of them wire bunny ears as they take next to no time to make.
Why not try dying your own eggs this year?
What colours will you choose? What ingredients will you trial?
Hopefully, you can learn one thing from our egg-speriment into how to dye Easter eggs with natural ingredients. Whatever colours you choose, if you can, use fresh ingredients or juice as your base. It seems from our experiment that this does make a difference!
How to dye Easter eggs with natural ingredients
What you need
- Hard-boiled eggs, preferably white. It does not matter if they are still warm. Alternatively, you can blow the egg from its shell and dye just the shell.
- For blue or pink: About 250g of fresh red cabbage (for the blue) or 250 mL beetroot juice (for pink)
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- a good pinch of salt
- a saucepan with a lid
- a slotted spoon or strainer (if you use a strainer, you will also need a metal bowl to pour the dye into)
- paper towel to catch drips
- somewhere for the eggs to dry – we used the egg carton, lined with paper towel
How to dye Easter eggs with natural ingredients (blue cabbage and raw beetroot)
1. Quarter your cabbage piece, then slice it into strips, about 5-10 mm wide. If you are using beetroot, peel it, then slice it into cubes about 10-20 mm wide. Place in a saucepan (one for each vegetable/colour).
2. Fill the saucepan with water until the vegetables are just covered. Place on the stove and bring to the boil.
3. Reduce the heat until the water is just simmering and allow to simmer for 1 hour.
4. Using a slotted spoon, fish out all of the pieces of vegetables and discard. If you don’t have a slotted spoon, wait a few minutes for the pot to cool a little then strain carefully strain the water/dye into a metal bowl.
4. Add the vinegar and salt and stir, then add the eggs, taking care not to put them in with so much force that the shell cracks (Miss M learnt the hard way). Let them sit until the desired colour saturation is reached.
5. Remove from the water and allow to dry on paper towel.
For dying with beetroot juice
- For the best pink colour using beetroot as your natural dye, pour 250 mL of beetroot juice and 2 tbsp vinegar into a small saucepan. Add a good pinch of salt and your eggs – still raw.
- Bring the juice mixture to the boil, reduce to a high simmer and then cook for maximum 10 minutes until your eggs are cooked.
- Remove the eggs from the dye. If you would like a darker colour, leave the eggs in the juice while they cool.