Scared of FD& C Yellow 5? Natural alternatives to food coloring, just in time for St. Patty’s.

If you are looking to ‘color’ your food this holiday season and are really perplexed, confused and scared about how your kids’ mouths turn a bright green after consuming a St. Patty’s Day treat and stays that way for days, let’s explore some natural alternatives to artificial dyes and food coloring!

A few things to keep in mind:

1. Natural colorants will not be as bright as the store-bought food coloring. The food coloring you buy in the store is highly concentrated and only requires a few drops for intense color. Using the juice from fruits and vegetables will be more subtle due to the amount of liquid within the coloring. Juuuust to set your expectations.

Square-rainbow-cake-natural-food-colors  rainbow_cake

2. Remember that strongly colored foods also tend to be strongly flavored foods, depending on what you use. You will want to try and limit those stronger flavored foods as they will definitely alter the flavor of whatever you are coloring. You’ll also want to coordinate flavors. Beets would be a great coloring for cupcake frosting, chili powder probably would not. Yikers.

3. Want to read about the experience from someone who’s done it? Read this fantastic article, Pros and cons of rainbow baked goods made with natural food coloring and dyes from Growing a Green Family. Here’s her recipe and how-to for making a Rainbow Cake here.

How to procure your dye:

To extract the coloring, you’ll need to pulverize the fruits or veggies (some will need to be steamed first to soften) in a food processor or blender, then strain out the colored liquid using a mesh sieve or cheesecloth.

Here are some of the natural food colors from organic vegetables and fruits that you can experiment with:


Natural YELLOW Food Coloring > turmeric powder, yellow carrots, lemon zest, saffron flowers, bee pollen

Natural ORANGE Food Coloring > orange carrots, orange zest, carrot juice, pumpkin, papaya, cumin powder

Natural RED Food Coloring > red beets (great coloring and doesn’t yield much flavor!), chilli powder, strawberries and pomegranate

Natural PINK Food Coloring > beetroot, pomegranate powder and raspberries

Natural PURPLE Food Coloring > red grapes, organic red wine, red cabbage, purple carrots, purple potatoes, acai berry powder

Natural GREEN Food Coloring > spinach juice, wheat grass, kale, swiss chard leaves, lime zest

Natural BLUE Food Coloring > blueberries and blackberries

Natural BROWN >instant coffee granules, pure espresso, heavily steeped black tea, cocoa powder, cinnamon

*Image from Food Matters

Ahhhh, Maybe not. Any other ideas?

Personally, this sounds EXHAUSTING to me, so searched the internet to see if a natural food coloring set existed. I found a couple that looked legit: India Tree Natural Decorating Colors (only red, blue and yellow); PME 100% Natural Food Coloring (comes in many colors); and Nature’s Flavor’s Rainbow PackThe prices seemed a little steep at first, but when I considered all the time and mess created by the juicing, I think you might find it worth the purchase. Plus, they last a LOT longer!

Happy decorating! Looking for more holiday food recipes? Check out our Pinterest page!

What tricks do you use to naturally color baked good and other treats? Please share with us!

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