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Color Easter Eggs with Natural Dyes

Coloring eggs is one of my favorite Easter traditions. When my boys were little, we bought the little colored tablets and watched them fizz away with water and vinegar in glass bowls. Sometimes the eggs would crack just a bit and the color would seep onto the egg and I was never terribly comfortable eating or serving them. Then I went to Sweden at Easter and watched my niece dye eggs with blueberries and onion skins. The results were some of the most beautiful eggs I'd ever seen.

Eggs dyed with onion skins and blueberries

I've come across various recipes for "natural" dyes, but now I use several that are not a lot of work. You do need a couple of ingredients that you may not have on hand - a small purple cabbage, beets, grape juice and white vinegar. I use the cold dyeing method (cooled dye and cooked eggs); those instructions follow the color recipes, below:

  • PINK: 3 medium beets, coarsely grated OR four cups red onion skins
    Pink eggs dyed with red beets
  • BLUE: 3 cups shredded purple cabbage (yes, purple cabbage makes blue)
    Blue eggs dyed with purple cabbage
  • YELLOW: 2 Tbsp. turmeric
    Yellow eggs dyed with tumeric
  • GREEN: combine one part turmeric dye and one part purple cabbage dye
  • ORANGE: 4 Tbsp. paprika
  • RED-ORANGE: 3 Tbsp. chili powder
  • LAVENDER: 2 cups grape juice (add to 2 cups water instead of one quart)

Finished Easter eggs

Cold Dye Method

Add 1 quart water, 2 Tbsp. white vinegar and one of the dye ingredients to a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Strain the dye and cool. Place hard-boiled eggs in cool dye until they are completely covered, until the desired color intensity is achieved. This might take five minutes or several hours in the refrigerator. Turn eggs occasionally so they are evenly dyed. Once you get the color you like, remove the eggs and place on a rack to dry. Refrigerate when dry.

Marbled Eggs with Blueberries and Onion Skins

To get blue and yellow brown colors seen in the eggs from Sweden, use a different method.

Eggs removed from onion skin

For blue marbled eggs, take an uncooked white egg and gently smash small, wild blueberries on the outside. (Big, fat cultivated blueberries result in pale eggs; get the wild blueberries if possible.) When there are several on the egg, wrap it carefully in a heavy-duty paper towel and hold that in place with small rubber bands. You may need to tuck in a couple of extra blueberries; they do tend to fall off as you wrap. Place those wrapped eggs in a saucepan of cold water and gently boiled them on the stove for 30 minutes. After draining and letting them sit until cool enough to handle, unwrap them and place them on a plate to dry.

Eggs wrapped with onion skinsFor yellow-brown marbled eggs, take an uncooked white egg and wrap dry yellow onion skins around it. Holding them in place, carefully wrap the egg in a heavy duty paper towel and gently secure the ends with rubber bands. (When I made these last year, I wrapped each egg in a clean square of old white t-shirt and secured the ends with rubber bands since I didn't have heavy-duty paper towels.)

Of course coloring eggs with natural dyes is a wonderful activity to involve everyone in the family, especially your children of ALL ages. You can divide the tasks according to age and ability.

Egg dying is also a great activity for experiments! Try different vegetables, spices, or plants and flowers and see what sort of results you get. Share what works or doesn't in the comments below and we can all learn together!