Natural Egg Dyes: Which Ones Work, Which Ones Just Make Your Eggs Look Dingy and Sad

Last year, Joy and I became obsessed with dyeing eggs using leaves, grasses, spices, and anything else nature threw our way.  Commercial egg dyes aren’t the worst thing in the world, but wouldn’t it be great to tint eggs without frightening chemicals and excess packaging?  Yes, it would be great . . . but do these “organic” egg dyes really work?  Here’s what I tried, with the disappointing results.

 
I dyed these eggs using blueberries, chili flakes, and a leaf . . . in my imagination.

Beets.  Beets stain everything around them bright reddish-purple, so they seemed like the perfect natural egg dye.  However, after many attempts, I could never manage to dye eggs with them.  The eggs turned slightly brownish, but that was about it.

Wine.  Didn’t work-and wasted wine!

Black beans.  I cook a lot of black beans, and they leave purplish stains on my Dutch oven, so I tried dyeing some eggs in my black bean cooking water.  They just looked dirty afterwards.

Spinach.  In an attempt to dye my eggs green, I tried spinach.  Nada.

Coffee.  Eureka!  Coffee dyes white eggs . . . so they look like brown eggs.

Tumeric.  After trying all the above “natural dyes” (and many more), turmeric was the only thing that dyed my eggs.  Just add a teaspoon or so of turmeric to the water when you cook your eggs and they’ll turn a delightful shade of yellow.

Joy says she used red cabbage and dyed her eggs a beautiful pink color last year.  I wasted an ENTIRE cabbage and it did nothing.  So what am I doing wrong?  I have tried cooking the eggs with the veggies and spices, soaking them for hours in cooled dye baths afterwards, and adding white vinegar to the concoctions to help the dyes stick to the shells.  Nothing works!

Today is a reverse Works for Me Wednesday, which means we can ask others what works for them.  So has anyone had good luck dyeing eggs the “natural” way?  Please let me know how you did it!  For more WFMW questions, head on over to We are THAT family.

Comments

  1. I once dyed eggs using the skins from onions – red and yellow onions. They mostly came out in varying shades of brown, but I loved them. I went to the store and literally peeled as many of the onions as possible. Not enough to damage the onions, but if the flaky outsides were easy to remove, I removed them. I mostly gathered the skins from the bright red onions and put them in a produce bag to take home.

    Then I boiled the skins for a little bit in some water – then I put the eggs into the cooled mix and let them sit for hours. The skins made almost like a leaf impression on the sides of the eggs, so I let them sit in one spot for a few hours, then I’d turn everything over so that they would get different impressions in another spot.

    I did two batches – one of all red onion skins and one of all yellow onion skins. I liked the red ones best. This wasn’t instant gratification, but it was a real fun project.

  2. *Snort*! You are killing me. I have had the exact same (dingy) experimentation. Turmeric only. Also? I have to say I actually got a little down when I saw the PAAS kits out this year cause my dyeing disappointments from last year washed over me. Will follow your comments with interest!

  3. I think your eggs look very pretty! maybe its just your great photography skills! I haven’t tried any of this but I cant wait to hear some of the answers.

  4. Thanks, Courtney. Unfortunately those aren’t my eggs, though! If you want to picture how my naturally-dyed eggs turned out, just imagine plain old white eggs with a tinge of dirt on them.

  5. Funny! Maybe next time you should just let the kids color them with non-toxic markers! 🙂

  6. Red cabbage makes a lovely shade of blue!

    Put some cabbage leaves in a pan with water. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for 15 minutes to an hour- the longer you go the darker the “dye” will be. Strain out the leaves and then add 2-3 tbsp vinegar to every cup of “dye.” I let my eggs sit in the fridge overnight and they turned out really well.

    I’ve had good results with onion skins as well. Tried spinach and I agree with your assessment- blegh!

  7. Hiho. My 2 little girlies and I just dyed some eggs with natural dyes and they came out terrific. You can read the details on my blog: http://groovybell.blogspot.com/2009/04/happy-cutesy-cheerful-spring-post.html .

    The egg bit is right after the proud Gramma pics… 😉

  8. So really wishing that I would have checked here before undertaking our natural egg dye experiment. It did not go well.

    http://giftofyoutwo.wordpress.com/2009/04/05/in-which-eggs-die/

  9. From what I’ve read the dyes need to be hot when the eggs are dipped in. Check out this article:

    http://articles.urbanhomemaker.com/index.php?article=909

    I hope this helps,
    Allyson
    http://a-heart4home.blogspot.com

  10. Christina says

    It’s been proven over the years, that natural dyes do not work as well as the chemical dyes. Not even for hair coloring. I am a chemist and I have tried all! There’s the conclusion: you want to go “green”- sacrifice the appearance.

    Good luck for further tests!

  11. oh dear, i am working on a project for my daughters science fair and the research looked promising till i read this page… i was excited thinking this would be an easy last minute project…seems that i have more work on my hands than expected…. i’ll let you know how it goes.

  12. I realize this is waaaay late but I just found this post and had to comment. There are ways to get lovely eggs in many colors using natural dyes. This website (http://www.pravmir.com/article_89.html) has a nice summary of possible plants to use and how to make the dyes. If you’re not interested in church history or comparative religion just scroll down until you see a picture of kids dying eggs.

  13. I just did this this weekend, with mixed results. I sort of only half-followed the instructions I had found online. I simmered 2 c water and 1 T vinegar with each of the plant products for about 1/2 hour. I let them cool and then soaked the eggs in them. I had to let the eggs sit in the dyes for a long time to get decent color on them. My results:

    – 1 tsp turmeric – very very pale yellow. Need to add more turmeric maybe?
    – 1 tsp paprika – blech! blotchy brown. ugly.
    – 1/4 c or so blueberries – very pretty purplish blue
    – 1/2 c or so sliced beets – very pretty pink

    It was a lot of work for mediocre results. Next time I’d probably actually follow some directions so that I would get more vibrant colors!

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