How to Make Natural Purple, Teal (Blue-Green), & Fuchsia (Purple-Pink) Food Colorings {Using the Red Cabbage Method & the Blueberry Method}

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If you follow me on Instagram, you might already know that yesterday I made natural food coloring.

This is because I recently got the idea in my head that I absolutely had to make blue frosting.

I’ll tell you all about why I needed it soon, but for now, here is a big hint…

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That is supposed to be a pirate flag atop that cupcake…but more on that in a later post! (The very light pastel blue in some of the frosting in the cupcake above is from using natural red cabbage purple and teal dyes; the deeper purple color in some of the frosting is from using natural blueberry dye.)

I didn’t want to go the normal route and grab a bottle of food coloring. Every beautiful shade of the rainbow is available in nature, and I thought why not utilize it? How hard could it be to make a natural dye?

I did a little research online and I came across an article for Homemade Natural Blue Food Coloring on Whole New Mom. Not only is she an amazing lady, but her food coloring looked pretty wonderful and I thought, What the heck?! I’ll give it a whirl. (Total Home Alone 2 reference for anyone who’s seen the movie.)

So I started out with probably the prettiest red cabbage I’ve ever seen…

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Gave it a quick chop…

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And then after a brief stint in some boiling water, I ended up with a pretty shade of purple. And after adding a bit of baking soda to some of it, I had a lovely teal. (The alkaline property of baking soda causes this to happen.)

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Red Cabbage Method: Natural purple coloring (on right) and teal coloring (on left) above. Note that although the colorings look very deep-colored, they show up as pastel colors when used to dye things.

Out of curiosity I mixed some distilled white vinegar into the teal…and ended up with fuchsia! Even though I wouldn’t use this to dye foods I want to eat (like frosting) because of the flavor of vinegar, I think it would be great for dying Easter eggs and such.

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Here’s the fuchia above (with the teal in the background). There is a hard-boiled egg in the teal – it came out a lovely soft pastel shade of green!

I was super excited to try these natural dyes in frosting, so I whipped up a basic batch of frosting with equal parts vegetable shortening (not butter because I didn’t want the yellow from the butter to come through in the final color), powdered sugar, and just a touch of clear extract. Then I mixed in between 3 to 4 tablespoons of my natural dye (about half purple and half teal)…and ended up with a super light pastel bluish purple that almost had a light grey hue.

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Pure white frosting with about 3 to 4 tablespoons of natural purple and teal dyes (from the red cabbage method) added…that is not enough color for me! (The cupcake photo above shows its color a little better.)

I was disappointed that the natural red cabbage dyes weren’t great for the use I had intended for them (coloring frosting), but I soon thought of a way to remedy that…blueberries! (And I know the red cabbage dyes do have other uses – see my Notes section below.) So I soldiered on and boiled down some blueberries with some water until the liquid was very concentrated and then strained out the blueberries. Here’s what I got…

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Blueberry Method: Natural purple coloring.

And here’s how it looked when I swirled about 2 teaspoons into a batch of frosting…

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I was going for a streaked look with the frosting!

I thought the natural blueberry coloring served this purpose perfectly!

Below I give the recipes (which are really more methods than actual recipes), along with my notes on each.

I will definitely be trying my hand at making more natural dyes, so I might do a sequel post to this one at some point.

Here are a few other color ideas I have in mind:

  • Red: Beets, pomegranate molasses, cranberries
  • Pink: Raspberries, strawberries, cherries, hibiscus, rose
  • Orange: Carrot juice
  • Yellow: Turmeric
  • Green: Spinach (or other leafy greens), chlorella, liquid chlorophyll
  • Blue: Some kind of herbal tea, such as blue Thai tea, which is also called Butterfly Pea Tea
  • Purple: Blackberries
  • Brown: Tea, coffee, cocoa powder

Natural Purple, Teal (Blue-Green), and Fuchsia (Purple-Pink) Food Colorings {Red Cabbage Method}

1 lb (455 g) cabbage, core removed and thinly sliced (about 5 cups sliced)

Water

Baking soda

Distilled white vinegar

  1. Add the cabbage and enough water to cover it (about 5 cups/1.2 liters) to a medium lidded saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn heat down and simmer (covered) 10 minutes. Turn the heat off and let it steep for 5 minutes.
  3. Strain the cabbage out, reserving the purple liquid. Let the liquid cool to room temperature and then divide it in thirds in 3 separate bowls.
  4. The purple liquid is ready to use at this point.
  5. To make teal (blue-green), stir in 1/4 teaspoon baking soda at a time until it reaches your desired shade.
  6. To make fuchsia (purple-pink), after making teal (blue-green), stir in 1/4 teaspoon distilled white vinegar at a time until it reaches your desired shade.

NOTES {RED CABBAGE METHOD}:

  • After being boiled, the cabbage is a bit softer than you might normally cook it, but it is still completely edible. Once you strain the cabbage out of the liquid, you can toss it in a little olive oil-sautéed onion, garlic, and/or ginger with salt and pepper for an instant side dish.
  • Using the red cabbage method, you should get a total of about 4 cups/1 liter of food coloring.
  • The cabbage food colorings are not concentrated, so foods that are dyed with them have pastel hues instead of deep colors.
  • The purple cabbage coloring smells like cabbage, but its flavor is quite mild and can be easily covered with bolder flavors (and it can even be used to dye sweets like frosting into soft, pastel colors). The teal and fuchsia colorings both have much stronger flavors due to the addition of baking soda and distilled white vinegar, so their flavors are harder to mask or blend into something else; however, they still have their uses too!
  • Uses for purple food coloring (red cabbage method): making frosting; making other dyed foods (like mashed potatoes or cauliflower); coloring Easter eggs; crafting (like making naturally-dyed paper).
  • Uses for teal (blue-green) food coloring (red cabbage method): coloring Easter eggs; crafting (like making naturally-dyed paper); you can also use it sparingly to dye things like frosting – just be careful because it may change the flavor!
  • Uses for fuchsia (purple-pink) food coloring (cabbage method): coloring Easter eggs; crafting (like making naturally-dyed paper). With vinegar in this coloring I don’t recommend using it in things like frosting.

Natural Purple Food Coloring {Blueberry Method}

1/4 cup (35 g) frozen blueberries

1/4 cup (60 ml) water

  1. Add the blueberries and water to a small saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Bring to a boil, then give the berries a good mash; turn the heat down slightly and simmer (uncovered) 10 minutes. Turn the heat off and steep 5 minutes.
  3. Strain the berries, reserving the liquid.
  4. Cool the liquid completely before using.

NOTES {BLUEBERRY METHOD}:

  • Using the blueberry method, you should get about 1 tablespoon of dye – but it is very concentrated, so a little goes a long way!
  • Although the color of the blueberry food coloring is concentrated, its flavor isn’t. It smells and tastes only very faintly fruity, which is nice because it lets you easily mask its flavor if you don’t want it to stand out.
  • Uses for purple food coloring (blueberry method): making frosting; making other dyed foods (like mashed potatoes, cauliflower, or risotto); coloring Easter eggs; crafting (like making naturally-dyed paper).

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Hello! I’m Faith and I write An Edible Mosaic. This is my recipe collection of international favorites and updated American classics, with an emphasis on seasonal dishes. I focus on real foods that sustain body and mind, bring people together, and make a house a home. Welcome to my mosaic of recipes.

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