How to naturally dye desserts & frosting using food

rainbow frosting cupcakes natural food coloring
Photo credit: RuthBlack/Getty Images

It’s difficult to imagine yummy holiday treats — think cakes, cookies, cupcakes — without the vibrant colors that are most commonly achieved through artificial means. But food dyes have gotten a bad rap, for good reason, with research showing negative impacts on our health. However, you can, in fact, create natural food colorings using other household staples.

But what about the flavor? Look, I’m a frosting fanatic. I will always take the corner piece of the cake and scrape the frosting left on the tray. For my birthday one year, my coworkers bought me a jar of chocolate frosting and graham crackers — heaven. Thankfully, over the years, my knowledge of healthy eating has increased and I look for ways to make sure my family and I make (mostly) healthy choices. So, if I use these natural food colorings and still love the taste, you can rest assured that your family and friends will also.

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Do keep in mind that these natural food coloring dyes will not be the uber-bright almost-neon colors found in processed foods or that you get from using the artificial food dyes, so have realistic expectations. They will, however, be just as appealing and delicious.

So, in the spirit of having homemade treats for Halloween, but not forgoing all healthy eating concerns, here are some ways to add natural food coloring to your favorites.

The chart focuses on adding coloring to frosting; however, you can also add color to cake and cookie batters or other fun treats you are making.

Desired color Food to add Directions
Yellow Turmeric Add 1 teaspoon turmeric for every 1 cup of frosting.
Orange Goji berries 1/2 cup goji berries soaked in water for 5 minutes. Remove from water and blend with 1 cup of frosting.
Carrots/carrot juice Add pureed carrots or carrot juice to frosting to achieve desired shade of orange.
Pink Raspberries Add the juice from 1 dozen fresh or frozen raspberries, mashed and strained, to every 1 cup of frosting.
Currants Blend a handful of currants in a blender or food processor for every 1 cup of frosting.
Beets Add 1/4 cup cooked beets (canned or fresh) and 1/2 cup beet juice from can. Strain to remove any pieces and then add to frosting to achieve desired color.
Blackberries (darker pink) Add the juice from 1 dozen fresh or frozen blackberries, mashed and strained, to every 1 cup of frosting.
Blue/purple Blueberries Add the juice of 1 dozen mashed and strained blueberries to every 1 cup of frosting.
Light green Avocado Add 1/4 mashed avocado for every 1 cup of frosting.
Matcha tea Start with 1/4 teaspoon matcha green tea powder and add more to achieve desired shade.
Dark green Fresh spinach Fresh — 1 cup spinach and 1/2 cup water. Simmer in saucepan for 2–3 minutes and then blend with water. Strain to remove pieces.
Frozen spinach Frozen — blend with a bit of water. Strain to remove pieces.
Brown Chocolate Add cocoa powder until you achieve desired shade of brown. Add small amounts of milk if needed to maintain desired consistency.
Black Coffee powder Add coffee powder to achieve desired shade of black. Small amounts of milk will help maintain consistency.

If you’re going to the effort of creating these natural food colorings, they certainly deserve homemade frosting and cake batter. Why ruin your efforts at healthier treats with store-bought mixes that negate your efforts. If you don’t already have favorites, here’s a yummy recipe for homemade buttercream frosting that you can then turn into any color you desire, and here’s one for scrumptious chocolate cake that can also be used for cupcakes.

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Have a goulish-ly good time playing with these colors and making your Halloween deliciously festive.

You can also use food to make natural dyes for things like eggs and pasta, too. Check out our video below.

Show off your natural food coloring creations. Tag us on Instagram @makeitgrateful and #makeitgrateful!