Dying Easter eggs using natural dyes

By Mielle Chenier-Cowan Rose

I have been experimenting with naturally dyed Easter eggs with my pre-teen daughter since she was young.

I never wanted to use artificial food coloring on our eggs, and I’ve been so pleased with the richness of color I can achieve with simple ingredients in my kitchen. I’ve found that the very best dyes are red cabbage to create indigo, yellow onion skins to create red and orange hues, and turmeric powder to make yellow. You can play with brown and white eggs and different soaking times to get a variety of colors. Soaking for three to 24 hours is ideal.

I like to use blueberries occasionally for a more muted color. In a recent experiment, I pressed cut berries onto one white egg and leaves onto another then wrapped them in pantyhose from the dollar store to hold them in place. I soaked the wrapped eggs in pureed blueberries to make interesting prints and impressions.

Decorative additions like rubber bands or stickers in simple shapes can be fun. Include the kids in the kitchen and let them help cut the cabbage, peel the onions, measure the vinegar and turmeric– it can be so inspiring for them to see food turn into dyes for gorgeous eggs.

Sometimes I use the leftover dye to color silk, cotton, or linen materials or you can use it to make a pickle brine and dye your peeled eggs, too. Yum!

How to Dye Eggs Naturally

To make pretty indigo shades on white eggs or greenish blue on brown eggs use:

3 cups shredded red cabbage + 3 cups water + 3 Tbsp vinegar

To make orange colors on white eggs or rust red on brown eggs use:

4 yellow onion skins + 3 cups water + 3 Tbsp vinegar

To make bright yellow dye on white eggs or deeper yellow on brown eggs use:

3 Tbsp turmeric + 3 cups water + 3 Tbsp vinegar

Bring the ingredients to a boil, simmer for about 30 minutes then strain. Soak eggs for one to 24 hours.

Decorative Ideas

 Use rubber bands to create lines.

 Use pantyhose to press leaves, stickers, or sliced blueberries onto the eggs for imprints. Blueberries will stain the egg a pale, blueish gray.

 Do multiple soaks to make them more vibrant.

 Rub eggs with oil to make them shine. Wipe delicately to avoid scratching off color.

Create More Muted Tones

 Avocado skins — very pale pink

 Blueberries — very light blueish gray

 Beets — muted brownish maroon

 Red onion skins — muted brown

 Spirulina or Chlorella powders — very muted green

Recipes for using leftover ingredients

Naturally Dyed Pickled Easter Eggs

Vibrant-colored pickled eggs make a fun party snack and are super easy to make with just a few natural ingredients to enhance the color and flavor of the eggs. Choose one or make a few batches of different colors to feed a crowd!

YIELD: Makes 6 pickled eggs

ACTIVE TIME: 10 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 20 minutes, plus chilling


6 hardboiled eggs, peeled

1 cup distilled white vinegar

2 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp sugar

For pink pickled eggs:

1/2 small beet, peeled, quartered

1 shallot, sliced

1 bay leaf

For yellow pickled eggs:

1 (1/2-inch) piece ginger, thinly sliced

2 tsp black peppercorns

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

For purple pickled eggs:

1 cup chopped purple cabbage

1 tsp caraway seeds

2 tsp baking soda, divided

For orange pickled eggs:

1 medium carrot, peeled, sliced

2 garlic cloves

1 sliver peeled beet

Small pinch of saffron


Place eggs in a medium heat proofglass jar. Cook vinegar, salt, sugar and 1 cup water in a small pot over high heat, stirring, until salt and sugar dissolve.

To make pink pickled eggs

Add beet, shallot and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Pour over eggs, stir, and chill at least 3 hours or up to overnight for a darker shade of pink.

To make yellow pickled eggs

Add ginger, peppercorns and turmeric and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Pour over eggs, stir and chill at least three hours or up to overnight for a darker shade of yellow.

To make purple pickled eggs

Add cabbage and caraway seeds and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Pour over eggs. Add 1 tsp baking soda and stir until foaming subsides, then stir in remaining 1 tsp baking soda. Chill at least 3 hours or up to overnight for a darker shade of purple.

To make orange pickled eggs

Add carrot, garlic, beet and saffron and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Pour over eggs, stir, and chill at least 3 hours or up to overnight for a darker shade of orange.

Do Ahead

Pickled eggs can be made 5 days ahead. Remove from pickling brine once desired color has been reached, transfer to an airtight container, and chill.

Easter Cabbage Soup

Pretty colors pop in this delicate spring stew.

1 yellow onion, diced

2 medium carrots, quartered and thinly sliced

2 celery ribs, halved and thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp Herbs de Provence or Italian seasoning

2 Tbsp white wine

6 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 tsp fresh lemon or regular thyme leaves

1 ½ cups cauliflower florets, roughly chopped

1 ½ cups purple cabbage, roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces

2 cups cooked white beans

1 ½ cups spring peas

½ Tbsp lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Freshly grated parmesan cheese and 2 Tbsp minced parsley to garnish

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onion, carrots and celery, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add garlic and Herbs de Provence, cook for another 30 seconds to one minute, until fragrant. Pour in wine and stir, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Add broth, fresh thyme, cauliflower florets, cabbage, white beans and peas. Bring to a boil. Cook another 8-10 minutes until vegetables are cooked through.

Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with freshly grated parmesan and minced parsley. Serve immediately with crusty bread and butter.

About Mielle Chenier-Cowan Rose

Mielle Chenier-Cowan Rose is the Kitchen Manager at Heartwood Eatery in Nevada City. She has been cooking professionally since finishing the Nutritional Culinary Program at Bauman College in 2000. Aside from managing the kitchen at Heartwood, she also caters retreats and other events through her business, Piece of My Heart Kitchen. She is the author of two cookbooks based on nourishing ingredients and simple techniques, Piece of My Heart and Veganish.

About Heartwood

Heartwood seeks to nourish the community with affordable, healthy food while supporting local farmers and producers. The menu showcases seasonal, high quality, locally sourced and organic ingredients. Heartwood offers simple, delicious, nutritious meals: grain bowls, salads, soups, specialty toasts, an espresso bar and special drinks like an anti-inflammatory “Heart of Gold” and an adaptogenic “Chocolate Tonic.”  

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