Gather Magazine

How to make natural easter egg dyes

Eggs are symbolic of new life and for many families decorating them is a cherished springtime tradition. Whether you hard-boil them first or hollow them out by blowing through a pinhole, dying them bold colours is a simple project for all ages to share. Making natural dyes from food scraps or store-cupboard ingredients adds to the fun and can help kids (and us) to look at food waste in a fresh, creative way.

Prepare the ingredients

When it comes to making natural dyes, half the fun is experimenting to see what colours you can create. Powders will produce more vibrant tints, so drying fruits and vegetables before grinding them in a food processor will add intensity if you have the time. Otherwise chopping or pureeing food before using it will release more colour.

How to make the dye

Boil a litre of water and once it’s simmering, add your chosen ingredient – a spoonful or two of spices, a cupful of scraps. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by around half. Strain the dye and let it cool. Lower your eggs into the dye with a spoon and leave them to soak for half an hour or so – the longer left, the brighter the colour. Remember to protect your countertops to prevent stains, and it’s a good idea to wear an apron and pair of kitchen gloves. Make a note of timings and amounts so that next year you’ll have the perfect recipes.

Onion Brown onions will produce a beautiful earthy yellow-gold, while red onions make a rosy brown.

Turmeric Yields a lovely warm gold. If you’re doing this with kids, adding a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda will change the pH and cause it to turn bright scarlet – a brilliant STEM experiment.

Red cabbage Creates wonderful deep blues and purples. Adding a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar will make it more pink.

Blueberries A large handful or two of overripe blueberries will produce colours ranging from denim blue to indigo.

Spinach Green can be a tricky colour to achieve with natural dyes. Adding a spoonful or two of white vinegar to the water can help to achieve a pale yellow-green.

Beetroot Grating the flesh will give great results, but just chopping the tops and peel will produce a bright reddish pink.

Other dyes to try

Dried hibiscus flowers for a rich mauve

Purple grape juice for soft lavender

Ground coffee beans for an earthy brown

Chopped lemon peel for a pale yellow

Avocado skins and stones for peachy pink

Want to create patterns?

Collect leaves or grasses and you can use them to add interesting patterns to your eggs. Place the greenery next to the egg and wrap snugly with a piece of fabric (old tights work well) to hold in place, fasten with a piece of string and immerse in the dye.

How to store natural dyes

Leftover dyes will keep for a few weeks in a sealed container in the fridge and can be used to colour icing or cake or pancake batter. Use sparingly and they shouldn’t carry over any flavour.

Don’t waste eggshells – bury them!

Eggshells are an egg-cellent addition to the compost heap, as they’re nutrient rich, providing plants with calcium, magnesium and potassium. If you don’t compost, simply crush and bury directly under the soil in a pot or garden bed.