My Halloween Experiment-Making Food Dyes - Lela's Cooking Journey Blog at - 313805

Lela's Cooking Journey

My Halloween Experiment-Making Food Dyes 
Oct. 27, 2013 2:22 pm 
Updated: Nov. 1, 2013 1:47 pm

When my daughter was a little girl, we found out she was sensitive to artificial red food dye. She would get severe stomach aches, headaches, and sometimes throw up. As she was growing up, I would monitor her food intake and especially avoid red dye.  Now, she has a five year old daughter who is sensitive to red dye. My granddaughter does not have the severe symptoms like my daughter did. However, after ingesting artificial dye she gets hyper. My daughter found this out one day when she ordered a Shirley Temple for my granddaughter in a restaurant. There are many articles on artificial food dyes that you can read online. Here is one such article:<

     Just recently, I came across some blogs showcasing natural food dyes. The blogs about making natural food dye piqued my interest since my daughter and granddaughter can't have artificial red food dye. Also, I have always loved science and especially science experiments so I was excited to create my own food dyes. 

     First, I learned you can make natural food dye using a can of beets and just using the juice.  You can use vegetables, turmeric, green chlorophyll, and blueberries to make the food dyes. Since I wanted to make some Halloween cookies,  I thought I would experiment with dyes in Lela's Kitchen.

Lela Goes Shopping:

     I had some different options I was looking for in the Natural Grocers. I looked for already made food dye in bottles, green chlorophyll, dried beets, dried carrots, and of course fresh vegetables. Unfortunately, the green chlorophyll was $15.00 a bottle so I only bought the beets and spinach.

     I did find the dye online, but decided not to purchase the dye. The India Tree Gourmet dye can be bought online for around $15.00 India Tree Gourmet Natural Food Dye

     I will let you know, that organic food is not cheap. For example, beets were $3.49 for 3 and spinach was $2.99 for a small container. I had some organic carrots at home and blueberries I froze earlier in the summer. So, I don't remember what the carrots or blueberries cost. 

Lela's Natural Food Dye Experiment:



Day One-Prepare the Vegetables:

Boil the vegetables and blueberries in separate pots.

When I make the food dye again, I will cut the carrots and beets into smaller pieces. 

I recycle my glass jars and the jars came in handy for making the food dye. Make sure you cool all the ingredients, then place in clean glass jars. Refrigerate the concoctions overnight.

Day 2-Make the Frosting and the Cookies:

     In June, Marianne here on Allrecipes made some beautiful cookies using the Holiday Butter cookie recipe from King Arthur Flour. She also used the Sugar Cookie Icing from Allrecipes. I admired her beautiful photo of cookies and decided to give the recipes she used a try.  Click on the recipes below to see enlarged versions.  

Holiday Butter Cookie Recipe: 







     Make the frosting, then mix some of the pulp (about a 1/2 tsp. to a tsp.) from the jar until you get the desired color. The carrot, spinach, and blueberry dye will not be as intense as the beets. You are probably wondering why there isn't any yellow. Suggestions on different blogs mentioned using saffron or turmeric. I tried using turmeric and I didn't like the taste in the frosting. So, I opted not to make yellow food dye.

Lela's Frosting Experiment:

    To make blue frosting, use a pinch of baking soda and add some blueberry pulp to the frosting. To make the dark brown/black frosting, use equal parts of cocoa and blueberry, and a pinch of baking soda. If it is not dark enough,  add some more blueberry pulp.  Every time I mixed the dark brown/black frosting I got a different hue. The dark brown/black frosting has to mellow for about an hour before it turns darker.

     As you can see, the dark frosting does get darker. Here is my granddaughter's ghost outlined in the dark brown/black frosting. We used small squeeze bottles I bought at Walmart to outline the ghost. Let the dark frosting dry before adding the white frosting to the ghost. 


     The day we made sugar cookies my granddaughter and I had a fun lunch. My camera died and I didn't get any photos of my granddaughter making cookies. My granddaughter enjoyed making the cookies. We had a lot of fun, conversation, and laughs as she told me about seeing Frankenstein on Scooby Doo.  She was a very good helper and was pleased with her decorating skills. Here are some of the cookies we made together. I did have to outline a lot of the cookies because my granddaughter said that was too hard to do on the ghost. The orange is darker on the witch's hat because I added some beet pulp. There will be specks of blueberries in the frosting, but I thought it added to the Halloween Cookies. My daughter and granddaughter ate the cookies without getting any food reactions. 

      I couldn't taste the spinach, beets, carrots or blueberries in the frosting. So, I am quite pleased with my science experiment. Yes, it is a lot of work to make the dyes. However, I think it is a wonderful alternative for anyone sensitive to red food dye. The only drawback is you will need to eat the baked goods right away. I would suggest keeping the baked goods in the refrigerator and not for more than 3-4 days. 

I wrote up the recipe and put it in my box for the food dyes. Here it is:

Natural Food Dyes For Frosting Cookies

References:<<< easter/<

Spinach and carrot natural food dye
Photo Detail
Oct. 27, 2013 2:23 pm
I apologize for the different size fonts. For some reason the Allrecipe blogger is not working very well today.
Oct. 27, 2013 2:38 pm
Nice blog. It does look like a lot of work. Glad your girls can eat this icing without any worries of reactions to the dyes.
Oct. 27, 2013 2:49 pm
Lela - I am so excited about your experiment! This is something that I really wanted to know how to do since I too am intolerant of artificial dyes. I just never got around to learning this on my own. It is so nice of you to put this post up before Halloween so that so many people can take advantage of your insights. I know that I certainly will! Saved as a RECIPE BOX link! Thanks for sharing! =)
Oct. 27, 2013 2:54 pm
Oh, Lela. This is a great blog and so informative and helpful! I have a great nephew who cannot have food dyes, especially the red. This is a wonderful alternative so that he can still have fun cookies.
Oct. 27, 2013 3:16 pm
Wow... that was some more work there! But from one gramma to another I'd have done the same thing! What we do for the love of our kiddos! Great blog!
Oct. 27, 2013 4:04 pm
And you work, too? I don't know how you find the time, though it is definitely worth it for the sake of your family's health. It's great you took the time to research it and come up with what looks like a fabulous alternative to the fake stuff!
Oct. 27, 2013 4:56 pm
Hello Mother Ann! When my daughter was little, she could eat foods with yellow, green, and blue, but not red, orange, or the purple. I was so surprised how much dye is in cereal, snacks for kids and juices.
Oct. 27, 2013 4:57 pm
Good Evening, Mrs. J. I am glad you found the blog helpful. When my daughter was little, I became a label reader and still read all labels to this day. It helps to know what is in your food.
Oct. 27, 2013 5:02 pm
Hi, Paula! I hope trying natural dyes helps your great nephew.You could even use beets in a can. I haven't tried that alternative, but I may buy some canned beets and see how it compares to cooking the fresh beets. It is hard on kids when other kids get eat snacks and other items with artificial food dyes or decorate cookies with all the colors. So, I am excited about using the natural dyes when we make cookies and other baked goods. It is amazing what you can learn online these days.
Oct. 27, 2013 5:05 pm
Hello, Terry! I would search the ends of the earth to help my kids and grandkids and I know you would be right there with me.
Oct. 27, 2013 5:10 pm
Good Evening Cooking Cyn! I had to laugh. I am a retired now. You must be thinking about the Tater Blog. I will tell you I did get meals on the table when I was working that included the frozen potatoes. However, when my daughter was young I was teaching full time. I had to find alternatives to a lot of food allergies she had. All the reading of labels and preparing a lot of foods from scratch was hard, but I am so glad I did what I could for my daughter. My daughter outgrew all the food allergies except for the red food dye. Now as a grown up, my daughter usually just gets headaches if she accidentally eats or drinks something that has red dye in it.
Oct. 27, 2013 5:35 pm
Lela, that is a really great blog! I read so many over the years on similar subjects or anti-food industry blogs, instead of just being greatful for what we have. I like how you took a negative, allergies to food substances, and turned it into an experiment and great time with your granddaughter. The cookies turned out very well. I also thought, the colors looked very good too. I would definitely try something like this, after seeing the blog steps. I had no idea, it was really do-able in the home kitchen with a variety of colors. I would not be able to tell the difference in appearance or colors from the artificial store bought colors and the ones you made. I bet your daughter was greatful, for your doing this for her daughter for halloween. I know so many foods, we never expect have the added dyes.
Oct. 27, 2013 5:39 pm
Very generous of you to give out this info & the recipes. I feel very lucky I don't have the allergies you've gone through, and that I use very little food coloring. Nice blog!
Oct. 27, 2013 8:44 pm
Lela, you are an inspiration! Truly! I love your cookies, and the colors are amazing! I'm still not sure I could bring myself to use {{beets}} in a recipe! Yikes! But I'm so impressed! I love how you've set up your blog! Thanks for a great blog!
Oct. 27, 2013 8:45 pm
PS I had problems with the fonts, too! Drats!
Oct. 27, 2013 9:41 pm
Oh Lela, what a nice blog. How creative you are to come up with a natural alternative to food dyes. I am very impressed. Your cookies look amazing too! Thank you for sharing with us how you turned a sensitivity into an inspiration. Your granddaughter is STILL a cutie-pie!
Oct. 28, 2013 3:09 am
I'm glad you tried the non=traditional approach to colored frosting! Have you tried dehyrating your vegetables to acheive the same colors? That way you would not have to be concerned about how long to keep the food refrigerated.
Oct. 28, 2013 4:59 am
Very nice blog Lela. I wonder how pomegranate would work for red. I know every time I try to seed one I manage to dye my hands and usually my clothes too!
Oct. 28, 2013 5:01 am
Oh, I meant to mention - we have a friend who can't have red dyes and I was looking for cranberry juice for a punch. I was surprised to find red dye in many of the cranberry juices.
Oct. 28, 2013 7:10 am
Good Morning, Blender Woman! There is so much information on the internet that is available by just a touch of a button. I tried just using the juices from the vegetables and blueberries, but didn't get a very strong color. Maybe, if I let the concoctions mellow in the refrigerator for a couple of days, I might get a more intense color. I am happy with the results and my granddaughter enjoyed the cookie making experience. My daughter usually avoids sugar cookies with red, orange, or purple frosting. So, she was happy we made some cookies she could eat.
Oct. 28, 2013 7:17 am
Hello, scootersandi! I read different articles and blogs online and thought I can try this alternative to artificial dyes. I wasn't sure how the experiment would turn out. There are other ways to create dyes like dehydrating the vegetables and fruits and turning them into powder. I don't own a dehydrator. I plan on doing some more investigation to see which way would be the easiest and get the best results. Thanks for stopping by.
Oct. 28, 2013 7:24 am
Hello, Marianne! I do not like beets. I was surprised the cookies did not taste like beets. I couldn't taste any of the vegetables or blueberries in the cookies. By the way, I want to thank you for the wonderful Holiday Butter Cookie recipe. It is a great recipe. I love your beautiful cookies you made. You should have that photo framed and hang it in your kitchen! Those cookies were a work of art. I also wish AR Blog was not so hard to work with-like placing photos in the blog, etc. The recipe templates are from smilebox.
Oct. 28, 2013 7:27 am
Good Morning, Candice! It is amazing what you can find on the internet. I still have your wonderful looking strawberry frosting on my list to do. I like that you used freeze dried strawberries to make the frosting. I am having trouble finding freeze dried strawberries here in my town. I will probably order the strawberries online.
Oct. 28, 2013 7:30 am
Hi sueb! This was my first attempt at making a natural food dye. I think your idea would be easier to use dehydrated fruit and vegetables.I did read some blogs that mentioned using a dehydrator. I need to do some more reading on dehydrating and turning the vegetables and blueberries into powder. Thanks for the great idea!
Oct. 28, 2013 7:40 am
Good Morning, Baking Nana! The artificial red dye is in so many of our foods and juices. I wanted to make a Red Velvet Cake until I saw how much red food coloring is in the cake. I might try making a Red Velvet Cake with some natural food dye and see how it comes out. Reading labels on foods has become second nature for me. I think pomegranate is a wonderful idea for natural dye. Thanks for the great idea. I always managed to get the pomegranate juice on my countertop which is very hard to get off. I just googled pomegranate as a natural food dye. I am so excited-Here is a blog about using pomegranate.
Oct. 28, 2013 8:21 am
My son is extremely sensitive to food dyes too, red and blue in particular! So we opt not to use any food dyes for our whole household. I have made purple cream cheese frosting by mixing strawberry and blueberry puree. I've tried making a pink cake using beets, but I did not care for the taste. But mix some beet juice with vinegar and it makes a great egg dye for Easter eggs :) Love your experiments, very informative and helpful!! :)
Oct. 28, 2013 8:40 am
Good Morning westcoastmom! You know first hand the challenges presented with artificial food dyes in so many foods. What a great idea using strawberry and blueberry puree for cream cheese frosting. Egg Dye with beets! Thanks so much. I am so glad you stopped by.
Oct. 28, 2013 9:01 am
Wow very cool. Your cookies are so cute.
Oct. 28, 2013 10:20 am
What a fantastic blog! I had a friend that got severe migraines from red dye. I'm sure she would have been more than happy to put in the work to avoid those headaches. And your end results looked so good too!
Oct. 28, 2013 10:35 am
Hello, Joey Joan! It was a fun experience and the cookies were really delicious! Thanks for stopping by!
Oct. 28, 2013 10:38 am
Good Morning, Cat Hill! My daughter outgrew all the symptoms except for the headache. I wish I knew about this method when she was little. However, she was a happy camper eating an orange pumpkin cookie.
Oct. 28, 2013 11:41 am
I love these, Lela! We try to be natural as much as possible, and it can be a challenge with all the technicolor cake frosting that's out there...
Oct. 28, 2013 12:52 pm
Hi jrbaker! You are right about the technicolor cake frostings. That reminds me of one lady's blog that used beets to color marshmallow fondant. The results were very bright. Thanks for stopping by!--
Oct. 28, 2013 1:18 pm
What an informative blog, Lela. I'm going to send this to my DIL for my grandson that has reactions to food dyes. Nice of you to take the time and experiment with this and give such an excellent pictorial to follow. The cookies turned out wonderful!
Oct. 28, 2013 4:17 pm
Hello Sherri! Thanks for stopping by. The procedure took some time, but I think it was worth it. I hope your DIL will get some use out of what I discovered. This was my first experience with making natural dyes. I hope to fine tune the procedure as I make this again. I know the cookie recipe and the icing recipe Marianne had used her beautiful cookies is a winner. We love the cookie recipe. I think the cookies taste better if you roll the cookies out thicker. Have a nice day!
Oct. 31, 2013 4:35 pm
I think you can get these at Whole Foods or any other Health Food Store, in case you tire of the process, although it seems like you are enjoying the whole experience! Good for you!
Oct. 31, 2013 5:51 pm
Hi Chrissy! Thanks for the info. I checked our local health food store and they don't have any type of natural food coloring.
Oct. 31, 2013 7:33 pm
Great info Lela!
Oct. 31, 2013 9:35 pm
Hello KGora! Now, I would also like to try powdered beets for the red food coloring. Thanks For stopping by!
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About Me
I enjoy cooking for our family sit down dinners. Although my kids are grown, we are a close family that enjoys 4-5 sit down dinners a week together. My family's favorite dinner is chicken enchiladas smothered in green chili. I have a passion for cooking, baking for the holidays and food photography.
My favorite things to cook
I am family oriented and spend time with my family enjoying meals. My favorite things to cook are Mexican food and any food my family asks me to cook. My family looks forward to home cooked Mexican food at least once a week and Italian food.
My favorite family cooking traditions
I am on a journey to reclaim family recipes that were lost when the cooks in my family passed away. Cooking traditions are a major part of my passion for cooking. On Christmas Eve, we always had green chili and tamales. Cookie baking, lemon bars, pizzelles , and potica have been a must at Christmas as long as I can remember. My family looks forward to homemade pizza, when we gather as a family to decorate the Christmas cookies. Thanksgiving wouldn't be Thanksgiving without noodles and gravy piled high on mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and broccoli and rice casserole. On the 4th of July, there is the 4th of July Potato Salad that I make using 10 pounds of potatoes. Mexican Food is part of our weekly menu--green chili served over mashed potatoes or as a slopper (green chili poured over hamburgers.) I am always making tortillas for someone. They call my tortillas little white pieces of gold. Saturdays are Family night for dinner. It is the one day my kids can request a meal.
My cooking triumphs
Seeking help on the Buzz and the AR Blog has resulted in a few triumphs. I am extremely ecstatic about overcoming the yeast monster. I can now bake baguettes, focaccia and the best rolls in the world, my Grandma Rita's Butter Rolls.
My cooking tragedies
My first attempts at baking bread/rolls resulted in rock hard flat rolls. However, I am improving. Baking at High Altitude is somewhat of a challenge.
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