Decorating Eggs with Natural Dyes

Six different colored Easter eggsDecorating eggs for Easter or other spring holidays is a tradition loved by many.  There are many commercial products available for decorating eggs.  Using natural dyes made from plant parts and other natural materials is a fun way to teach “the kids” a little science at the same time. More than likely, those eco-friendly dye ingredients are already in your pantry or refrigerator.  However, they may also exist in the landscape.* Using natural dyes allows for lots of experimenting!

Here’s a step-by-step guide to coloring eggs with natural dyes:

  1. Begin by hard boiling eggs, cooling, and refrigerating ahead of time.
  2. Bring 1 quart of water to a boil and add your dye ingredients for the egg color desired (listed below). Lower the heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.  If it’s a vegetable or flower, a general guide is ½ to 1 cup of roughly chopped vegetable/petals per cup of water more or less; it’s not an exact science.  Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  For powdered spices, add 1-2 teaspoons of the spice and 1 teaspoon white vinegar to a cup of hot water and mix.
  3. Strain the dye to remove any food fragments.  Add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar for each cup of dye.  Let cool.  Colors should be refrigerated if not used right away after cooling.
  4. Wipe eggs with vinegar to remove the egg’s cuticle to help the color adhere to the shell.**
  5. Add the eggs to the strained dye and let soak for at least 30 minutes or until the desired depth of color is reached.  Refrigerating eggs overnight in the dye usually results in deeper coloring. When the desired color is achieved, remove the egg with tongs and pat it dry with paper towels.  Rubbing the egg with a little vegetable oil will add a polished sheen to the egg.
  6. Refrigerate the eggs until ready to use. Hard-boiled eggs, which have been quickly cooled and placed in the refrigerator in their shells, may be consumed up to 7 days as long as they have not been left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

There are many natural ingredients that can be used for coloring.  The color achieved by each ingredient is not always intuitive.

RED, PINK.  Beets, cranberries, raspberries, red onion skins, hibiscus flowers (dried tea), or pomegranate or cranberry juice (use juice straight), pickled beet juice (no need to add vinegar), red wine (use straight and no need to add vinegar).

YELLOW, ORANGE, GOLD.  Orange or lemon peels, carrot tops, celery seed, ground cumin, ground turmeric, ground yellow mustard, saffron, curry powder, goldenrod, dandelion blossoms, daffodil blossoms. 

BLUE. PURPLE.  Red cabbage, blueberries, purple pansies, violets, grape juice (use straight), blue berry juice from canned blueberries (use straight).

GREEN.  Leaves from various plants are used to produce green colors.

Let your creativity continue with tie-dyed eggs and other exotic patterns using other materials and techniques.  Have fun egg-perimenting!  

*Use only untreated (no chemical pesticides or fertilizer treatments) plants and flowers from a lawn or landscape.

**The shell is protected by a thin layer of protein molecules called the cuticle. This cuticle has a neutral charge so not much is attracted to it. The vinegar contains acetic acid, which reacts to make the cuticle positively charged. The dye typically has a negative charge. The dye to adheres to the egg when the positive charge on the cuticle attracts the negative charge of the dye.

Dyeing Eggs the Natural Way.  University of Florida Extension Blogs.
Coloring Eggs with Natural Dyes.  UNL Extension.

Reviewed and updated, 5/2024, mg.

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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