Saturday, March 30, 2013

Natural Egg Dyes Recipes and Tips

Basket of 2 1/2 dozen natural dyed easter eggs
Easter Egg Experiment Results

Methods by Staff of Life and Robin

For many years I’ve wanted to color Easter eggs with natural vegetable dyes. I’d heard that preparation is more work and takes longer than dropping a few tablets into a cup. I’d heard that the colors are more subtle and that eggs take longer to dye. I’d heard that results are not predictable. All that is true. Still, the act of making dyes from common seasonal vegetables, with all of its unpredictability, is a fun and intriguing science, provided that you and yours can allow some time to play with it.

Staff of Life in Santa Cruz provided some basic recipes at an egg-dyeing event earlier this month. Unfortunately I misplaced these and experimented with extra-large batches of recipes by Lakewinds, also provided by Staff at the event. Below are instructions for the tried and true Staff methods, plus the quickest and most successful method that I discovered.

Basket of patterned dyed eggs
Eggs Dyed at home with Onion Skins
Keep the spirit of experimentation in mind as you work with these methods. Pick a few veggie ingredients to try so you don’t get too overwhelmed. Provide plenty of cups for the kids, since each egg will need to sit in the dye for awhile. Or, soak them overnight in the a large container of dye in the fridge. Or try hard boiling them with the dyestuffs. Staff of Life suggests boiling the eggs for 30 minutes, to get a deep color. I boiled mine the usual 10 minutes with the dyestuff, then stored the hot eggs in dye baths in the fridge overnight and up to 24 hours.

Here are some tips:

  • Washing the eggs before dyeing can result in deeper coloring.
  • Turmeric works relatively fast and can be used hot or cold.
  • Onion skins are easy to use, make pretty patterns, and can be relatively fast.
  • Wrap thick rubber bands around the eggs before dyeing to make stripes.
  • Use crayon to make patterns on the eggs, either before or after dyeing. Stickers can be used as decorations after dyeing.
  • Strain the dyes to make egg color more consistent. For variations in color and texture, leave plant materials in dye.
  • Rub with cooking oil after egg is dry to enhance sheen, but be aware that if you rub too hard colors might start coming off.

Have fun with this. Post a comment if you have a success story!

Egg Carton of 6 painted and dyed eggs
Eggs Dyed by Kids at Staff of Life Event
Staff of Life Method for Natural Egg Dyeing

2 tbsp. ground turmeric
3 cups water
¼ cup white vinegar

½ head purple cabbage
3 cups water
¼ cup white vinegar

2 red beets, coarsely grated
3 cups water
¼ cup white vinegar

Hard boil eggs in onion skins (see Robin's instructions below)
Pat dry
Put hard boiled eggs into blue dye overnight (refrigerate)

Combine ingredients in stainless steel pot. Bring to boil. Simmer for 30 minutes to make the dye. Strain if desired (for more even, less varied color and texture).

Put hard boiled eggs into dye and put refrigerate overnight. Or pour dye into cups and dip eggs.

You may also hard boil the eggs in the dye as you make it.

Onion Skin Wrapped Eggs
How to Wrap an Egg
Robin’s Method for Onion Skin Dyed Eggs

1 – 2 cups onion skins, either yellow or purple
4 cups water
¼ cup white vinegar
4 - 6 fresh eggs
Thick rubber bands

Put onion skins, water, and vinegar into stainless steel pot and cook for 20 minutes. Don’t discard the cooking water. Remove onion skins and cool until they can be handled.

Separate the onion skins and wrap them around the eggs using the rubber bands to hold them in place. You want as much of the onion skin to contact the egg as possible.

Place onion-covered eggs into the stainless steel pot with cooking water. Add more water if needed to cover eggs. Add any leftover onion skins.

Bring to boil. Simmer for 10 – 15 minutes. Remove the eggs and cool until they can be handled. Remove rubber bands and skins and inspect patterns.

If you want to add more color, cool cooking liquid enough to be refrigerated, and strain if desired. Place eggs in cooking liquid in fridge overnight. 

Clockwise From Bottom: Boiled with Beets, Wrapped and Boiled with Purple Onion, Soaked overnight in Combination of Staff of Life's Purple Cabbage and Beet Mixtures with Plant Materials Left in, Wrapped and Boiled in Yellow Onion Skin, Soaked overnight in Combination of Staff of Life's Purple Cabbage and Beet Mixtures with Plant Materials Left in


  1. Wouldn't this story have been more helpful yesterday?

  2. In fact, it was posted yesterday, but it would have been even more helpful a day or two before. For better or worse, the creative process isn't always schedule-friendly. :) Happy Easter!

  3. They're all beautiful! Not sure I will ever actually take the time to do it, but it does inspire me to want to! ;)

    1. Thanks, Leah. I've thought about doing it for many years before I actually got around to it...luckily we get a chance every year!