This winter is very persistent! It’s currently snowing outside as I’m typing this, even though it’s already spring on the calendar and Easter is just around the corner! It snowing in New York and it’s snowing in Moscow, as if we’re actually neighbors and there isn’t a vast ocean between us. With all this snow happening, I’m really craving more colors in my life, and I decided to lift my spirits with colorful Easter eggs!
Speaking of Russia, back home we always dyed eggs with natural pigments, mostly onion skins. Keeping the eggs in an “onion skin broth” for different amounts of time (or separating the “broth” into different jars and diluting it with water to change the concentration) resulted in a whole range of rusty brown, orange, maple, amber, and copper hues. I remember I especially liked pressing little leaves and flowers onto the eggs with pieces of old stockings to later reveal white natural ornaments on the dyed eggs. According to Instagram, the last time I did anything like that was back in Idaho five years ago!
So this year, as a throwback to my childhood, I’m dying Easter eggs with natural homemade food coloring again. I used a variety of colorful ingredients I found in the kitchen based on their hand/surface staining properties!
Blue: red cabbage. This color turned out gorgeous! It’s kind of a mystery how red cabbage makes this deep purple stock that in turn colors eggs robin blue, but it works really well! The longer you keep the eggs in the water, the deeper the blue you get.
Yellow: turmeric or matcha. There are two types of yellow in this batch: bright lemon and spotty mustard. The lemon is just water plus lots of turmeric powder, it took a while (overnight) to reach the strong pigmentation pictured, but I’m really happy with the results. The second shade of yellow I got was a surprise: I used matcha powder expecting something green, but ended up with a shade of spotty mustard. Apparently, that’s Ben’s favorite!
Grey: red cabbage + beets. This should say “Lavender” if you’re lucky, at least that was my plan when I first soaked the eggs in red cabbage till they were light blue and then transferred them to beets. They ended up grey, which I actually like very much. But it’s probably worth playing with the times and amounts of cabbage-beet dips instead of just winging it, if you want to actually get lavender — I believe it’s doable.
Red: onion skins. The eggs first turned from white straight to brown, and I even made a comment like “why did I even bother with this, I could have just bought regular brown eggs?!” But eventually, enough copper hue accumulated, and the final rich color exceeded all expectations! I think the results depend on the original color and quality of the onion skins I use.
Green: turmeric + red cabbage. As I already mentioned, I failed to get anything close to green from my matcha powder. So I did the next best thing: mixed my blues with my yellows. I just combined some of my leftover turmeric water with some of my red cabbage broth, – and I finally got green!
Brown: beets. I imagined this was going to be more purple…? Beet juice stains really well when it comes to my pots, my hands and my cutting boards. While immersed into the beet stock, the eggs appeared to be vivid purple, but as soon as I took them out, most of the color rolled off of them, leaving me with this brownish mauve. At least it looks very natural.
Red Cabbage: a real winner! I had a little bit of leftover red cabbage in the fridge that was too sad looking for a salad, so I roughly chopped it, covered with water and cooked it until it was soft. I drained and discarded the cabbage, and soaked the eggs in the broth. I waited overnight to get this deeper blue.
Matcha Powder: aka “not what you’d expect!” I knew that green wasn’t going to be easy because anything like herb or green veggie juices would turn brown or grey when cooked. I figured, turmeric works for yellow, matcha should work for green! Matcha did work… for more yellow! I imagine any green or herbal tea would yield similar results. So save your money, don’t use matcha.
Beets: while I couldn’t get the gorgeous purple color to actually stick to the eggs without changing its hue to brown, I still got boiled beets for lunch as a result. I just washed and quartered 4 small-medium beets with their skins on, added them to a pot with water, boiled and simmered until fork-tender. I drained and reserved the beets for lunch and kept the broth for the eggs.
Onion Skins: “the original” natural Easter egg dye. When I was a kid in Russia, we always used onion skins to color eggs. When cooked directly with the onion skins in the pot, the eggs get all kinds of patterns and decorative lines. To get a smooth consistent color, first cook the skins, then strain and use the liquid to cook the eggs or color pre-cooked eggs. Leftover onion skin broth is also used as dark hair rinse for strengthening and tinting hair with copper hues.
Turmeric Powder: it stains everything in my kitchen if I’m not careful when cooking with it. I confidently mixed it with water and dipped the eggs in it. Nothing happened. Then I waited. Still nothing? I transferred everything to a pot and simmered it for a while. The eggs were STILL white! Left it in the fridge overnight and it finally gave me this bright lemon yellow!
I started with white eggs that I boiled in a pot with salted water. I made all the colorings separately and poured them in various jars, bowls and pots. Then I added the eggs to the colorings and placed them in the fridge overnight, occasionally checking on the progress because I was curious.
You can also speed up the process and save some water if you cook the eggs directly with the colorings like purple cabbage, onion skins and beets. It will result in patters in color from the eggs touching the ingredients.
This process will create natural looking colorful matte eggs. To make them shine, dip a cotton round in vegetable oil and rub the eggs on all sides.
Remember to keep the eggs in the fridge. Happy Easter!
Are you dyeing Easter eggs this year? What’s your favorite color?