The Science of Food Coloring

Have you ever wondered whether you’re imagining a strange taste after adding food coloring to your icing, or why its color has gone darker since you added the dye to it an hour ago? Today we’re going to delve into a bit of food coloring science. We’re going to discuss taste, stains and color darkening, with some tips on how to avoid or work around any related unpleasant situations.



The composition of food dyes varies according to the color you’re using, as each mix needs to include the specific ingredients that will lead to a specific color. These can include chemical ingredients or natural ingredients, such as beetroot juice to obtain red coloring, or algae derived ingredients to get green dye. While natural food coloring is more likely to affect the taste of your final product due to the food derived ingredients, artificial food coloring can also be a culprit in two different cases.


The first reason food coloring might affect the taste of your product is the quantity that is being used and added to your icing or batter. More often than not, this happens when you are using liquid food coloring in order to get a dark or strong color such as coloring your icing red. As liquid food coloring is not very strong, you would have to add a large quantity of the red liquid to your icing. Not only would this cause a change in the consistency of the icing mix, but it could cause a separation of the fats and liquids, thus changing the taste of the final product. To avoid this situation, Chefmaster Liqua-Gel are formulated to provide a deep colors with no taste. Gel food coloring is more concentrated and you will only need to use a small quantity to achieve dark or bright colors, leaving the composition of your product unaffected.


But the quantity of food coloring is not the only reason taste might be affected. In some cases, you might be hit with a bitter or a chemical taste. This can happen when the product used has low quality ingredients, or worse, it can include ingredients that have not been tested or approved as safe for consumption. It is important to ensure that the food coloring you are adding to your food is not going to harm you or your family, that’s why the FDA has done extensive testing on the matter and pinpointed the ingredients that are safe to use in food coloring. It is therefore important to use high quality and local food coloring from brands that are aware of and respect these guidelines.



Adding food coloring to batter or to your icing involves a chemical reaction of the two products bonding together. This bonding process starts when you add the color and mix it in, but it doesn’t end straight away as the color needs some time to fully integrate and settle.

This is especially true when coloring buttercream icing or fondant, where if you color your mixture and put it aside even for half an hour, you will notice that the color has changed and gone a shade or two darker. To get around this and ensure you obtain the desired shade, stop adding food coloring to your mix once the color is slightly lighter than the one you’re after, and let the mixture rest for about an hour, or better yet, overnight.

This will give the color enough time to set, and once ready, if you would still like a darker shade, you can add one or two more drops of food coloring and mix well. It is also important to remember that it is always best to do your coloring in natural lighting, as artificial light can affect the way you see colors and their shade.



If you are a baker, chances are you have ended up at one point or another with a food coloring incident that left extra color on your hand, your clothes or your carpet. Food dyes can easily stain due to their highly concentrated nature, but luckily the stains can be removed with the right ingredients and a bit of patience. Regardless of where the dye has ended, it is important to start the cleaning process as quickly as possible, as food coloring dries fast and the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to get rid of the stain.


Skin Stains

If you end up with food coloring on your skin, the first thing you need to do is rinse it right away to easily get rid of any dye that has not dried up yet. If it’s not all gone, grab a paper towel or a washcloth, soak it with white vinegar, then use it to rub over the skin in a gentle manner. Change the paper towel or rinse the washcloth regularly and repeat, until the color disappears.

For more persistent stains, add baking soda to water in order to create a paste, which you can gently rub on the skin, alternating with the white vinegar rub. It is important to ensure that you rinse the skin well when switching between one method and the other.


Washable Fabric Stains

As soon as you notice food coloring on a piece of clothing, rinse it under cool running water to get rid of as much of the color as possible. It is important not to rub the stain as this might push the color deeper into the fabric.

If the garment material is washing machine proof such as cotton or polyester, start by soaking it overnight in a mix of water and heavy duty laundry detergent, then rinse it and wash it as per usual.

If the stain is not completely gone yet, soak the garment again, however this time use a solution of water with oxygen bleach. Let it soak for at least 8 hours, then rinse and wash as usual.

For more delicate fabrics such as silk and wool, it is best to dry clean the garment.


Carpet or Furniture Stains

Carpet and furniture stains will need a lot more patience and time. Start by mixing one teaspoon of dish washing liquid, one tablespoon of ammonia, and two cups of lukewarm water. Ensure you do not breathe in when adding the ammonia. Once the solution is ready, dip a white cloth into it and use it to sponge the stain, then use a paper towel to gently dry the carpet or piece of upholstery. Make sure you do not rub the stain to avoid the color setting in. Repeat until the stain is gone.


Happy and safe coloring!