Tips & Guide to Natural Food Dyes

If you're like many people, you love to dress up birthday cakes, holiday cookies, cupcakes, and other treats to make them as colorful as possible when the time comes for a special celebration.

With the right food coloring, you can make any sweet treat into a customized work of art. Beverages also get the food coloring treatment when the occasion calls for something festive — after all, what would a St. Patrick's Day party be without cold green glasses of beer? Colored ice cubes provide a fun way to create imaginative cocktails for adult gatherings and, and food coloring can also be used to craft vibrantly hued homemade ice cream, popsicles, and other frozen desserts. 

Is Food Coloring Safe?

Food coloring is commonly used in the commercial production of everything from candy to wine. Most home cooks use color additives sparingly for special occasions only, and many have started to wonder about the safety of these products, especially for children.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has performed extensive testing of artificial food coloring and has not found any direct links to the additives and disease of any kind, although it has been found that some people are allergic to the synthetic ingredients used in artificial coloring products such as Red40 and Yellow5. As such, consumers need to careful in choosing a brand and only buying colors approved by the FDA.

Parents may have a particular reason for concern since children consume the majority of products containing color additives such as cupcakes, sugar cookies, cakes, etc. Always check the ingredients of any food coloring, both natural and synthetic, to make sure there isn't any allergen that is harmful to your children. Otherwise, food colorings are perfectly safe to consume.

What is Natural Food Coloring?

Natural food coloring has been around for a long time. Strained beet juice, for instance, has been used for centuries to give certain foods a brilliant scarlet hue. Before artificial food coloring became widely used in butter to provide it with that appetizing yellow tone, home cooks used grated carrots. Blueberries and plums can be used to create dark blue, violet, and purple tones, and green can be derived from parsley and spinach. Creating natural dyes from scratch in the home kitchen can be quite a chore, but fortunately, Chefmaster® Natural Food Coloring offers ready-made gel colors are readily available. They are great for icing, frosting or candy making.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Natural Food Coloring

The main advantage of natural food coloring is that it doesn't contain common allergy-prone ingredients and may even add to food's nutritional value. For instance, beets, which is the main ingredient in Chefmaster natural pink food color, are rich in nitrates that promote a healthy cardiovascular system. Natural food dyes also are using various vegetables as a base, resulting in products that are high in vitamins and antioxidants.

Disadvantages include difficulties obtaining consistent results, particularly with food colorings that are produced in the home kitchen. Many people use commercially produced natural food colorings for when the occasion calls for specific special effects, such as when you're making a red velvet cake for someone's birthday, and stick with homemade coloring for casual fun. If you're like some home cooks and are hesitant to make your own natural food coloring, start with something easy to get your feet wet. 

If you are a professional baker or someone who's serious about cake decorating, it's best to go with a professional brand natural food coloring for color consistency. 

Be aware, all natural food coloring is susceptible to heat, because of their natural ingredients. The natural food dye will often fade when exposing to high heat, red will turn brown, yellow will fade and so on. It's best to use them for icing, or any non-heat activities. 


Following is a recipe for blueberry simple syrup you can use to color ice cream, ice cubes, baked goods, popsicles, or to provide a vibrant accent to a creative craft cocktail.

Learn how to make macarons with natural colors

Blueberry Simple Syrup 

1 cup blueberries
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Heat the berries, water, and sugar over low heat in a thick-bottomed saucepan until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved. Turn heat up to medium and bring the mixture to a soft boil while stirring constantly. Allow it to boil for about 15 minutes, and whisk in the lemon juice after you remove it from the heat. The beauty of this simple syrup is that it adds flavor as well as the desired color.