Natural Plant Based Food Coloring

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There are all kinds of reasons to avoid artificial colors in food. Some color dyes are made with petroleum, they have a history of being tested on animals, and some people are or can become highly allergic to certain color dyes, as well as some people believe they can cause a host of other health problems. I personally make some exceptions to my

I personally make some exceptions to my no artificial color rule as long as they are derived from vegan ingredients, but I’d prefer to use natural colorings in my fun food experiments rather than fake stuff. Especially if I may even be adding to the foods’ nutritional value.

So, I set about to make my own set of natural food colorings.

I’m not going to lie, the blue was the hardest to figure out and I’m still working on making it more vibrant. When I researched how to do it, I also found that the method I used does not retain it’s color if the food you put it in gets heated up. So, I’m not happy with that either. I think I might try to find a company that makes a good plant-based blue dye and use that. Or, I’ll just use green instead of blue if it’s acceptable in what I’m trying to do. I tried to find the blue (as opposed to blue-green) spirulina powder but the only place I found it online, it was $60 for a tiny bottle. No thanks.

Anyways, without further ado, here are my steps for making vibrant red, yellow, green (and a weaker purple and blue), homemade natural food coloring. The agar agar powder might be optional.  I added it in because I thought it would make it more gel-like and thicker. You could experiment with adding xantham gum, arrowroot, or cornstarch as well.

Plant-based natural food colors

Red

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder (optional, you could use cornstarch or arrowroot if you do not have it)
  • ¾ tsp beet powder

Yellow

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder (optional)
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric

Green

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder (optional)
  • ½ tsp spirulina powder

Directions:

  1. Mix each color in a small glass jar.
  2. Shake well before using.
  3. Keep refrigerated until needed.

The purple and blue follow a different method:

Blue and Purple

  • 1 small head of red (purple) cabbage, chopped roughly
  • Enough water to cover the cabbage in a saucepan
  • ½ tsp Agar agar powder (recommended in this case, but you can get around it perhaps if you boil the water after you’ve taken out the cabbage longer), divided
  • ⅛-½ tsp Baking soda (as needed, for blue color only!)

Directions:

  1. To make the purple and blue coloring, you will need to boil the cabbage for 20 minutes (time after the water begins to boil, not just how long it’s on the stove for)
  2. After boiling, separate the boiled cabbage and strain the water into a bowl.
  3. Place the vibrant purple water back into the pot you boiled it in, and boil for 15-30 minutes until slightly reduced.
  4. Place ½ cup of purple water with ¼ tsp agar agar in your small glass container. Set aside and keep in the fridge until needed.
  5. Place another ½ cup of the purple water into a larger glass jar. Add the rest of agar agar (¼ tsp)
  6. Allow to cool fully.
  7. Slowly begin mixing in baking soda, ⅛ tsp at a time, stir, and continue until the water turns blue. If you’re having trouble determining if it’s blue or not, keep going until you know for sure. You can also test it out in some nondairy milk to see if it’s the correct color. If it begins to turn green, you know you’ve added too much baking soda. Also, try not to add more than a ½ tsp because it will taste rather foul. Keep chilled in the fridge until needed. Do not use if you are coloring something that will be baked or heated as the blue will not retain its color. Works well for frosting and such.

    IMG_3695Here is a picture of some cookie dough I colored using red, purple, yellow, and green dye I made.

 

New Project! Magic Rainbow Unicorn Party

Hey!

As some readers may or may not know, for the past year I have been studying at the Institute for Humane Education, working towards an M.A. in humane education. Humane education seeks to empower and educate people who can be “solutionaries,” or, people who find solutions to the world’s most pressing problems, which often involve human rights, environmental ethics, and animal protection issues. I went into this program to become a better vegan mentor and educator, as well as learn more about human rights.

I am always looking for ways to encourage people to make healthier, sustainable, and less harmful product choices. Of particular concern to me are labor issues, cruelty towards animals, the amount of waste and pollution that is created from any particular product, etc. That being said, our quests to find these types of products and making our own food and other handmade activities should still be FUN!

Fat Unicorn

Not only that but learning about how to be more ethical and healthier consumers does not have to be boring or painful and upsetting. Being equipped with information and resources presented in a non-threatening way can make a big difference for people and their habits.

So, for my master’s thesis, I am working on writing a cookbook/eco-friendly craft/kid’s party book, with a magical unicorn rainbow theme.

Inside the book will be a cute chubby unicorn sharing facts and resources most likely, among other helpful tidbits.

The reason for her chubbiness is simple,  vegans come in all shapes and sizes, and the size of a person, big or small, should not dictate what kind of a role model they are in the vegan movement. So, this unicorn pays tribute to that concept.

Likewise, what people choose to eat, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else, is their choice! If they want to eat sugary cookies, or ice cream, or whatever else, they have that right, whether they do it every day or once in a while for a treat. If you are opposed to treating yourself with food, this probably isn’t for you. (Although there will be foods that are more health-oriented as well).

In the next few days, I’ll be sharing with you the details of the first project I tackled for this project. Making your own natural vegan food dyes!

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In the meantime, check out my new Instagram account associated with the project, @unicorns.eat.vegan.

Have fun this weekend!

xoxo Laura