Synthetic food dyes play a large role in making processed foods look, and therefore taste, appealing. Our sight is so connected to our taste that if a food looks bland to us, it will taste bland. Think of Cheetos, Doritos, Skittles, or Mountain Dew. Would these items taste the same if they were a dull gray color? No. Recent research found that without the bright colors in many processed food items, people’s brains did not register a big taste.
Synthetic food dyes are found in everything from ice cream and candy, to prepackaged pasta dishes and pickles. It wasn’t until I had kids, though, that I really started to take notice of these dyes. After all, they are abundant in foods marked to kids. How were food dyes invented? What are they made of? Are they safe? I answer all these questions and more in my new book.
Personally, our family chooses to avoid bringing artificial food dyes into the home. I believe the research presented in the book is enough to make me want to severely limit our exposure to them.
But colorless food is so …. boring. Sometimes I find that I really want to make something fun and colorful, like a birthday cake or ice cream, so I decided to research the best natural food dyes. The book lists options for all of the main colors, but blue is definitely the trickiest. So without further ado, here is how to make your own all natural blue food coloring.
DIY Natural Blue Food Coloring
1. Start with a purple cabbage.
3. Toss the chunks into a pot.
4. Fill with water until the cabbage is covered. Then bring the water to a boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, reduce heat and let the cabbage simmer. You can check on it after 10 or 15 minutes, but I usually let mine go for a good 30 minutes. You will start to see the color drain from the cabbage leaves. The longer you let it reduce, the more concentrated your dye will be.
6. Now for the trickiest part. What you have right now is purple dye. If you need purple, then you can stop right here. To get blue, you need to add a dash of baking soda. You want to only add a very teeny, tiny amount. Baking soda will change the ‘flavor’, so you want to use the least amount possible. Add a pinch at a time until the purple turns blue. It’s hard to see in the glass so I put some on a white plate so you can see the blue.
7. Add this in place of the liquid in whatever you are making that you need dyed.
***If what you are making is acidic, it may change the blue color. Therefore I highly recommend doing a small sample in a separate bowl with the dye and the batter, dough, frosting, etc. that you will be adding it to. If the color stays blue, then you are good. If the color changes, then you may want to try just adding the purple dye to your item to see if it is acidic enough to turn it blue. Remember, natural dyes are not as stable, and are much more finicky to work with than synthetic dyes. You also aren’t going to get the super vibrant colors you may be used to. Don’t give up though, just be prepared for a little bit of guessing and checking. (Does that remind anyone else of third grade math?)
***From 8/20-8/31 you can get a copy of “Can I Get A Pickle Without Yellow 5, Please?” for only 99 cents with the coupon code PICKLE. After 8/23 the regular price will be set at $3.99.
***If you want to use natural food dyes, but don’t feel like making them yourself, there are several options you can purchase, like this one from India Tree. (affiliate link)
Do you try to avoid artificial dyes? What do you use to naturally color your food?
Linked up at Wellness Wednesday.