Dyeing Easter Eggs, Naturally

The other day I saw this little article on theKitchn.com. And this one. So I decided to try my hand at making my own, natural dyes for Easter eggs.

Y’know what? They turned out pretty okay!

naturally dyed eggs

Turns out if you boil the heck out of some colorful things, then add a little vinegar, then steep hard-boiled eggs in the liquid in the fridge for several hours, they turn pretty colors!

First things first. I had never hard-boiled eggs before. I know, crazy, right? So I was a bit worried that that would be a total failure. But it wasn’t, despite the fact that in trying to bring the eggs down to a simmer after boiling them I accidentally turned down the heat too much and they just sat in hot water for a couple minutes before I realized and set things to right again. So the yolks turned out a bit chalky, but not bad, all things considered.

Also, I did the eggs all in one go. In the future, I think I’d start the night before to give the eggs time to fully steep in the dye.

So here’s what I did.

red cabbage in pot

First, I shredded half a very small, very dark purple “red” cabbage. Then I put it in a small (2 quart) stockpot with nearly enough water to cover, set it over high heat, and put the lid on. It boiled and spat lavender water everywhere before I could get the heat turned down properly. I simmered the heck out of it until the cabbage was a uniform dark pink. Then I poured it all through a fine mesh strainer into a small bowl (I was only doing 3 eggs at a time, so I didn’t need much) and added a little vinegar. The mixture immediately turned bright magenta, which made me think that maybe the eggs were going to be pink. So I quickly rescued some of the diluted cabbage water I had left (I’d poured it into the pot I’d boiled the eggs in – it was a pretty purple) and didn’t add vinegar. I put three eggs in each bowl to soak.

red cabbage eggs

Then a took the skins of many yellow storage onions (I cleaned out my allium drawer the other day and saved all the cast offs, plus I slipped a few more from a new bag of onions – maybe 10 onions worth altogether) and boiled the heck out of them, but with a little less water this time. I strained that too and added a splash of white vinegar.

onion skins boiling in pot

Then I mixed some of the cabbage water (there was a lot) with some of the onion water in a fourth bowl. I added three eggs to the other two bowls and waited until the dyes had all cooled to room temp, then put all four bowls in the fridge (which was thankfully more empty after removing all the food I was by then cooking).

onion skin dye

It was a mixed bag of success. The magenta cabbage water turned back to purple and the eggs came out a pretty blue. The straight onion eggs came out a deep orange. The mixed dye came out a kind of orangey magenta, the eggs came out purple, and later faded to green. That was a weird batch. The diluted cabbage dye turned bright turquoise in the fridge, but the eggs were just the faintest, barely perceptible pale blue. So that one failed.

egg dyes

I actually bought turmeric for the project but ran out of time/energy to make the dye (presumably, add about a tablespoon of turmeric to a couple quarts of water, boil, and add vinegar). Turmeric dyes eggs (shocker) yellow. I also had some red zinger/hibiscus tea (supposed to make lavender) but skipped that as well.

Moral of the story: In the future I will make the dyes ahead of time (at the very least) if not the eggs too, although I hate thatĀ sulfurous smell cold hard boiled eggs get. I will also use a mixture of white and brown eggs, as red cabbage dye apparently turns brown eggs green and onion dye turns brown eggs deep red. And I will scrub the eggs a bit before submerging so they take the dye better. I’ll also turn them occasionally, so I don’t get white spots like I did this time.

Someday I might do something like psyansky, but I’ll probably always be too lazy. Besides, I like the look of plain, naturally colored eggs. It’s easier than I thought.

So that’s that. First time I dyed Easter eggs since I was a kid with the neon colored dyes with the little wire dipper. It was pretty fun, even though it was a bit messy and took up a lot of fridge space. Best part? I don’t feel badly about pouring my leftover dyes on the compost pile.

One Response to “Dyeing Easter Eggs, Naturally”
  1. Sara says:

    Love this!

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