Using natural ingredients to get beautiful hues on your food may be time consuming, but it certainly beats reaching for that bottle of food colouring. The natural colours from nature lets you indulge in the most colourful foods without any of those harmful additives. So rather than using colour-laden chemicals, why not go Au naturale by using ingredients that double up as dyes? Here’s how you can do just that.
1. Beetroot or raspberries for reds
Beetroot offers a natural way to get your foods a striking red, and they are rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, iron and magnesium.
Start by boiling bite-sized chunks of beets and cover them with water, bringing it to a boil over medium heat. Simmer until they are tender, and the residual stained water will be your food colouring.
Blend in the desired amount of beetroot juice to your own frosting, and you’ll get a perfectly pinkish hue to top your favourite cupcake.
The best part about using beets is that you can save the chunks for a salad lunch later.
You can also use raspberries. Bring those luscious red berries to a boil, then use a food processor to puree them.
2. Turmeric, paprika, or carrots for yellows and oranges
Turmeric is one of the few natural food dyes you can use if you’re looking for that vibrant yellow hue.
Bring some turmeric, sugar, and water to a boil over medium-low heat, swirling occasionally, so that it doesn’t become lumpy. Let it cool completely before mixing it with frosting or icing.
Selected paprika can also offer orange tints. Heating the spice can also release a stronger flavour to improve the taste of your food. You can also try juicing carrots if you’re making sweet treats.
3. Matcha or spinach for greens
Not only does matcha turn foods green, but it is rich in nutrients, antioxidants and fibre. It also increases your metabolism and helps the body burn fat. Depending on how dark of a green you want, vary the amount of matcha powder you’re using.
Besides matcha, you can also use spinach. Just grind a large handful of them in a food processor and strain the juice through a cheesecloth. Remember not to throw away the leftover remnants of spinach pulp; you can use it a soup or throw it into an omelette for a nice touch.
4. Butterfly pea flowers for blues
A rich source of antioxidants, butterfly pea flowers are the perfect option to replace blue food colouring. Its mild taste also ensures the natural flavour of your dish shines.
Commonly used in sticky rice desserts like pulut inti (a sweet glutinous rice dessert with coconut) and puddings, the flower, when added to a liquid, changes color based on the pH level of the substance added to it. So if you add lemon juice, the food "magically" turns into a bright purple.
5. Red cabbage, baking soda, and vinegar for purples
Cover some red cabbage with water in a cooking pot and simmer for about 10 minutes, before draining it. If you want the residual purple solution to become lighter, add vinegar. And if you want to get a blue from there, add baking soda instead. You may want to start with small amounts until you get the desired colour. Keep in mind that both vinegar and baking soda can change the taste profile of your food, so don’t use too much.
You can also use blackberries but they are an expensive fruit to juice.
If you are opting for these natural dyes, do note that the result tends to be less vivid than artificial colouring. Also, they can possibly add an extra flavour to whatever you’re making. But it’ll definitely be fun experimenting with the different shades you can get!
If you want a naturally coloured tea to accompany your foods, try Nilufer Tea's Rose Paradise. The dried strawberry gives the tea a beautiful pink hue and a light sweet flavour, a treat for both your eyes and mouth. Get it here!
Otherwise, you can also opt for Blue Ocean and indulge in the light refreshing flavour while admiring the teal tint of the tea. Get it here!