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Are there natural alternatives to food colors and dye?

Nina asks: I love decorating cookies but I am concerned about the additives in food dye, especially for children.  Have you had any experience or do you know of any “natural” food dyes?

Baking S.O.S. says: Good question, Nina.  There is growing concern about the effects of artificial food dyes as we learn more about its possible connection to behavioral issues and medical disorders, particularly in children, as you mentioned.  [Do a quick Google search on “artificial food dyes” or “coloring” and you will find any number of articles about this issue.]

In answer to your question, there are a few sources for all natural, organic food coloring and dyes available at this time. Nature’s Flavors has several options for organic food colors.  And thanks to a wonderful blog called Journey to Crunchville, I found even more information about natural alternatives to food coloring.  Please visit her site for complete details!

India Tree also makes natural food dyes and colored sprinkles.  I found them at Whole Foods for $16.99 for a set of 3 primary colors (directions for mixing other colors are included on the back of the package).India Tree food dyes at Whole Foods If you do not have a Whole Foods in your community, you can order the dyes at amazon.com.

Finally, if you are interested in a comprehensive list of FDA approved food colorings (both natural and synthetic), check out this site.  Good luck!

6 comments to Are there natural alternatives to food colors and dye?

  • kari

    That is so exciting! Question: Mainly Red 40, but also Blue Lake and Yellow lakes make my niece super hyper. So thankfully there are some dye-free kids medicines out there now, but all she wanted was a pink princess cake for her 3rd birthday, and she couldn’t have it b/c of the dye! It is hard for my sister to buy things without dye in them, so many of the things kids love are full of dye…even some juices which is nuts! Do you think these would work? Worth a try, right?


  • I actually did buy and use these dyes from India Tree, and they work well! The colors are more pastel and not as bright as artificial food dyes, but you can use them with peace of mind: you don’t have to worry about causing hyperactivity in kids. I think they would work great for a pink princess cake for your niece since pink is pastel anyway. The dyes are expensive, but a little bit goes a long way.

  • Hi! One year later a search on natural food coloring led me to this discussion. I suppose an easier and cheaper way to frost cupcakes naturally would be to make your own frosting and blend in the juice of some sauteed berries. You could probably get red, pink, blue or purple out of that. Cheers!

  • Crepescule

    A little beet powder (look online for organic) makes a beautiful pink and add a little nutritional value.

  • Thanks for the suggestion. I love the idea of adding nutritional value along with the natural color, and I LOVE beets= win win!

  • Kitty

    I am a vegan baker, we don’t use dyes as they are not only unhealthy but generally composed of crushed Beatles.

    I like to use turmeric, it makes an awesome yellow and the color is so strong that the amount you need does not make much flavor interference, especially in the case of a lemon frosting or something that already has flavor. Give it a shot and see of you like it.

    Cherry juice is a great pink, beet juice sounds like it would do the same thing.

    I am still racking my brain for the perfect blue…

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