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Dyeing Eggs Naturally

Photography by Lindsay Ponta

They symbolize creation and life itself. Each spring, eggs are dyed a multitude of colors, their dazzling shades capturing the eye of those who display them, hunt for them or offer them as gifts during the Easter holiday. The tradition of dyeing eggs takes us to medieval kitchens. People created pace eggs using natural dye materials to celebrate the spring season and the feast of the Pasch (the original name given to Easter). On these pages, this tradition lives on.

Your kitchen and local supermarket contain all the ingredients you need. Turn eggs into gems with ground turmeric, onion skins, blueberries and heads of cabbage. Place brown or white eggs in a pot of water and bring the water to a boil with white vinegar and natural ingredients. Then step back and watch the eggs take on sophisticated and subtle shades.


Creating naturally dyed eggs is a project you and your children can do together. Parents can precook the eggs and let the kids experiment with jars of dyes. Double dip to apply two-toned colors to eggs. Wrap eggs with kitchen twine and rubber bands to create unusual stripes on the shells. Young artists will delight in their dyed egg treasures.

Egg-Dyeing Techniques

Egg Dyeing in Purple Cabbage | Photo by Lindsay Ponta

You can dye Easter eggs naturally using two methods: the cold-dipped method and the boiling water method.

In the cold-dipped method, the eggs and their ingredients are boiled separately. After the dye has cooled and the solid particles are removed from the dyeing liquid, the eggs are dipped for 5 to 10 minutes, then allowed to dry. While this method produces translucent shades, it may create uneven coloring unless you rotate the eggs while they are submerged in the dye.

In the boiling water method, the eggs are boiled in liquid containing the dye ingredients. This process allows the eggs to take on a more even color. The addition of the heat permits the dye to flood the surface of the shells, creating more intense shades. Our instructions below call for the boiling water method of dyeing eggs. Wear disposable rubber gloves to avoid staining your hands with the dyes.

Materials
• Dye ingredients (see below)
• Dry and liquid measuring cups
• Knife and cutting board
• Large saucepan
• Strainer
• Glass jar for each dye color
• White vinegar
• Hard-cooked eggs
• Metal spoons
• Paper towels
• Lace, tape, twine, rubber bands, white crayon and
vegetable oil (optional)

Dye Ingredients
Beets: 1 large beet (about 2 cups), cut into small dices
Blueberries: 2 cups fresh or frozen berries, blended or mashed
Purple cabbage: 1/2 medium head (about 3 cups), shredded
Red or purple onion: Dry, papery skins from about 6 to 8 medium and large onions
Turmeric: 3 tablespoons ground turmeric
Yellow onion: Dry, papery skins from about 6 to 8 medium and large onions

Directions
1. Prepare dye ingredients as directed above.
2. Combine the desired dye ingredients and 2 cups water in a large saucepan. Bring water to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for at least 30 minutes. The longer the mixture simmers, the more vibrant the dye.
3. Strain mixture into your glass egg-dyeing containers. Use or compost leftover dye material.
4. Add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar per cup of dye.
5. Soak hard-cooked eggs in dyeing liquid following the dyeing instructions at right.
6. Use spoons to remove eggs from dyeing medium. Blot eggs dry with paper towels; rub eggshells with vegetable oil to apply a shine to the shells, if desired.
7. Optional: Create designs on the shells by wrapping undyed eggs in rubber bands, lace or twine. You can also draw designs on the shells using a white crayon or blocking sections with tape. Use a small glass to dye sections of the shells in different colors, overlapping to mix colors. Color Mixing—Green: Soak eggs for 30 minutes in hot turmeric dye, dry and place in purple cabbage dye overnight in the refrigerator. Coral: Soak eggs for 30 minutes in hot turmeric dye, dry and place in beet dye for 3 hours.
Note: Do not serve these eggs for breakfast; they’re purely decorative

Dye Instructions

Eggs dyed for 30 minutes | Photo Lindsay Ponta
Eggs dyed for three hours | Photo Lindsay Ponta
Eggs dyed overnight | Photo Lindsay Ponta

Ingredients from your kitchen sometimes can sometimes produce unexpected results. Find out what you need for your desired egg colors.

Turmeric

• 30 minutes in hot dye yields a light yellow.
• 3 hours in hot dye as it cools to room temperature makes a medium yellow.
• 12 hours soaking in the refrigerator creates a medium yellow.

Yellow Onion

• 30 minutes in hot dye yields a medium orange.
• 3 hours in hot dye as it cools to room temperature makes a deep orange.
• 12 hours soaking in the refrigerator creates a deep orange.

Red or Purple Onion

• 30 minutes in hot dye yields a light brown, similar to the color you’ll find with a naturally brown egg.
• 3 hours in hot dye as it cools to room temperature makes a medium brown.
• 12 hours soaking in the refrigerator creates a dark crimson brown.

Purple Cabbage

• 30 minutes in hot dye yields a very light blue.
• 3 hours in hot dye as it cools to room temperature makes teal.
• 12 hours soaking in the refrigerator creates a deep cobalt blue.

Blueberries

• 30 minutes in hot dye yields a light blue-gray color.
• 3 hours in hot dye as it cools to room temperature makes a medium blue-gray color.
• 12 hours soaking in the refrigerator creates a deep purple-gray color.

Beet

• 30 minutes in hot dye yields a bright pink color.
• 3 hours in hot dye as it cools to room temperature makes a bright pink.
• 12 hours soaking in the refrigerator creates a deep magenta.

About Michael Vyskocil