Everything’s beginning to change for fall. The tree leaves, the sky, and the food around us are all taking on new colors. Natural food dye is the partner to seemingly all festivities this time of year, from icing on cookies to festive cakes and other homemade treats.
The Chaco kitchen has been resourceful in bringing our natural food ethos to our love for wacky-colored food. Turmeric, hibiscus powder, beet juice, and chlorophyll are all ingredients we use to color our raw cheesecakes, truffles, and cake frosting.
The pink coconut flakes on our seasonal raw truffles are dyed with beet juice, and our gluten-free chocolate mint cupcakes are made with chlorophyll for a green frosting.
At home, if you’ve ever cooked with fresh turmeric or beets, you know how easily they can stain your hands and cooking surfaces. I have yellow-tinted nails for days after juicing turmeric for the café. While I don’t find my yellow nails particularly pleasing, you can put that beautiful golden yellow color to good use, especially if you’re thinking about creating your upcoming Halloween costume. If you have any light-colored material or yarn you’d like to dye, turmeric makes a great natural fabric dye. All it takes is some ground turmeric, water, salt, and thick gloves to save your skin! Make sure the fabric you’re dying is a natural one—cotton and wool work great. You can follow a similar process with chopped beets for rose-colored results. Grab some yellow onions or red cabbage out of your vegetable drawer for even more color palate possibilities.
I’m constantly looking for ways to save my scraps and keep usable produce out of the compost bin. Not only does creating my own food dyes help me with this mission, it also prevents more chemical dyes from entering the trash and waste water system. Even food-grade dyes contain petroleum-based ingredients and animal products. Synthetic fabric dyes are also known to cause skin irritation and rashes. Ditch synthetic dyes and try making your own natural ones for a rewarding Halloween project!
Do you have a favorite food dye? Leave a comment telling us about your experience. Whether it’s with cooking or just for looking!
Recipe for turmeric dye:
4 cups water
¼ cup salt
Natural material (light-colored wool or cotton work best)
Bring the water and salt to a boil, then add your fabric. Let simmer for an hour. This process makes the dye take to your fabric much more easily. Then:
2 cups water
2 T ground turmeric
Bring water and turmeric to a boil, then add your fabric. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove your fabric and let it dry. Viola!
Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe & Bakery, Greenwood