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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Holidays


Coloring eggs: A spring tradition

Karma Metzgar, C.F.C.S., Regional Director, Northwest Region, University of Missouri Extension


While there are lots of dye packages marketed this time of year, you can create your own brilliant colors with food coloring and vinegar. In 3/4 cup hot water, mix 1 tablespoon white vinegar and several drops of food coloring. Mixing the primary colors yields all colors of the rainbow.


If muted pastel colors are your goal, you might try some natural egg dyes. One method is to place a hard-cooked egg in a plastic sandwich bag with some dye material (see list below for ideas) and a small amount of water. Tie bag closed. The press and seal bags are not suggested as the seal may pop during cooking. Simmer 10 minutes in hot water, and then cool. Remove the bag from the cool water, untie it and remove the egg. Different colors will be left on the egg from the natural materials.


There are a number of natural materials, like fruits and plants, that make good dyes. Those listed in the chart below are the ones available this time of year. As mentioned, most of these will be pale colors, but will still be quite pretty.


Plant material Use the... get this color
Dandelion Flowers or roots Yellow
Yellow onion Skins Light brown
Red onion Skins Red-brown
Parsley Leaves Light green
Spinach Leaves Grey gold to pink
Fresh oregano or mint Leaves Beige
Red cabbage Leaves Blue
Coffee Grounds or strong brew Brown
Yellow delicious apples Peels Lavender


A key to preparing the eggs for dyeing, particularly when using eggs from the grocery store, is to wash the eggs with soap and water. This removes the very thin coat of wax that helps to keep eggs fresh. Then hard-cook the eggs, which means only simmering (not boiling) the water with the eggs for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the egg.


We don’t want our spring fun spoiled by foodborne bacteria so keep the following tips in mind:


  • Wash hands with soap and water before and after handling raw and cooked eggs.
  • Discard any eggs cracked during cooking, coloring or hiding.
  • Any cooked egg out of the refrigerator for more than two hours should not be eaten.


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Last update: Monday, April 10, 2017