This article first appeared on The Kitchn.
This time of year there are some pretty amazing craft-tastic ideas online and in magazines, making it entirely possible to devote days to creating museum-quality ova, but I prefer a less design-y and more rustic approach. After all, they’re eggs you might be stashing somewhere in the lawn. And with a small child in the house, this is not a project likely to involve X-Acto knives and tiny electrical tape stencils.
Easter is a reminder of fertility and abundance, so I say turn on nature’s color and let loose.
The tradition of dyeing Easter eggs has wandered in many directions throughout history, from the early practice of staining eggs red in remembrance of Christ’s blood to what a lot of kids will tell you now: They color eggs to make them look like jelly beans.
A long time ago, I wrote about dyeing eggs with onion skins, which gives the eggs a pretty spectacular result, especially if you rub them with oil to add shine. Then, I decided to take coloring eggs with vegetable scraps a step further and created a larger palette. This year we’ll push it further, and as the kids around me get older, we just might add a few extra flourishes. No razors and making tape, but maybe a few of those rubber band tricks. I’ll let you know.
Keep in mind the effect of the dyes varies depending on how concentrated the dye is, what color egg you use, and how long and how many times the eggs are immersed in the dye. I used half a purple cabbage, shredded, to dye four eggs. Err on the side of more material rather than less when creating your dye. Here’s a handy guide to follow.
Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs
Per cup of water use the following:
- 1 cup chopped purple cabbage = blue on white eggs, green on brown eggs
- 1 cup red onion skins = lavender or red eggs
- 1 cup yellow onion skins = orange on white eggs, rusty red on brown eggs
- 1 cup shredded beets = pink on white eggs, maroon on brown eggs
- 2 tablespoons ground turmeric = yellow eggs
- 1 bag Red Zinger tea = lavender eggs
Add one tablespoon white vinegar to every cup of strained dye liquid. For every dozen eggs, plan on using at least four cups of dye liquid.
A Note on the Coloring You Want
We’ve tested this method several times and have found that the number of dips in the dye is even more important than the duration of time spent in the dye. The more stints in the dye, the deeper the color will be. Our point? You can really play with the final color.
What You’ll Need
- Hard-boiled eggs, room temperature (white or brown eggs, preferably not super-fresh)
- 1 cup chopped purple cabbage per cup of water
- 1 cup red onion skins per cup of water
- 1 cup yellow onion skins per cup of water
- 1 cup shredded beets per cup of water
- 2 tablespoons ground turmeric per cup of water
- 1 bag Red Zinger tea per cup of water
- White distilled vinegar (1 tablespoon per cup of strained dye)
- Liquid neutral oil, such as vegetable or grapeseed
- Saucepan with lid
- White dish
- Fine-mesh strainer
- A second saucepan or bowl
- Baking dish or other container
- Paper towels
- Gather your ingredients: You can make separate batches of different colors or one large batch of a single color. Follow the ratios given above for each ingredient to make more or less dye.
- Add water to a saucepan: Pour the amount of water you need for the dye you’re making into a saucepan.
- Start making the dye: Add the dye matter (purple cabbage, onion skins, etc.) and bring the water to a boil.
- Adjust the heat: Turn the heat down to low and simmer, covered, for 15 to 30 minutes.
- Check the color: The dye is ready when it reaches a hue a few shades darker than you want for your egg. Drip a little dye onto a white dish to check the color. When the dye is as dark as you like, remove the pan from the heat and let the dye cool to room temperature. (I put the pot on my fire escape and it cooled off in about 20 minutes.)
- Strain the dye: Pour the cooled dye through a fine-mesh strainer into another saucepan (or into a bowl then back into the original pan if that’s all you have).
- Add vinegar: Stir the vinegar into the dye — use 1 tablespoon of vinegar per cup of strained liquid.
- Pour the dye over the eggs: Arrange the room-temperature eggs in single layer in a baking dish or other container and carefully pour the cooled dye over them. Make sure the eggs are completely submerged.
- Put the eggs in the fridge: Transfer the eggs in the dye to the refrigerator and chill until the desired color is reached.
- Dry and oil the eggs: Carefully dry the eggs, and then massage in a little oil to each one. Polish with a paper towel. Store the eggs in the refrigerator until it is time to eat (or hide) them.
- You can also start with raw eggs and cook them in the dye bath as described in this post on onion-skin eggs. I found that with dyes like the Zinger tea and beets, the color was more concentrated with the refrigerator method. Of course, this method requires clearing out some space in the refrigerator.
- If you want your eggs to be more vibrant and less pastel, give the eggs multiple soaks in the dye, being sure to dry them between stints in the dye.