Dye Easter eggs naturally, using recipes made from fruits and vegetables, and try these easy DIY Easter crafts for kids.
What’s a classic, fun way to enjoy the Easter season together as a family? Dyeing Easter eggs together! Coloured eggs are not only beautiful to look at and to decorate the house with, but also so much fun to make for parents and kids alike.
Commercial egg dyes
What’s in the commercial egg dyes we use today? The largest ingredient in common Easter egg dyes you can buy at a store is food colouring. Food colouring contains chemicals that may aggravate allergies and have been tied to health conditions such as hyperactivity in children.
Thankfully, you don’t have to rely on commercial dyes to create beautiful coloured Easter eggs. You can find the resources you need to colour eggs right in your fridge, pantry, and backyard … from food, spices, and plants! There are so many natural resources readily available that can produce a variety of beautifully coloured dyes, and it’s a lot of fun to experiment with them.
Dyeing Easter eggs naturally can be not only a more eco-friendly activity choice for your family this Easter, but also a wonderful learning experience. It’s entertaining to experiment with different colours and patterns, and creating family holiday traditions together is so special and rewarding.
How to dye Easter eggs naturally
Try following the general guidelines below to naturally dye your own Easter eggs this year, but feel free to try different materials, dyeing times, and techniques to make the experience unique for your family.
- 2 dozen free-range eggs (white eggs show colour more vividly, but brown eggs can be lovely as well)
- foods, spices, and plants for dyeing (see the chart)
- a large pot
- white vinegar
- small pots—as many as you have different colours of dyes
- slotted spoons—as many as you have different colours of dyes
- 2 empty egg cartons or wire cooling rack for baked goods
- vegetable oil
1. Bring eggs to boil in 4 cups (1 L) water in a large pot. Reduce heat and simmer them for about 16 minutes. Remove from heat, let them sit for 5 minutes, and then give them a cold water bath for 10 minutes.
2. Prepare each dye by bringing the ingredients (each in a separate pot) to a boil using a ratio of 4 cups (1 L) fruit/vegetables or 1 Tbsp (15 mL) spice to every 4 cups (1 L) water and 2 Tbsp (30 mL) vinegar. You can try experimenting with the amounts of ingredients (more will produce a darker, bolder hue). Simmer for 15 minutes or up to half an hour, strain, pour reserved dye into a bowl or small pot, and let it cool. When using liquids, such as coffee or grape juice, there’s no need to add water or heat them.
3. Once eggs and dye are cool, wipe eggs quickly with vinegar to help them absorb dye, then submerge eggs into the dye and leave for at least 30 minutes (or longer for a deeper colour). You can use this time for a game or craft!
4. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and place in an empty egg carton or on wire cooling rack to dry.
5. Once eggs are dry, you can rub them with vegetable oil for sheen, or leave them matte.
Want to add some decorative designs to your eggs? Here are some easy ways to make your eggs extra special.
- Use a crayon or wax candle to draw designs on your egg before dyeing it (the egg will remain white where the wax is).
- Wrap eggs in rubber bands before dyeing them for a fun, striped pattern.
- Before dyeing, rub the eggshells in vinegar and wrap them in onion skins. Secure them with a rubber band and then dye for a stamped or mottled effect.
- Adding a tablespoon of oil to the dye can create an interesting marbled pattern.
Here are some of the many natural materials that can produce colourful dyes.
|red/pink||beets, cranberries, or raspberries|
|orange||yellow onion skins, paprika, or chili powder|
|yellow||lemon peels, orange peels, turmeric, or cumin|
|blue||chopped red cabbage, blueberries, or grape juice|
|purple||grape juice or hibiscus tea|
The Easter egg tradition
So many families do it every year, but where did the tradition of dyeing eggs during Easter come from?
Believe it or not, Easter (and Easter egg dyeing) has pagan origins. This holiday happens in the spring, a time of rebirth and renewal after winter, and the word “Easter” originates from a German/Anglo-Saxon goddess (“Eostre”) of the dawn-rebirth. A rabbit laying eggs was her symbol—a symbol of fertility. However, the egg as a symbol of new life has been around for a very long time—many ancient cultures, including the Egyptians, Persians, Phoenicians, and Hindus, believed the world began with a large egg.
Decorating eggs dates back to medieval Europe. Dyeing and decorating Easter eggs became popular in the late 19th century—especially among the Pennsylvanian Dutch and Ukrainian people. Originally, people used natural sources to dye Easter eggs, but eventually the dyes were made with chemicals and prepackaged so that they could be sold en masse.
Can you eat them?
Yes, you can eat dyed hardboiled eggs—if you follow proper food safety advice.
- Ensure that the eggs have been promptly refrigerated after the dyeing process (within two hours of being cooked, or less)
- If you plan to display your eggs rather than keep them in the fridge, they should not be eaten.
- Hardboiled eggs generally last for up to a week in the fridge.
- If an egg has cracked during the boiling or decorating process, do not eat it, as it can let in bacteria.
More eco-friendly Easter activity ideas
Naturally dyeing Easter eggs is one way to celebrate Easter in an eco-friendly manner, and here are some other Easter activity suggestions using natural, “upcycled,” and recycled materials:
- Upcycle an egg carton into little baby chicks.
- Recycle an ice cream pail, juice jug, or cookie tin into an Easter basket.
- Decorate empty toilet paper rolls to make Easter bunnies, chicks, or lambs