Natural dyes for eggs are immensely fun: they are not 100% predictable except that the resulting shades will have a harmony with each other than no box of Paz has ever gotten close to.
For each color, I list any vegetables, spices, and teas that I know will dye eggs. These are all either / or recipes, meaning you don’t need red cabbage AND purple grape juice, you can just use red cabbage or you can just use purple grape juice. Not that mixing might not be fun.
The proportions are fairly predictable:
Vegetable and fruit dyes: enough vegetable material for a softball size wad, boiled for 10-15 minutes in 4 – 6 cups of water,
Spices to dye with: about two good spoonfuls of a given spice per cup or so of water, boiled 5 to 10 minutes.
Teas that dye: 4 or 5 tea bags per cup or so of water, steeped for about 10 minutes
DUH: remove any vegetable chunks or tea bags from the cup of dye before you put your eggs in. Spices, meh, leave’em. If your eggs are already cooked, how long you leave them in the dye is up to you. If you are starting with raw eggs, make a bigger batch of dye and and then cook the eggs in it. About 15 minutes to a hard boiled egg because you probably have several eggs in there at once.
Don’t Forget Patterns.
You don’t need 12 pots of dye.
Choose one to three colors, make those, and use patterns to generate stunningly beautiful eggs. Woven meshes made into baggies and held tight with bread bag ties, rubber bands of various sizes, leaves and flowers held on by (former) pantyhose, wax drops from a candle… Trust me. A dozen eggs dyed in these patterns you invent, even if all the same basic color (variable by length of time in dye), will just take your breath away. You will feel so artistic and competent.
Violet blossoms are fun. Double fun: the actual blossom, held on inside pantyhose, will leave a (mild) blue purple flower shaped stain, no matter what color you actually dye the egg.
Red onions skins, collected for free at the local grocery. The volume of onion skin is important here: some will get you blue/purple, a whole lot will get you purple-ish red.
Hibiscus tea for sure, and I hear red wine works but I haven’t tried it.
The most surprising of the natural dyes: red cabbage makes blue dye, blue like a robin’s egg. The trick: boil your softball sized amount (which you should cut into smaller cuts) and then add 2 Tbsp. white vinegar. Hint: on brown eggs, this dye looks greener.
You can also use purple grape juice, but it’s less… magical.
You can also use frozen blueberries 1:1 in water, bring to room temperature, and remove the blueberries, use already cooked eggs. This leads to a subtle blue, even a grey-ish blue. Lovely, but if there is a 6 year old involved, this is not the blue they are thinking about.
Another surprise dye: red onion skins, which you saw above under blue-purple dyes, make a green dye if you add 3 tsp. white vinegar. Why the vinegar turns the red onion dye green, I don’t know.
More intuitive is the spinach option: boil a bunch of spinach for 10 to 15 minutes, get a lovely green. As I write this, the spinach crop in California has failed, so this may be too pricey a dye for 2013.
Liquid Chlorophyll is also an option but unlikely to already be in your kitchen.
Or you could start with Araucana chicken eggs and skip the dye…
Orange / Gold / Light Brown
A fat pile of yellow onion skins (most grocery stores will let you collect these skins for free), simmered for 15 minutes, then add 3 tsp. white vinegar. START HERE. DUBIOUS? YOU CAN DO THIS.
Chili powder and paprika both work. I like paprika better. If you want a paler but redder orange, add a dash of white vinegar to the paprika.
On the browner side, dill seeds boiled and then add vinegar.
The richest yellow: The tops of 5 or 6 carrots, cooked in water, then add 2 tsp. white vinegar. You should be eating more carrots anyway right? Carrot ginger soup is great stuff. Add onions skins for orange.
For a fun, funky mustard-y yellow, turmeric boiled and then add 2 tsp. white vinegar.
Other spices for yellow include celery seed and cumin. I’m not aware of needing vinegar with these two, but it might make the colors darker.
Chamomile and green tea both create a yellow dye, but the hue is unpredictable and shade invariably on the light side.
Even paler yellows can be achieved with goldenrod or boiled citrus peels.
Brown brown brown
This is the one color I start with cooked eggs and then steep them in the cooled dye. Y’know how some eggs crack when added to the hot water? I don’t want these dyes getting into my eggs. Coffee is yucky, black walnut is actually barfy. Both are totally fine when cool.
Add 1 tablespoon vinegar to 1 cup strong coffee (yes, instant coffee works too)
Black walnut shells, even the outer hulls if you have them, boiled in water for 15 minutes, maybe a little more. It’s a lovely color.
I’ve heard black tea works, but I haven’t tried it. Let me know your results if you do.
Good solid pink: one beet, boiled, then add some vinegar.
Muck paler pinks can be made from amaranth flowers or avocado skins (surprise!). In both cases, simmer the dye for 20 minutes and then add some vinegar.
Cranberries, raspberries, and red grape juice all also work. Adding vinegar to the grape juice will tip it more lavender than pink, but if you truly want lavender, start with purple grape juice instead.
I hear red zinger tea works, but I haven’t tried it.
Red onion skins (LOTS) and NO vinegar
Cherry or Pomegranate Juice
ps: many thanks to the blogs Carolina Farms Stewards, MegaGood, Crunchy Domestic Goddess and FaveCrafts for the images. Me and the camera? We’re friends. Me and the uploading? Been on the outs lately. ‘Sides, y’all some talented people out there!