Creating healthy, nutritious and colourful goodies with natural colours from fruits and vegetables

A step-by-step guide to making natural, healthy food colours at home

It is a well-known fact that the human eye gets attracted to bright colours instantly. And so, attractive colours used in baked goods and other foods are always enticing, especially for toddlers and pre-teens. However, store-bought goodies might not always use safe colours, unless they are by a reputed brand. The good news is that nature offers a variety of fruits and vegetables with rich colours to help you prepare baked items safely. Adding natural colours to foods can make the flavour interesting too. And by following the tips in this article, you can make these colours at home easily.

Step 1: Select the source of colour

Every food item has its own colour and you have multiple options to choose from. Sometimes, it might be readily available in your pantry or refrigerator too.

Colour palette from your kitchen:

Red colour: Beetroot or tomato

Blue colour: Red cabbage along with baking soda

Green colour: Spinach, matcha

Yellow colour: Turmeric, saffron

Pink colour: Raspberries, strawberries

Orange colour: Sweet potato, carrot, paprika

Purple colour: Purple sweet potato, blueberries

Brown colour: Cocoa, tea, coffee

Black colour: Squid ink, activated charcoal

Step 2: Identify the flavour

Now that you know what colour you need, be cautious about the flavour it imparts. All the colours are from natural ingredients, and hence have their distinct flavours, unlike artificial colours. These flavours tend to influence the overall taste of the baked goodies too. Use of cocoa, coffee or matcha will not affect the flavour much, since they are usually used for baking. However, use of spinach, turmeric or paprika might impart strong unusual flavours to baked goods.

Step 3: Use a concentrated base

Keep in mind that natural colours are not as intense as artificial colours, but the tints vary. Using a concentrated colour base will help make the end product more vibrant. Let go of the obsession of intensity when you make your own colours at home. The whole idea is to bring about opacity in the colour.

Step 4: Choose either a liquid or powder colour depending on the food

Make powder or concentrated liquid colour based on how you want to use the colour. Powdered colour gives more intensity and is more concentrated than the liquid version. It dissolves readily and is easier to prepare and store. Readily available powders like spices, coffee or cocoa can be directly used for frosting purposes as well. Use these powdered colours by dissolving them in any liquid like water, milk etc.

Preparing powdered colours at home

Buy fruits and vegetables of your choice and freeze dry them. Later, pulverise and convert them into a fine powder, using a grinder or processor.

Preparing concentrated liquid colours

There are three ways to prepare a liquid colour:

  • Juice : The liquid can either be water-based or fruit juice or strained puree. Use a juice to obtain liquid colour of the desired consistency.
  • Puree : When making and using puree, ensure to strain the solids, to make a thick liquid. Boil the puree and simmer it for a while.
  • Water method : The ingredient can be soaked in water for colour infusion. For example, you can soak saffron in warm water. Although, this might not yield the best results.

Always remember to boil the liquid, so that the water evaporates and provides a thick concentrated liquid with intense colour. Try reducing the liquid to about 1/4th of the original quantity.

Step 5: Cool the colour before use

Heat can affect the colour and make it lighter. Baking at high temperatures can change the colour to a duller or a brownish shade too. Therefore, cool the colours before adding them to any recipe. Using natural colours in frostings, glazes, icing or any cold application will be retained well.

Step 6: Add colours gradually

It is always advisable to add colours gradually until the desired intensity is achieved. Powdered colours have an advantage here since they can be added in more quantities without affecting the recipe, unlike liquid colours.

To conclude, natural food dyes are available in multiple food sources and are easily available in your kitchen. These not only add colours, but also health benefits to food items, and there is no harm in using them. So, go the natural way and see the difference.