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Posted on Apr 2, 2015 |

Rita’s Recipe: Natural Dyes for Eggs

Rita’s Recipe: Natural Dyes for Eggs

Natural dyes for Easter eggs:

Natural dyes for Easter eggs, clockwise from left: turmeric (yellow), beet juice (pinkish), yellow onion skins (golden amber to dark orange), red cabbage (blue). Center jar: red onions (brick red to brown).

Job 6:6 – Can a thing insipid be eaten without salt? Is there flavor in the white of an egg?

Luke 11:12 – What father among you will hand his son a scorpion when he asks for an egg?

Easter’s coming soon, and there will be a lot of eggs boiled and colored.  Eggs were an important part of the Biblical diet.

Egg cookery was highly developed in Old Testament times. Among the ancient utensils was one with separate cavities to keep eggs whole and separate while cooking.  (Forerunners of our electric egg poachers!). Eggs were also roasted in hot ashes. And I have to think some were boiled as well. Eggs of all fowl were considered delicacies. Besides the chicken, eggs from ducks, geese and partridges were eaten.


Now there’s no real “recipe”, but here’s how I do it, the same way my Mom, Mary Nader, and her mom did it.

In a saucepan, place as many papery outer skins of yellow and/or red onions that you have. Cover with an inch of water.  Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook until onion skins have colored the water, anywhere from 10-30 minutes.

Use this same method for red cabbage (just chunk it up), beets, spinach, etc.

Strain and add 1 tablespoon or so of clear vinegar to every cup of liquid.   This sets the dye. Don’t worry about adding too much vinegar – a little more won’t hurt.

To make turmeric colored eggs, place two tablespoons of turmeric in 1-1/2 cups water.  Stir and place in pan. Cook until it starts to boil. Remove, let cool but don’t strain. Add a teaspoon or so of vinegar.  Place eggs in dye, stirring to coat.  When you remove the eggs, gently wipe off the turmeric with a soft cloth or run them very quickly under running water.

Now put your boiled eggs in. Depending upon how long they sit in the dye (and know that it takes a lot longer than commercial colors), the eggs made with yellow onion skins will be pale yellow to dark amber.  Red onion skins produce eggs that are brick/brown red.  Red cabbage is the winner: it makes beautiful teal blue eggs! Turmeric makes the eggs more brilliantly yellow than the marigolds my dad used to plant in our tiny front lawn. If you want, you can put the eggs in the dye overnight in the fridge.

To make a basket weave pattern on eggs: Wrap a piece of the open weave plastic bag that onions come in securely around the egg. Secure with a twist tie. Drop in dye. Let egg dry before removing wrap.

Marbled Eggs

Fill cup with 1 tablespoon each of clear vinegar, canola oil and dye of choice

Fill cup with warm water (just enough to cover boiled egg)

Stir and quickly drop egg into water, then quickly remove

Dry egg with paper towel

Tips on boiling eggs

Cover with cold water, bring them to a nice boil, put the lid on, turn the fire off and let them sit about 15 minutes. They turn out perfectly cooked. To remove the shell, pour the whole pan of eggs into the sink, drain and add cold water. I peel them under the water and that works well.

A basket of eggs colored with natural dyes.

A basket of eggs colored with natural dyes.

Rita Heikenfeld.

Rita Heikenfeld.

Want more recipes for Easter morning? For two recipes for candy eggs, click here.

Rita Nader Heikenfeld writes a weekly syndicated column and blog for the Community Press, appears every Thursday on the Son Rise Morning Show, and is the author of several cookbooks. An adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati, she is Certified Culinary Professional and Certified Modern Herbalist,  the Culinary Professional for Jungle Jim’s Eastgate, and a media personality with a cable show and YouTube videos. In 2014 she was inducted into the Escoffier Hall of Fame. She lives “in the sticks” outside Batavia, Ohio with her family, where they heat with wood, raise chickens for eggs, and grow their own produce and herbs. You’ll find all her previous recipes featured on The Catholic Beat here.

Rita’s Bible Foods segment airs on the Son Rise Morning Show every Thursday morning at 7:22 am (rebroadcast Friday at 6:02 am). Tune in to hear her discuss the history behind each recipe and the scripture verses that inspired it. And of course, for cooking tips!

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