THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO NATURAL FOOD COLORS
Natural food colors originate from a wide range of sources like vegetables, fruits, plants, minerals, and other edible natural sources and they are perfect for coloring your treats. Plus, they are filled with nutrients.
This is what I love to use:
- Beets/beet powder
- Pink pitaya/pink pitaya powder
- Fresh raspberries/raspberry powder
- Fresh strawberries/strawberry powder
- Pink matcha
Red beets contain a pigment called betanin that gives them their magenta hue. They are fantastic as a natural and organic food coloring.
However, beets are sensitive to heat, light, and oxidation and they will turn brown if cooked or baked. Moreover, the color will change when combined with baking soda or baking powder.
Use it to color frostings, raw cakes or raw cookies, smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, etc…
Before buying the powder, always make sure it’s 100% organic, with no GMO’s, no fillers, and other additives.
Pink pitaya, also called the Dragon fruit, grows in subtropical regions throughout Asia, Central America, and South America. It is very high in fiber and rich in antioxidants and has a very intense pink color.
The powder is specially freeze-dried to preserve flavor and nutrients, it tastes great, and only one teaspoon will give you a gorgeous, bright pink color.
Store it in a cool dry place, in an airtight container. Pitaya is very sensitive to moisture and can easily get lumpy and hard if not stored correctly. If that happens, just dissolve it in some hot water before use.
Raspberries are one of the world’s healthiest foods. They are a great source of vitamin C and are packed with fiber. You can buy them fresh, frozen, and freeze-dried in a powder form.
The freeze-dried raspberry powder is a great way to introduce extra fruit into the diet and it is great as a natural food coloring. Just make sure your powder contains no artificial ingredients, flavorings, or colorings.
Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C.
You can buy them fresh, frozen, and freeze-dried in a powder form and use them in the same way as you would raspberries and raspberry powder.
PINK MATCHA POWDER
Pink matcha powder is made from 100% natural finely ground rose blossoms. It is great for making pink lattes or creating your favorite green matcha recipes all in pink.
- Dunaliella Salina
Turmeric is great as a natural food coloring since it provides a bright yellow color to food thanks to its pigment Curcumin. Curcumin is the component of turmeric that gives this spice its bright yellow color.
It is mostly used in savory dishes but you can also use it to color your desserts. It is oil soluble and tends to fade in light but has good heat stability.
Dunaliella Salina is an organic, all-natural orange food coloring. It’s one of nature’s richest sources of natural beta-carotene and contains many of the carotenoids commonly found in fruit and vegetables.
It is actually an algae with a very intense orange color, and it grows in really salty environments. The saltier water, the more vibrant color it develops to protect itself from the sun.
It’s perfect for coloring your smoothies, drinks, pastries, and raw cheesecakes.
- Butterfly pea flower tea/ powder
- Blue spirulina powder
- Blue matcha powder
- Purple cabbage + baking soda
BUTTERFLY PEA FLOWER POWDER
Butterfly pea flower powder is made by grinding organic, dried butterfly pea flowers. There is also a butterfly pea flower tea – a caffeine-free herbal tea made from a combination of dried blue pea flowers and lemongrass. Both are perfect as natural food colorings but I prefer the powder form because it’s so much easier to use and the color is more intense.
An interesting fact about this powder/tea is that it turns purple as soon as the pH balance of the tea changes. Mix in a little bit of lemon juice or lime juice and see what happens – it will change its color to purple/pink. Another interesting fact is that if you mix in some baking soda to your now purple/pink drink and you stir it, it’ll instantly change back to blue color.
It’s perfect for coloring your morning smoothies, unicorn noodles, pasta, and rice, making rainbow sushi or a yummy cheesecake.
BLUE SPIRULINA POWDER
Blue spirulina powder is becoming more and more popular among food bloggers all over the world. And the reason is pretty simple. Its bright blue color is simply gorgeous.
Blue spirulina, also called Blue Majik, is a blue pigment derived from blue-green algae. Phycocyanin is a pigment that gives spirulina (which is a deep green) a slightly bluish hue.
This 100 % natural food coloring is very mild in flavor, almost flavorless. Perfect for coloring raw cakes, smoothies, lattes, noodles, rice, and more.
Just add a teaspoon of this powder to your smoothie and it will magically turn blue.
An interesting fact: You can mix it with yellow to get green, but you can also mix it with pink/red (eg. pink pitaya powder) to get lavender or violet shades.
Store it in an airtight container, away from direct sunlight at room temperature.
BLUE MATCHA POWDER
Did you know that blue matcha powder is actually made from butterfly pea flowers? Nor did I, not until recently that is. So, while it does share the same name with green matcha, it has a little in common with it and it lacks all the benefits of green matcha. But I love it for its gorgeous blue color which is 100% natural.
It can be ordered online and is available at some health food stores. You can use it in the same way as you would butterfly pea flower powder.
RED CABBAGE + BAKING SODA
Natural blue food coloring can be made by mixing red cabbage juice and baking soda. Check out the following link for a more detailed how-to.
- Green matcha powder
- Spirulina powder
- Fresh spinach/spinach powder
GREEN MATCHA POWDER
Just like the green tea, green matcha comes from the Camellia sinensis plant but since it’s grown differently, it has a different nutrient profile. It is loaded with antioxidants, amino acids, and other nutrients and is considered to be one of the most powerful superfoods on the market today.
Thanks to its gorgeous color and great health qualities, matcha tea is a favorite ingredient to add to lattes, smoothies, and even baked goods.
It contains caffeine and will help you boost your energy levels and endurance.
Before purchasing it, make sure the powder comes from reputable sources. Some of the matcha that comes from China, Pakistan, and India may contain high levels of metals, including lead, fluoride, and aluminum. You should always look for a product with an organic certification to guarantee that it’s processed in a way that will not damage your health.
Green spirulina is a blue-green algae and is considered the most nutrient-dense food on the planet.
Spirulina gives a very bright green color at neutral pH. Unfortunately, it is not stable in acidic beverages as the acid will degrade the color over time.
Doctors consider spirulina to be safe in general but if it is grown in unsafe conditions it may become contaminated with toxic metals, harmful bacteria, and microcystins. So always make sure that your spirulina powder is of the highest quality.
People with certain autoimmune conditions should avoid spirulina supplements.
Spirulina can be added to your smoothies or juices. Just make sure to include plenty of fruit or other flavors to balance out its very strong taste.
FRESH SPINACH/SPINACH POWDER
Spinach powder is made by grinding whole dried spinach leaves and has a rich green color and mild spinach flavor. It is loaded with a wide range of nutrients including beta-carotene, iron, and fiber.
You can add it to your smoothies, sauces, salad dressings, and dips. It is ideal for recipes where spinach flavor and color is needed. If you don’t have spinach powder, you can use fresh spinach instead.
- Maqui berry powder
- Red goji berry powder
- Blue spirulina powder + pink pitaya powder
- Red cabbage
- Purple sweet potatoes
- Butterfly pea flower powder/tea + acid, such as lemon juice
- Wild blueberries, blackberries
MAQUI BERRY POWDER
Maqui berry powder is made from a deep purple colored berry from Patagonia and is freeze-dried using a natural process.
Researchers have found that maqui berries contain very high levels of anthocyanins – pigments responsible for the purple color of plants. The flavor of maqui berry is mild with a subtle sweetness and a bit of tartness.
There are several ways you can use maqui berry: add 1-2 tablespoons to your smoothie or stir some powder into your oatmeal or yogurt. It can also be incorporated into baking recipes, such as muffins, granola, and cakes.
It is sensitive to heat though, so it will change its color.
Always check if your maqui berry supplement is organic and of the highest quality.
BLACK GOJI BERRY POWDER
Black goji berries are an incredibly rare and exotic fruit grown wildly in the extreme and harsh environments of Central Asia.
This powder is perfect for smoothies, lattes, raw cakes, and more. It will give your recipes a beautiful purple-magenta hue. Add a splash of lemon juice and it’ll turn pink immediately.
BLUE SPIRULINA+PINK PITAYA POWDER
Mix blue spirulina powder and pink pitaya powder to get purple hue. Great for coloring smoothies and raw desserts.
Red cabbage, also called purple cabbage, has beautiful purple, magenta or dark purple leaves and slightly sweet taste. It will give you a gorgeous purple hue.
Note: If you add just a little bit of baking powder to red cabbage juice, it will turn blue. Just make sure not to add too much or it will taste terrible.
PURPLE SWEET POTATOES
Purple sweet potatoes are root vegetables that have a bright purple color due to the high content of the antioxidant anthocyanin. A cup of cooked purple sweet potato has about 500 mg of this powerful antioxidant. They will give your meals or desserts a beautiful purple hue.
Important note: The color is affected by the pH of the environment. Its purple color changes towards pink as the environment gets more acidic (e.g. lemon juice, vinegar). If the environment becomes more alkaline (e.g. baking powder, baking soda), it changes to blue and then to grey.
BUTTERFLY PEA FLOWER TEA/POWDER + AN ACID
Try adding a little bit of lemon juice or lime juice to your butterfly pea flower tea and you’ll get a nice purple hue.
WILD BLUEBERRIES AND BLACKBERRIES
Wild blueberries and blackberries provide a nice red/purple shade that comes from anthocyanins. The problem is that the color is not very heat stable and tends to turn to brown hue over time. Also, they are sensitive to pH change.
- Activated charcoal powder
ACTIVATED CHARCOAL POWDER
Activated charcoal is an odorless, black powder usually used to trap toxins and chemicals in the body, allowing them to be flushed out so the body doesn’t reabsorb them.
It is pretty harmless in very small amounts and you can use it to color your smoothies, waffles, ice creams, and more.
It may reduce or prevent the absorption of certain medications so if you are taking any, maybe it’s best if you consult your doctor prior to using it.
Photo source: Freepik