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If you rarely use food coloring or have an “everything in moderation” kitchen philosophy, you’re probably completely happy saving time (and stress) by using store-bought food coloring. If someone in your home has an allergy to dyes in food, or you simply want to avoid it, then these 10 methods for how to make green food coloring have your name written all over them.
Please be aware that when you make your own food coloring, you will not achieve the same brilliant green you get from store-bought dyes. Even most of the natural dyes on the market will not result in a brilliant green.
Because you are using natural products which are not uniform (naturally), your results will vary dramatically each time from “not bad” to “not happening.” To improve your chances of success, check out the tips at the bottom before you proceed.
How to Make Green Food Coloring
Mash, process, or otherwise obliterate half an avocado. (Yes, please peel it first.) This will lightly color a cup or two of frosting or a similar white substance. Avocado has an understated flavor, so it won’t dominate the dish. Think of it as a culinary wallflower.
Puree 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen spinach. Boil it in 4 cups of water and then simmer for several hours. When it is concentrated, strain out the spinach—it’s the liquid you want. Add the concentrate to your recipe. Avocado will work as well.
Repeat the process above, but do not strain out the original food. Instead, press it through a sieve or otherwise grind the final result to get it as smooth as possible.
Soak pistachios in water. (Don’t use dyed pistachios, but rather those that have opened and greened naturally.) Grind them to make a faintly tinted paste you can add to desserts. Sounds like the makings of pistachio ice cream to me!
Sprinkle chlorella, spirulina, or a more suitably flavored green product into the recipe. Might I recommend parsley, especially stale, finely ground parsley?
Boil the skins from several red onions in a cup or two of water. Simmer until the water is the color you want. Some people get brown instead of green. Why doesn’t this make red? Good question. You should have your children research that.
Boil any green food substance in a cup or so of water for 20-30 minutes. Strain it and use the green water in place of the liquid in your recipe. For example, boil broccoli and make rice using the green liquid instead of water or stock.
Make the green liquid as just described. Soak or simmer potato slices or another white absorbent food in the liquid until it is tinted green. (This hasn’t worked for me, but others have had success with it. Salting may encourage a better transfer process.)
If your recipe calls for milk, simmer spinach, avocado, parsley, whatever, in milk until it turns green. Don’t get distracted! Milk burns easily and must be stirred and kept over a low heat.
Remember kindergarten? Neither do I. But I do remember that yellow and blue make green. Make blue food coloring by boiling red cabbage. Add a 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon baking soda to turn it from violet to blue. Then add yellow in the form of stale turmeric or saffron…or yellow cake.
These techniques for how to make green food coloring will produce mild food colorings that will tint your light-colored foods green…some even pastel green or army green. Don’t expect the same results as you find in commercial products. Also, don’t be surprised to see this work on lightly colored foods, such as white potatoes or white flour, but only “muddy up” darker foods, such as sweet potatoes or brown flour.
To make the food coloring liquid more brilliant, add 1/2 teaspoon or so of baking soda. This will affect the flavor, so experiment wisely.
Add lemon juice to anything that might brown, such as the avocado, and serve as soon as possible after preparing.
Many of these recipes will flavor the final outcome. Since you don’t want your sweets tasting like, say, broccoli or spinach, opt for avocado in icing and other sweets. Look for foods that complement each other nicely, such as potatoes with parsley, broccoli, or spinach.
Because you will need a larger amount of natural coloring than conventional dyes, the liquid coloring will affect the texture of the dish. Use less of other liquids until you have achieved the color that you want, at which point, you may wish to add more liquid if necessary.
Finally, to avoid the food coloring issue entirely, give the illusion of green foods by setting a green table—use green flowers, napkins, centerpieces, décor, and naturally green foods (like peas, kiwis, green grapes, lime slices, or M&Ms.) Sprinkle green herbs over savory foods, or cook greenies right into them, like in these Shamrock eggs. (You’re still writhing over that comment about M&Ms being natural, aren’t you? Let a girl dream.)
What do I use, you ask?
Well…to tell you the truth…we use green food coloring once a year (Christmas), and we use the bright, festive, bad-for-you stuff from the store. (You are welcome to comment on how bad our annual splurge is, which I already know, because then I get to share my story about the horribly debilitating effects stressing over healthy eating has had on my health and family. It’s a twisted, ironic, edge-of-your-seat tale the whole family will love.)
But I’m thinking about buying this beauty: India Tree’s natural decorating colors.
Please share your tips for how to make green food coloring below!
If you’re looking for some fun Saint Patrick’s Day recipes, crafts, activities, and more, check out my Simple St. Patrick’s Day board on Pinterest. Simple, green, even a little educational.
Click to visit my Simple St. Patrick’s Day board on Pinterest.
Top photo credit Green food photo credit