Make Your Own Natural Red Food Dye for Valentine's Treats

Make your Valentine a sweet treat with natural red dye. (Photo: Glenn Young/Shutterstock)

Now that both of my boys are in middle school, I don't have to worry about classroom holiday parties, but I used to dread the traditional holiday parties. I knew that junk food made with artificial food dyes would most likely be served, and my youngest in particular is very sensitive to food dyes. I'd often volunteer to make the cupcakes for the class parties myself just to ensure they were all natural. I would always do a delicious vanilla cupcake with white frosting and put the cupcakes in holiday-themed cupcake wrappers to make them a bit more festive, but another option would have been to use food dye made from food instead of chemicals.

If you're making cupcakes for a Valentine's Day classroom party or just for the people you love at home, you can make pink and red natural food colorings from beets or cranberries instead of purchasing artificial dye. Here are a few ways to make your own food dye.

  • Mama Lisa’s blog has a simple method of boiling beets and using the water to make pink and red food dye for frosting.
  • Food52 explains how to use beets to color red velvet cake. It seems as if the addition of lemon juice is necessary so the baking powder doesn’t interact with the beets and cause them to lose their color.
  • Livestrong suggests using beet powder to dye foods pink or red. They have instructions for making your own beet powder from fresh beets or for using store bought beet powder. The advantage of using the powder over using actual beets or beet juice is that you won’t add extra, unwanted liquid to the food.

If creating a DIY red food coloring isn’t your thing, you can purchase already made natural food dyes from stores like Whole Foods or online. They can be expensive, and they may not make colors as vibrant as artificial food dyes, but they’re available if you want them. The brand you’ll find easiest is India Tree. The Nature’s Colors decorating set includes red, blue and yellow created from vegetable colorants.