DIY Dye-Free Easter: Eggs, Natural Food Coloring, and Pesticide-Free Peeps

This Spring kicks off our family’s second Easter celebration sans “PAAS” egg dyes (“Petroleum Augmented Allurement System”, as I call it).  I wanted to open this post with a skippy sounding “Happy Spring!” but I just could not bring myself to do it, as I’m currently in pollen hell.  (Yes, I just typed that word in an Easter blog post.)  

Last year I shared some ideas and links in “Have A Colorful Easter Without Artificial Food Dye” and gave a recap of our results in “Our First Dye-Free Easter.”

Regarding this next onslaught of brightly-dyed sweets marketed to our kids…Am I the only one who feels sneaked up on and slapped upside the head with all this early Easter business?  Darn moon cycle.  I only *just* got done pretending to keep all my daughter’s class valentine cards!  What a waste of spring cleaning.  

It used to be, back in the day, that Orthodox Christians just dyed boiled eggs red to represent the blood of Christ shed for the sins of the world.  Easy peasy.  A little scary for kids maybe.  But no petroleum necessary!

But now, like just about every gathering of more than one person, we gotta up the ante and knock it outta the park.  We feel the need to saturate our palates with plasticky, otherworldly fondant…jellybeans…and giant chocolate bunnies.  I know many people who wait all year long just for their Cadbury Creme Egg fix.  But for those of us who enjoy a sweet treat but forego that weirdly smeary Yellow 6 “creme” egg center for something less cancer-y, there are plenty of natural goodies to be found or made.

And no matter what time of year it is, no matter what celebration you’re hosting, or belief system you subscribe to, I think we all have one thing in common:  Everyone has a great-grandmother, yes?  So for any naysayers in your circle who cannot imagine celebrating the oldest holiday without rainbow painted foodstuffs, I say this:  Would you turn your nose up to your great-grandmother’s homemade treats? ‘Cause guess what – today’s organic trend is yesterday’s, ya know, just food.

I’m happy to report that in 2013, there are still plenty of options for natural egg dyes and treats.  I’ve taken the liberty of googling for you…something your great-grandma won’t do for ya.  

If you’re short on time, order pre-made natural egg dyeing kits from any of these companies (many of them can still deliver to you by Easter with standard shipping):

Eco-kids (Check out their golden ticket promotion a la Willie Wonka)


Wee Can Too 

Natural Candy Store 

You can also buy bottles of plant-based liquid food coloring from Chocolate Craft, India Tree, Maggie’s Naturals, and Seelect.  India Tree even provides an egg dyeing tutorial on their website.

If you’re feeling really productive and want to get your kids involved, you can make some cool natural dyes and special effects with fruits and vegetables, using ideas from these links:

Abe’s Market 

Yahoo Shine 

Bon Appétit 

Spoonful Natural Dye Recipes

Just Short Of Crazy 

WAHM Search Engine 

Life As A Healthy Mom 

Tissue paper technique from Spoonful (Love this!)  

Embroidery floss and Mod Podge from Spoonful 

Acrylic paints technique from Spoonful 

Scuba diver eggs from Spoonful (for my sister, brother, brother-in-law, and nephew)  

Melted crayons technique from Spoonful 

If you’d rather not mess with real eggs, try filling plastic eggs or other reusable containers with natural candies from Natural Candy Store, Indie Candy, and Amazon.

Your local Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Earth Fare, TJ Maxx, and many small health food stores will have dye-free jellybeans, cookies, cupcakes, lollipops, gummies, and chocolates.

For those of you observing Passover, have you found any good naturally-dyed replacements for traditional candies such as the brightly colored jelly “fruit” slices and candy-coated chocolates?  Natural Candy Store has loads of Kosher candy that are “allergy-friendly.”

Here are many more naturally sweet recipes for Easter from Whole New Mom: “20+ healthier Easter treats (including chocolate).” 

I’d like to try this recipe for homemade sprinkles, which could work on cupcakes for any holiday and birthday celebration. 

One crafty mom posted this idea on my DFD Facebook fan page:  Make your own marshmallow pops with homemade marshmallows, then wet them slightly, and roll them in naturally-dyed decorating sugars.  Brilliant.  Here is a recipe for homemade marshmallows that I posted on Facebook in December:

Homemade Marshmallow Recipe

(From non-profit Feingold Association, which researches brands for artificial ingredients and preservatives)


2 Tablespoons gelatin (list of alternatives below)

1/2 Cup cold water

2 Cups sugar

1 Cup hot water

Pinch of salt

2 Teaspoons vanilla (use REAL vanilla, not “Vanillin”)

Powdered sugar

(For gelatin replacement, use powdered agar in same amount as gelatin. Many kosher gelatins are vegan too – Try Lieber’s unflavored gel, Carmel’s unsweetened gel, KoJel’s unflavored gel, and Hain Superfruits.)


Soften gelatin in cold water. Combine the regular sugar with the hot water. Boil the sugar water to soft boil stage (236-238 degrees). Add in the gelatin mixture and pinch of salt; beat until stiff. Add vanilla. Beat thoroughly. Pour into 8 x 8 pan that has been dusted with powdered sugar. Allow to stand until stiff enough to hold its shape. Cut into strips/squares or shapes with cookie cutters and remove from pan. Roll in powdered sugar.

Peep inside the ingredients label…

Speaking of marshmallows, no Easter blog post is complete without mention of one popular treat – 1 billion of which make their appearance on American store shelves every Easter. They’re infiltrating the Christmas and Valentine’s Day candy market now too.  I haven’t forgotten about you, “Peeps” peeps.  You know who you are.  As with girl scout cookie season, your Peep-related tweets have kicked into high gear and you’re stockpiling those little neon globs of marshmallow.  People either love them, or they hate them.  They appear to either be smiling at you, or sadly trapped in a seemingly permanent state of preservation.  

I’ve always counted myself in the second group of consumers, but even more so after I discovered what’s in the adorable little abominations.

Last Friday, I was shopping in Target and snapped a picture of some bright pink Peep chicks, which were on sale.  I posted it up on my “Die, Food Dye!” Facebook fan page with the caption, “Red Dye #3 is on sale at Target for a limited time only, peeps! Bonus: This dye is also used as a pesticide. Kills fly eggs dead!”

Apparently, this struck a chord with lots of unwary folks.  People shared my picture like crazy, and their friends were horrified by what they were reading. My “Pesticide Peeps” image has reached over 177,000 Facebook users since then.

Because I believe that information empowers consumers, I posted the following explanation on my Facebook page:

“Their pink color comes from FD&C Red #3 dye, also called “Erythrosine” (a xenoestrogen, carcinogen, and an insecticide – EPA Pesticide Chemical Code 120901). Red 3 dye was partially banned by the FDA due to cancer findings years ago, but then approved again for use in food and cosmetics. Our daily exposure to dyes has increased *many* times over since the 1950s, and the American FDA doesn’t know what affects that could have over a lifetime, yet they approve dyes before proving safety. Children, whose developing bodies are more vulnerable to chemical additives than adults, are the marketing target for the most highly-dyed products on store shelves. There are less toxic alternative colorants available – and already in use by our major food manufacturers – overseas.  Dye manufacturers have worked hard in Washington DC to keep their products selling here in the U.S.  Our recourse is our purchasing power. Vote with your dollars…”

And don’t forget, even plain white marshmallows contain blue dye to make their white color appear brighter…

But fear not, Peeps enthusiasts.  You can still experience the satisfaction that only comes from biting into squishy little forest animals, making historically accurate Peeps dioramas, and hosting Peeps jousting matches…without the added humiliation of ingesting chemical junk.  Try this recipe for homemade Peeps, which you can do with natural dyes.  I bet you won’t let these lie around on the top of your fridge for two years…

But please peeps, don’t think that you can avoid being a guinea pig for the FDA by just grabbing the package of yellow Peeps instead – they are no better for you.  Synthetic yellow dyes contain carcinogens and heavy metals, and have been connected to behavior disorders, asthma, hives, eczema, stomach ailments, hyperactivity, and mood swings.  Yellow Dye causes humans to excrete more zinc in saliva and urine. And guess what – kids diagnosed with ADHD often have a low level of zinc.  Zinc is 1) needed for healthy cognitive functions; 2) needed by hundreds of enzymes that affect metabolism of protein, carbohydrate, alcohol and fat; 3) critical for bone strength and many other crucial physical functions; and 4) critical for the healing of wounds.  Even a minor deficiency can cause mental and physical problems. (From the Citizens Commission On Human Rights In Florida).

You’re welcome.

In happier news, yesterday was my second dye-free birthday.  I enjoyed Unreal M&M candy knockoffs for breakfast, and lunch.  Even at my age, I enjoy getting my own naturally-colored cake from the Whole Foods bakery (and then having some for breakfast the next day).  “Ya gotta live a little” takes on a whole new meaning as I avoid ingesting synthetic treats like this Peeps cake (thanks for that find, Heather!).

After you indulge in some less toxic sweeties, please do remember to use some dye-free toothpaste like Tom’s, Jason, or Weleda – instead of this synthetically dyed Colgate easter bunny paste. –> 

And of course there’s always the non-food option.  Jane Hersey, national director of the non-profit Feingold Association, gives some suggestions in “Easter Candy May Make Kids See RED“.

I want to dedicate this post to Cliff Burns, who left this world two days ago. Thank you, “Grandpa Cliff”, for giving our girl that very memorable Easter last year.  Your child-like laughter and joie de vivre remains in our memories.  Rest in peace.



5 Responses to “DIY Dye-Free Easter: Eggs, Natural Food Coloring, and Pesticide-Free Peeps”
  1. This year my mom sent an Easter box for my boys with no candy at all (well- some Cadbury eggs for me, they are truly my one and only junk food indulgence of the year- no excuse, just love them). There were some bunny window clings, two Easter plates from the dollar store, a Peter rabbit book, and an egg decorating kit that uses stickers and paper stick-ons instead of dye. The boys were thrilled, and didn’t care about not having candy. Those plates have given them a little thrill every day since, and they were cheaper than a bag of jelly beans.

    I’ll check out the links for some ideas. 🙂 Thanks!

    • Indie Mama says:

      Those are terrific ideas Robin! I am going shopping today and will try some of those. I was hoping some new kids’ DVD would be released right about now…anyone know of any? I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

  2. Maybe for the Passover fruit thingies, you could do natural “jell-o” in real fruit peels? Like this:

    but with a recipe using fruit juice, like this:

  3. Cissimama says:

    So glad to be seeing light shed on the dangers of red dye. My daughter has a life threatening allergy to red dyes, all numbers. I call companies and make comments regularly in hopes that someday it will be outlawed.

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