As I grew up, we always bought our white eggs from the store and used a PAAS Easter egg kit to make beautiful Easter creations. It’s not that my mom didn’t know how to dye eggs with food coloring; I just think my sister and I loved buying our cool egg kits so much that she didn’t deny us the pleasure.
Fast forward to today, and at Easter, my egg customers have a definite preference for the white eggs laid by my two Brown Leghorn chickens. They see all the kits in the store and fall for the myth that white eggs dye so much prettier than other colors. Nothing, in my opinion, can be farther from the truth. In my family, we prefer to dye the brown and green eggs laid by the rest of my flock. I love the deep, rich tones that the brown and green eggs provide when they’re dyed. And frankly, we don’t need a kit from the store. We use the food dye from our pantry and find that it’s so versatile that we can make tons of interesting combinations.
If you’re wondering which chickens lay brown eggs? In my flock, that would be our Orpington chicken, Kate, and our New Hampshire chicken, Big Red. But there are other chicken breeds that lay brown eggs such as Marans chickens, Barred Plymouth Rocks and Rhode Island Reds. These breeds can all be found commonly through hatcheries in the United States. For green eggs, we have two Ameraucanas, Big Muff and Hedwig.
For a plain dyed egg without anything fancy, you need to start with clean hard-boiled eggs. There are so many methods for hard-boiling eggs. I use my grandmother’s recipe. I start with cold eggs covered in cold water. I bring everything to a boil for 10 minutes and then let the eggs sit in the water until it’s cool. Quick Tip: Save the water from your boiled eggs and use it to water your houseplants. They’ll love the extra nutrients in the water.
I’m a pro at this now, so I normally just eyeball my ingredients, but to be exact, you can use the recipe on the back of the food coloring box which calls for a half cup of hot tap water mixed with one teaspoon of vinegar. You add a teaspoon of food coloring, either liquid or gel form. But, for the gel type, you have to let it dissolve for about five minutes before submerging your egg. You can vary the amounts of coloring for your preference – smaller amounts of color give a lighter effect and mixing colors can give you a custom look.
Once your egg is submerged, the recipe box calls for it to remain in the color bath for about four minutes. This is not a hard and fast rule. Play around with this a little. You’ll find the longer the soaking time, the deeper the color. Once you’ve got a color you like, pull your eggs out of the color bath and let them dry on a rack.
Creative Twist for Marbled Eggs
To step up plain coloring a notch, add some olive or canola oil to your water, vinegar, and food coloring base. You have to be quick, but stir the mixture together then drop the egg in and immediately remove it from the water bath. (I find dark colors work best for this because they make an impact quickly.) Dry the egg with a paper towel and you’ll see a marbling effect just like in the expensive store kits.
Creative Twist for Tie-Dye Eggs
For a tie-dye effect, thoroughly rinse your plain hard boiled egg with vinegar. Then drop a few drops of food coloring on the egg while it’s sitting in a colander. Jiggle the egg around for maximum coverage. Then add another color and jiggle the egg around again. (I find it’s best to use your lightest color first then move on to darker colors.) Let the egg sit for about a minute so the color can fully set. Rinse your egg in water, then pat dry with a paper towel. You can use as many colors as you want and the result looks much like a tie-dye t-shirt.
Feel free to experiment a bit. But don’t forget to refrigerate your finished eggs until it’s time for the big event. That’s what’s great about raising chickens for eggs; there are usually eggs aplenty. It’s fun to see how the different chicken egg colors take the same dye bath. Use two dyes on one egg. The only rule here is to have fun and be thankful for the wonderful eggs your chickens have provided!
Do you know how to dye eggs with food coloring? What do you prefer about the process vs. the store-bought kit?
Originally published in 2014 and regularly vetted for accuracy.