Brighten Your Dishes The Healthy Way

Using the produce you have in the fridge, you can create your own dyes and adjust the color of food to capture the precise look you're after.

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April 28, 2017 3 min read

Everyone enjoys digging into a brightly colored, beautiful dish, but many are less enthusiastic about mass-produced dyes. They may be concerned about the possibility of health consequences from the chemicals used to make these colors or just prefer to use ingredients that weren’t produced in a lab. Fortunately, if you’re working toward a culinary arts certificate online, you’ll find there are plenty of creative, natural ways to bring an appealing look to the food you create.

With the right ingredients, there’s no need to resort to artificial coloring to get the hues you’re after. Using the produce you have in the fridge, you can create your own dyes and adjust the color of food to capture the precise look you’re after. Try out these ideas for capturing that natural beauty and then experiment with developing your own.

Crafting your own dye

“If you want to get away from using the dyes off the grocery store shelf, making a batch is easy.”

If you want to get away from using the dyes off the grocery store shelf, making a batch is easy. The Food & Wine offered directions, suggesting you use saffron, raw carrots or mangos for yellow, raspberries for red, and radicchio or red cabbage for blue.

If you’re turning raspberries or mangos into a dye, begin by placing a cup of the fruit in a blender. Liquefy and use a strainer to remove the seeds, leaving half a cup of juice. For carrots, chop up two and use a juicer, or, if you don’t have this tool handy, you can opt for a food processor instead.

Prepare cabbage by chopping a small head and placing it in a pot, covering the leaves with water. Heat to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 25 minutes. When the water is purple, take out the cabbage, strain the water and add a quarter teaspoon of baking soda to turn it blue.

Whatever color you choose, you can intensify it by pouring the juice into a saucepan and reducing. Place over a medium heat until the liquid thickens to become a vibrant paste. Then, you can add the coloring to a frosting, dough or batter to contribute the hue you’re looking for.

If you don’t want to use your coloring agent right away or you have some left over, preserve it by freezing. Just pour the dye into ice cube trays and store in the freezer. When you’re ready to bring some color to your next meal, take out the coloring and defrost.

Frosting is one great use for your homemade coloring.Frosting is one great use for your homemade coloring.

More colorful possibilities

There are plenty of other fruits and vegetables you can use to find just the right color for your dishes. Minimalist Baker provided a few ideas that could work well in the frosting for your next cake or batch of cookies. Try using beet or pomegranate juice for red, turmeric for yellow and matcha powder or spirulina for green.

Food scientists are also exploring the possibilities for natural coloring as an alternative to the artificial coloring commonly found in supermarkets. NPR reported purple sweet potato is one source of coloring that has shown great potential. The pigments from these root vegetables can be tailored to a range of shades, including the dark purple of grapes and a raspberry-like red.

Meanwhile, you can stock up on a few types of homemade coloring, so you’ll have the right dye at the ready when you need it for a dish. Finding natural alternatives to artificial chemicals is one way Austin culinary arts students can put their training to work.

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