How to Dye Easter Eggs Naturally

How to celebrate Easter naturally

I love few things more than a basket full of colorful Easter eggs. Easter is important to our family and one of our favorite times of year, but I often find myself annoyed with the over-commercialization of what I consider a religious holiday. I also get peeved when Easter gets turned into an excuse to let kids (and ourselves) over-indulge in treats filled with sugars, food dyes, and artificial ingredients.

This year, I’m trying to make our celebration of Easter focused more on the actual reason for the holiday. (Hint: It doesn’t have anything to do with a bunny that brings eggs!)

Easter is a liturgical time of celebration, and one of the biggest feast days in the Church, so I’m glad to let the kids enjoy some treats. I’m opting though to keep some of our favorite traditions with healthy and natural twists.

Let me explain why!

“Natural” Easter Eggs and Easter Baskets … Too Extreme?

I admit, I don’t really understand the Easter tradition of a bunny (they don’t lay eggs) delivering plastic candy-filled eggs and baskets. I think giving our kids heaps of junk food at Easter (and other holidays) sets a precedent that associates celebrations with unhealthy foods. To me, there are better ways to set good food habits for a lifetime.

This may sound extreme to some. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with an occasional indulgence in a food that is less than healthy. But I think most concerned parents would agree that kids these days are getting these indulgences a little too often. From the birthdays of every kid in their class at school, to Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Easter, etc., there are more than enough opportunities for kids to get the message that fun and celebration = unhealthy tasty sweet foods.

(Perhaps that is just a pet peeve of mine though?!)

But let me get off my soap box … on to Easter eggs!

How to Dye Easter Eggs without Chemicals

Eggs are one of our favorite foods around here, so I certainly don’t have any problems with the eggs themselves. (As you may guess, it is the plastic, candy-filled versions I take issue with.)

It turns out though that the harmless-looking color tablets that you drop into vinegar water to dye Easter eggs contain harmful chemicals that could have an especially bad effect on some kids. True, we don’t eat the shells, but since eggshells are permeable and some kids are so sensitive to the harmful effects of artificial food dyes, I thought it was worth exploring more natural options.

After all, that’s what I’m about!

Option 1: Store-bought Egg Dye

To dye Easter eggs naturally the easy way, use a safe natural food coloring and mix according to the following ratios:

Option 2: Homemade Egg Dye from Beets (and Other Fruits and Vegetables)

If you don’t have natural food coloring around (we often don’t) you can also use random fruits, veggies, and herbs to accomplish the same thing. We tried this a few years ago and will be getting back to it this year.

Below are the foods that can be added to boiling water when cooking eggs to make various colors. You can also juice or boil the ingredients, cool, add vinegar and use as a regular egg dye:

  • Blue Coloring: Add a cup of purple cabbage to the water when boiling the eggs.
  • Green Coloring: Add a cup of spinach or a few teaspoons of spirulina to the boiling water. Can also juice greens, mix the juice with vinegar, and use as a cool dye once eggs have already been cooked.
  • Red/Pink Coloring: Pomegranate or beet juice added to the boil water. Can also put a couple tablespoons of vinegar in pomegranate or beet juice and use on pre-cooked eggs as a cool dye.
  • Purple Coloring: Add grape juice to boil water or soak pre-cooked eggs in grape juice/vinegar mix.
  • Yellow/Orange Coloring: Add a few teaspoons of turmeric or saffron to the boil water, or boil these spices in water, cool, and mix with vinegar for a cool dye.

Some notes: These natural variations make natural, pastel colored eggs which I think are more beautiful than the neon eggs created by the artificial colors. Just a warning though, you won’t be getting any florescent shades with these methods!

Strategies for Easter Egg Hunts

I’ve never been a huge fan of Easter egg hunts and would forgo them completely, but the kids do really look forward to them. Unfortunately, they usually result in a large bag of candy that somehow disappears when my kids are sleeping (maybe the Easter Bunny stole it!)

This year, we’re opting to let the kids participate in the Easter egg hunt at church, but last year, we did a treasure hunt with clues that led to a better prize (seeds for them to plant in their own little corners of the garden).

I prefer the alternatives to this one, but this year, I’m letting the kids participate, eat a couple pieces of the least offending candy, and then trashing the rest after they go to bed.

In the past, we’ve also hidden hard-boiled eggs for them to find (the dogs found the ones that they missed!) or just had a family day outside that involved a lot of other activities.

Healthy Candy-Free Easter Basket Ideas

I don’t have any problem with Easter being a time of joyful celebration and small gifts. As I mentioned before (probably too much!), it’s the plastic, candy-filled parts of this celebration I take issue with. That being said, I love baskets and store everything in them, so our kids get a (reusable) basket each year filled with (non-sugar) goodies.

Here are some ideas we’ve tried over the years that have been a hit!

Grow Your Own Grass

Using wheat, alfalfa, or clover seeds, grow grass in a small dish that will fit in the bottom of your basket. Use this instead of the plastic Easter grass that you are still finding under the couch in September. Kids love the novelty of growing grass indoors, and as a bonus, grass is supposed to be great at cleaning indoor air. You can even plant it outside with the kids after Easter. If you aren’t up for growing your own grass, shred paper in a shredder and use it instead. Recyclable when done!

Instead of a Basket, Give Your Child a Flower Pot

In the pot, put a small pair of gloves, a pack of heirloom seeds and a small shovel and let your child grow his or her own container garden. There are even pre-made totes for this. Herbs are one easy option, and kids can use them in the kitchen! This is guaranteed to provide longer lasting fun than plastic toys and pixie sticks.

Check Out Thrift Stores

We are on a budget, and doing Easter baskets for each kid sure adds up! Check out local thrift stores for some fun gifts for Easter baskets. For instance, one year our kids got a movie, a book, and some shoes each, and I spent less than $10 on all of it.

Adopt a Family Pet

If you are brave, consider a small pet. This reinforces the “new life” focus of Easter and will be a lot more exciting than candy and toys. Just be humane! Only adopt a pet if you plan to keep it and care for it as many baby chickens, ducks, and rabbits are abandoned after Easter.

Give Healthy Foods Instead of Junk

If your kids are looking forward to edible treats, substitute some treats that are healthy and fun. Consider beef jerky, fruit, nuts, or Homemade Energy Bars. Really brave? Make some homemade “peeps” with my probiotic marshmallow recipe.

Check out this post for some other Easter basket ideas! Happy Easter!

What are your favorite ways to dye your Easter eggs? When it comes to candy, do you stick with healthy versions of the usual treats or just let the kids enjoy for a day? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks below!

How to dye Easter eggs naturally

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Reader Comments

  1. When I was a child, my Mom came up with the coolest Easter Egg hunts. She would decide on a hard place to hide our baskets (like inside the van, on our neighbor’s porch, inside the washer and dryer, or in the garage’s attic) and then write a rhyming riddle on a piece of paper with clues to their location. She then cut the riddle up and put each piece in an egg. It was so fun putting the puzzle together and figuring out the clues! We also had a few metallic-colored plastic Easter eggs that she put coins in. One year she even put our baskets under the covers of our beds! The last year that we had the egg hunt, she wrote on both sides of the paper to make it even harder. This is obviously one of my favorite childhood memories. 🙂
    My kids are only 2.5 years and 8 months old, so I am only hiding a 12 or so eggs for the toddler this year. A couple will have chocolate coconut clusters and the rest will have semi-sweet chocolate chips, though we did fruit loops last year before going grain-free. Their Easter baskets have a book and a toy.

    •  I love this idea. My MIL hides all the kids (whole family including me (the DIL) real baskets.
      My children get one gift, one choc cross, and some dyed eggs in their baskets.  I’ve picked up and added silk flowers weaved into (my daughter) and mini sport things (glued on) (my son). 

  2. stickers, coins and other little things work great in an easter egg hunt.

  3. Thought of you at Easter dinner. We hosted this year and had no-noodle lasagna (amazing!), spinach salad, roasted asparagus and chocolate covered strawberries. Everyone raved about the food and no one missed the rolls and candy, but what I did notice was missing was the horrible “just ate lead” feeling I usually have after a holiday dinner. My daughter also had her first solid food that day so everyone could be there for the fun. Everyone was surprised that I was giving her avocado and not cereal or fruit, but she loved it! Next up is egg yolk- we just happen to have a couple million hard boiled multicolored eggs laying around 🙂 Seriously, if you have not tried no-noodle lasagna, it is a MUST!

    • That dinner sounds amazing! I would love to try the no-noodle
      lasagna. I’ve actually been meaning to experiment with that one for
      the sake of my Italian husband, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.
      If you’d like to share the recipe, I’d love to try it (and also to
      post to share with others if you don’t mind!)

      • It’s very easy! For a 9 x 13 pan: Mix 2 cups shredded zucchini or summer squash or riced cauliflower with 2 eggs and 2 cups shredded cheese. Then just use your favorite lasagna recipe, adding at least one egg to the ricotta mixture (I used 2) and in place of the noodles smoosh in a layer of the veggie/egg/cheese mixture. Cover loosely with foil. Bake at 325 until just set (not wobbly when you shake the pan). It takes about an hour or so. Because it takes so long, I’d recommend making your top layer sauce and adding shredded cheese towards the end of cooking, otherwise it will be very dark. It holds up beautifully, no slippery noodles to collapse and tastes amazing!

  4. Great post with nice alternatives!  I too have issues with a bunny for Easter, which I still don’t get, and all the sweet treat action that takes place during a holy time.  This is our first Easter since being paleo and my mom was unsure what to get us since we don’t eat/allow sweets, etc.  She ended up getting our daughter some books & clothes (which are always needed) and an edible arrangement for the whole family. 

    Another alternative for the lasagna is to use sliced eggplant instead of the noodles; it is delish!

  5. These are some great ideas. We have forgone Easter (or Ishtar) Sunday for celebrating Passover and Christ’s resurrection on First Fruits along with The Feast of Unleavened Bread, which the beginning of the Book outlines for us. It is a wonderful picture to show the kids what Yeshua HaMaschiach (Jesus the Messiah) has done for us. Anyway, we did Easter for many years and it was always difficult to stick to our dietary principles especially at church! Plus I never understood why EVERYONE including those outside the church celebrated it. Just my own convictions speaking here. I realize it is a joyous time for many families, a part of “church” tradition, and not everyone is thinking pagan fertility rite when they celebrate. I do appreciate the alternative food ideas. Thanks!

  6. I was thinking of harvesting some moss for the bottom of my son’s (4.5 yrs) Easter basket, but instead I used a soft lime-green blanket that I had from his baby days. He was surely expecting candy, so I got a natural chocolate bunny, organic chocolate eggs, organic jelly beans and organic fruit juice lollipops http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001O8R9SS/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B001O8R9SS&linkCode=as2&tag=wellnessmama-20&linkId=WV7NOL5JX7PTUQHV

    His father has turned him on to cadbury eggs, so he got two of those: one for him and one to share with Dad. Besides the candy, which will last him a long time (which is nice, because it means I he won’t be asking for other treats), he got some toys. A jump rope, a bug jar necklace, two hotwheels cars, a Rail Twirler, a styrofoam plane from Playmobil, a flower seed packet, and an assortment of crystals. It’s not all that natural, but it’s things that I know my son loves and will use the heck out of.

    As far as egg hunts, we divide our dyed edible eggs and hide them around the house. Then we have tons of fun trying to find each other’s hidden eggs, giving clues and trying to remember where we hid them. We usually repeat this a few times!

    I wrote up a list of  ideas for Easter Basket gifts that are natural/handmade/useful. If anyone is interested I’ll copy it here.

  7. I disagree with your advice to give animals for Easter. Too many of them end up in shelters, turned loose or neglected. I’m sure you do not but I’ve seen bunnies and chicks disgarded because they grew up.

    • I second this comment – let’s not encourage people into buying animals they will later discard (even if they originally have good intentions). Why not encourage people to donate or volunteer for an animal shelter/rescue instead? many will be over burdened this time of year dealing with pregnant cats (“new life”) and would likely really appreciate the extra money and help. And you’d be teaching your kids to treat vulnerable animals will love and respect.

  8. I will actually be using your gummy vitamin recipe for my kids this Easter. I will be putting them in a bunny candy mold to make it special. They will also each get an 18g bunny shaped, organic, fair trade, soy free, chocolate wrapped in foil. 🙂 We have many reasons to celebrate this time of year, we mark the equinox especially. We save the egg hunt for Easter Monday because that is closer to when others usually do it and it means we have a week or more to do special crafting, recipes, games, and dinners. Also, as a “holiday”, my husband is home and he can share in the fun. We do naturally dyed hard boiled eggs that we eat for breakfast while our oatmeal bakes. We also have some wooden and needle felted eggs that they find. Some open with a small treat or toy inside like a needle felted rabbit or small playsilk; even the occasional dollar coin!

    My children are 2.5 and 5 right now. Soon we will incorporate a scavenger hunt into the day. We did that for my stepdaughter to draw attention away from the fact that she was not getting as much candy or plastic as she would have at home. It was great fun. We will definitely use gardening gifts a lot. It is the time of year after all! 🙂

  9. I am so glad I am not the only one who trashes my kids’ holiday candy!! I know it is the right thing to do, but somehow I always feel mean. And the thing is my kids don’t even care – they just accept it.

  10. My boys will be getting organic fruit leather, organic fruit purees in a pouch, bubbles, a yo-yo, a jump rope, and some plush bunny ears. I grew up with a basket stuffed full of candy every year, but I can’t bring myself to give my children the poison that fills the seasonal aisle at all the stores. The only candy I’m comfortable giving them is a box of Trader Joe’s jelly beans. And, carrying on the tradition from my own childhood, each basket will have a brand-new toothbrush in it. I’ll be using recycled paper “grass” that I’ve been saving from year to year in a Ziploc bag. The main focus of the day, though, will be on the amazing miracles that we’re celebrating: Jesus rising and the planet giving us another spring.

  11. I never did Easter egg hunts, being an only child and not a church family there wasn’t anyone to hunt with. But my mom did hide my Easter basket (looking back it was the same basket every year) filled with Strawberries (my fave! we didn’t buy them much that time of year ’cause they got pricey), some chocolate, a movie, and a new book. Dad would bake cinnamon rolls, and we’d munch on them while watching my new movie. Fun times 🙂

  12. We use the same basket every year, and I’m super excited to try natural dyes this year. I scaled way back on the candy this year. Just some Jordan Almonds (my favorite) and a few chocolates, plus I’m going to make my own gummy treats. In exchange, I uped the awesomeness of our dinner. It’s going to be delicious. As for the animals, we already got some baby chicks this year, and they’re so great. I was going to wait until Easter, but I want eggs as soon as I can.

  13. Thanks for the great ideas. I’m trying the natural dyes this year, too. I just posted a neat and meaningful egg hunt, if you want to check it out. http://8littlearrows.wordpress.com/ . Keeps with the spirit of the Holy Day! Happy Easter!

  14. this year we dyed eggs in pieces of beautiful silk fabric from men’s ties, they came out with the colours and patterns perfectly, and was way easier than the onion skins I was planning to use

  15. We make our own hot cross buns to have on Good Friday. We used Paleo Parents cinnamon bread recipe into muffins and pade a cross from coconut flour and water. We go to Easter vigil Mass Saturday night and since we don’t get home till late we have a big breakfast feast. We made some home made chocolate eggs with good quality chocolate melted into a mould and filled with coconut clusters from Wellness Mama, peppermint patties from Elena’s pantry and a nut fudge recipe I can’t remember the source for. The children may have one or two a day until they are gone. I bake a roast lamb for dinner. I don’t usually give baskets but this year I found one shaped like a lamb and bought some Little People figures in plastic eggs to put inside. The religious significance of the lamb is our central focus.

  16. I love Easter egg hunts but maybe try filling eggs with things such as, day with mom, day at the park, get out of a chore etc. it will get rid of the candy you hate but still allow the kids to have fun. It also allows them to look forward to some fun things and one on one days. I do love the treasure hunt and we have done that before. Also, if you do allow them some candy then I would suggest making your own and that way you know what’s in it. You could maybe do just one egg filled with candy. I love the idea of them each getting flowers etc.

    • I LOVE LOVE LOVE your “coupon” idea. Thank you for that, I am going to do that.
      My kids also love money so we are going to hide some eggs with coins in them too.

  17. I agree with limiting sugary foods, but please don’t recommend people buy a pet instead – animals are a real commitment, and too many bunnies and other small animals get abandoned, and tossed aside a few months after Easter when the kids are done with them.

    • I couldn’t agree more.
      I work in an animal shelter and so many rabbits get surrendered because they were bought as gifts. Never mind the countless cats and dogs.

  18. I love Easter and believe it should be as big a holiday as Christmas (Isn’t Jesus’s resurrection a greater event in our faith than His birth?) But I think it’s important to be aware of the origins of this holiday, how it saved lives and what it means for us today. This helps me find new ways to make this holiday special… I’m about to write a lot so bear with me for a little history lesson…..

    Easter originated from a variation of the pagan holiday “Eostre”, a fertility celebration. When I was in Ireland on a Pilgrimage in 2004 I learned that Eostre was a month (also from whence we get the word April) long celebration that focused on fertility and new life after the winter. It was a holiday centered around sex, birth and prosperity. In many places, Eostre was a time when a woman could approach any man she wanted to sleep with and it was his duty to respect her wishes; refusing her was a crime punishable by death (I read about this when studying St Kevin (St. Caoimhghín in Gaelic)). There is a story of St Kevin being torn about maintaining his celibacy or facing persecution/death from disrespecting the woman who approached him during this holiday.) For monogamous Christians, it was a difficult time to avoid sinning through promiscuity while maintaining their covers. In order to avoid standing out and being killed for their faith, many Christians adopted the other festive practices of Eostre, including “new life” as depicted by baby animals and eggs as reminders of Christ’s resurrection.

    When I think of the creativity early Christians had to implement to survive this time, I am so grateful that they were able to pass along Christ and this holiday to us today. For me, this is a celebration of human ingenuity, freedom of religion and new beginnings. I’m expecting my first child now but for our youth group at church, my husband and I sing songs, play outdoor games, make puppets, reenact Christ’s resurrection (much like nativity plays) and make sure that the kids are very aware that it is because people a long, long time ago had trouble being Christians and had to make secret celebrations to fit in, we get to be open about our faith now and celebrate/thank them for their perseverance during such difficult times.

  19. sorry, but pets should NEVER be given as gifts. Getting a pet is a huge responsibility and should be a famil discussion, not something you give because you don’t want to buy candy.
    I work at an animal shelter and I can not tell you how many animals are surrendered because they were given as gifts.

    Books, craft supplies, even a new bike is a much better gift.
    You can also fill those plastic eggs with coins instead of candy.
    You can buy Lego sets and put all the pieces in the eggs and your child has to build the Lego set once they collect all the eggs.
    There are So Many more options, delete the live animal option should be done.

  20. What I love most about this article is your willingness to flex for the kids on a holiday. No kid likes to be the odd-man-out trying to look cool while there friends compare holiday notes. It does happen. If you flex with them on the big days, and you are consistent on all the little days, they will learn to balance their choices when they are older. And believe me, they do get older and whether or not to have an egg hunt or allow them to eat candy becomes a moot point.

  21. Since ancient times rabbits have been associated with spring. It is believed that Anglo-Saxon Goddess of Spring, Eostre had a hare as her companion. The hare symbolizes fertility and rebirth. Later Christians changed the symbol of the hare to the Easter bunny.

    Also the animals are a good idea when it is a family discussion, last year my husband and I got 2 chicks for our children as we had been preparing for it for a while. I think most people on here who have said it’s a bad idea think of the silly superficial people rather than the majority of responsible people. Animals can also teach responsibly and care to children too.

    I totally agree that the focus of Easter needs to go back into the death and resurrection of Jesus and away from the commercial push for chocolates.

    My children will be getting a small toy a homemade chocolate and book as my extended family still love to buy them chocolate…

    We love to have a special Easter breakfast too with hot chocolate
    (As we are in Australia it is starting to get cooler)

  22. So enjoyed reading this post as we close out Easter this year. While my kids are now grown and haven’t really been big into Easter baskets, this year our 3 yr old grand daughter Willa’s with us, so we wanted to make it special for her. My husband did the basket and picked up some great gifts: books and bath stuff, while I did the Easter eggs. I decided to try some home dying with eggs that I done with wool (I enjoy using a drop spindle), so we had bright blue (cabbage), sunny yellow (turmeric) and walnut brown (raspberry and hibiscus). While it was a bit more work than I normally do it was an enjoyable activity and I loved how the colors turned out.

  23. I am cutting out the entire coloring this year… we raise a few hens who lay colored eggs. We get brown, pink, and blue in a variety of shades. Colored eggs, no dye, no chemicals, problem solved!

  24. This post has great ideas for dying eggs and Easter basket ideas, but I must say that I have to disagree with the animal one. I know that you have mentioned to “be humane and only adopt a pet if you plan to keep it and take care of it” But there is an incredible amount of animals brought to shelters shortly after Easter. And with kids, it’s very likely they will be excited with it for the first few weeks, and then pretty soon you’re going to have to take care of it; or give it to a shelter. It’s sad. And if you’re going to get a pet, you need to do a lot of research, you can’t just get a pet, unsure of exactly how to take care of them. Plus, with all the excitement for other things on Easter, the pet will probably be forgotten quite quickly, As Easter for a lot of people is a busy day. And if you really wanted a pet, wouldn’t you rather make that a separate special occasion? Why have to merge it with Easter and crowd it with all this other stuff? Oh, it’s because you need an alternative to candy, or you want to “teach them about life” The average bunny lives for around 7-12 years; so unless you get an older bunny, that bunny is probably gonna be there for a while. How about instead you plan a separate trip to a shelter, and volunteer there? If they seem very interested and dedicated about getting a pet, you can even consider it. I highly suggest that you don’t get a pet for Easter. If you have been thinking about it for months, then it might be okay. But with all the Easter celebration your pet will probably just be forgotten. Or after a few weeks the excitement will wear off. With kids, you could mention it to them, then wait a couple weeks/months and see if they are still really interested. Now all kids are different, and some may be more interested than others, but I have seen so many pets on Petfinder and animal forums talking about these piggies that they had to give to a shelter because their kids weren’t interested in them anymore. I love your blog and really appreciate you writing this post, but I wanted to mention this because it’s not really a “brave” thing to do, but more risky and careless if not done right.

    • Part of childhood is learning responsibility and how to care for things, pets included. The age of the child and their maturity level should dictate what type of pet (if any) is appropriate for the child and when they should be able to take on the responsibility of caring for it. Since Easter is the celebration of Christ rising from the dead, it is celebrated in the Spring, because of the symbolism of growth and new life, which is why it’s a great time for a child to get a pet. It’s a teaching lesson. Thanks for weighing in!

  25. Where I live, eggs are traditionally dyed by cooking with onion skins. They get a nice warm brown shade and a special flavour. My cousins , my brother and I had an egg hunt at my grandma’s beautiful flower garden. It was always an egg and a book or a piece of clothing for the spring.

  26. I love this so much and agree with all you said, candy is scary to mr and I just don’t want it to be an option!

    I’m a big ratio person though, so as far as the natural dyes go, any specifics? How much boiling water to how much fruit/other for the boil method and how much cold juice to vinegar, etc.

    Thank you!

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