A Natural Red Dye for Easter Eggs

Holy Week is quickly approaching and one of the traditions of the Orthodox Christian is to color eggs red on Holy Thursday.   There are many dyes and food colors to help you get the job done but I prefer to use yellow onion skins.  It’s a natural dye.  It’s an ancient practice.  The color is a deep rich blood red and not a candy apple red. But mostly because it think it’s cool that yellow onion skins make red dye.

Making the dye with yellow onion skins

Collect yellow onion skins. Yes, YELLOW ONION SKINS. Not red onions.  Yellow. If I didn’t do it myself I wouldn’t believe it either. A large pot of yellow onion skins, when boiled for 30 minutes in 9 cups of water and 3/4 c of white vinegar makes a red dye.

Start by saving the yellow onion skins as you cook during the fast.  Set a container on the counter and add a little at a time.  If you don’t have enough you can ask your produce guy at your local grocery store to help you out.

One half grocery bag of skins is more than enough for the average household.

Place onion skins into a large pot. Pour 9 cups of water and 3/4 cup of white vinegar over the skins and smoosh them down.  Invert a plate and weigh it all down with a glass cup.

Cook for 30 minutes.

Turn off heat. Strain the skins in a colander, saving the dye in a clean pot. It’s a good idea to strain them again with a mesh strainer to remove little bits that can stick to the eggs when cooking or you can use coffee filters in the colander.

You can make the dye the day before to save time.

Dying the eggs red

Before you boil the eggs, take them out of the refrigerator so they can come to room temperature. This will prevent them from cracking. Also, I understand medium eggs dye better than large eggs and there are some who insist on using brown eggs instead of white.  I used medium white eggs for this post.

Place the room temperature eggs into the dye and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook, simmering eggs for 15 minutes.

Some tips on online chat groups include leaving the eggs in the dye for 30 minutes before heating the water or leaving the eggs in the dye over night after they are cooked.

 

 

Hot out of the pot they might look brown but as they cool they turn a deep blood red.

When they are just cool enough to touch, dip a rag into a small bowl of olive oil, and coat the eggs for a gloss.  Multiple applications of oil may be necessary.

Things to consider:  Use glass or stainless steel and be careful of staining your clothing.  And we encourage you to light a scented candle.  When you are working with onions, vinegar and boiled eggs, it can get a bit stinky.

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Vassi M Haros is a designer, photographer, blogger, wife and mom. She enjoys Southern living and thinks everyone should experience the South's hospitality. Called to serve Christ and the Orthodox Church, Vassi enjoys being able to offer note cards with an Orthodox Voice. She hopes you enjoy her photos and cards.

6 thoughts on “A Natural Red Dye for Easter Eggs”

    1. Good question. If you don’t have a lot of skins, then use half the water and vinegar. But if you have enough skins, then make a full batch and only use as much dye as you need to cover and boil the eggs. I don’t cook my eggs while I make the dye. I make the dye and strain it and cool it before I color the eggs. I hope this helps.

  1. You said “half a grocer bag” of skins. Is this’s half of a plastic or paper grocery bag? Unfortunately we have multiple choices of bags now.

    1. Thanks for the question. Cram them into a gallon freezer bag. This year I used about half a bag and was worried it wouldn’t be enough. But it boiled for 40 minutes and after it cooled I strained it and added 18 room temperature eggs. I needed a little more water to cover the eggs. After they boiled for 20 minutes they sat over night in the pot and this morning they were gorgeous. When they dried they looked blotchy and I was very worried. But after three coats of olive oil they looked fantastic again. But I will admit I was a little worried before the olive oil.

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