wikiHow to Add Food Coloring to Food

Baking and cooking with food coloring adds another creative dimension to your food recipes. Working with food coloring requires you to mix primary colors according to the color wheel. However, premixed gel and paste colors are also available in the market. The best type of food to color is a white food, such as frosting or cake, which will show colors well. Choose the type of coloring that fits your style of cooking, and start coloring a single drop at a time.


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    Choose your type of food coloring. Different food coloring options have different advantages, so you may decide based on the ease of use, amount of use and richness of the color.
    • Traditional liquid food coloring is available in supermarkets, craft stores and online. It comes in 4 different bottle colors: red; yellow; blue; green. It can be messy to work with, and it can permanently stain clothes in its concentrated form. You must use the basic tenets of the color wheel to mix these colors into many different shades across the color spectrum.
    • Concentrated pastes are available in baking stores and craft stores. They create beautiful, rich colors; however, some people believe they produce a metallic or bitter taste, and so they can offset the taste of the food. They can be expensive, depending upon your local shopping outlet.
    • Many professional bakers use soft gel pastes. They are widely available from baking outlets and online sources. These are tasteless and come in dozens of shades, so you don't have to mix them yourself. However, they can be expensive. You may need to prepare food in bulk to get good value out of them. Make sure to buy the .75 oz. (22ml) bottles rather than the 4.5 oz. (133ml) bottles.
    • Research organic food coloring. If you are doing vegan baking, then most liquid and paste food coloring will be off-limits. This is because food colorings are sometimes made from insect shells and chemicals.
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    Get to know your color wheel. Print off a color wheel from the internet. Visiting sites that give a refresher course on color theory will help you to produce secondary and tertiary colors.
    • Go to for some good images and information on the color wheel.
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    Start with one color, a drop at a time. You may feel as if you have to mix the colors before you add them to the food; however, this is not necessary. They will mix in if you add a drop of 1 color and drops of another color.
    • Each food will respond to coloring differently. Always add the coloring 1 drop at a time.
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    Add drops of colors while the food is in the mixer, if possible. If you are making baked goods, then chances are you can receive mechanical help to mix colors thoroughly.
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    Use white food coloring to make white food. Very few foods are perfectly white. If you want to have this effect, then buy white gel or paste separately.
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    Consult the Food Network's "Frost by Numbers" section. This magazine and website has detailed research on how to create the most rich and unusual colors on the color wheel. Learn to make shades like pink lemonade, dinner mint and pinot noir.
    • Visit Food Network's color chart to access the online version. If you want the magazine copy, you can request the May 2012 issue.
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    Use relatively large amounts of food coloring to make deep shades of red, black or brown. These shades are harder to form and may take up to 1 oz. of food coloring.
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    Color your food at least 1 hour before decorating. If you are baking or cooking the food, this may not apply. You will be able to tell if the color will fade or remain vibrant.
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    Avoid coloring foods in brown if they have a lot of acid in them. Omit the cream of tartar, vinegar or lemon juice. Using brown food coloring with this type of acidic food may result in a greenish hue.
    • Acidic foods can also cause violet to look blue. Adjust accordingly.
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    Use organic food coloring, if you want to use natural methods. A number of fruits, vegetables and spices can be added to food to change the color. Make sure to use these colorings carefully, because they may change the flavor.
    • Add beetroot juice to your food to give it a ruby-red color. In some foods, some of the red can bake out, but the naturally sweet juice will give a very slight sweetened boost to baked goods. Use beet juice from the can or juice your own beets.
    • Juice carrots to add an orange color. These vegetables are also pleasantly sweet and good in both sweet and salty foods.
    • Use saffron or turmeric very sparingly for a yellow color. These spices are strong, so research a recipe to take the potent flavor out of them before using them in sweet foods.
    • For a green color, use liquid chlorophyll or spinach. A few cups of spinach gives a mild flavor but a rich color to light foods. It mixes well with fruits without adding a vegetable flavor.
    • Boil red cabbage to create purple dye. Add the purple water to your recipe. Add some baking soda - a little at a time to the purple water to make a blue dye.


  • If food coloring gets on clothes, rinse it with lukewarm water. Apply vinegar or lemon juice to red stains before rinsing. Follow up with a commercial cleaner soon after you rinse it.
  • Purple carrots can create a nice soft purple color.


  • Don't allow condensation to form on recently colored food. In some cases, the condensation may cause the colors to bleed

Things You'll Need

  • Liquid food coloring
  • Concentrated colored paste
  • Soft gel paste
  • Electric mixer
  • Color wheel
  • Plastic wrap
  • White food coloring
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Spices
  • Red cabbage
  • Baking soda
  • Water

Article Info

Categories: Basic Cooking Skills