How to Dye Food With Red Cabbage

Do you want to make some colorful desserts but don't want to use food coloring? With red cabbage, you can create colors by making the most of natural chemical reactions from the ingredients. Not only is it a good alternative to using chemical food coloring, it's also a good way to encourage children to get involved in cooking.


  1. 1
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    Cut one red cabbage into thin strips.
    Boil the red cabbage strips in water to cover. Once boiled, remove the cabbage and save the liquid. Pour it through a sieve or colander, catching the liquid in a bowl. Allow the purplish liquid to cool.
  2. 2
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    Divide the liquid between separate bowls.
    This is so that you can make different colors. Add a little flour to the bowls. This will thicken the liquid slightly; you'll see that the liquid changes to a slight pastel pink shade, as shown in the image.
  3. 3
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    Create some color changes.
    Add one or more of the following ingredients to change the colors of each liquid (note that the color changes will tend to be pastel shades):
    • Add a little egg yolk: The color changes to yellow.
    • Add a drop of lemon juice: The color changes to red.
    • Add a pinch of baking soda: The color changes to green.
    • No flour or other items: The color stays bluish purple (the cabbage color)
    • Only flour: The color stays pale pink.
  4. 4
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    Use the colored liquids to make colored sweet food.
    In the example here, the colored liquids have been used to create a custard-like sweet dish. To sweeten a dish, obviously you'll need to add something more to the colored batter or liquid you've made, or the food will taste bland despite the lovely coloring. Suggestions for sweeteners include:
    • Melted chocolate
    • Jam, such as "Takoyaki"
    • Image titled Red bean paste anko 5962
      A good recommendation is adzuki bean paste.[1]
    • Sugar or syrup
    • Or add sweetener after baking––you might like to add butter and syrup on the cooked food before eating.


  • Crepe or pancake batter is excellent for coloring using this method.
  • Yogurt (left) and milk
    Foods like blueberries, eggplants and grapes, containing "anthocyanin", produce interesting color effects. For example, if a blueberry is added to yogurt, it gives the yogurt a red tinge.
  • Put in drop of lemon juice. (right)
    Lemon juice can change the color too.
  • Put in drop of sauce. (right)
    You can also use Worcestershire sauce as a coloring.
  • "Suizenji" rape plant (Brassica napus)
    This plant is another possible color source. Experiment with edible plants grown in your own garden or purchased from your usual fruit and vegetable market.
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    For a savory dish, pour the liquid into a separate muffin hole or similar mold and then add savory items (chopped up). In this image, some savory items such as scallion and mushroom were also added.


  • Don't use too much baking soda. It will spoil the taste and can leave the diner feeling queasy.
  • Image titled Color5_176
    Note that commercial powder for making pancakes contains soda already, so it won't react and produce vivid color.

Things You'll Need

  • Red cabbage
  • Flour
  • Egg
  • Lemon
  • Baking soda
  • Oil
  • Butter
  • Syrup / Jam / ....
  • Cookware

Sources and Citations

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