Traditional European Easter Egg Coloring Methods

Spring is coming and Easter is only a few weeks away. Would you like to teach your kids how to dye eggs naturally, using traditional, Old-World dyeing methods? 

The book is a great resource for parents and grade-school teachers.

And you can save money, chemicals and packaging by using vegetables such as onion skins and cabbage for color. 

Click the picture below and buy this book today

(paperback and Kindle versions): 

This post was originally published on April 1, 2013 and updated on March 24, 2020.

This year I wanted to try my hand at coloring eggs for Easter in traditional ways. This bee got into my bonnet several years ago when I visited the Czech Republic at Easter and saw what fantastically beautiful eggs the farm women turned out using onion skins. In researching this method online, I found some other methods to color eggs as well. I even borrowed some ideas from Martha!

So here I show you how I experimented with some natural methods to color Easter eggs, that is, besides buying the Paas kit at the supermarkt.

Coloring eggs with red cabbage, beets and turmeric
First I cleaned the eggs with white vinegar and boiled them. Since my friend gives me free-range, organic brown eggs fresh from the hen, they often have little feathers, straw or even a little chicken poop on them. The vinegar takes care of all that and it also removes the red dye stamp from the ones that come from the supermarket. You can see that I used both white and brown eggs:

Next, I took the darkest, purplest red cabbage ever and chopped it. Then I cooked it down in a pot of water for a couple of hours to extract the color. I strained the cabbage out of the water at the end and let it cool. Then I added some vinegar and salt to complete the dye. My apartment smelled like a traditional German household at that point, what with the cabbage and vinegar reeking in the air!

Next I translated the word ‘turmeric’ into German (it’s Kurkuma) and found some at the local organic market. Turmeric is a beautiful deep yellow spice used in Indian cooking. I put lots of dried turmeric powder into some boiling water along with some vinegar and salt, per Martha’s instructions. So now my apartment smelled like an Indian-food restaurant.

Finally, I was lazy and drained off the juice from a jar of red beets instead of chopping some fresh ones and boiling them down, which you can do. So sue me.

Here you can see the cabbage dye on the left in the large bowl, the beet juice in the cup and the turmeric dye in the bowl on the right. Notice the red cabbage juice looks very much like the beet juice:

However, the egg on the left has been in the cabbage dye for a couple of minutes while the egg on the right has been in the beet juice. Notice the huge difference in color! The egg below that has been in the turmeric for a few minutes, too.

I put at least one white egg and one brown egg into each dye and let them sit for several hours. Here is the result. Clockwise from left, an undyed white and brown egg for comparison, four eggs that had been in the cabbage dye at the top, four eggs that were in the turmeric on the right and two eggs from the beet juice dye at the bottom.

Because this was my first try doing this, I’m not sure why the cabbage dye and the turmeric dye formed a thick coat of color on the eggs. I suspect it’s because of the hard German water. However, the coating was easily knicked and scratched. I rubbed it off on a brown and a white egg from each batch. Therefore, you can see two lighter blue eggs at the top and two lighter yellow ones at right. Maybe I shouldn’t have rubbed it off, but it made an interesting color texture. However, when the eggs dried completely, the coating became very stable and much better looking.

And that’s it! Get the book (click the link at the top) for these instructions and also those for using onion skins to color eggs. It’s fascinating!

Here’s a shot of all my eggs from this project:

The brown ones on the left are done with onion skins.

So, happy spring and happy egg coloring!

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