Christmas without food coloring? Is that even…possible?!? Well, sure. Just to be clear, we’re talking about artificial food dyes that come with letters and numbers (example: FD & C Blue #1). These products are widely used in the U.S. but require a warning label in Europe.
Artificial food colorings have been associated with hyperactivity in children in several studies. In fact, many parents who have eliminated them from their childrens’ diets have reported significant improvements in health and behavior. So steering clear of them is probably not a bad idea.
However, during the Christmas season it’s all but impossible to avoid red and green food coloring in special treats, especially desserts. And people seem to expect brightly colored cookies and treats. So of course it’s tempting to pile on the red and green sprinkles and frosting. But if you’re looking for ways to skip the food coloring over the holiday season, you’ve got lots of options.
For red dye:
Beet juice, cherry juice, cranberry juice, pomegranate juice.
For red trimmings:
Fresh or dried cranberries, strawberries, or raspberries; apples with the peel on; or pomegranate seeds. For something a little different, try goji berries. And of course for our favorite red option, consider rhubarb.
For green dye:
Spinach or other leafy greens cooked down; puree and/or use the water from cooking.
For green trimmings:
Rosemary, mint, basil, or other fresh herbs; kiwi fruit; pistachios; avocado.
Other splashes of color (for sweet or savory):
Find ways to use fruits like mango, blueberries, grapes, star fruit, lemon rind, orange rind, persimmons, or pineapples. There are also plenty of brightly colored vegetables you can use to add interest to dishes. Think carrots, bell peppers, purple cabbage, sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, zucchini, green peas, or kale.
Other decorative accents:
All varieties of nuts, cereal, granola clusters, raisins, sunflower seeds, dried apricots, dried plums, dates, popcorn.
Got other ideas for adding some color to your holiday cooking without food dyes? Let us know in the comments. Happy cooking!