No egg dyeing kit? Dye eggs without a kit instead using items you probably already have on hand like food coloring, Jello, gelatin, or Kool-Aid!
It’s pretty much Easter, right? And maybe you got here because you realize that you don’t have any time left to decorate eggs. But the kids probably still want to. And maybe you don’t want to go out to the store and run around with all of the other people that left Easter stuff until the last minute.
So today you’re totally going to want me to be your BFF because I’m about to save Easter for the littles! Perhaps that is a bit dramatic, but…
If you want to dye Easter eggs with the kids but don’t want to get out, I’ve got you. I literally took the things out of my pantry that I though would dye eggs like Jello and Kool-Aid and I’m sharing the results of those totally last minute Easter egg dyes. Or, heck, maybe just for fun dyes!
Jello might be a bit out there for you, but I absolutely swear you can dye Easter eggs without a kit and get amazing results. See those jewel tone beauties up there? Food coloring. I mean, it’s technically what those little pellets of dye are in the kits you get, but when you DIY you have so many more options for colors. If you have ever baked in your life I’m guessing you have at least one little package of four food colors.
And today we’re going to make some gorgeously dyed solid colored eggs. Heck, I’ll even teach you how to boil the things. With Easter happening pretty much now, why don’t we get started? :)
How to Hard Boil Eggs
Boiling eggs is as easy as set it and forget it. Almost.
Start by carefully placing raw eggs into a pot or saucepan. Cover with 1-2″ of water. Add vinegar and/or salt to help prevent the eggs from cracking. Vinegar will also help prevent the whites from any eggs that cracked anyway from spilling out into the water, turning it into a foamy mess. Adding vinegar or salt also helps your eggs peel more easily.
Place the pot on a cool burner, turn on the heat and bring the water to a boil. Once a boiling turn off the heat and allow the eggs to sit in the hot water on the heat source for 11-14 minutes depending on size. Note * If your burner doesn’t retain heat after it has been turned off, reduce the heat to the lowest setting.
- Medium Eggs: 11 minutes
- Large Eggs: 12 minutes
- Extra Large Eggs: 13 minutes
- Jumbo Eggs: 14 minutes
Once the time is up, remove the hard boiled eggs with a slotted spoon and place into ice water to stop further cooking.
Quick Tip * Older eggs do better when peeling. If you need to use your boiled eggs for something that will be pretty, like deviled eggs, you’re going to get better looking peeled eggs with older ones than fresh ones you just got from the store.
Quick Reminder – Always refrigerate boiled eggs that will be consumed. Boiled eggs should not be left out for more than 2 hours if they will be eaten.
Why are my boiled eggs cracked?
Perhaps the temperature of your eggs is changing too quickly. If you’re getting a lot of cracked eggs, allow them to reach room temperature before placing in a pot of cool water. If you’re still experiencing cracking, allow the eggs a little warm up at half heat, then turning up the heat to catch a boil.
Give your eggs room to move around in the pot. They’re going to shimmy around and need a little space to do so. Overpacking your pan or pot will always lead to a lot of cracked eggs.
Still having trouble? Use a pushpin to poke one hole in the fatter end of the egg. This breaks that little air pocket in the bottom of the eggs and can help to prevent them from cracking.
Sometimes despite best efforts, some eggs just crack. I always plan on having egg salad for dinner :) And don’t forget, you can also “boil” eggs in your air fryer they crack a less often but you always have to give them a quick wash because they go spotty.
Supplies & Tools Needed to Dye Easter Eggs without a Kit
- Boiled Eggs ( see directions above or try our easy Air Fryer Hard Boiled Eggs!)
- Vinegar or Other Acid
- Food Coloring (see below for recommendations)
- Metal Whisk or Tablespoons or Slotted Spoons
- Thick glasses (I used handled beer steins from Dollar Tree) or Mason Jars
- Acrylic Craft Felt or Paper Towels (for drying)
- Food Coloring, Jello, Gelatin, or Kool-Aid
I have used a lot of brands of food coloring over the years. Here is my take on the different brands.
Wilton Gel Food Colors in Neon and Primary Colors are a great option. The colors are strong and bright and transfer really well to eggs with about 10-15 drops per half cup of water. However, I don’t like their green because it is more of a yellow green with brown undertones. Also, I never use the purple because it separates into pink and blue and doesn’t give an even purple color. Lastly, there isn’t a lot of difference between the yellow and orange but they’re both nice colors.
Mc Cormick Food Colors in Assorted Colors and Neon can be found at pretty much any grocery store and is inexpensive. I don’t care for the blue because it comes out kind of gray and is never a nice, even color. But I love the yellow and green (more of a grass green).
Adams Extract Color Pack (might be regional?) Good colors, but wind up using all of each bottle for strong colors on dyed eggs.
Wilton Icing Colors Don’t do it. The consistency is very paste-like and I’ve never been able to fully dissolve it into water, even if boiling. You wind up getting dots of very dark color where the food color just didn’t dissolve.
ChefMaster Liqua-Gels These are my favorite for baking with, hands down. However these colors are also paste-like and darn near possible to fully dissolve.
Vinegar or Other Acid
Dyes in water won’t cut it when dyeing Easter eggs. You need some acidity so that the color bonds with the porous surface of the egg (Want a whole lot of detail about this? Read The Science Behind Perfectly Dyed Easter Eggs over at Wired.)
I use vinegar because I always have it on hand and it’s cheap. However, you can substitute citric acid (used for cooking or making bath bombs) or even lemon or lime juice.
Whisk or Metal Spoons
Never use wood handled spoons unless you don’t mind them catching the color (and never giving it up). I like to use the larger slotted spoons that come with most flatware sets. A whisk also comes in super handy, especially if you’re dyeing eggs with kids or anybody who has a hard time holding things. Pop the egg into the whisk and hand it over. You don’t have to worry about the egg rolling off of a spoon and cracking!
Here’s a quick video of using a whisk to dye Easter eggs:
Protect Your Clothes and Workspace
Dyeing Easter eggs is always messy business. Don’t dye eggs on wood surfaces (especially unfinished or unsealed wood). If wood takes the color it’s really hard to get rid of. If dyeing on other tables or Formica, lay a plastic tablecloth on top (you can get these for cheap from Walmart). The best option when dyeing indoors is on a Stainless Steel surface. I dye eggs on my island and I get the color EVERYWHERE. No color stains, yet!
If the weather is nice and you’re dyeing eggs with kids, I prefer go outdoors. Lay a plastic tablecloth on top of your porch or driveway and get after it! Even if food coloring does get on concrete, I’ve never had the color linger for long.
Wear clothes you don’t mind staining, just in case the color doesn’t wash out. You can wear gloves to protect against your skin staining. I typically just apply lotion to my hands before starting and I give my hands a good wash when I’m done and the color is gone by the next morning.
How to Dye Easter Eggs with Food Coloring
The most common way you’ll want to dye Easter eggs without a kit is to use food coloring. It’s super inexpensive and the color always comes out much more vibrant than with a store-bought kit.
Use a high ratio of white vinegar to water to dye quicker.
I like to use a ratio of 50% water to 50% white vinegar. I don’t buy anything special when it comes to vinegar. In fact, what I’ve used for my Easter egg tutorials this year is vinegar from the dollar store. It was inexpensive but it works like a champ.
Or – soak your eggs in pure vinegar prior to dyeing.
If you don’t have a ton of vinegar on hand you can always soak white eggs in a bowl of vinegar. This means you can reuse the same vinegar over and over where adding it to the dye obviously limits it to that one color. Don’t leave your eggs in the vinegar longer than 30 seconds, or so, or it will start to eat away at the shell making them very easy to break.
Use HOT water.
When mixing up your 50/50 you don’t need to pay for distilled, you can use regular tap water. But you do want that water to be VERY HOT. Typically the hottest water from your faucet will do. But since it takes ages for my water to run to get that hot, I choose to zap it in the microwave for less water waste.
If dyeing eggs with children, use the hottest water you’re comfortable with them using. Make sure it isn’t hot enough to scald and supervise use.
Add 10-20 drops of food coloring of your choice to the water.
Use more drops for lighter colors, like yellow, and less for darker colors, like blue. More dye doesn’t always translate to more color sometimes it is just more of a mess.
Dip your eggs into the dye, making sure they are fully submerged. Check on the eggs every 30-seconds to a minute and remove when you’ve achieved the color you want. Hot water will help your dye transfer to the egg much more quickly. This incredibly saturated red was achieved in only a minute and a half in the dye solution. If you start to notice your eggs aren’t taking the color as quickly, it’s likely because the water has cooled down. Zap it in the microwave to heat the water back up.
Want Dark Jewel Tone Easter Eggs?
You can make some stunning navy, aubergine, terra cotta, moss green and claret colored Easter eggs without any extra effort. Just dye brown eggs instead of white and you’ll get some stunning colors!
Here is a side-by-side of the same dye on a white or brown egg. Cool, right?
How to Dye Easter Eggs with Jello Gelatin or Kool-Aid
No food coloring? No problem! This year I decided to give things in my pantry a go to see how they would work out. I dyed Easter eggs with Jello Gelatin, Royal Gelatin, Hill Country Fare Sugar Free Gelatin, and Kool-Aid. Here’s how each turned out and my thoughts for each…
How to Dye Easter Eggs with Royal Gelatin
I used a full 1.41 oz package of gelatin in 1 cup of boiling water and added 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Egg rested in dye for 30 minutes.
Honestly, I wouldn’t dye eggs with Royal gelatin ever again. I was super disappointed in the light color and I guess it was the sugar, but the egg wouldn’t stay submerged. The results in color above are after the egg sat for THIRTY minutes. Also, note the high sheen on the egg? That’s sticky and it never stopped being sticky.
How to Dye Easter Eggs with Jello Gelatin
I measured out 2 oz package of Jello gelatin and placed it in 1 cup of boiling water and added 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Egg rested in dye for 10 minutes.
After the disappointing results with the Royal Gelatin I decided to try the big mambajamba name brand Jello gelatin. The color I got was nice and bright but a little speckled. It also had the sticky sheen to it but after allowing it to sit out at room temperature for most of the day, the stickiness went away and just left a nice shine. Because gelatin eventually sets as it cools, you have to work kind of quickly and heat the mixture in the microwave often.
If you need to handle the eggs quickly after dyeing, I’d give any gelatin with sugar a hard pass.
How to Dye Easter Eggs with Sugar-Free Gelatin
I used an entire 0.44 oz package in 1/2 cup of boiling water and added 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Egg rested in the dye for 5 minutes.
In all honesty, sugar-free gelatin is a pretty great way to dye Easter eggs. The color was nice and saturated after only 5 minutes. While the egg was slightly sticky after removing it from the dye, it dried and wasn’t sticky anymore. The only trouble with using any kind of gelatin is that after it begins to cool, it starts to solidify (like it’s supposed to) and might leave dark spots on your eggs.
How to Dye Easter Eggs with Kool-Aid
I used an entire 0.15 oz package of Kool-Aid Unsweetened Drink Mix in 1/2 cup of boiling water with 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Egg rested in the dye for 5 minutes.
Last, and the best non-food coloring Easter egg dye is Kool-Aid. There’s no sugar in a traditional packet of unsweetened Kool-Aid but tons of color. After resting for only 5 minutes I had the brightest orange results of every alternative dye. Because there is no gelatin to set, you can use Kool-Aid over and over again to dye a ton of eggs, too! The eggs are a bit matte and the surface a bit coarse which is a little off-putting. A tiny drop of vegetable oil rubbed into the shell fixed this up and made for some pretty gorgeous Kool-Aid dyed eggs. I would definitely use Kool-Aid in the future.
Finish your eggs a pretty sheen with vegetable oil.
It’s amazing a drop of vegetable can do for pretty Easter eggs. Once the dye of your choice has dried place a drop of vegetable oil onto the surface. Rub the oil into the shell with your hands and then use a paper towel to buff away the excess. Once done the egg should have a lovely shiny sheen but no longer be slippery. This makes bright colors really pop and dark tones look especially strong!
Why do my Dyed Eggs Look Bad?
Have you run into some issues? Looking for lovely, solid dyed eggs but not getting great results? Here are the most common problems I’ve run into. Feel free to ask questions in the comments if your issue is not addressed and I’ll do my best to help.
Why do my eggs have dark spots on them?
If you have even one egg that cracks it can get onto the shells of the other eggs and leave a film. When dyed, this film takes the color more strongly giving you an uneven dye. If you try to wipe the darker spots off, it might work, but it will leave a white, undyed spot in its place.
To prevent these spots I’ve gotten in the habit of using my sink sprayer to remove any gunk, even gunk I can’t see. If you want to wash your eggs, always use little pressure with something soft. Scrubbing the top layer off of your eggs causes a whole new set of problems.
Sorry, no pics. Any eggs with this flaw were apparently eaten for lunch today :) Will update when I dye eggs again next year!
My eggs are rough in places and the color isn’t even!
You scrubbed your eggs too hard and removed the top layer of the shell that’s sort of shiny. Underneath that shiny layer is super porous and will take the color oddly and be super rough to the touch. If you need to wash a batch of eggs from a broken white in the pot either rinse them with the sprayer or gently rub away any gunk with something soft like a wet rag or paper towel to avoid this disaster. (The worst of them all IMO.)
Why do my dyed Easter eggs have white lines on them?
In all honesty I have no clue on this one but I have noticed that some brands/batches will all go stripy in any color or brand of dye, Kool Aid, gelatin, whatever. I’m thinking maybe it has to do with machinery moving them around and causing lines on the shells? But honestly that is purely speculation. I have literally no clue how eggs are processed :)
To minimize the lines on eggs that you’ve already tried to dye, allow the egg to fully dry and dip into the dye bath again. Often (but not all of the time) you can minimize the lines to the point of being hardly noticeable. Some times you’ll need multiple drying and dyeing sessions to make the lines less noticeable.
I refrigerated my eggs and now they look terrible!
Unfortunately, this is a thing. When boiled eggs in the shell are refrigerated, some liquid seeps out through the pores of the shell. As this liquid comes out, it can create white spots on the egg where it removes the dye. If possible, try dyeing your eggs right before they are needed. If you have too many eggs to do that you can always allow dyed and refrigerated eggs (this is important!) to come to room temperature and dip in a quick dye bath to help minimize those spots. Full disclosure, unfortunately, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
My eggs are speckled with lighter colored spots!
In all honesty I think these eggs are always so pretty but if you’re going for solid and vibrant, this ain’t it. These dots of a different color (not white) seem to be a problem when there is too much food color in the water. You would think that if you have more dye in the water you wouldn’t have to soak them as long. And sometimes it works just fine. But often you get these crazy spots. I suggest going with 10-20 drops (less for darker colors, more for lighter – 25 drops TOPS for yellow) and allowing more time for them to sit in the dye.
My Eggs Have Patches of Missing Color!
If you lay your dyed eggs on paper towels to dry, there is a chance it will pull the dye away as it soaks up into the paper. Resting your eggs on acrylic craft felt will help. Just remember to roll the egg around every now and again so that the full egg dries.
My Purple Eggs Look Awful!
Color separation is a common problem for blue, purple, and black dyed eggs. The color separates and you can get areas where only the blue takes and the pink/red or green, or what have you, takes on another part of the egg.
It can be a totally random mess. As far as dye goes, I have had the best results with the purple in the McCormick neon colors set. But you can still have purple eggs by using other color sets by taking a red or pink dye and a blue dye (red and blue make purple!). While both of the eggs below had those pesky white stripes, they were also created layering dye colors to form purple.
On the left the egg was dyed blue for 2 minutes first and then red for 5 minutes (my dye had gotten lukewarm). On the right the egg was dyed pink for 2 minutes (hot) and then blue (lukewarm) for 10 minutes. In all honesty, you just have to play around with the colors, the order you use them, and the heat of your dye, but you CAN make some pretty purple eggs if you’re willing to work for them!
That’s it! You’re on your way to gorgeously dyed food coloring Easter eggs with whatever you already have in your pantry!