When I was a kid, I loved decorating cookies and cakes with food coloring. I remember all of the different colors that were lined up on the wall at the grocery store. Any color you could imagine was there, along with sprinkles and other brightly colored, seemingly edible decorating items. Food coloring is certainly a fun and different way to play with your food and make appealing snacks and treats. It also shows up in several package food items, from candy and ice cream to juice and crackers.

However, there is a huge problem with food coloring. Did you know that many common food colorings could actually cause negative health effects in humans? According to Livestrong, “Red 40 may cause symptoms of hypersensitivity in some people, including swelling around the mouth, and it may also cause hives. The colorant might contain contaminants that may contribute to cancer in humans and could trigger hyperactivity in children. In a handful of studies, Red 40 damaged the DNA of mice, according to the CSPI.” Yikes!

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Instead of using synthetic red food coloring, follow these steps for making your own red food coloring from beets, the perfect vegetable for getting that bright, red hue:

1. Boil Your Beets

First, you need to boil your beets. Add just enough water to cover them in a pan, then bring the beets to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 30 minutes, making sure the water does not overflow. Take them out when they are soft enough to stick a utensil though, but not to eat. You don’t want them to be too soft at this point.

2. Strain and Soak

Next, strain those beets that you just boiled, and save the beet juice. Then, peel the skin off and chop your beets into smaller pieces. Return these pieces to the beet juice and soak all of it for four hours.

3. Strain Again and Add Vinegar

After the beets have soaked for four hours in the juice, strain out ¾ of the liqud and save. Add two tablespoons of vinegar to this juice. Now, you have a red food coloring!

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4. Get Cooking

Congratulations, you have created some all-natural, red food coloring from beets! Now, put it to use and make some delicious recipes. Check out our cupcake recipe section here on One Green Planet.

Image source: Jeremy Keith/Wikimedia