How to Make Blue Food Coloring and Dye From Natural Ingredients

When it comes to artificial food dyes, the vibrant colors may attract us at first, but the potential negative health effects and environmental impact give us pause. Fortunately, nature provides us with an array of vibrant colors, including the color blue. Here's how we can achieve a rich blue hue without using artificial dyes like Brilliant Blue FCF (FD&C Blue No. 1, E133) and Indigotine (FD&C Blue No. 2, E132).

Blue from Butterfly Pea Flowers

Butterfly pea flowers, or Clitoria ternatea, are an incredible source of natural blue color. These flowers have been used for centuries in Southeast Asia to color food and beverages. You can infuse these flowers in a 50/50 alcohol-water solution to create a stunning blue dye. When acidity is added to the mix, the blue turns into a vibrant purple.

butterfly pea flowers for natura blue food coloring

Recipe: Organic Blue Food Coloring from Butterfly Pea Flowers



  1. Break apart densely packed flowers, leaving flowers whole.  Do not crush or chop.  Optional, remove the green base on your flowers if still present. 
  2. Combine whole flowers with 200 proof alcohol and water.  Cover tightly with a clean lid, aluminum foil, or plastic wrap and a rubber band.
  3. Shake to incorporate ingredients.  Allow to sit overnight at room temperature.  Shaking more often than once is optional.
  4. Strain the flowers the next day, retaining the brightly colored blue liquid.  Discard the infused flowers, leaving them in the alcohol water solution for longer than 2-3 days is not recommended.
  5. Store your all-natural blue food coloring in a tightly sealed glass jar, away from sunlight and sources of heat (the refrigerator or freezer door is goof spot).

Notes: Natural blue color is delicate and can change over time thanks to oxidation. Use your organic natural blue food coloring as soon as possible for maximum color transfer into your favorite recipes.

Other Ingredients for Making Natural Blue Food Color

If butterfly pea flowers are not available to you, try these other natural ingredients capable of delivering a natural blue food coloring or dye when soaked using the method described above in 200 proof food grade alcohol.  Start with a 1 to 1 ratio of the ingredients below to alcohol and adjust the recipe to achieve your desired level of blue color. 

Red Cabbage

Sounds strange, doesn't it? However, red cabbage, when boiled and mixed with baking soda, yields a brilliant blue color. The pigments in red cabbage are known as anthocyanins and they change color based on the pH level of their environment.

red cabbage for natural blue food coloring

Spirulina Algae

Spirulina, a type of blue-green algae, has recently been recognized as an excellent source of natural blue food dye. In fact, the FDA has approved spirulina extract as a food colorant. This microalgae also brings along a host of nutritional benefits, including proteins, vitamins, and minerals.

spirulina algae for natural blue green food coloring

Alcohol vs. Water for Blue Color Extraction

  1. Efficiency of Extraction:

    • Alcohol: Alcohol is a more efficient solvent for extracting color from many sources (like fruits, vegetables, and spices) because it can dissolve both water-soluble and oil-soluble compounds. This means you can extract a wider range of pigments more effectively.
    • Water: Water can only dissolve water-soluble compounds, which may limit the range of colors you can extract.
  2. Intensity and Stability of Color:

    • Alcohol: The colors extracted with alcohol tend to be more concentrated and vibrant. Alcohol’s lower boiling point means it evaporates quickly, leaving behind the pure pigment without dilution.
    • Water: Water-based extracts might be less intense and can introduce additional water into your recipes, potentially affecting the texture and consistency of the final product.
  3. Preservation and Shelf Life:

    • Alcohol: Alcohol has natural preservative properties that can help extend the shelf life of your homemade food coloring by inhibiting the growth of bacteria and mold.
    • Water: Water-based extracts may spoil faster and usually require refrigeration. They are more prone to bacterial and mold growth.
  4. Application Considerations:

    • For baking and dry mixtures, alcohol-based extracts can be preferable because the alcohol evaporates during the baking process, leaving the color without additional moisture.
    • For cold applications like icing, cocktails, or uncooked foods, both alcohol and water-based extracts can be used, but alcohol-based colors may offer more vibrant hues.

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