How to Make Yellow Food Coloring and Dye from Natural Ingredients

Nature is abundant with colorful foods that can provide us with beautiful and safe colorings, including yellow. This blog post explores various natural sources, ingredients, and processes for creating yellow food dye that are free from artificial agents like Tartrazine (FD&C Yellow No. 5, E102) and Sunset Yellow FCF (FD&C Yellow No. 6, E110).

Natural Yellow Dye from Tumeric

Known for its potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, turmeric also shines as a natural food coloring. Its rich, warm yellow tone is ideal for lending color to dishes.

tumeric root for natural yellow food coloring


Recipe: Organic Yellow Food Coloring from Turmeric Root



  • 32 oz Glass Mason Jar with Lid
  • 16 oz Glass Mason Jar with Lid
  • Fine Mesh Strainer


  • Peel and chop the turmeric root into 1/2 inch (1 cm) pieces.
  • Combine turmeric with 200 proof alcohol. Cover tightly with a clean lid, aluminum foil, or plastic wrap and a rubber band.
  • Shake initially to integrate ingredients. Let sit for 4-5 days at room temperature.  Shaking more often than once is optional.
  • Strain the turmeric.  By now the remaining pieces should have given up all of their color to the alcohol.  Discard the infused root, as it has no more color to provide.  Adding more fresh turmeric at this point would result in a deeper yellow final food coloring, as well as a deeper turmeric flavor.

Notes: 1.) Yellow color is delicate and can change or fade over time thanks to oxidation. Use your organic natural yellow food coloring as soon as possible for maximum color transfer into your favorite recipes. 
2.) Consider making a orange food coloring and using less to achieve a yellow hue to your recipe.

Other Ingredients for Making Natural Yellow Food Color

If bright yellow turmeric is not available to you, try these other ingredients capable of delivering a natural orange food coloring or dye when soaked using the method described above in 200 proof alcohol.  Start with a 1 to 1 ratio of orange-colored ingredient to alcohol and adjust the recipe to achieve your desired level of natural orange food coloring.


This luxurious spice imparts a beautiful golden hue to foods. Saffron strands are soaked in a bit of warm water to release their color before use.

saffron for natural yellow food coloring and dye

Golden Beets

These vibrant root vegetables can be boiled and pureed to produce a natural yellow dye.

yellow beets for natural yellow food coloring and dye

Alcohol vs. Water for 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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