Easter egg experiment: Whipped topping? Onion skin? Beets? Pick your way to dye

Friends, it’s super-cheap egg time and that can mean only one thing: Easter!

Specifically, the possibly-pagan-in-origin tradition of dyeing eggs.

Used to be, you added a few drops of food coloring to a cup of water, dunked a boiled egg and called it good. Not anymore!

All the DIY-ers and crafters who populate the internet would have you slathering blackboard paint onto eggs, or splattering them Jackson Pollock-style, or getting creative with rubber cement and glitter.

Or they would have you blowing eggs, an activity slightly less enjoyable than biting yourself repeatedly on the arm, for the sole purpose of decorating those fragile, empty shells that will break if you look at them wrong or even think unkind things about them.

Not to besmirch any else’s creative efforts, but eggs — Easter eggs included — are for eating, and all the decorating in the world shouldn’t ignore the fact that devilry (bedevilment?) awaits them.

So, what are you — and you are aware that eggs are extremely porous and can absorb things such as paint and glue — supposed to do come Easter, which is Sunday? Not decorate eggs? Unacceptable!

Fortunately, there are lots of methods for decorating eggs that won’t render them inedible, several of which we’ve tried and helpfully rated on a one- to five-egg scale:

Method: PAAS Deluxe Egg Decorating Kit, featuring nine colors (available for around $2 at supermarkets and drugstores).

How to do it: Dissolve each of the provided color tablets in a tablespoon of white vinegar, add half a cup of room-temperature water, then get to coloring those boiled eggs!

Rating: 4 Eggs

You can’t go wrong with the ol’ Easter classic, whose fizz tabs dissolve in vinegar and, with enough patience (and a willingness to leave the egg in the dye for 10–15 minutes), can produce intensely vivid colors.

The only problem is if you want to do something fancy, like a half-and-half egg, but still want the deep colors. In that case, you’re holding an egg precariously balanced on that little wire thingy, partially submerged in the purple, until your arm goes numb. And then you do it again.

Method: Boiling the eggs with yellow onion skin (inspired by assembleshop.blogspot.com).

How to do it: Put the skins of three or four yellow onions in a pan with the eggs, cover with water, add a tablespoon of white vinegar and boil as you normally would. It works best to put a layer of onion skin down first, then place the eggs on top of it and cover them with more skin.

Rating: 5 Eggs

It sounds like a tragedy in the making, or the DIY delusion of an internet liar, but it turns out so cool! Try this one immediately!

For added pizzazz, put the egg inside a knee-high stocking (the kind on sale two-for-$1 this week at Rite Aid do nicely) with a sprig of something botanical — bindweed works great, it turns out, as do flower blossoms (and flowering weeds) — and secure the stocking tight against the egg with a rubber band.

Cut off about half the stocking before getting started, because it makes finagling the plant into place easier. Also, once the water has come to a boil and you turn the heat down or off, let the eggs soak in the onion skin water until it cools.

Method: Using other edibles to dye the eggs (advised by bhg.com).

How to do it: Lots of plants and foods can be used to dye eggs, but whether they should is a different story. Many websites suggest blueberries or raspberries as dye, but come on. Those are for eating. Allegedly, coffee, lavender, apple skins, dill seed, paprika, turmeric and many others can be used for dye.

For the purposes of this little experiment, sliced, raw red cabbage, diced raw beets and (in the spirit of “Why the heck not? It’s for science!”) beet greens were used.


Red cabbage - 1 egg

Beets - 3 Eggs

Beet greens - Broken Egg

Eh. The red cabbage method is a serious disappointment unless you favor insipid barely colors in wishy-washy shades of “Is that periwinkle?” It’s not worth stuffing the egg into a stocking with artfully arranged dandelion greens, or wasting all that cabbage.

The beets were much better, though the end color is a bit spotty and inconsistent. But! If you put the egg in a stocking with some uncooked rice, spread it around the egg and secure it tight, the result is very cool! (Warning: In a spirit of “waste not, want not,” you might feel compelled to eat the rice, which is… beet-flavored, in case you forgot.)

As for the beet greens, the end result is a boiled egg. The end.

Method: Paper towel and food coloring (thanks to frugalmomeh.com).

How to do it: Place a boiled egg in the center of a sturdy paper towel, gather it tight around the egg and secure the bundle with a rubber band. Drop various hues of food coloring on the paper towel, then allow to dry.

Rating: 4 Eggs

The finished product with this method looks pretty cool, and it is ridiculously easy to do. The only thing is, use a lot more food coloring than seems reasonable. Instead of one drop on each spot, use two, because the paper towel will immediately absorb and spread the color, so you’ll be lulled into a false sense of vivid tones.

Method: Food coloring and rice (from craftymorning.com).

How to do it: Put about a cup of rice in one of your crummier bowls, add a very generous amount of food coloring and stir until all the rice is coated. Put a boiled egg in the bowl and gently shake it around in the rice.

Rating: 3 Eggs

This is an OK technique, though maybe not for younger children because shaking the egg about requires a deft touch. The end result is decent and unique, though not an eye-popping “Wow!” of color.

Method: Whipped topping and food coloring (modified from an idea at onlydecolove.com).

How to do it: Stir an 8-ounce bowl of whipped topping until it is nice ‘n’ peaky, drop generous amounts of food coloring on it, then submerge a boiled egg in it. Fish it out with a spoon, let the egg dry for at least 20 minutes, then gently rinse the whipped topping off.

Rating: 4 Eggs

The only potential drawback to this otherwise fun method is the need to rein in an impulse to use all the colors. If you do that, you can only dye a few eggs because the colors will quickly blend to brown. It’s probably best to use just one or two colors.

Method: Nail polish in warm water (from aliceandlois.com).

How to do it: Drizzle one or two shades of nail polish onto room-temperature water (in a bowl you don’t necessarily plan to use again), swirl with something disposable such as a chopstick, and submerge the boiled egg through the polish. You can use the wire doohickey left over from your PAAS kit.

Rating: 2 Eggs

Maybe this would work better with a little oil? As it happened, the polish wrapped around the egg like a pudding skin and all of it adhered to the egg, creating a weirdly lumpy texture that took forever to dry.

Plus, this is of questionable edibility, but in the yea column is the fact that people bite their painted nails all the time and don’t die.


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