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Naturally Colored Sugar Cookie Icing

One of my daughter’s favorite things to make with me is rolled cookies. What kid doesn’t enjoy rolling sweet dough and stamping out different shapes? I love making vanilla bean cookies with her, but I wanted to make them more festive for Christmas and more fun for her.

A couple of years ago, I would have reached for a bottle of food coloring, but I just can’t add petroleum dyes to my food anymore after reading and writing about the many problems they can cause, especially in children.

India Tree sent me a box of their lovely vegetable dyes to test and review, and while they work quite well, I know they can be prohibitively expensive.

So I thought, “Why not make my own vegetable dyes?”

The icing I ended up with dries hard and shiny, is easy and really fun for kids to use because it’s painted on, and shows that natural colors are really beautiful. The icing can even be swirled together on the cookie for a tie-dyed look.

I used a juicer to make fresh, vibrantly colored juices to dye my icing. It’s much easier than cooking the veggies first and then straining the juice out of them (but that’s obviously a good option if you don’t have a juicer or a serious blender that can handle raw veggies).

Any brightly colored fruits and veggies will work, but we have to consider flavor, too.

I used kale to make a batch of green icing, and the strong kale flavor came through a bit in predominately green cookies, so I’d use relatively flavorless spinach in the future. Kale = fail.

The beet, however, worked really beautifully and didn’t taste earthy at all because so little juice was needed. I loved the vibrant hot pink color the beet gave.

Remember that natural colors are beautiful but will not be the same as synthetic colors.

Here are some colorant ideas:

Pink/Red- beets (really awesome color!), raspberries

Orange/Yellow – pinch of saffron (in some water, then remove saffron threads), sweet potato, carrot
Green – spinach
Blue – There aren’t any good true blue options in nature – I’ve tried.
Purple/Gray – blueberries, blackberries

Before we get started with our colored icing, do you need a yummy rolled cookie recipe? Click here for my vanilla bean cookie recipe!

Naturally Colored Sugar Cookie Icing
I love this icing for sugar cookies because it dries hard and shiny – without any yucky corn syrup. It’s awesome for hands-on kid decorating because it is easy to use: just paint. So get some brushes and little helpers, and make some naturally beautiful icing.

Painting cookies is serious work.

This “recipe” is not as precise as my other recipes – and that’s intentional. The ingredient ratio you use will vary depending on how much juice you need to achieve the color you want. For example, very pale pink icing will require just a few drops of beet juice and more water, whereas magenta icing will have a higher concentration of beet juice and less water. It’s easy to figure out a good consistency – shoot for icing that very slowly drips off of a paint brush.

Naturally Colored Sugar Cookie Icing – The Recipe

powdered sugar
lemon juice – This is important for taste and color. The acidity keeps the color bright. 
various juices for color
water, if needed

1. Stir coloring juice a teaspoon at a time into 1 cup of powdered sugar until desired color is achieved.
2. Add a squeeze of lemon juice. Taste and add more if desired.
3. Add water, a little at a time, if needed for consistency. This should be a liquid icing (not a thicker, pasty icing) that will very slowly drip from a paintbrush.

Paint and enjoy!

Bon Appétit!


One Response to “Naturally Colored Sugar Cookie Icing”

  1. Jacqueline December 7, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    Hi Anne, I enjoy making cookies and trying to eat healthy I wanted to get a healthy natural recipe for icing and I love yours so, I was not really planning on baking today, but just saw your recipe and I think I am going to try it if not today, tomorrow. I will let you know 🙂



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