Food Coloring

Food Coloring


Plant-Based Food Coloring for Cooking, Baking, and Brewing

OliveNation offers a wide selection of food coloring for home and commercial baking, cooking, brewing, and beverage applications. Our water-soluble colors can be used alone or combined to create the perfect shades and hues, including Ombre effects. Concentrated liquid food coloring is perfect for creating consistent coloration. Product consistency is supremely important in commercial applications, and our easy to measure water-based dyes make it simple to replicate colors from batch to batch. Made using natural ingredients, including fruits, vegetables, and plants, our liquid food colors for baking are great for creating eye-catching cakes, cookies, icing, and frozen treats. For commercial applications, these plant-based food dyes are vegan-friendly and perfect for clean label product packaging. Because we "eat with our eyes," these coloring liquids can be used in both sweet and savory recipes and dishes.

Where can liquid food color be used?

  • Baked Goods: Cake and cookie batters, bread dough, pancakes, cookies
  • Icing and Decoration: Royal icing, sugar glazes, frosting, buttercream, whipped toppings, decorating sugars
  • Fillings and Confectionery: Fruit fillings, sugar or candy shells, jelly and gummy candies, boiled candy and lollipops
  • Frozen Desserts and Dairy: Ice cream, yogurt, non-dairy desserts, ices, dairy beverages, cheese
  • Brews and Beverages: Blended drinks, smoothies, ready-to-drink beverages, alcopops, craft beers, liquors
  • Savory: Pasta and noodles, relish, sauces, processed meat, plant-based meat products

Food Coloring Impacts Taste

It's no secret that food color is an important factor for enjoyment, but food color science goes well beyond certain colors having certain flavor associations and expectations. In fact, experiments have shown that food (or beverage) color can actually impact how people perceive taste! Multiple studies have been done over the years that decisively demonstrate how color significantly impacts flavor perception, particularly regarding how strong or "intense" a taste is perceived to be. What color a dish or drink is has also been found to influence aroma perception, in that more deeply colored foods are perceived as having a more intense, better aroma than foods with less color. Our liquid food colors are one of many ways to add color elements to dishes. Other methods, such as freeze-dried powdered fruit, can add both color and flavor.

How to Use Food Coloring

Food colorants come in a variety of forms: liquid, gel, paste, and powder. Which type to use depends to a great extent on what is being made. Commercial cake mixes require powdered coloring, while a home baker might choose liquid color when baking from scratch. Powdered Food Colorants are best in recipes where the amount of liquid must be controlled. This form can also do double duty as a decorative dusting powder. Paste Coloring has a thick texture and concentrated shade that makes it ideal for creating bold, bright colors. This form is easy to mix into wet ingredients such as batters, icing, and ice cream base. Gel Food Color is sometimes called "Liquid Gel" as it has a more liquid texture than paste or regular gel formulations. They can be used with wet or dry ingredients, as well as for decorating. Liquid Food Dyes offer a wide variety of shades, depending on their makeup. Bold, bright colors made from artificial or synthetic ingredients can create eye-popping foods, icing, and frosting in vibrant and even neon shades. Liquid color from plant-based or natural ingredients is better for creating more subtle, pastel, or earthy shades, as well as for clean-label or more health-conscious applications. For more in-depth information on using our plant-based liquid colors, see our article on working with natural liquid food colors.

What is the Difference Between Artificial & Natural Food Colorings?

As interest in healthy eating and "better-for-you" food products grows, people are becoming increasingly aware of synthetic or artificial ingredients. The exponential growth of the "Clean Label" movement means that businesses in the food, beverage, confectionary, and even pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries have had to rethink and reimagine recipes and formulations in order to provide customers and consumers with the healthier, more natural options they desire. Home and professional bakers and cooks alike need to understand the differences when working with natural food coloring as opposed to artificial colors in order to achieve the desired results.

  • Colors derived from natural ingredients are generally more expensive than synthetic versions for cost-in-use. This is primarily due to the costs associated with the color extraction process and packaging required to preserve effectiveness. Specific ingredients can vary widely in costs. Spirulina, for example, which is used to create more vivid blues and greens, requires a complicated process to extract its color while preserving the nutritional and health benefits associated with the many vitamins and minerals it contains. This results in a more expensive final food coloring, while shades like reds and browns are often less costly due to coming from more accessible sources.
  • Artificial colorants impart more vibrant, bold colors than plant-based dyes. They can even be used to create vivid, almost neon shades. However, hues created with natural colorants can be strong and eye-catching, depending on the pH of the other ingredients used and exposure to heat and light.
  • Improvements in extraction, processing, and manufacturing techniques mean that natural colors are just as consistent batch-to-batch as synthetics. Ease of measurement and product shelf life allow home and professional bakers and cooks to create products and recipes with consistent, dependable coloration without shade variability.
  • Final colors produced by both synthetic and plant-based dyes can require experimentation to reach desired shades. Unlike artificial colorants, however, natural food colorings are strongly influenced by the chemical composition — particularly the acidity — of ingredients as well as by heat, light, and cooking temperatures. When using naturally-derived food coloring, many bakers find that recipes themselves may need to be adjusted somewhat to attain the exact pH levels necessary to produce desired colors in the final product.