Blue Food Coloring for Your Superbowl Cupcakes! … or Any Blue Event

DO try this at home! Especially with the kids.

For some reason, the need for blue food coloring keeps coming up. And even though “all things in moderation” is a beloved maxim around here, I just can’t bring myself to buy the artificial stuff. The latest call for blue food coloring is this year’s (2015) Superbowl teams, both of which are proudly represented by shades of blue. I am thinking cupcakes. There are white frosting recipes out there for traditional cupcakes, or vegan, vegetarian, paleo, whatever you like! Why not dress them up with team colors?


There are not a lot of blue foods – purple potatoes, blue corn, blueberries all contain that lovely blue pigment. But how to extract that color?

Another option is blue butterfly pea powder. It is a beneficial, mild-flavored ingredient that is often used to make tea. An internet search will lead you to sources for this product, including organic options. Sadly, I do not have this in my pantry… but this is what is looks like…

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Hello, gorgeous! bluebutterflypeapowder_alibaba1

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Back to earth…

A product that I do have, that is inexpensive, and utterly cool for making blue food coloring is… wait for it… drumroll… red cabbage!

So, if you knew this already, you are not terribly impressed. But if this is something you have not tried, you should do so, just because it is easy, fun, and a great science/art combo lesson for the kids.

How to…

Start by slicing your red cabbage. Red cabbage is packed with vibrant color. Honestly, it is worth putting this cabbage on your plate JUST for the color.


Add your cabbage to an pot and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil and cook the cabbage for about 10 to 15 minutes. You are extracting all that beautiful purple color.


Strain out all that beautiful purple cabbage broth. Set the cabbage aside. The cabbage itself will look anemic, now that it has given you all its color. It has done its job. You need not keep it. But if you hate waste (like me), you can always throw it into a soup or casserole.

The vibrant purple broth is your prize…


Pour the purple broth into a sauce pot and cook on about a medium heat until it reduces.


Gently reduce until the broth thickens into a viscous syrup. One good-sized head of cabbage will reduce to about 1/4 cup syrup.

‘Love this color!


The reduction…


Before turning this blue, we have to take a moment and admire the purple. 🙂


The secret ingredient which turns this beautiful purple into beautiful deep blue is baking soda.

Add just a tiny pinch at a time. If you add too much, you will get green. That is fine if you are going for green, or making this a science project to show the kids all the beautiful colors you can make… but if you want blue…

Go slow! stiring in one tiny pinch at a time

… until you get the color you want.

When you sprinkle in your little pinch of baking soda, it immediately turns blue where it lands. So cool! (My apologies for the blurry image.)


After a couple of little sprinkles of baking powder stirred in, you can see the color changing. Can you see the almost greenish tinge on the side of the bowl? The concentration of baking soda is higher there.


With a gradual addition of more baking soda, success! We have blue!


This can be added to all sorts of foods as food coloring. However, anything acidic will further alter the pH balance and turn the product green. A non-acidic plain white frosting would be great! Something like acidic lemon frosting may not yield the color you want.

Mix in blue food coloring into frosting, adding a much as you like, until you are happy with the color.



If you are worried about cabbage taste, no need to fear! My taste-testers, who have very discriminating palates, did not even detect cabbage in the frosting. They also had no problem with beets in the red frosting – and there was a lot!

Important! Be sure to refrigerate this coloring! It is made with REAL FOOD and should be eaten quickly and kept refrigerated for freshness. We once made the mistake of leaving a cupcake out overnight. This was a bad idea.


Tip: Use a thick frosting. Mine was a bit too thin, It worked, but ran down the cupcakes a bit… especially the red beet frosting. When using beets, a butter cream frosting works great!

Have fun!!!

Being that this year’s match-up is Patriots vs Seahawks, if you need natural red coloring, beets are the go-to. And gray can be made from black cocoa powder, activated charcoal powder (which is a beneficial ingredient), or squid ink.

Storage Update

In the fridge, the red cabbage color does not last long. It is real food and real food goes bad fast. I would not try to keep it more than a couple days. However, it does freeze very well! Here is a picture from a batch of frozen cubes. When ready to use them, I will just let them thaw, add baking soda to adjust the color, and use it up immediately.



Helpful links:

Red food coloring from beets –

Black/Gray food coloring – WikiHow

Seven Reasons I Hate Artificial Food Coloring from 100 days of Real Food


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15 thoughts on “Blue Food Coloring for Your Superbowl Cupcakes! … or Any Blue Event”

  1. Hi honey, I made purple and blue colors today, to color frosting for cupcakes tomorrow, can’t wait to see how they come out. The colors looks beautiful and seem very strong. You also inspired me to order some blue pea powder, that stuff looks awesome.. I had it as a drink at a restaurant once but never thought it was a real thing because of how bright it was. Excited to see what I can do with that. Thanks for the ideas! 🙂

  2. I tried this, but the flavor is really bad. I even add a lot of sugar try to avoid the special taste, but failed. How’s the flavor you made? Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you, Barbie! I’m sorry you did not get a good flavor result. When I use this method, it blends very well with my frostings and we do not detect much flavor from the coloring, if any. If I use a LOT of coloring for a richer color, or if we do not eat it quickly, a sulphuric cabbage flavor can emerge. I play with ratios and taste until I am happy with both the color and flavor. Even if I add too much color, I still prefer it to artificial dyes. You could consider trying it in a different recipe or using butterfly pea powder.

  3. hey there…how long does the color last if stored in the refrigerator. I would be making 2 days before actually needing the frosting. Would the color last?

    1. Oh my goodness! I am sorry that I did not see this question until today and you have probably already found the answer on your own. I use this up pretty quickly and am not sure how long it can stay in the fridge per safety. A couple of days should be fine, but I will do some experimentation.

    2. Freezing the color may be the best option. I just reduced the beautiful purple broth, but left it at a liquid not too think. Then I froze it in little cubes. As I need to use it, I will thaw it out, add baking soda to get the color I want and use it up immediately. I will add a picture in the post.

  4. Hi. I’m just wondering if the frosting stains badly. I’m thinking of trying this for my son’s first birthday smash cake. Thanks!

    1. Good question! I don’t know if this stains more than regular store-bought food dye. I have made this with children, but the question of staining did not even come up.
      Housekeeping.about.home says “The red in the cabbage is a tanin based stain, but it acts like a red dye. Dye stains are some of the most difficult to remove, so working quickly can save the day. Cooked red cabbage or pickled red cabbage are more likely to stain and leave traces of red on your clothing. When this happens, your first step should be to get any remaining cabbage off of the stain. Next run the hottest water safe for the fabric type through the back of the stain. Finally apply a stain remover and wash normally in the laundry.”

  5. Hi, Is that color blue shown on the cupcake picture strictly from cabbage and baking soda? That is just the blue I’m looking for but yours is the only website that shows anything approaching that color from cabbage without adding too much baking soda for taste tolerance.

    1. Yes, it is. Nothing else added. I worked very slowly adding tiny bits at a time and played with the color until I got that. Flavor is a concern. Too much coloring in a mild frosting will add a bit of a sulfury cabbage flavor. It takes a bit of experimentation, but to me, it is so worth it.

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