Is food coloring vegan?
Vegan food coloring is one of those small things you don’t even think about when you go vegan. What would possibly make a food coloring not be vegan, right?
I wonder the same thing about paint, cars, computers, etc. You’d be amazed at the animal products that psychos will sneak into things. For example, food coloring can contain:
- squid, octopus, or cuttlefish ink (black pasta often has this)
- bugs (carmine, cochineal, or lac)
- murex snails (such a pretty purple color, but those poor little sea snails)
Not to mention that many food coloring companies might be testing their colors on animals. Poor little animals. (Did you hear that Biden signed the FDA Modernization Act 2.0, which ends the mandate to test drugs on animals in this country?)
I did a ton of research and emailed a bunch of companies that make food coloring so I could compile a list for you (and obviously for me). Luckily, there are A LOT more vegan food coloring options than I knew about, so for those of you new to veganism, I hope this helps.
For each company, I’ll try to list places you can buy it. If I’ve used it myself, I’ll tell you what I thought and which applications each works best for. I’m also going to put these in order of my very favorite to my least favorite. I have a similar list for vegan sprinkles that you might also like.
TruColor is an all-natural food color company! They are allergen-free, kosher, vegan, and cruelty free. Zack said they don’t test on animals because they love them and respect them as equal beings!!! TruColor comes in a gel-paste or an airbrush color. My baking skills aren’t yet to airbrush status, but how cool is it that bakeries everywhere now have this as an option?
TruColor is the only natural food coloring that I’ve successfully baked with where the color stayed vibrant, even after 45 minutes in the oven at 450º. Whenever you’re baking with all-natural colors, the pH of what you add your colors to will affect the colors themselves, so a lot of this is experimentation. For instance, I had a bright teal bread dough before it was baked, but after, it was closer to a green color than teal. Luckily, TruColor has a handy guide on their website.
They even have shimmery sparkly colors, which I think is quite unique to achieve naturally. You can find gel trucolor on Etsy (if you use this link, I get affiliate money that helps me buy these items that I get to test in my kitchen). They also make TruColor natural food coloring vegan food coloring powder, but I haven’t tested those. They are less expensive, however, so if you’re concerned about cost, you might want to look at those.
Here’s a picture of the bread I baked using TruColor.
Nature’s FlavorsNature’s Flavors is a local California company (local to me, haha) that makes all-natural food dyes from fruits and vegetables. They vegan, natural, nut-free, coconut-free, and organic, and they're not tested on animals.
They make both liquid and powder food coloring for all your kitchen concoctions, and when I used their colors in a cookie recipe that contained baking powder, the colors stayed true and didn’t fade in the oven!
Color Kitchen were one of the first all-natural and cruelty-free vegan food colors I ever tried, and were definitely the best at the time. Not only are they made with foods, but they don’t have a flavor, so unlike trying to color something with turmeric at home and ruining the taste of it, you can use this and feel just as good about it. Also, because they’re a powder instead of a liquid, they have a much longer shelf life than the natural liquid food colors.
Color Kitchen is best to use in items that do not need to be cooked. When you cook this color, it fades so much that you almost can’t see the color anymore at all. I made rainbow bagels with color kitchen, and you can see the drastic difference between the color before boiling and baking, and the color after.
If you’re making a recipe where you are trying to color an oily concoction, I recommend not using an all-natural color for that application. The natural colors, such as color kitchen, tend to have difficulty mixing with oils, such as melted cacao butter.
They’re also non-GMO and gluten-free! You can find Color Kitchen natural food coloring at Whole Foods or on Amazon (if you use the link in this sentence, I get affiliate money that helps me buy these items that I get to test in my kitchen).
I used color kitchen when I made this strawberry lemonade cake.
Color Garden were one of the first all-natural and cruelty-free vegan food colors I ever tried. They are made with foods, so they don’t have any weird ingredients in them, but some of the colors do have a flavor, so keep that in mind when you use it. For instance, I used the pink to color some frosting on my wrapped cake and it made the pink frosting taste different than the white (not bad different, just different). It comes as a liquid, which makes it really easy to add to things and to mix in easily, but it also means that if you don’t use the entire packet, you need to refrigerate it, and make sure you use up the rest within a few days. (I completely seal the top of the packet with scotch tape and that extends the shelf life to a few weeks.)
Color Garden is best to use in items that do not need to be cooked. When you cook this color, it fades so much that you almost can’t see the color anymore at all.
If you’re making a recipe where you are trying to color an oily concoction, I recommend not using an all-natural color for that application. The natural colors, such as color garden, tend to have difficulty mixing with oils, such as melted cacao butter.
They’re also non-GMO and allergen-free! You can find Color Garden natural food coloring at Whole Foods or on Amazon (if you use the link in this sentence, I get affiliate money that helps me buy these items that I get to test in my kitchen).
I used Color Garden when I made the cashew cream sauce for my spaghetti squid.
Exberry colors are all-natural colors that are 100% plant-based and cater to all dietary preferences: vegetarian, vegan, kosher, and halal diets. They come in liquid and powdered forms, but I’ve only used the powdered ones. I store mine in the fridge to extend the shelf life. I recommend storing any all-natural food coloring in the fridge.
Since they are mainly a wholesale retailer, I don’t have a link for you to purchase these, but if you’re a bakery or food manufacturer, definitely check them out!
I used exberry colors when I made my rainbow dried apples.
Ellie’s Best, Suncore, RawNice, and Unicorn Superfoods are just a few of the many brands who sell superfood colors. Superfoods are a little different in that what they sell are actually superfood powders, rather than food colors. These superfood powders are similar to the color kitchen powdered colors, except that some of them have a flavor, so keep that in mind. The upside to them having flavors is that they’re also really good for you! So, not only are they all-natural, non-GMO, and gluten-free, but they’re also packed with antioxidants, nutrients, and immunity boosters!
Since these colors are as natural as they get, it’s best to use them in items that do not need to be cooked. When you cook these powders, they fade and change colors, so you do need to spend some time experimenting.
All of Ellie’s Best superfood powders are vegan and cruelty-free. Here are a few of their products with links to buy them on amazon.
- Ellie’s Best Organic Blue Spirulina Powder (Phycocyanin Extract)
- Ellie’s Best Pink Pitaya powder
- Butterfly Pea Flower Powder (Blue Matcha Tea)
- Beet Root Juice Powder
I’ve used other brands of superfood powders as well. For instance, I used these dried butterfly pea flowers to naturally color this fancy purple drink, and I used the RawNice blue spirulina to color my cookie monster ice cream.
If you want to get some as a gift for someone, I recommend the Unicorn Superfoods brand, because they have the cutest packaging.
- Unicorn Superfoods Blue Spirulina
- Unicorn Superfoods Pink Pitaya
- Unicorn Superfoods Acai Berry
- Unicorn Superfoods Black Goji Berry
I’ve used Americolor gel colors for so many years. They were the only vegan food coloring dyes I knew about when I first started baking. Their color variety is quite wide, they’re very concentrated, and they mix really well with many consistencies. Americolor is vegan and they don’t test on animals.
However, that being said, their colors are made mostly of chemicals. If this bothers you, choose one of the aforementioned all-natural colors. However, if you’re of the mindset that a few drops of color never hurt anyone, then this is a great option for the following reasons:
- they’re easy to find at stores
- they’re quite inexpensive compared to the natural colors
- they last for like ever
- the colors are quite bright and true to what you would expect based on the color on their lids
My favorite americolor color has always been americolor black gel color since it really makes everything completely black. It’s a must have for halloween and galaxy-themed baked goods. I used americolor black gel color for these galaxy cupcakes.
You can find all their other colors on etsy as well.
Like Americolor, Wilton is another company that makes vegan gel colors and they don’t test on animals. Also, like Americolor, Wilton’s colors are all made using chemicals. This makes their colors turn out beautifully every time, no matter what you’re coloring (even red vegan food coloring). If using unnatural ingredients doesn’t bother you, then Wilton is for you. It’s also quite inexpensive, and the containers last a long time since you only need to use a few drops each time.
Also, like Americolor, Wilton is very easy to find in local craft stores if you don’t have a day or 2 to wait for Amazon to deliver it. If you do have time to wait 2 days, you can get this wilton multi color pack of gel food colors from Amazon for under $10 (that’s less than $1 per color). If you use the link in this sentence, I get affiliate money that helps me buy these items that I get to test in my kitchen.
I colored the pie crust on these peach pie pops using Wilton colors.
Chefmaster colors, including Liqua-gel®, Cookie Icings, Edible Color Sprays, Decorating Pens, and Candy Colors (oil based colors/chocolate colors) contain no animal products or animal derivatives, and they do not test on animals. You can purchase the liqua-gels on etsy using this link.
Everything Sugarflair makes is gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and GMO-free, but not all of their products are vegan. Sugarflair has a line of colors they call pastel paste that are very similar to gel colors. All of the pastel paste colors are vegan, and they said they do not ever test on animals.
I’ve never used ValueTalks gel food coloring before, but they say it’s vegan, gluten-free, made from safe ingredients, and doesn’t fade when you bake with it! This set of 12 colors only costs $12 on Amazon making it the most affordable vegan food coloring option of all the ones I’ve researched. I cannot vouche for the source of their ingredients or wether or not this company tests on animals.
Colour Mill is an australian company that makes food colouring. I’ve never used Colour Mill food coloring before, but the important thing to note is that only half of their colors are vegan, so make sure you read the label before purchasing. To make things easy for you, I will list links to their vegan friendly colors below. If the color you want isn’t in the list below, as of today’s date (September 2021), it isn’t vegan. They do not test any of their colors on animals.