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Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies Get a New Look: Natural Food Colouring

Sugar cookies with natural food colouringWhen I was a child we made sugar cookies every Christmas. As we waited patiently for the dough to cool in the fridge Mom would whip up the icing and divide it into tiny bowls. We were the colour consultants and we let Mom know when each shade was just right. When it was time to decorate she’d pull out baggies of colourful sprinkles and pour them into shakers for us.  Purple santas. Orange bells. Pink wreaths. These cookies were as Christmasy as they get. When we were done  we put our favourites in a special tin to make sure no guests got to them before we did.

Since this was one of my favourite Christmas traditions growing up, I was excited to keep it going with my own children. Though we kept to the program in previous years,  I made a few important changes this year. Not only did I use a whole wheat blend and cut out some of the sugar, I skipped the food colouring for the icing and experimented with natural colours. My husband shook his head as I scoured the fridge and cupboards, but was pleasantly surprised by the look and taste of the finished cookies. While not nearly as colourful as traditional sugar cookies, my kids are young enough that they don’t know what they are missing!

Natural Food Colouring for Icing

  • Purple: Base white icing mixed with a few frozen blueberries.
  • Pink: Base white mixed with a few drops of raspberry jam.
  • Light brown: Base white mixed with a few drops of brewed instant coffee.
  • Yellow: Base white mixed with a few dashes of stale tumeric (actually ours wasn’t stale, so the icing was a bit spicy but my daughter said it was her favourite).
  • Green: Okay the green didn’t turn out so great. I had NOTHING green to use in the house and I refused to drive to the store just to get frozen spinach or avacado (a small amount of both apparently work). So, I used a tiny pinch of stale dill which gave the icing a pine tinge. I then added a few dabs of jam and called the colour ‘Christmas’. I advised the children to use this colour sparingly (didn’t think it would taste too yummy though it actually blended in and was fine).

Instead of sprinkles for decorations we used raisins, cereal, nuts, and cranberries. These cookies (pictured above) are gone by the way.

[This post was written by Tara Benwell.]


  1. How cute!!!! We’ve always used India Tree Natures Colors, but they are pricey ($18 for the 3 bottle set) and India Tree Natural Sprinkles as well… I will have to give this a go!

  2. wow! WE did the same thing in our family for generations. I like your idea of using foods to color it. May I connect to your blog with my blog with a link?


  3. Yes Lisa, please do! It’s fun passing these traditions on from generation to generation, even if we change them up a bit. Merry Christmas cookie lovers.

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