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Vegan Food Colouring In The UK

Did you know that not all food colouring is vegan? This post will tell you everything you need to know about choosing suitable colouring for baking, which brands are vegan-friendly and alos how to colour your food naturally.

Cupcakes With Different Colours Of Frosting On Top

Since writing my post about vegan sprinkles, it occurred to me that food colouring is another thing that newbie vegans may struggle with. I know that when I first went vegan, I used plenty of non-vegan food colouring in my bakes, simply because I had no idea!

Food colouring is super fun to use and can help to make your cakes and bakes look more on-theme. It can also be used to help the colour ‘match’ the flavour, for example, adding green food colouring to mint chocolate chip ice cream. I’ve written this post to help you understand which ingredients to watch out for, as well as my favourite vegan food colouring brands in the UK.

Does food colouring contain animal products?

Why might food colouring not be vegan, I hear you ask? This isn’t because of eggs, honey or milk like you might expect- it’s actually due to some of the e-numbers used. Certain e-numbers are used to give these liquids their bright colours and not all of them are free from animal byproducts.

The most common culprit is an e-number called Carmine. This can be found in some red, pink and purple food colouring. Carmine is made from cochineal insects so it’s not suitable for those on a vegan diet. Other names for this ingredient are E120, Cochineal, Crimson Lake or Natural Red 5. Note that this is not the same as carmoisine, or E122, which is vegan-friendly.

Another one is Carbon Black, also known as E-153 or Vegetable Carbon. This may be potentially non-vegan so it’s best to only use colourings labelled as vegan if it contains this ingredient.

Which food colouring is vegan?

As mentioned above, the most common non-vegan ingredients in food colouring that you’ll find in the UK are Carmine and (potentially) Carbon Black.

There are a couple of other non-vegan ingredients that are used to dye foods, like Tyrian purple and squid ink, but they are not at all common in the UK and I haven’t seen any baking food colouring brands that use these ingredients. I noticed that more and more brands are using natural alternatives to artificial dyes these days, even for the reds and pinks!

Vegan red food colouring

What red food colouring is vegan? I couldn’t find many vegan supermarket red food dyes, nor many liquid colours that were vegan but there are a few options for gels. Let’s take a look:

Pink food colouring

The pink food colouring options are quite similar to the red ones. Many pink colourings contain carmine but here are the safe options:

Vegan cookies with pink food colouring
Valentine’s cookies with pink food colouring

Green food colouring

Blue food colouring

Orange food colouring

Purple food colouring

Yellow food colouring

Black food colouring

Black velvet cake with black food colouring
Black velvet cake with black food colouring

White food colouring

Is Dr. Oetker food colouring vegan?

Dr. Oetker food colouring does not appear to be vegan. Some of their colours seem to be made without animal byproducts but I could not find anything to suggest they are suitable for vegans (they are labelled as vegetarian). I have emailed Dr. Oetker to clarify and will update this post when I receive a response.

Is PME food colouring vegan?

Some of their individually-sold colours are vegan but others are not. I always recommend their set of food colouring pastes because these are free from animal-derived e-numbers and are vegan-friendly! PME pastes are what I always use in my baking recipes that call for food colouring, like my rainbow cake.

Vegan Rainbow Cake Slice with different colours of frosting inside
Rainbow cake with yellow, orange, red, green and blue coloured frosting!

Is Colour Splash food colouring vegan?

Most Colour Splash food colouring is vegan-friendly and does not contain any animal-derived e-numbers. It is labelled as vegetarian rather than vegan but this is due to a risk of cross-contamination with milk products.

Natural food colouring alternatives

If you prefer to avoid artificial ingredients, there are natural products you can use to colour your baked goods instead. It’s best to use powdered ingredients where possible. If using a liquid, you’ll need to use more to get a strong enough colour, which will potentially change the texture and flavour of your bake.

Vegan frosting with strawberry powder as a natural food colouring
Strawberry frosting– naturally dyed pink!

Red and pink natural colours

For natural red and pink food dye, you can use any of the following:

Purple natural colouring

For purple natural colouring, use any of these:

Yellow and orange natural colours

You can naturally dye your bakes yellow by using turmeric powder. This is a potent spice so I recommend using only a little bit. I don’t imagine a turmeric-flavoured cake would taste very nice!

To make orange, you can use a combination of turmeric and any of the red powders. Alternatively, something like carrot powder will work too.

Natural green colouring

For natural green colour, you can use:

Green matcha cake
Green matcha cake

Blue natural colouring

There aren’t too many natural options when it comes to blue, simply because there are not many blue plants in nature! The best option for a natural blue would be blue spirulina. Alternatively, you could you butterfly pea flower but this is quite tricky to find offline sometimes!

Natural black food colouring

Lastly, we have black. For a natural alternative to artificial black food dye, you can use:

Summary – Is food colouring vegan?

Many brands of food colouring are vegan-friendly but a lot of pink and red colours are not. Keep an eye out for animal-derived ingredients such as E120. Natural fruit and vegetable powders can be used as a natural alternative to food dye.

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Saturday 27th of April 2024

I've just come across a vegan red liquid food colour on Sainsbury's website - perhaps you can add this to your site


Sunday 28th of April 2024

Thanks Caroline! Will take a look :)

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