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.
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 any vegan supermarket red food dyes, nor any liquid colours that were vegan but there are a few options for gels. Let’s take a look:
- Cake decor red food gel
- Sprinks red food gel colouring
- Colour Splash red gel
- Rainbow Dust red ProGel
- Squires Kitchen red gel
- Sugarflair red food paste
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:
- Cake Decor pink food colouring
- Asda pink natural food colouring
- Pink Colour Splash gel
- Rainbow Dust pink ProGel
- Squires Kitchen pink gel
Green food colouring
- Squires Kitchen green food colouring gel
- Rainbow Dust green ProGel
- Sugarflair green food paste
- Green Colour Splash gel
- Cake Decor green colour gel
Blue food colouring
Orange food colouring
- Squires Kitchen orange gel food colouring
- Rainbow Dust orange ProGel
- Sugarflair orange food paste
- Orange Colour Splash gel
Purple food colouring
- Squires Kitchen purple food gel
- Rainbow Dust purple ProGel
- Sugarflair purple food paste
- Purple Colour Splash gel
Yellow food colouring
- Squires Kitchen yellow food colouring gel
- Rainbow Dust yellow ProGel
- Sugarflair yellow food paste
- Yellow Colour Splash gel
- Cake Decor yellow colour gel
Black food colouring
- Colour Mill black food colouring
- Squires Kitchen black food colouring
- Sugarflair black food paste
- Rainbow Dust black ProGel
- Black Colour Splash gel
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.
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.
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:
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.