Different Types of Food Coloring and How to Use Them

Title reads: Types of Food Coloring & How to use them; Colorfull pancakes on a plate, whipped cream on top and marshmallows around it

There are many types of food coloring on the market, but two of the most common are traditional powder and oil based. Both of these types have their own set of benefits and drawbacks, so it is important to understand the difference between them before making a purchase.

Traditional Powder Food Coloring

Powder-based food colors are made from ground-up pigments mixed with a starch or flour binder. This type of color is often less expensive than other options, and it also has a longer shelf life. However, powder colors can be difficult to mix evenly and can sometimes produce a grainy texture in foods. They can also be prone to fading over time.


Liquid Food Coloring

Liquid food coloring is water-based and comes in a variety of colors. They can be added to batters, icings, and frostings easily, and come in a variety of colors. Liquid food colors are also fat-free and gluten-free. However, they can occasionally leave behind a slight aftertaste.

Gel Food Coloring

Gel colors are a popular choice among home bakers due to their versatility and ease of use. They provide intense color saturation with very little dilution required. They come in a wide range of colors and work well in both wet and dry applications.

Oil Based Food Coloring

Oil-based food colors are made from natural or synthetic dyes that are dissolved in vegetable oil or alcohol. Other brands like colour mill use pigments in their food coloring for more intense and brighter colors. These colors tend to be more expensive than powder colors, but they provide brighter and more intense hues. They also do not fade as quickly as powder colors, and generally produce a smoother texture in foods. However, they can be harder to mix correctly.

Colored frosting in cups

How to Use Different Types of Food Coloring

Now that you know about the different types of food coloring available, let's take a look at how to use them correctly in your recipes!


Liquid Food Coloring

To use liquid food coloring, simply add it directly to the recipe ingredients while stirring constantly until the desired color is achieved. Be careful not to add too much or else the resulting dish may become overly colored or watered down. If you need to achieve a dark color, we recommend using gel or oil colors instead.


Powder Food Coloring

To use powder food coloring, first dissolve it in a small amount of water until it forms a thick paste. Then add this paste slowly into the recipe ingredients while mixing continuously until the desired color shade is reached. Make sure not to add too much or else the outcome may become muddy looking.

Gel Food Coloring

To use gel food coloring mix it directly with the ingredients while stirring constantly until desired color is achieved. Always keep in mind that colors intensify with time. If you are preparing for example a buttercream batch to use the next day, you may want to use your colors sparingly.

Oil Based Food Coloring

To use oil based food coloring, simply mix the colors directly with your ingredients. Do keep in mind that oil colors will mix better with oily or buttery batters. Remember, water and oil do not mix well together.
Where not to use oil based food coloring: water based recipes and meringues.

If you made it so far, you can consider yourself a food coloring connoisseur and can now purposely choose the right food coloring for your baking project.
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