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Does Food Coloring Expire? – How to Cook Safely!

A simple question, asked by many… does food coloring expire – how to cook safely! Food coloring comes in many shapes, forms, and shades! It is used in many culinary dishes but is more commonly known to brighten up all kinds of desserts. 

It is a magical experience to watch as your pastry, dough, or icing turns to a vibrant hue. It allows for your creative juices to flow and create beautiful and edible works of art. However, you may be wondering just how long your food coloring may last? 

Unlike other forms of ingredients, it may be trickier to tell whether it is past its usefulness. In this article, you may be surprised to learn more about this food staple and its contents! 

The Main Uses

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As mentioned above, food coloring can be technically used in just about any dish. There are, of course, more well-known and traditional ways of using it, such as icing for cakes and pastures. It is often a must-have when it comes to baking as naturally, cakes and other desserts are quite plain in color. There are other ways in which it can be used to brighten up unconventional dishes. A few of these are;

  • Pasta noodles
  • Mashed potatoes 
  • Deviled eggs
  • Bread
  • Popsicles
  • Frozen yogurt 
  • Marshmallows 
  • Rock candy

Food coloring is also a great way to liven up toddlers’ meals and make them much for fun which ultimately will make them ingest more of their food and aid in their sensory development! Does food coloring expire – how to cook safely!

What is it Made Out of? 

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Synthetic Food Coloring

There are a few questions that constantly revolve around food coloring;

What is a food coloring made of? Does food coloring expire – how to cook safely! Those who don’t know what food coloring is made from may be surprised. Originally it was constructed from coal tar which raised many concerns as it came from coal which many people did not find appealing and questioned its safety about being ingested. 

In recent years the makeup of this product has been changed from coal tar to crude oil or petroleum. Although some say it is no better, it surely is more welcomed than its pre-existing ingredients. Many tests are run to ensure that no amounts of petroleum are still traceable. Interestingly there is a dye that does not contain any petroleum, and this is Blue No.2, which is often used to dye jeans. 

Natural Food Coloring

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Mother nature offers us an abundance of beautiful and bright colors that we can harvest. Making natural food coloring can be a fun experience and is, of course, healthier. For every color you can think of, there is a natural alternative, all you need to do is find it! Below is a list of ingredients that you can use to achieve different colors for your baking and cooking;

  1. Green – spinach
  2. Blue – baking soda and red cabbage
  3. Purple – blueberries
  4. Pink – raspberries
  5. Yellow – turmeric
  6. Red – beetroot
  7. Orange – paprika
  8. Black-activated charcoal
  9. Brown – cocoa

When it comes to making food coloring from scratch, it is important to note that it will not be as bright as the synthetic versions. However, it will reward you with its own unique and captivating arrays of colors. Make sure to also consider the flavors that will be involved, although it will be remarkably mild. There will still be hints of the ingredients depending on the amount that has been used.

The Different Types of Food Coloring

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When we refer to food coloring, we are referring to any substance that changes the coloring of food. We will often have an image in mind as most of us use a certain kind of food dye, but there are several different types that are used. It is all about preference and what dish we are preparing. Some types work better when preparing firm foods, and some work better with more of a liquid-type consistency. Here are some of the different kinds of food colorings that can be used! 

  • Liquid Food Coloring

This is often the image we see when discussing food coloring, as it is the more traditional and common type. It is inexpensive and comes in all the colors needed to make your cooking vibrant. It is easy to use and allows you to build to the desired color. Unfortunately, they are sold in small quantities, so when making a large batch, a few bottles may be needed. 

  • Gel Paste Food Dye

This is a great option when baking with your children as its consistency doesn’t allow it to mess easily. However, it is tricky to work with and isn’t recommended for beginners. With gel paste, only a little is needed to color the food which makes it ideal for larger quantities. It is difficult to distribute the color throughout doughs and other thick forms of food and is better when stirred into a lighter consistency such as icing and other smoother ingredients.

  • Powdered Food Dye

This type of food coloring can be used in a number of ways and is perfect for liquid-sensitive recipes. It can be added at the beginning with your dry ingredients, but it is recommended to use it lightly as too much can create a much darker color than wanted. When mixed with a liquid, it can create pastel paint that can be used to make patterns on cakes and other foods. You can also simply dust or brush it onto your dish in its natural state for a tasteful finish. 

  • Natural Food Coloring

As discussed previously, this is a great alternative to synthetic food colorings. If you would like to avoid glycerine, corn syrup, petroleum, and other ingredients that consist of the more common food dyes, then this is the answer! It can be a fun project to create your own, or you can locate already made natural food coloring from stores around you. 

  • Liquid Gel Food Coloring

Last but certainly not least, we have liquid gel dye. It can be quite tricky to find but is definitely a game-changer. It is somewhere in between liquid and gel food coloring and is often squeezed from its bottle. It is the perfect dye to use when you want a bright and vivid color, as it only takes a drop to create an in-depth hue. It goes a long way and sadly isn’t the greatest to use for doughs. With that being said, you will be overjoyed with the beautiful transformation this dye will have on your icing, candies, and other more liquid foods.

Does it Expire? How to Tell?

does food coloring expire - how to cook safely! | Healthier Me Today

Now for the moment you have been waiting for… The simple answer- No, but before you jump for joy, there are, however, a few things you need to know. Yes, it has an expiry date on the bottle, much like every ingredient and food on the market. You may be concerned when you learn it has gone past its date, but food coloring does not have any raw ingredients in it. If it is stored correctly, such as being sealed properly and put in a cupboard, there is no issue with continuing its use. 

With this being said, it does depend on the type of food coloring. With naturally made food dyes, it is best to stick to their expiration date as it contains natural and raw ingredients, which will go bad over time. With gel dyes, they may go a bit lumpy, or their consistency will become thicker. All that is needed to prolong it is to add a few drops of boiling hot water, and it will be good as new! 

To sum up the question. When stored and handled correctly, the food coloring will last you a long time but make sure to know the differences and ingredients before prolonging its shelf life.

HMT News Team

HMT News Team 

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