Easter Eggs Colored With Onion Skins

I see the Easter color palette as yellow, violet, green, and sienna. Yellow is from the saffron tinted paska, a vanilla scented brioche we traditionally make for Easter Sunday. Violet is from the candied flowers we use to decorate it. Green is from the dill and cucumber salad that must accompany the roast pork. Sienna, on the other hand, is from the color of Easter eggs. It’s a rich hue, between the reds of Sienna frescoes and the brown of sandalwood. This color is completely natural and making it is very easy. All you need is a few handfuls of onion skins.

My grandmother starts collecting onion skins a few months before Easter, but she colors dozens of eggs. Most of us need no more than a few onions, although the more skins you have, the darker the color will be. It also follows that the darker the onion skins, the more intense the shade of sienna.

Before chemical colors became common, eggs were dyed with all sorts of plants. My great-grandmother used blue malva flowers to tint them pale blue and birch tree buds to color them olive green. Onion skins, on the other hand, were the most popular ingredient for Easter egg dye, not least because they were easily available. The color they give is still my favorite, and I can’t imagine an Easter table without a basket of these dark red eggs.

The recipe is straightforward enough, but I included tips to make the color vibrant and even. I also would love to hear about your Easter traditions and whether you make any special foods for this holiday.

Natural Onion Skin Dye for Easter Eggs

2-3 packed cups of onion skins (outer, dry skins)
5-6 cups of water
fresh eggs at room temperature

Cover onion skins with water and bring to a boil. Cover and let the water simmer on low heat for 30 minutes to obtain dark, rich color. Cool. Strain. Add 2 teaspoons of salt. Some people recommend adding a teaspoon of vinegar to make the color more intense.

Eggs have to be at room temperature, otherwise they might crack. Wash them and put them into the onion skin liquid and boil them for 10 minutes. The liquid should cover the eggs completely. As the eggs are cooking, gently rotate them a couple of times to make sure that they are colored evenly.

Once the eggs are cooked, take them out and put them into a bowl of cold water. Once the eggs are cold, take them out of the water and dry them thoroughly with a soft cloth or paper towels.  Rub them with a bit of vegetable oil to make the shell shiny. Your beautiful Easter eggs are ready to decorate your table or your Easter basket.

P.S. You can reuse the onion water several times. It keeps for two weeks in the fridge.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin



  • Susan: Vinegar, absolutely! Plus I dry mine on a cooling rack, otherwise the color can puddle and mar the total appearance. I start saving onion skins the day after Easter! I wish I could upload a photo. March 28, 2018 at 10:24am Reply

    • Victoria: I simply take eggs out and dry them with paper towels once they are cool. This way the color is even.

      Easter without these eggs is not real Easter for me. March 28, 2018 at 10:34am Reply

  • Geraldine Ethen: In my family we re-make our Christmas bread, Julikaga, made with cardamon, which I dearly love and associate with festal breads. It also contains citron.
    We have another Easter baking tradition of upside-down yellow cupcakes slathered with bright green frosting on all sides, covered with green-dyed coconut and topped with hummingbird jellybeans. Thus they are little birds’ nests!
    Ham is the traditional Easter offering also.
    I’m going to try your dyed onion skin Easter eggs this year! March 28, 2018 at 11:15am Reply

    • Victoria: Julikaga sounds so delicious. Would you be able to share the recipe? March 28, 2018 at 12:23pm Reply

      • Geraldine Ethen: YULEKAKE (Christmas Bread ~ Norwegian)

        1 ½ lb. butter (6 cubes)

        6 cups milk

        3 cups sugar

        Heat above ingredients to melt butter, then cool


        6 eggs, beaten

        2 tsp. salt

        1 carton peel (candied fruit, like orange, lemon, citron)

        ½ cup raisins

        4 Tbsp. Powdered Cardamom

        4 pkg. yeast (start in 2 cups 100o water with

        2 tsp. sugar)

        10 + lbs. unbleached flour

        Knead, let rise until double in bowl, then divide

        And put in loaf pans and let rise again.

        Cook in 350o oven for an hour….rotate pans ½ way through.

        Makes 7-9 loaves March 28, 2018 at 12:42pm Reply

        • Geraldine Ethen: I forgot to add that we make “hot cross buns” at Easter, making buns and a vanilla frosting that we shape into cross forms on the tops of the buns. March 28, 2018 at 12:43pm Reply

          • Victoria: Maybe I will also make hot cross buns this year. It’s been a while. March 30, 2018 at 10:07am Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you! It sounds delicious. March 30, 2018 at 10:07am Reply

          • Geraldine Ethen: This recipe obviously makes a gigantic amount. I halve it.
            Happy Easter/Pascha! March 30, 2018 at 11:14am Reply

            • Victoria: Yes, I was thinking of making only one loaf to start. 🙂 The recipe seems easy enough to scale down. March 31, 2018 at 12:30pm Reply

  • Bella Ciao: You can also create a “marbled” egg by adding a bit of oil to the “onion soup” and wrapping the eggs in panty hose. Because of the oil they are a bit trickier to dry of course afterwards. Or use different colours of onion soup with oil for different shades of marble. More work though:)- March 28, 2018 at 11:22am Reply

    • Victoria: That would look very pretty. I’ve also seen people wrapping parsley leaves or small flowers around eggs before coloring them. March 28, 2018 at 12:24pm Reply

      • Emilie: This is what I do too and it does give a lovely effect. March 28, 2018 at 7:26pm Reply

  • AndreaR: Such a fabulous red! I’m off to the produce section of our local market to plead for onion skins:-) March 28, 2018 at 11:27am Reply

    • Victoria: They’re usually happy to unload the onion skins. I’ve also been known to go through the onion bin and pick out loose onion skins! March 28, 2018 at 12:25pm Reply

  • sandra: So onion skins are just the outside layer of the onion? The paper like texture layer on the onion? Is it only red onions? I would like to try this. I think my little ones would love this! The really love hard boiled eggs!

    I also thought of you(this blog) this week..I remember reading and discussing your article you wrote on Syria and you posted a link to Syrian woman who create soap, this month I finally treated myself to a black seed laurel soap from the website and I also got a Kees Tafriq loofah (it look more like black fabric) to use in the shower. This is my birthday present to myself. March 28, 2018 at 12:10pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, it’s the papery outer portion that has the color in it. Not the actual juicy onion layer. Even the pale onion skins produce a nice shade, but the darker the skins the richer the color. Also, the more you have them, the better. I specified a loose proportion, but you can add more.

      Happy birthday! May all of your wishes come true. That sounds like a fabulous present. March 28, 2018 at 12:27pm Reply

      • sandra: Great!
        I will let you know how the eggs come out! March 28, 2018 at 12:37pm Reply

        • Victoria: Can’t wait to hear about it! March 30, 2018 at 10:01am Reply

  • Brenda: My daughter, bring the last grandchild of a group of 27, was given an Easter egg by my mother in law. The colour is onion skin, though quite faded. My mother in law’s full name is written on it – along with the location and year…1911. Since she was born in 1908, she was obviously 3. It would have been her mother’s (lovely) penmanship. It’s quite a treasure. March 28, 2018 at 12:14pm Reply

    • Victoria: What a treasure!
      Also, your comment reminds me that the natural colors last for a very long time. There is a Pysanka Museum in Ukraine that’s dedicated to a decorate Easter egg, and they have some eggs that are more than a century old. The colors still look vivid.

      Here is the link to see what the museum is like:
      https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/pysanka-museum March 28, 2018 at 12:31pm Reply

      • sandra: At the Ukrainian museum in NYC they give a Pysanka workshop if you are interested in learning (depending on where you live).. I went last year and it was fabulous. March 28, 2018 at 12:38pm Reply

        • Victoria: I remember you attending last year. Another friend was also there and liked it very much. March 30, 2018 at 10:01am Reply

      • Brenda: That is lovely – thank you. Perhaps someday I wil visit. March 28, 2018 at 4:09pm Reply

      • Brenda: Thank you, Victoria. March 28, 2018 at 4:10pm Reply

  • Amalia: My mother used to decorate our red easter eggs with herbs. She placed herbs on the un-dyed eggs, wraped them with pieces of clean nylon pantyhoses and then she dyed them with red color.Happy Easter to all! March 28, 2018 at 1:47pm Reply

    • Victoria: I can imagine how pretty it would look. March 30, 2018 at 10:08am Reply

  • elvie: Yes!:) That rich, rustic colour! Thank you Victoria, for the lovely article!
    I live in Hungary and we also make these eggs every Easter. My MIL also scrapes (is that the right word?) intricate designs into those eggs with a special tool called “író”:). They look gorgeous. Eggs are such perfect media for arts, aren’t they?
    We have a lot of old traditions surrounding this holiday. We cook a lovely smoked ham with cloves and bay, then bake a huge saffron-lemon sourdough sweetbread, boil eggs and colour them. We have those for a big Easter Sunday breakfast, then check the Easter Bunny’s nest on the balcony for chocolate eggs:). On Easter Monday, boys and men come to sprinkle girls and women with perfume or cologne ( an old tradition to bless them with the gift of fertility and renewal). Originally they did it with simple water, then scented waters came into fashion. In return, we give them richly decorated eggs and chocolate eggs. Very lovely traditions, though *khm* some women tend to complain about wafts of a dozen different perfumes stinking around them by the end of the day…;). March 28, 2018 at 3:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: What a fun custom! 🙂

      There is an Easter egg museum in Ukraine and they once had a workshop on how to make those “scraped” Hungarian eggs. The result looks so beautiful. March 30, 2018 at 10:09am Reply

      • elvie: Wow, didn’t know that! Yes, they’re so detailed, like very fine lace. March 31, 2018 at 1:50am Reply

    • Emilie: What delightful traditions, especially the sprinkling with scented water. That seems very fun (and flirtatious!) March 30, 2018 at 8:15pm Reply

      • elvie: Yes, I am sure these customs back in the day have plenty of great possibilities for young people to express their preferneces towards the *right* suitors:). Water, after all, and eggs, especially are so powerful symbols for new starts, right? March 31, 2018 at 1:57am Reply

        • Emilie: Absolutely! Lots of symbolism going on there 🙂

          I love reading about the subtle ways people used to show interest in each other a while back. The ‘language’ of flowers used to send messages to each other has always fascinated me (I remember having a picture book of this when I was little that said what each flower symbolised… alas lost in many subsequent moves!) March 31, 2018 at 2:05am Reply

          • Victoria: I like the Victorian-era manuals with their explanations of the language of flowers.

            In Ukraine, for instance, one doesn’t give yellow flowers as a gift, because yellow means either parting or jealousy. I don’t follow such rules, but some people still do. March 31, 2018 at 12:33pm Reply

            • Emilie: Very interesting! I wonder how all these associations originally came about?

              I’m afraid working in a palliative care setting I’ve developed a bit of an aversion to receiving white lilies in a bouquet! You see, many florists and funeral parlours donate them to us to scent the patient’s rooms, so even though they are beautiful they sort of give me a chill outside of work (sorry about the morbidity of my comment!)

              Pink Easter lilies (belladonna amaryllis) on the other hand are decorating my Easter table this year because they grow with abundance around the hills in Autumn 🙂 March 31, 2018 at 7:15pm Reply

  • Emilie: This is how I colour my Easter eggs too! It makes the eggs fit perfectly with the Autumn colour palette in Australia this time of year too.

    The only difference is that I pattern my eggs with herbs such as parsley by wetting them and placing them over the eggshells, then covering the eggs up with twine. It makes it so where the herbs were the colour is lighter and the rest of the egg dark giving a nice effect – almost a fossilised look. March 28, 2018 at 7:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m going to try it this year! March 30, 2018 at 10:12am Reply

      • Emilie: Hope your eggs turn out beautifully 🙂 March 30, 2018 at 8:16pm Reply

  • Ariane: Regarding Spring customs — last year you wrote about tying a red and white tassel to a branch of the first flowering tree. (Then I actually saw one on a cherry tree in Central Park!)
    Spring is late this year, but I saw a flowering magnolia yesterday. However, I forget the name of these tassels and can’t find your post about them. Must it be a fruit tree? It seems such a sweet old custom! March 29, 2018 at 1:07pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s called martenitsa. Here is the link:

      It can be any flowering tree, and the string is red and white. You can use anything–yarn, ribbon, thread, etc. March 29, 2018 at 4:57pm Reply

      • Potimarron: I saw a cherry tree in Oxford last week with these tassels attached. I didn’t know what they meant, so thank you for the pointer! April 1, 2018 at 2:19am Reply

  • Ariane: Many thanks, Victoria! March 29, 2018 at 6:36pm Reply

  • Eudora: This post reminds me of.. A distant cousin of mine dyes her hair with onions. She is one of those woman that can make bread, cookies, soaps, you name it, in a traditional way. Her hair is already white, like snow -like my mother’s- but dyed with onions is very much like those eggs! March 31, 2018 at 5:18pm Reply

    • Emilie: I use a rinse made with chamomile flowers to bring out blonde highlights in my hair too. It works surprisingly well! March 31, 2018 at 7:17pm Reply

  • Aisha: I’m really going to have to try this next year. March 31, 2018 at 5:39pm Reply

  • Aurora: Thank you for describing that pretty custom, I love that rich sienna colour against the yellow and white of the sliced egg in your great photo. This Easter post reminds me that today on Easter Sunday my grandmother who lived in Lille would bring back what is called a Coquille from the baker. It’s a rich but plain brioche traditionally made only for Easter in Northern France I suppose to mark the end of Lent. Lille being close to Bruxelles maybe it can be found there too. I am feeling very nostalgic about it. April 1, 2018 at 6:58am Reply

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