How to Dye Eggs with Red Cabbage

hi I'm Julia hood and I'm the manager of school and family learning at Reynolda house Museum of American Art today in our pop-up studio I'm going to show you how to dye eggs with materials that you may have at home or that you can find in a grocery store if you can find some old pantyhose around I'll show you a way of adding a little extra natural flair to your Easter eggs like so there are lots of ways of making natural dyes for Easter eggs today we are going to use red cabbage which creates this nice blue color for your eggs but you can also use onion skins to create a nice deep rich brown for some of the activities today you will need an adult to help you if we could go back in time to 1911 we could be the oldest Reynolds children dick and Mary hosts an Easter egg hunt at their home the adult hid eggs inside plants in their conservatory or greenhouse and then the kids went and found them every guest went home with their own little Easter basket of eggs whether you celebrate Easter like the Reynolds did or just want to make a natural dye for eggs here's an activity for you I'll show you the materials that you'll need to complete this project and how to do it

for this project you'll need eggs that have not been cooked white and brown eggs will both work but produce different results you'll need about half a head of red cabbage shredded and an adult to help you a stainless steel pan for cooking and either a colander or slotted spoon you'll need one tablespoon of vinegar per cup of cabbage if you want to decorate your eggs you'll need pantyhose cut into six inch squares ask an adult in your household if you have any that can be cut up you'll need a twist tie and pantyhose square per egg that you add leaves to you can also add eggs without this decoration you will need to pick small flat leaves that you might find in a grassy area of lawn if there is something you want to pick from anywhere besides the grass ask an adult first if it is something that can be picked look for small flat leaves that have an interesting shape to them finally to polish your eggs at the end you'll need some olive or vegetable oil

ask an adult to dice the cabbage for you or to help you shred it for this project I'm measuring four cups of cabbage and then I will put it into a saucepan and add four cups of water

the first two cups of cabbage are in

then I'll add two cups of water

here I'm adding two more cups of each

for four cups of cabbage add four tablespoons of vinegar

cook the cabbage on the stove on high until it reaches a boil get an adult to help you

once the cabbage boils turn down the heat to a simmer put a lid on the pot and set a timer for 30 minutes


after the cabbage is simmered for 30 minutes turn off the stove and remove the pot from the heat

let it cool for several hours or overnight

once your dye has cooled you'll want to strain it through a colander into another stainless steel pot if you do not have a colander use a slotted spoon to remove the cabbage from the pot you use to cook it in it's okay if there's a little bit of cabbage still in the pot when we dye the eggs

when the dye is ready prepare your eggs by washing them and bringing them to room temperature then collect small flat leaves that you can use to dye your eggs dip the leaves in water to help them stick to the egg like so


wrap the egg with the pantyhose drawing it tightly around the side opposite the leaves use a twist tie to tightly fastened the remaining pantyhose together as close to the egg as you can get it


repeat this process with any other eggs that you'd like to decorate with leaves

now that you have your packages of eggs ready and some plain eggs at the side carefully place your eggs into the stainless steel pan with your red cabbage dye carefully add eggs until each egg is fully covered by dye but make sure that you only have one layer of eggs at the bottom push the eggs to make sure they are completely covered turn the burner to high and cook until the eggs come to a boil once they boil turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes after 10 minutes use a slotted spoon to remove an egg and see if the dye is as dark as you would like it if not cook for another 10 minutes and then turn off the stove and remove the pan from the heat to cool

once the pot has mostly cooled place it into the refrigerator to continue the dyeing process after a few hours check the eggs and see if they are as dark as you'd like

dry the finished eggs with a paper towel then place a small amount of olive oil or vegetable oil onto the eggs surface and buff it with a paper towel like this

untie your leaf decorated eggs and repeat the process what happened here how is some of the egg blue and some of its still white the leaves blocked the dye from getting to the egg which made our cool decoration

this was a brown egg that we died

While we don’t know many details, we know that the Reynolds family celebrated Easter. In 1911, the two oldest Reynolds children (then ages 5 and 2) “hosted” an Easter egg hunt at their home in downtown Winston-Salem. Children looked for eggs in the family conservatory (like a greenhouse) among the plants. The Reynolds used decorations of miniature rabbits and chicks, a theme we still find in Eastern decorations today! 

For additional recipes for naturally dyed Easter eggs, see Sara Kate Gillingham’s recipes here.

Reynolda revealed video series

See all videos

From the 1910s to the late 1950s, the segregated community of Five Row was home to Reynolda’s African American farm workers and their families.

Watch Now

A new type of Southern woman, Katharine Reynolds combined the traditional role of wife and mother with progressive practices on healthy living, education, and agricultural reform.

Watch Now