Tutorial: how to dye your own sugar!!

Sugar Dyeing for baking and decorating

At Christmas, I made some of my favorite sugar cookies in snowflake shapes and wanted a simpler decoration idea than frosting. Seriously – only Martha Stewart and her army of crafters have time to draw lovely little designs on cookies at Christmastime. I decided to go with simple colored sugar, when my mother suggested saving the crazy cost of decorating sugar and just dye my own. She tells me she learned this as a Girl Scout and I’ll be honest and admit I didn’t really believe it would work, but it turns out to be crazy easy. And, since it’s made from things most of us have in the cupboard, totally free!

Here’s what you need:

Sugar Dyeing pt 1

– Sugar, obviously. It’d be awesome if you could find the really-big-crystal kind, but no such luck in my area. This not-fine-not-coarse supermarket sugar worked a charm for me.
– Food coloring in whatever colors you like
– A shallow bowl (I used a plate here but discovered later a shallow bowl works even better)
– A spoon
– Newspaper
– Measuring cup
– Not pictured: an apron, unless you’re a food coloring daredevil
– About 10-ish minutes per color, if that

To get started, spread out the newspaper and put on your apron because food coloring will go wherever is unprotected, no matter how careful you are. (Ask me how I know.) Measure out however much sugar you want to dye – I did about a half-cup of three colors and had more than enough to cover the cookies I baked – into your shallow bowl.

Sugar Dyeing pt 2

Drip a few drops of food coloring into the sugar. It’s best to start with too little than too much. Just like adding white paint, you can always add plain sugar to a too-dark color to lighten it, but that’s how you accidentally end up with a huge bag of a color you’ll never use. (Again – ask me how I know.) Here I’ve used 3 drops of pink coloring.

Sugar Dyeing pt 3

Work the color into the sugar with the back of your spoon, kind of just smooshing it in. There’s probably a million other ways to do this – with your fingers if you wear gloves, mashing it all around in a ziplock bag, etc – but I found this to be just as quick and easy to make sure it’s all even.

Sugar Dyeing pt 4

Keep smooshing and mixing until it’s all worked in and even, adding more food coloring if needed.

Sugar Dyeing pt 5

And that’s pretty much it! For this light pink, I used only three drops of color and it stayed pretty dry. Sugar with more food coloring in it might be a bit moist – it’s a good idea to leave in out in a thin layer to dry for a while.

I made three colors for Valentine’s Day:

Sugar Dyeing pt 6

Mmm, sugar.

Sugar Dyeing pt 7

Do yourself a favor and make these sugar cookies from Our Best Bites, which I promise is the best sugar cookie recipe on earth. Sprinkle them with your hand-dyed sugar before they go in the oven, or you could always use it to decorate cupcakes or anything else you want to sparkle!

Sugar Dyeing pt 8

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Update: Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh, this tutorial was on Craft: magazine’s blog!!! This is my little blog’s most exciting day evar! A bunch of readers also left their particular sugar dyeing methods in the comments below, so have a look through them for further tips and tricks. Thanks for stopping by!

15 Comments on Tutorial: how to dye your own sugar!!

  1. Scrapiana
    February 9, 2011 at 16:53 (7 years ago)

    Yes, I’ve coloured sugar that way. You can do something similar with rock-salt for a bath product (adding appropriately scented oils too).

  2. Julie
    February 9, 2011 at 16:57 (7 years ago)

    Hmm, that’s really interesting, I’ll have to try that out sometime – I was shocked how simple this was and how special it made my cookies seem. Plus, who doesn’t love making something for free?! :)

    (oops, posted this as my other self by accident!)

    • Love and Laughter,Amy
      February 12, 2011 at 01:48 (7 years ago)

      You have more than one self? awesome

  3. dreamalittle
    February 10, 2011 at 09:30 (7 years ago)

    A great idea, need to find the time to make some cookies now!

  4. Jennifer
    February 12, 2011 at 03:07 (7 years ago)

    I have done this before, but I put everything in a quart size freezer bag and mushed it all up but I honestly can’t say it would be that much easier because it takes a lot of mushing. You can also dye coconut that way to make, oh say green easter “grass” to go under dyed eggs.

  5. Jennifer
    February 12, 2011 at 03:07 (7 years ago)

    Oh! Try King Aurther Flour’s website for larger sugar. I think thay have it.

  6. jackie l.
    February 12, 2011 at 03:08 (7 years ago)

    you can also add a few drops of food coloring and pulse the sugar in the food processor. we dried it in a warm oven for a bit too.

  7. Linda T
    February 12, 2011 at 03:32 (7 years ago)

    We always put the sugar and the drops of food coloring in a jar. screw on the lid and shake. Simple as that.

  8. di
    February 12, 2011 at 04:03 (7 years ago)

    I’ve made this but found it less messy by squooshing it around in a ziplock baggie. Also, my kids like to help with the mixing that way.
    The cookies look so good. I think I’m inspired!

  9. Jerri
    February 12, 2011 at 10:16 (7 years ago)

    I recall doing this years ago. Instead of a bowl I put it in a plastic baggie and worked in the color by kneading it from the outside. Less mess and then could be stored in the same baggie.

  10. Pam
    February 12, 2011 at 12:56 (7 years ago)

    this can also be done with sand to make sand sculptures like the ones from the fair.

  11. xochilatl
    February 12, 2011 at 14:07 (7 years ago)

    I use a Ziploc plastic bag and just work the sugar and the color in the bag with my hands until it’s all mixed. I measure, mix, and store ll into the same container.

  12. julie
    February 12, 2011 at 16:55 (7 years ago)

    Thanks for all the comments, you lovely people, and for sharing your experiences with sugar dyeing methods!! I’ll be sure to try some of these out next time I get a hankering for sugar cookies!

  13. Sherezada
    February 19, 2011 at 22:45 (7 years ago)

    This is great! I always use colored sugar on my sugan cookies, so it’s great to know I can make my own at home. Thanks for sharing (and congrats on the Craftzine nod. That’s how I found your blog).

  14. S. Sweeney
    August 10, 2011 at 17:30 (7 years ago)

    How did you get the dark chocolate colored sugar?


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