If you’re frustrated trying to find homemade, natural green dye that actually works for your St. Patrick’s Day cookies, look no further! I have three cookie decoration methods, including buttercream frosting, that I’ve started using to incorporate that tricky green natural food coloring. I finally found a way to decorate St. Patrick’s Day cookies that’s easy and homemade!
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If you’ve tried making your own natural food coloring, you probably already know that you really can make a wide array of colors. You can make vibrant pink, orange, red and even blue natural food coloring for Easter egg dyeing and frosting.
However, a really easy to make and use natural green dye has been hard for me to come up with!
What’s Wrong With Most Natural Green Food Coloring Suggestions
I’ve read several articles about natural food coloring over the years and I’ve been able to apply much of what I’ve learned from writers who have actually used the methods they’re writing about. (So many of those really big websites don’t always have the most reliable information, sadly.)
However, the times I tried the boiling spinach or kale method to get a natural green dye it just didn’t work well.
- Either I had to add so much green juice that the frosting tasted like the vegetable
- Or, I added less to avoid the flavor and couldn’t get a vibrant green color
Besides, I don’t want something that takes that much time to mix up!
St. Patrick’s Day Cookies with Natural Food Coloring
First of all, my favorite St. Patrick’s Day cookies are shortbread cookies. I have no use for sugar cookies on this holiday.
>>>>—Click here for my favorite Shortbread Cookie Recipe—<<<<
I’m going to share with you three different ways of decorating your St. Patrick’s Day cookies. Two of these methods involve frosting and one doesn’t require it. This tutorial does NOT feature royal icing, FYI.
I don’t really care for royal icing, especially on a shortbread cookie. The one time of year I use royal icing is Christmas and I’ll let you know my method for that closer to the season. Stay tuned!
3 Way Naturally Dyed St. Patrick’s Day Cookies
The first way to naturally dye your St. Patrick’s Day Cookies is to simply make a quality shortbread cookie using a shamrock cookie cutter:
#1 Dusted St. Patrick’s Day Cookies
Once your cookie dough is cut, set it out on your cookie sheets. Then, crush any dried, green leafy vegetable or herb to sprinkle on the cookie dough before it bakes.
For example, to dehydrate spinach leaves:
- Wash and gently pat dry (or dry in a salad spinner) a handful of spinach leaves.
- Lay them out flat on a dehydrator rack or a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
- If you have a dehydrator, dehydrate the spinach for a few hours at 125F/52C until dry (around five hours).
- You may also use an oven on its lowest temperature but you really have to watch the spinach so that it doesn’t over dry and change color.
- Air drying might be an easier option, if you’re new to dehydrating. Place your cookie sheet in a warm, dry place with good air circulation. Check it every 12 hours (it should only take about a day to dry).
- Once our plant material is completely dry, crush it right before use. A mortar and pestle will work, but so will a food chopper or blender.
You can follow this process for kale, chard, dandelion leaf, peppermint, lemon balm and even carrot tops or parsley. Any edible, green plant will work. Obviously, lemon balm is sweeter than kale and I much prefer it.
Dust the Cookie Dough
Dust your St. Patrick’s Day cookie dough with your powdered green, plant material. Bake as per your recipe instructions. No fuss, no muss!
This method is particularly good if you don’t want to interfere too much with the flavor of the shortbread.
#2 Frosted St. Patrick’s Day Cookies
This is a traditional frosted cookie look and simple to make. I use cream cheese frosting to cut the amount of sugar I need to use. This recipe calls for spirulina powder for an even, vibrant natural green food coloring. You could also use matcha powder for a lighter, more yellow-green color.
Watch the video first on how to mix the frosting and if you have any questions, just leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.
- 8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
- 1/2 Cup Butter or Coconut Oil, softened
- 2/3 Cup Powdered Sugar or Erythritol
- 2 Pinches of Spirulina Powder, or more
- 1/2 tsp. Cream or Whole Milk, as needed
- Make sure the cream cheese and butter (or coconut oil) are at room temperature.
- Add the cream cheese and butter (or coconut oil), plus the sugar and mix thoroughly with the whisk attachment of your mixer.
- Add the spirulina one pinch at a time and mix thoroughly. Taste after each addition if desired color isn't achieved. Too much spirulina and your frosting will taste like seaweed.
- If your frosting isn't spreadable enough, add the cream or milk until it reaches your desired texture.
Even if you use matcha, be sure you taste test as you go so you don't add too much to adversely effect the flavor.
What is Spirulina?
Spirulina is an algae that has a blue-green color and is considered a super food. It also happens to be full of protein, anti-inflammatories, iron, and a myriad of other nutrients.
- Please visit this post from Green Smoothie Gourmet to learn more about it and make some super food spirulina popsicles.
- To get another idea of spirulina’s natural food coloring capacity, you can check out this post from Snixy Kitchen – Healthy Smash Cake – scroll down to the pictures of the adorable toddler covered in green dragon frosting.
There are several color variations but be sure that you order spirulina powder and not tablets:
#3 Freckled St. Patrick’s Day Cookies
Using that same cream cheese frosting and the plant based green powder you made before you can create a freckled frosting for your St. Patrick’s Day cookies. There are two different ways to make this frosting.
Lighter Freckled Frosting
- Mix one cup of frosting with 1 tsp. of green powder.
- Taste test.
Darker Freckled Frosting
This method requires some mild heating so the flavor of the green powder will be noticeable. Therefore, try this method with lemon balm or mint, rather than spinach or kale. Unless you like kale flavored frosting. Bleh.
- Melt 1 Tbsp. of coconut oil until just melted.
- Add the coconut oil to one cup of frosting and 1 teaspoon of green powder.
- Mix very well.
- Taste test.
The vegetable powder isn’t water soluble (in other words, it doesn’t melt in water), but the warmed oil will pull out more of the chlorophyll from the plant material and create a darker green frosting.
Be aware that some green plants, once dried, will turn slightly yellow. This is a frustration many fiber artists feels as they try to find natural green dyes from green plants. You process them for dyeing wool or fabric and they turn yellow!
More Natural Dyes for Spring Holidays
From St. Patrick’s Day to Easter to May Day, natural dyes can come in quite handy! Here are a few links for more natural dye projects for spring holidays.