Naturally dyed Easter eggs with onion peels

Super pretty, simple and zero waste.

It’s Easter time again and since a lot of you were interested in naturally dyed Easter eggs with onion peels the way we usually do them in Slovenia, I figured I’d make a quick guide. P.S.: You can read more about Slovenian Easter traditions here.

Using onion peels to dye your Easter eggs is probably the most common and traditional method in my country, because it’s easy, cheap and the eggs turn out gorgeous. If you want to keep it simple, you can just cook them in onion peels without any embellishment and they’ll still have a beautiful warm orange-brown colour, but in my family we usually make them with plant patterns.

You’ll need:

  • onion peels
  • salt
  • water
  • Optional: nylon socks and some fresh leaves

You can use and mix any kind of onions for this – yellow, red etc., except white, because it won’t give off much colour. You’ll want to start saving your leftover onion peels sometime around New Year to get a least a large jar of them, but there’s no such thing as too much onion peels here. Take care to only store the dry outer peels, because the inner, moist peel layers can get mouldy.

If you want to do plant patterns, you’ll also need some old nylon socks (no point wasting good ones) or any other kind of thin, porous elastic fabric. Most Slovenian women keep their old torn nylon socks during the year precisely for this purpose, no matter how crazy that makes us look. 🙂

Naturally dyed Easter eggs

To make the plant patterns start with uncooked eggs. Wet your chosen leaf with a bit of water with your finger, position and “stick” it onto the egg, then wrap a part of the sock tightly around the egg without dislodging the leaf. It needs to be really tight so the leaf won’t move during cooking and you can usually tell, because the sock goes sheer if done right. Secure the sock on the other side of the egg with an elastic band or a piece of thread and cut off the excess sock so you can use it for another egg. One knee high nylon sock is usually good for 3 – 4 eggs (obviously you need to wash the old socks first before you do this).

It takes a bit of practice to get it right, so don’t be discouraged if your leaf gets squashed or bent out of shape the first couple of times. Soft, smaller leaves are the easiest to use, because they’ll stick to the eggs well. Common household plants like ferns, strawberries and herbs turn out really nice, or you can go and pick out some nice leaves outside.You can also use flowers and pretty much any kind of plant, just make sure whatever you’re using isn’t toxic, because the plant will be cooked with the egg and can be absorbed into the egg through the shell. You’ll see the brown onion colour seep through the shell sometimes, but that’s safe to eat.

After you’re done, cook the eggs in a large pot with onion peels and a bit of salt for at least an hour. The longer you leave them and the more onion peels you have, the stronger the colour will be. Add enough water to cover all the eggs and don’t let it boil too violently, because the eggs will bump into each other too much and can break. Leave the whole thing to cool down, then cut and remove the socks and the leaves. After you take them out, the eggs will be hard-boiled and there will be an exact, super-detailed leaf pattern on the shell where the leaf prevented the colour from seeping in. Depending on your leaf, sock and how tight you wrapped it, you’ll sometimes get crazy unexpected patterns, which is part of the fun.

To give your naturally dyed Easter eggs a nice shine and even out the colour, you can finish them off by rubbing them with a thick piece of bacon fat or an oiled cloth. And that’s it! Simple, right?

Do you also make naturally dyed Easter eggs in your country?

You can use other kinds of natural dyes like red wine, beetroot, black tea, turmeric or matcha to dye your Easter eggs as well, although a lot of them won’t give you such a full, vibrant colour unless you’re using white eggs. Red wine is quite strong and crystallizes on the surface of the eggs for a pretty effect, but the others can be a hit and miss and the eggs should be left to soak in hot water for much longer than with wine or onion peels.

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