Introduction: Easter Eggs Dyed With Onion Skins

Picture of Easter Eggs Dyed With Onion Skins

Boiling eggs that have been wrapped snugly in onion skins, produces beautifully patterned Easter eggs.

I never really cared for the usual colourful Easter eggs most people make. They're too gaudy for my taste. I don't like the mess involved with making them and I don't like using all that food colouring. So, for the past ten years or so, I've been colouring my Easter eggs the way my grandparents used to; using onion skins.

Step 1: Materials Needed

Picture of Materials Needed

Here is what you need to make these kind of Easter eggs:

- eggs
- onion skins (pieces as large as possible)
- 20 cm (8 inch) squares of cloth
- rubber bands
- a pot of boiling water
- some vegetable oil

I start saving onion skins for a month or two before Easter... I guess that's pretty much all of Lent. If you don't have enough onion skins saved up by Easter, ask your local grocery store if you may get some loose onion skins from them.

Step 2: Wet Everything

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Soak your onion skins in a big bowl of water. (I just used a small bowl since I made a single egg for this demonstration.) Be careful with your onion skins. When they are dry, they are pretty fragile and you want to keep them as large as possible.

Just dip the squares of cloth in the water, then wring them out so they are damp. Also dip the eggs in the water; it helps the onion skins cling to them better.

Step 3: Wrap the Eggs With Onion Skins

Picture of Wrap the Eggs With Onion Skins

Wrap onion skins around each egg. If you are lucky, you'll have skins from the top or the bottom of an onion. These naturally conform to the shape of the egg. If not, just make sure you cover the entire surface of each egg with pieces of onion skin. The water should help the skins cling to the eggs.

Step 4: Wrap in Cloth

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Place an onion skin wrapped egg in the middle of one of your squares of cloth. Wrap the cloth snugly around the egg so the onion skin presses tightly against it. Securely tie off the top of the cloth with a rubber band.

Step 5: Hard Boil

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Carefully add each bundled-up egg to a pot of boiling water. Boil them for seven minutes or so, until they are hard boiled. If you happen to crack one of the eggs when you are putting them in, add some salt to the water; that'll supposedly keep the whites from leaking out of the crack.

Step 6: Rinse in Cold Water

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Once your eggs have boiled long enough, carefully pour off the boiling water and run some cold water into the pot to cool the eggs down.

Step 7: Unwrap the Eggs

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Carefully remove the rubber bands and take the eggs out of the cloths. Peel off the onion skins (you can toss the used onion skins into your compost). Voila The shells of the eggs will now be covered with beautiful patterns transferred from the onion skins in shades of brown, yellow, and green.

Step 8: Give the Eggs Some Shine

Picture of Give the Eggs Some Shine

Wipe the eggs dry. Put a little vegetable oil (I used canola oil) on a cloth or paper towel and rub onto the eggs. The oil gives the eggs a nice shine and seals their pores which should help them fresh longer.

Step 9: The Finished Eggs

Picture of The Finished Eggs

There you have it. Use your Easter eggs as decorations for a few days, then crack, peel, & eat 'em. (Ever since I was a little kid, I always crack my hard boiled eggs against my forehead!)

When you peel the eggs, you'll notice that some of the colour has bled through the shell and has coloured the egg white. Don't worry, they are still perfectly safe to eat - more than I'd dare say about eggs coloured with artificial dyes. Despite the colour transfer onto the egg whites, there is no onion taste to the eggs.

Incidentally, I have tried using red onion skins for this as well, hoping to get red coloured eggs. Didn't get any red eggs though. Those eggs looked the same as the eggs I made with brown onion skins. Go figure.


MarianneN0828 (author)2017-04-15

My grandmother (Lithuanian) and mother would crush dye tablets and dip a wet egg in several different colors, wrap the egg in dry onion leaves then cloth. The eggs were so beautiful they looked painted.

mpanetti (author)2014-02-18

Hello.can I use red onions as well? Does anyone have pictures of what they look like?

linrodann (author)2013-03-26

Ooh, that's really pretty!

shortone (author)2010-04-05

nice 'ible! I actually just posted on my blog about these, using a different method. I was wondering if it would be ok with you if I added a link to this instructable so people could see another variation?
here's the post:
(it's eggs came out very dark red. I think I just cooked them longer with the onion skins or something. :)

wrique (author)shortone2010-04-05

You bet Betsy!  Thanks for linking to this!

shortone (author)wrique2010-04-05

you're welcome :)

pdub77 (author)shortone2011-04-19

I like your technique, shortone, for a different take on this. I also like the marbling you get from wrique's. Combined like Voltron (or Wonder Twins, if that's how you roll. . .) you could have a wicked cool Easter basket! (author)2011-04-11

it is so amazing stuff.. My wife done like that ..

Matt2 Silver (author)2010-04-05

this is very inventive and intersting, you're right it does look far more classy than the crayon colors that most of us associate with easter.  thanks for posting, i'm excited to give this one a shot

hibou (author)2010-04-05

 these are beautiful.  thanks for sharing :)

sjrushworth (author)2010-04-05

My mother taught me how to do this (exactly the same method) when I was a little boy in the 1950s! We have done th eggs this way every year since and taught our kids.  No onion flavour issues. 

eggmcmffn (author)2010-04-05

 haha, what makes a better smell than hard boiled eggs? ONIONS and eggs!! hehe

chrysa (author)2010-04-04

when my family dyes with skins, we don't bother with the cloth bundles.  We just toss everything in the pot and cook them till they are the right colour. Granted, the 'toss and boil' method doesn't leave the cool patterns as pictured above.

chrysa (author)2010-04-04

my family has been dying eggs in skins all  my life and we have never had any onion flavouring issues.

mpbubb (author)2008-03-17

... or a little vinegar will keep the whites from running out.

fpeelo (author)mpbubb2009-04-13

Not sure that vinegar is a good idea here. It does help to contain the white, but I think it also interferes with the onion colouring.

thepelton (author)fpeelo2010-04-03

Actually I believe the vinegar would work as a mordant, and help the color of the egg be more colorfast.

shetonus (author)thepelton2010-04-04

That's right, the vinegar will help keep the eggs more colorful, even after repeated washings! Sorry, couldn't help myself.  It is true though that vinegar should help the dye from smudging in the wet grass or coming off on the little one's clothing... Probably not as much of a problem with onion skins as it would be with beet or red cabbage dye. 

misterschnitzy (author)2010-04-04

we tried the onion, Brilliant! The Bermuda onion wasn't as good and was the beet green was a bust. Also, we used coffee filters instead of the cloth and that worked great.

beva (author)2008-11-20

I wrap up flowers against the surface of the egg, and they leave a pattern you can get green eggs using red cabbage as a dye

thepelton (author)beva2010-04-03

Someone a couple of years ago gave me a dozen eggs that were green without having been dyed.  The chickens laid them like that.

Silver Buttons (author)2010-04-01

I remember my mother making pickled eggs with beet juice. The whole egg--inside and out--turned a bright pinkish red. I loved those as a kid! There is a recipe here if you're interested: 

thepelton (author)Silver Buttons2010-04-03

Beet Juice was also reccommended for nontoxic coloring of homemade wooden toys in a woodworking magazine I was reading.

thepelton (author)2010-04-03

Yellow onions are OK, I suppose, but I was wondering how well those purple onions would work?

Karletto555 (author)2010-04-03

Great instructable. That's how we do it ->
We wrap the egg into a pantyhose and put a leaf of parsley in direct contact with egg shell. The leaf will make bright decoration on the shell and of course it can be also from other vegatable. You should try it because looks very cool.


zascecs (author)2010-04-02

In my family, we always made these for easter. Pretty cool. 

Joey702 (author)2008-10-10

That's actually kind of depressing that the eggs don't retain an onion-y taste... it would be perfect for making omelets! Haha, but I very much want to try this! It looks very classy.

pablosartor (author)Joey7022010-02-02

hard to make an omelet with a  Hard boiled egg.

Joey702 (author)pablosartor2010-02-02

 ... D'OH.


markocosic (author)2007-04-07

Wooo - somebody else who does this! :-) Those look gorgeous!

Red onion skins tend to work nicer with the tan eggs. (US eggs are white, British eggs are light brown - don't know why!)


Using tights (stockings, pantyhose?) instead of cloth and the rubber band gets you a more even clamping/pressing against the egg for the leaves - useful if you want to try delicate ones.

As a game to play over easter, rather than cracking them on your forehead, one person holds their egg still and ther other person smashes their egg into it. Winner stays on, loser eats their egg, repeat until only one egg is left standing. Hint - there's an optimum end of the egg to use and that depends on which way up it was when boiled, and there's a trick to pre-squeezing the egg (reduces tension on the inside of the shell on impact) and releasing it as the two eggs strike (reduces tension on the outside as the egg relaxes). Mainly the older you are the better at it you tend to be, but you can pretend that there's a skill to it! ;-)

lipo (author)markocosic2008-03-19

Here in the U.S. they bleach the eggs. But you can buy the brown eggs as well, they are just not as common.

thepelton (author)lipo2009-04-11

Once, someone even gave me a dozen green eggs. Just the shells, and no ham.

amstewart (author)thepelton2009-06-07

Aricauna chickens are known as the easter egg chicken because they lay colored eggs. I had 2 of them growing up and one layed blue eggs and the other layed green eggs. No dye needed! :)

thepelton (author)amstewart2009-06-08

I bet they were popular at Easter time.

haleyc (author)lipo2009-04-11

White chickens lay white eggs, brown or other colored chickens lay brown eggs is what I have been taught. "In general, chicken breeds with white ear lobes lay white eggs, whereas chickens with red ear lobes lay brown eggs." From

Jeepingurl (author)lipo2008-03-22

On what authority to you make this claim? I grew up on a farm, with chickens, some of the eggs were brown, some were white, no bleach involved. Also, eggshells are pourous, which would imply that the bleach would leach into the eggs. Hmmm.

lipo (author)Jeepingurl2008-03-23

That is what I have always been told, but I will admit that I have not done research on this subject. It does stand to reason that at some point they go through some sort of process, because if you will notice the eggs that you buy in the store are all white. And I believe that the last package of brown eggs I had said that they were unbleached. So that is why I said that.

wrique (author)Jeepingurl2008-03-22

I've gotta agree with Jeepingurl on this one. I haven't found any information any where that eggs are ever bleached - either with chemicals or UV.

jeff (author)markocosic2007-04-07

Eggs sold retail in the US come in white, brown and 'red'. Here in New England, brown eggs are the norm (cue old ad jingle "Brown eggs are local eggs, and local eggs are fresh!"). In parts of the South, the brown eggs are quite dark and are often called "red".

TVarmy (author)jeff2007-04-07

I hate to tell you this, but most supermarket brown eggs are laid in the same factory farms as the white eggs, so they taste pretty much the same (Pigment is not linked to flavor). What you should do for good local eggs is look in the organic section and see what free range local eggs you can find. I don't even mess with the supermarket for eggs anymore. Nowadays, I go to my local Agway, where a farmers' co-op drop off their eggs for a very low price (no middlemen to raise the prices). Of course, if the brown shell is just for egg coloring and you don't get out to your farmers' market/etc, go ahead and buy supermarket brown.

jeff (author)TVarmy2007-04-07

I didn't mean to imply there was a real difference - as I said its an old (c. 1960-80s) jingle. I just quoted it to show that brown eggs have been the norm around here for a long time. While i do think that free-range/cruelty-free/organic eggs are defintiely tastier/healthier (they're what I buy), that doesn't mean they're local - here in Boston metro, the two big organic brands - eggland and land-o-lakes - are carried pretty much everywhere - even the little bodegga a couple blocks away. But those companies ship their eggs from out of state. Ironically, the truly local (~10 miles from the city center) eggs carried by some of the stores around here aren't certified organic, even though I've been to the Milton farm and their chickens are free-range and fed on IPM grain. I've been buying organic at the stores for years now, but am about to switch over to a milk-and-eggs delivery service. Here in Boston, it's actually cheaper than buying regular retail, fresher, and if I want, I can get raw milk (which is more expensive, but is what I grew up on, and is far tastier and arguably healthier). ********************** Btw, I'm about to try for purple eggs using beets and red cabbage. Thanks for that link, fauxreal!

smokehill (author)jeff2007-11-10

For really purple eggs, make pickled eggs the old fashioned way: Hardboil, peel off the shells, and then submerge eggsin a pickle jar in which you SAVED the pickle brine after the pickles were gone.. Dump in a half can, at least, of pickled beets. Exact proportions of the mix are completely unimportant ... just wing it. Leave for a day or two, or more, until the color looks good to you. I usually can't wait more than 24 hrs before I start gobbling eggs, though a few more days will get some seriously dark purple eggs. These actually taste good, unlike those nasty, rubbery old things they sell as pickled eggs in the store. Those are completely inedible. I once tried wrapping a strip of paper, with some decorative cut-outs, around an egg, then taping the ends. It was semi-successful in making a decorative ring around the middle, but not as crisp as I'd have liked.

smokehill (author)smokehill2008-03-01

Looking back on this, maybe I could have been more clear: I'm obviously talking about making peeled, hard-boiled eggs purple (and tasty), but I suspect if you just stick an egg, with its shell, in the mix it'll turn fairly purple, also, if you're looking for something decorative for a basket or Easter egg hunt. Probably the color and flavor won't come thru the shell very well. But before you eat 'em, I'd stick them back in the purple fluid for a day or so to get that extra flavor.

mdeblasi1 (author)smokehill2009-04-13

I recall that if one puts an uncracked raw egg in vinegar for a few days, the acid will eat away at the shell until it is gone, and will simultaneously coagulate the proteins in the albumen, solidifying it, there by "cooking" your egg for you. Marya

rupamagic (author)smokehill2008-02-13

Try using cheese cloth or an old (clean) nylon to hold your paper or whatever in place next time. That's what I do for easter eggs, using beet juice and cabbage for coloring. I'll probably do an instructable on it one of these days. Guess I better get on the ball so it's up in time for easter, eh? I'm definitely going to add these onion skin eggs to my basket this year!

wrique (author)markocosic2008-03-19

I really like the egg cracking game you describe! I'm bring this year's batch of onion skin dyed Easter eggs to a potluck dinner tomorrow night and I'm going to get everyone to play it.

As for the natural colour of eggs, there seem to be conflicting theories. One states that hens with white feathers produce white eggs & brown hens produce brown eggs. Another theory states that egg colour corresponds to the colour of the hen's ear lobes; white lobes = white eggs, red lobes = brown eggs (yep, apparently chickens have ear lobes).

Other than the colour of the shell, there doesn't seem to be any difference in the nutrient value of the eggs within. Regional preference probably determines which type is predominant in any given area.

Besides white & brown eggs, there are breeds of chicken that produce blue, green, and even speckled eggs as well.

bowmaster (author)2009-04-13

This is so awesome!!!! I wish I had seen this sooner!

fpeelo (author)2009-04-13

My grandmother used to colour eggs this way. Then, when we'd visit for dinner, we'd play "smack-eggs" to get started. Each child would take turns smacking their egg off that of another child. Just hard enough to crack them -- and it's another reason why they have to be hard-boiled! The winner is the one who cracks the most eggs before theirs is cracked. Did I say "child"? My father played too. The quickness of the hand deceives the eye -- when only one egg remained uncracked, the could defeat the champion by rotating his hand so that the champion's egg was hit by his wedding ring rather than his egg! Did it fast so no-one noticed. So everyone's eggs were opened and we could eat them.

lynnaluna (author)2009-04-11

This is great. Thanks for sharing!

cats59 (author)2008-12-29

How Lovely to share this skill I made these every year when I was a child. We would make 40 or 50 and give them away to friends and neighbors. we always used dry ingredients and put vinegar in the boiling water. My Mother is from Estonia and made them when she was a child (1930 or so )

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