Last Updated on February 21, 2024 by Lori Walker
Food coloring is an effective method to enhance the appearance of homemade desserts. There are various types of food coloring available, such as water-based, gel-based, powder-based, and oil-based.
Oil-based food coloring is best for recipes where water would greatly affect the final mixture, such as chocolate, candy melts, and fat-based products.
Here’s how to make oil-based food coloring from scratch.
4 Easy Steps To Make Oil-Based Food Coloring
1. Prepare The Ingredients
The first thing you need to do to make oil-based food coloring is to gather the ingredients. They are as follows:
- 1 cup of oil (we recommend using corn, vegetable, canola, or almond oil)
- A microwaveable bowl
- Oil-based food dye
- A disposable spoon
2. Microwave The Oil
Start by putting the oil inside the microwaveable bowl.  Microwave the oil for at least 30 seconds on medium heat because the food dye will incorporate into the oil better if heated.
An important point to remember is to opt for colorless oil as your base so the food dye won’t have a problem staying true to color.
3. Use One Drop At A Time
When the 30 seconds are up, retrieve the bowl from the microwave and add the oil-based food dye. We recommend putting the food dye in one drop at a time and adding more if needed.
We would also stress the importance of using oil-based food dyes because water or gel-based food dyes will separate and bead in the oil.
4. Mix Until Combined
Stir the mixture with the disposable spoon for about five minutes or until well combined. If you use a suitable oil-based food dye, combining it with the heated oil won’t be difficult.
If you haven’t achieved the desired color, add a few more drops and stir accordingly.
It’s also important to remember not to use too much dye. Doing so will result in bitter-tasting oil-based food coloring that will dye the inside of your mouth (which you don’t want).
What is Oil-Based Food Coloring?
Oil-based food coloring is a type of food coloring that uses oil as a base rather than water or gel. It generally contains glycerol, colors, and lecithin.
This type of food coloring is also more stable than water-based food coloring and does not fade or change color easily.
Lastly, because it uses oil, it is a lot more difficult to clean off surfaces and clothing than water-based food coloring.
Tips & Tricks When Making Oil-Based Food Coloring
- Using neutral-flavored oil, such as vegetable, corn, or canola oil, is best. We also recommend using oil whose natural flavor you actually like. 
- Use a little bit of food dye at a time. Since oil-based food coloring is more stable than water-based food coloring, using too much can cause the colors to become too intense, which will be difficult to rectify.
- Mix the food coloring with a bit of butter, margarine, or vegetable oil first. This will help the color to disperse more evenly throughout the mixture.
- Store unused food coloring in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. This will help to keep the color from fading or changing over time.
- Clean up any spills or messes with a cloth dampened with warm water and mild dish soap.
Check out the tips on fixing brownies with too much oil here.
Where To Use Oil-Based Food Coloring
Oil-based food coloring is often used in baking to give cakes, cookies, and other baked goods a more vibrant hue. It is also used in other applications, such as candy and ice cream.
To put it simply: oil-based food coloring will work best in recipes where adding water would drastically affect the mixture.
For example, in chocolate, you should never use water-based food coloring because the water will “seize up” and ruin the chocolate.
The colored chocolates you can get from the market are typically made with oil-based food coloring because they ensure smooth and consistent coloring throughout the chocolate.
Candy coats and melts are also sensitive to water, so it’s best to use oil-based food coloring to give life to them.
“The more colorful the food, the better.”– Misty May-Treanor, Volleyball Player
Cooking food in colored oil will also allow them to absorb its colors. This is great if you want to bring color to French fries or mozzarella sticks.
Is gel food coloring oil based?
No, gel food coloring is not oil based. Gel food coloring is often made from a thickening agent, such as glycerin or corn syrup, and mixed with water-soluble dye.
What oil is recommended for oil-based food coloring?
We recommend colorless oils for oil-based food colorings, such as canola, corn, or vegetable oil. It’s also recommended not to use oils with strong flavors, such as olive oil.
Where can you buy oil-based food coloring?
You can buy oil-based food coloring from Walmart, Target, Amazon, or specialty stores for bakers. However, you will find that they can be expensive, so we recommend following the steps above to go the homemade route.
It’s pretty simple to make oil-based food coloring at home. It also gives you plenty of liberty to choose the colors you want and how intense you want them to be.
Choosing the right kind of oil is crucial to the success of your oil-based food coloring. You want to choose colorless oil, such as corn, canola, or vegetable, so it doesn’t clash with the oil-based food dye you’ll use as the coloring agent.
Add a few drops of the food dye into the oil and give it a thorough stir. You can add a bit more food dye to reach your desired color.
Lastly, it’s best to store unused oil-based food coloring inside an airtight container in a cool, dry place to keep its integrity.
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