This is a question I get day in and day out: What’s the best macaron food coloring?
So I figured I would do a whole special post talking about how to pick the best macaron food coloring brand and style, and also how to use it with your macarons.
When to add food coloring to the macaron batter, how much food coloring to add to the macaron batter, and more tips below!
Types of food coloring
There are a few different kinds of food coloring: gel, liquid, powder, or natural.
Gel food coloring is made out of a synthetic color + corn syrup (or glycerin) base.
Liquid food coloring is made out of synthetic color + water base.
Powder food coloring can have different ingredients depending on the brand. I will be covering the brand The Sugar Art here (not sponsored). So for the purposes of The Sugar Art powder food coloring, they are made of synthetic dye.
Natural food coloring could be ingredients such as freeze dried fruit powder, turmeric, hibiscus powder, beet root powder.
So let’s go over each one of those to find out what’s the best food coloring to use for macarons.
Liquid food coloring
Can I use liquid food coloring for macarons?
The answer is no, but maybe. I’ll explain.
I do know of a couple of bakers who use liquid water based food coloring for macarons. These are very experienced macaron bakers, who have been baking for many years, and they know their batter, they know the brands they can use, how much of it, and how it will affect their shells.
The reason why you shouldn’t use liquid water based food coloring is because it will add water to the batter, which will dissolve the protein bonds formed during the meringue stage.
If you are a beginner or intermediate, stay away from liquid water based food coloring as it may cause you unnecessary issues that can easily be avoided by using gel or powder food coloring.
Gel food coloring
Gel food coloring is, in my opinion one of the best options to use for macarons.
Gel food coloring is more concentrated, so you need less of it than water based food coloring, which makes it perfect for macarons.
The first kit has more basic colors, like violet, pink, royal blue, teal, sky blue, red, super black.
And the second kit has some amazing colors I can’t live without such as egg yellow (so much prettier than lemon yellow imo), mauve, burgundy, dusty rose. These are some of my favorite colors.
While I mostly use Americolor nowadays, I used a lot of Wilton in the past.
Wilton has a gel food coloring which comes in a container that you have to scoop the food coloring with a spoon or small scoop. That specific food coloring seems to be too liquidy and runny, and I always feel like I need to add more of it for my colors, but it works if you aren’t going for a bright red or something like that. So if using Wilton I prefer the Color Right Set.
Another gel food coloring recommended to me by my friend Lina was Cake Craft, it’s pictured above, but it is currently unavailable. It’s a fairly decent food coloring, but does not yield very vibrant colors, and you’d have to use a lot of it to obtain dark tones, but it is great for pastels.
Powder food coloring
I am specifically going to cover The Sugar Art powder food coloring here, the Master Elite set. It’s become super popular with macaron bakers.
A lot of people swear by it.
I do like it, but I don’t use it as often. I’ve been using it mostly to color white chocolate, or buttercream.
The advantages of using this food coloring:
- You only need about 1/4 teaspoon of food coloring since it’s super concentrated.
- Since it’s a powder, and you need so little of it, it likely won’t alter your batter consistency too much, if at all, since you aren’t adding any moisture, or enough powder to absorb any liquid.
The disadvantage is that it takes a while for the color to fully develop (about 15 minutes), and you can’t let the batter rest for 15 minutes after adding the food coloring to see what color it will be, to then evaluate if you have to add more or not. At that point it will be too late and you shouldn’t add anything and stir the batter anymore.
So to me the disadvantage is that you can’t fully control the color with Master Elite. If you aren’t too attached to what color the final batter turns out, or if you aren’t being too specific about what color you are trying to achieve, I’d say it’s a great option.
But sometimes I have a very specific color and tone in mind, and I know my way around Americolor gel food coloring a little bit better.
Again, this is totally a matter of preference, and I know of a lot of bakers who are completely enamored with this brand.
To the batch below I had added 1/4 teaspoon of orange powdered food coloring. It turned out pretty vibrant, but I did want a more vibrant orange that day, but by the time the color had developed, it was too late to add any more color and I couldn’t stir the batter any longer or it would become over mixed.
Natural food coloring
Natural food coloring can come as powders or in liquid form.
Some brands have lines of “less processed food colorings” in liquid form, and I have never seen a brand that works well for macarons. They all fade when baked. The natural liquid food colorings may have natural ingredients such as spirulina in the composition, but they also have ingredients such as potato maltodextrin, and glycose syrup solids which are processed.
And even the packaging of brands such as McCormick, Chefmaster lines of natural food colorings recommends not using them to color baked food. And most of the reviews on Amazon are less than satisfactory.
Natural food coloring could also be ingredients such as freeze dried fruit powder, turmeric, hibiscus powder, beet root powder.
Be very mindful adding those to your macaron batter. First, freeze dried fruit powder won’t really dye the food. I made freeze dried strawberries macarons without adding any color.
The batter was a faded pink before baking, and after baking it became orange. Too bad I didn’t get a photo of it. But trust me, don’t let the pretty pink below fool you, it literally became a faded orange with no traces of pink once baked.
Also be very aware of adding ingredients to your macaron batter, things like turmeric can break your meringue.
And any time you add too much of something foreign to the macaron batter you run the risk of ruining the whole batch.
In the example below, I had added too much strawberry freeze dried powder to my macaron batter.
And many of the natural powders will also fade or change tones as you bake them in the oven. So be aware of that, and always always be careful with adding too much of it to the batter.
When experimenting, add very little, so you don’t compromise your whole batch. And just know ahead that you won’t be able to achieve the bright vibrant colors with those natural powders. You will need the synthetic colors to make that happen, and I understand some people don’t like the synthetic colors, so it’s a matter of your preference.
Now let’s cover some popular questions around food coloring.
When to add food coloring to macarons?
I have heard of people who like to add their Master Elite powder to the egg whites before even whipping them, in order to allow for the color to fully develop. While I have never done this, I assume it works since others do it.
Usually I like to add food coloring to the batter along with the dry ingredients.
I am pretty familiar with my gel colors, so I know more or less how much to add to obtain the color I am looking for.
Another time where you can add the food coloring is along with the meringue, at the final stages of whipping.
And then you can add more color later on once you add the dry ingredients in.
Adding the food coloring along with the meringue is actually a good idea specially because it gives you a better chance of fixing the color later in case you need to add more. Because sometimes you do notice you need to add more food coloring, but you simply can’t because if you fold the batter any longer it will become over mixed.
Can beginners add food coloring to their macarons?
A lot of macaron teachers advise people to not add food coloring as a beginner baker.
That’s because since you have just started, it’s better to first learn what the batter is supposed to look and feel like before adding any other elements to it.
Adding food coloring will alter the consistency of the batter, and if you have more experience with macarons, you will know how to navigate those changes.
Not to mention that, often times, people will get carried away with adding food coloring, after stirring for a while and realizing that the color isn’t what they wanted, they will continue to add food coloring and stir, which will cause the batter to be over mixed.
How to obtain a vibrant macaron shell color?
First, make sure to use either gel or powder food coloring made from synthetic colors, not natural colors.
Second, you may have to add a lot of it.
So the formula is simple: add more of it, and make sure to use the right kind.
How to keep my macarons from browning and the color from fading in the oven?
If you are trying to achieve a light color, and the macarons are either browning, or the color is fading in the oven, my recommendations are to:
- place a piece of foil over the macarons half way through baking.
- make sure to not use natural powders, that will naturally fade and change colors.
How to make white macarons
To keep white macarons from browning use the same trick from above. Cover them with foil halfway through baking.
I used to add a smidge of purple to my batter to offset the yellow-ish tones, but doesn’t make much of a difference.
Some people like using Master Elite white powdered color, which contains Titanium Dioxide. I don’t use it personally, but lots of bakers love it.
For me the foil trick works wonderfully, check it out below, the macaron on the left was baked without being covered by foil. The macaron on the right was covered by foil halfway through baking, and look at the difference, even in the feet.
How to make black macarons
Some people like to use black cocoa powder for their black macarons, or the black powder food coloring by The Sugar Art.
I have heard lots of people reporting their macarons getting wrinkled with the use of black cocoa powder, so even though I have black cocoa powder at home, I decided to try using food coloring first to see if it would work, and then attempting the black cocoa powder as an option in case it didn’t work well with the food coloring.
So first I attempted to use the black powder, but I wasn’t successful, the color wasn’t developing fast enough, and it was hard to gauge how much food coloring I actually needed.
So I used AmeriColor Super Black food coloring, and that’s what I recommend for black macarons. They turned out super vibrant and beautiful.
It comes in a small container.
Or in a large container. I recommend already getting the large container, specially because if something goes wrong with one or two batches you will have more food coloring to attempt again.
It is cheaper to get the bigger bottle anyway.
And yes you could run into some issues while dying a batter with so much food coloring. You will need to add a lot of it, there’s no way around it. Unless you want your batter to turn out grey.
So remember to add about 1/2 teaspoon in the beginning and quickly evaluate if you need more. Add more before the batter is done being folded, or you will run the risk of over mixing the batter while trying to achieve the color you are looking for.
Macarons with lots of food coloring need a lot of time drying, so have that in mind as well, drying time will be longer than normal.
Tips for adding food coloring to macarons
- When adding food coloring to your batter, have in mind the tone will fade a bit when baked, so go for one or two tones more vibrant than what you would like the final result to be, because the color will get a bit duller after the macarons come out of the oven.
- Always rest the macarons enough, specially if adding a lot of food coloring. The following batch was not rested enough and look at what happened. They cracked. Sometimes they will crack, other times they will get wrinkled.
- When using ingredients such as freeze dried fruit powder, cocoa powder, matcha, etc, keep it to a minimum, because they can alter the batter significantly.
- Be careful not to over mix the batter while adding food coloring, in order to try to achieve a certain tone. If the batter is almost done being folded, it’s not a good idea to continue to add food coloring, even if you haven’t achieved the color you wanted.
I hope today’s post has helped clear out some of your macaron food coloring questions.
If you have any more questions about it feel free to leave them below.