Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Using Natural Colourings for Homemade Dog Treats

Bowl full of small gelatin gummy dog treats shaped like hearts in a rainbow of colours

Since we've been including lots of interesting natural colours/flavours in recent posts (more to come!), I thought I would slip a bonus post into our cycle about natural food colouring options. A full St. Patrick's Day rainbow of treat ideas! I personally have absolutely no issues whatsoever using food colourings in homemade dog (or human!) treats and I occasional do so, as animal experts currently advise that standard human food colourings (not alcohol based ones of course) are pet safe. Of course, just like with humans, there can be individual sensitivities and expert advice is always subject to possible change and new information emerges. Dogs couldn't care less about how pretty their treats are - as long as they smell and taste great - all that pretty prep is just for us crazy humans. Whether you are not keen on artificial colourings or just want to mix things up, here are some natural foods and add-ins to create colourful dog-friendly treats.

Dalmatian dog with gelatin gummy dog treats shaped like hearts in a rainbow of colours

Naturally coloured fruits and veggies are one of the easiest ways to add colour, as well as flavour and healthy goodness.  There are options for almost every colour but true blue, as must "blue" foods like blueberries actually tint purplish and the idea of getting sciencey with cabbage or baking soda just doesn't appeal to my taste bud logic. Eww. Since pureed fruits are great binders, they work very well in doughs for baked treats or truffle mixtures. Remember, although many fruits and veggies are safe for most dogs, some should be avoided.  If you are looking to dye a dough, icing, gelatin, or other mixture,  juices or powders can be easier for adapting a recipe or adding a concentrated punch of colour.  If your looking to tint something like coconut for sprinkling or rolling, you can mix you own tinted water-based custom colours. Easy, colourful, and our dogs seem to really love most of the tasty/smelly add-ins!

Here are some of my go-to natural colourings for homemade dog treats: 

RED - Beetroot, Strawberry, Raspberry
ORANGE - Turmeric, Pumpkin/Squash, Carrot, Sweet Potato/Kumara
YELLOW - Egg Yolk, Turmeric
GREEN - Wheatgrass, Kale, Green Veggies
PURPLE - Blueberry, Blackberry,
BROWN - Molasses, Carob Powder, Peanut Better

What are your favourite natural colourings?  I'm always looking for new ideas!  I should also mention that you can buy natural food colourings online and from natural health/specialty stores.  It's very important to remember that natural doesn't necessarily mean dog-safe so always check your ingredients.  There are also plenty of tutorials online for making your own natural dyes if you're keen! I haven't experimented with that myself - I'd rather just use the natural colourings above or dip into my trusty food colouring stash. :)

Tips and Tricks:
  • Don't forget about the important elements of flavours and smells when choosing and mixing colours. Treats are for eating after all! :) 
  • You can use the same colour theory with combinations of natural colourings as you would  with ink, paint, etc to get different strengths and tints. This can be very helpful when you're mixing colours but also if you want to counteract or take advantage of the influence of a treat base on the tint. 
  • Natural and artificial colours can be used in combination to create stronger colours with less add-in food colouring or to mix combinations into different colours. 
  • Natural colourings are often less vivid than dyes. Natural ingredients may also change colour when raw and exposed (e.g. apple, banana, etc) and/or loose some of their vivid colour strength when baked.  
  • I prefer to just roll with what happens naturally, but using a little acidity (lemon juice, ACV, etc) can help to reduce the colour shift.  

Making gelatin gummy dog treats shaped like hearts in a rainbow of colours

The gummies created for this post were made using gelatin with the following add-ins (see all of our gummy recipes here) to create a rainbow of treats for these photos. Red: beetroot powder. Orange: turmeric with a small quantity of beetroot powder, Yellow: small quantity of turmeric, Green: kale powder, Blue: food colouring, Indigo: blackberry/blueberry juice augmented with blue food colouring, Violet: small quantity of blackberry/blueberry juice... it's pale because I ran out of berries to squeeze!  Ooops!

Hungry for more tasty treats?  See all of our recipes here. Remember, treats are for spoiling your pup in moderation. Some dogs have special dietary requirements and/or food allergies/intolerances. If you are ever in doubt or have questions about your dog's diet and health, have a chat with your vet.

Small homemade gelatin gummy dog treats shaped like hearts arranged in lines as a rainbow of colours


  1. That's looks great and colorful. I hope dogs really love it with tasteful. Can I made this awesome colorful treat for my little pups?

    1. There are tons of ideas in the blog archives for different types of treats, and many can be tinted, if you wish. Dogs don't see colour like we do though, so colourful tints are mostly for the enjoyment of us crazy humans (hehe) but many tints have scents, flavours, and/or health benefits too.

      You can explore our dog treat blog posts , and if you're feeling curious, we also have a special post about the differences with dog vision vs. human vision.


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