Red Food Coloring – Artificial vs Natural Colors


Red food coloring is used for various foodstuffs. Making red velvet cake with dark cocoa powder can be challenging. The real red color can be achieved by adding a heap of red food coloring that should be stable to heat. Else it will end up brownish velvet cake.

You might be wondering how they make a red and white attractive cake? The answer is by adding red food coloring to the frosting. You might be thinking of using natural colors instead of buying artificial colors from the store. So let's further dive into this blog to know more about natural and artificial food colors.

Red Food Coloring

While making the red velvet cake you need to add some red color additives to make it look brighter and more beautiful. It may sound stable but the colorant should be bright red when it goes under the heating process. pH(acidity) value of baked goods should not affect the color.

Some colors don't get affected at all. However, you might end up choosing a color that may get affected by all these criteria and doesn't meet the expectation of red color. So while selecting a color you must be able to distinguish between natural food colors and synthetic food colors.

Artificial vs Natural food colors

Majorly, there are two main categories of food colors. Natural color is extracted from natural sources like fruits, vegetables, flowers, etc. Synthetic colors are man-made. Artificial colors are made in laboratories using chemicals.

There is also one type of food color, called clean-label food colors. Clean-label food colors are 100% clean. They are 100% chemical-free.

These colors are approved by food safety authorities before they are sold in the markets. Generally speaking, synthetic colors are much more stable than natural colors in most foodstuffs. Their color looks perfect in the bottle; once they are mixed with batter, dough, or even baked in the oven.


Anthocyanin is found in fruits and vegetables like red cabbage, berries, etc. Anthocyanin is not very stable. Hence to attain a certain shade of color can cause some challenges.

The higher pH values turn purple/blue color instead of bright red color. If you are planning to use it in batter or dough to obtain red color, add some acid(buttermilk, lemon juice) to get bright red color.

Also, this color tends to be a lot weak as compared to artificial colors. You might need a lot more color which can affect the taste and consistency of your food. The Ktchen experimented with adding pomegranate juice(a source of anthocyanin) to bake a red velvet cake. The juice wasn't strong enough even after adding some acids to it.


It is an artificial food dye. All azo-dyes have the same molecular structure that's why they are called the ‘azo' group. Azo- dyes can be produced easily. They are water-soluble but do not get dissolve in oil or fat. Also, they are very stable and are not affected by pH, heat, light, or oxygen. The chemical reactions don't elevate the temperatures and can be tweaked in such a way that can help in making a wide range of shades.