Radiational Liquid Food Colorings (Liquid Dye)
- What it’s made out of: Synthetic colorings with a water base.
- How it’s sold: Little squeeze bottles, usually plastic.
- How to use it: Just add drop by drop into whatever you’re food coloring. Can be mixed with vinegar to dye Easter eggs.
- Pros: Easy-to-find in any grocery store and inexpensive; good when you’re looking for lighter, more pastel coloring.
- Cons: The least intense and weakest of all the food colorings since it is water-based, meaning you will need to use more of it to achieve a brighter or deeper color. If you use a significant amount, the extra liquid has the potential to thin out and/or throw off a recipe.
Liquid Gel Dye
- What it’s made out of: Synthetic coloring with a water, glycerine and/or corn syrup base.
- How it’s sold: Small dropper bottles that contain a thick gel-like liquid.
- How to use it: Use the dropper and start with small amounts since it’s so concentrated. It’s best in candy, red velvet cake, and icing.
- Pros: The color in liquid gel dye is more concentrated than traditional liquid food colorings, so you need less, which is important in recipes where you want to minimize the amount of liquid added (such as in candy or icing recipes). Since you need less, there is less of a chance the coloring with adversely flavor the food too.
- Cons: Harder to find. Because of its thick texture, liquid gel dye can be harder to incorporate into thick or stiff doughs.
Gel Paste Dye
(Sometimes labeled icing color or concentrated gel)
- What it’s made out of: Synthetic food coloring with a water, glycerine and/or corn syrup base.
- How it’s sold: Little pots or jars.
- How to use it: Gel paste dye is an even more concentrated form of liquid gel dye. It’s best to dip a toothpick in the paste and add very small amounts each time, as it is extremely effective in coloring.
- Pros: You only need a small amount, so it can be slightly less messy than using dropper bottles. It is usually available at cooking stores or online. Gel paste dye is very effective in dyeing a large amount of batter (like cake batters) and produces dark, saturated colors.
- Cons: It’s easy to add too much coloring, which cannot be undone. Some people don’t like the taste of the red dyes, but you can usually find ones labeled “no-taste.” Since it’s even thicker than liquid gel dye, it can be also harder to incorporate into stiff doughs.