Taste the rainbow—for less

EC: Make Your Own Colored Sugar At Home
Credit: Photos by Teresa Sabga

Sometimes, you need a colorful breakfast to brighten your day. Colored sugar does just the trick when it’s sprinkled over pancakes, waffles, and French toast. But, chances are, you probably don’t have the store-bought kind stocked in your pantry. That’s OK, because you likely have a bag of sugar and a few bottles of food coloring. That’s all you need for DIY sparkling sugar. Making colored sugar at home is an easy, two-ingredient project that’ll save you a few bucks over the long run, and let you create just the shade you’re after. Throwing a brunch party? By whipping up your own batch of colored sugar crystals, you can coat the rims of your favorite breakfast cocktails (and mocktails) in colors that match your theme, and sprinkle your pastries in style. Or you could also make a French Toast King Cake.

A few things to know before you begin experimenting: When you’re making DIY colored sugar, most dyes will work—organic or natural food coloring, the artificial liquid kind you’re used to seeing on grocery store shelves, and the powder—but, only if you mix it with water first. Whatever you do, avoid the gel. The amount of food coloring you use will also vary depending on the intensity and darkness you desire. For a lighter green, add just a few drops of dye; for a deeper green, add more. Start light. You can always add more, but you can’t un-dye.

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A rule of thumb: For every ½ cup sugar, add 8 drops of food coloring. Place the sugar into a zippered plastic sandwich bag. Slowly drop in the food coloring and seal the bag, pushing any extra air out. Shake it all up until combined, and break up the clumps by pinching them through your fingers and rubbing the bag between your palms. This helps distribute the color evenly. Next, lay your colored sugar out onto a baking sheet and let it dry for one hour. Place it in a salt shaker, or a clean plastic bag, and add some sparkle to your breakfast. You could also make sanding sugar in a food processor by pulsing the sugar and food coloring together for finer grains.

DIY colored sugar is a blank canvas and the palette possibilities are endless. Although store-bought food coloring is most commonly sold in primary colors—red, yellow, and blue—they can easily be mixed together to create secondary and tertiary colors. (Your elementary art teacher told you this knowledge would come in handy some day.) Teal, lime green, violet, and marigold sugars are all within your reach. Feel free to play with the flavors, too. Add vanilla and peppermint extracts, or even ground cinnamon, into the mix.