Homemade Playdough Recipe with Natural Dyes

Homemade Playdough Recipe Main Image

To avoid the artificial colorings in commercial products, we’re going to explore a homemade playdough recipe with natural dyes.  Don’t be intimidated.  This is going to be a blast.

You might remember this homemade playdough recipe tip from last year.  Well, I’ve come up with a few new colors I wanted to try out.  So join me as we see if we can improve on an old favorite.

NOTE: Even though this will eventually bring hours of joy to your children, I would suggest the making of this homemade playdough recipe be for adults only.  The boiling water and stovetop are major accident concerns for young children.  Let’s have fun and be safe at the same time!

The first thing we need to do is create our natural dyes.  Use this list as a guide to help you choose the colors you’d like in your homemade playdough and then follow the recipe below.

Natural Dyes for Homemade Playdough

  • Red and Pink – Cut up 2 small beet roots and combine with 1 cup of water.  Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half. Puree in the blender.  Strain.  (Raspberries and strawberries would be a great alternative for bright red coloring.)
  • Orange – Simmer 4 large chopped carrots in 1 cup of water for about 20 minutes.  Cool completely.  Don’t worry if the water looks clear now.  Mine did, too.  Mix in a blender and mash through a sieve to retain 1/2 cup of dyed liquid.  (Carrot juice would work really well for this.  Nothing else would probably come close the bright orange in carrots.)
  • Yellow – Combine 1 cup boiling water, 1 whole grapefruit including rind, and one small sweet potato in a blender.  Puree.  Strain. Admire the beautiful yellow dye!  My kids thought it was orange juice.  (Turmeric and saffron are very bright yellow colorants.  These would be great alternatives if you already have them on hand.  Also, golden beets might work for a paler yellow.)
  • Green – Combine 2 handfuls of spinach with 1 cup of water in a blender.  Puree in blender.  Simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes or until liquid reduces by half.  Strain and cool.  (Kale is a great alternative for the green hue.)
  • Purple – Combine 2 cup of water with 3/4 head of red cabbage (roughly chopped).  Simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half.  Puree in your blender and strain.  Reserve ½ cup as purple and set aside ½ cup for blue in next step.  (Blackberries and grape  juice would work really well for purple.)
  • Blue – Use 1/2 cup of the cooled red cabbage dye and add small amounts of baking soda until the desired blue color is achieved.  (Blueberries could be used for this instead.)
  • Tan – Combine 1 tablespoon of cinnamon with 1/2 cup water.  Strain.  (An alternative for brown/tan would be cocoa or coffee grounds.)
  • Off White – Place a dash of vanilla extract in a 1/2 cup of water.

Homemade Playdough Recipe 1

Now that our natural dyes are ready, let’s dive into the homemade playdough recipe!

Homemade Playdough Recipe


  • ½ cup of flour
  • ½ cup of dyed water (use natural dye instructions from above)
  • ¼ cup of salt
  • ½ tablespoon cream of tartar (for elasticity)
  • ½ tablespoon cooking oil (to help keep from drying out)


Combine all ingredients into your least favorite pan (It might stain or stick.  My pan was stainless steel and caused no problems, but you’ve been warned.)

Homemade Playdough Recipe 2

Cook dough on the stovetop on low heat until the mixture pulls away from the sides.

Homemade Playdough Recipe 3

When the mixture starts to look like the first time I tried to make gravy I pull it off the heat and let the heated pan finish the cooking.  It should look like mashed potatoes.  Dough should be clumping in the middle of the pan and no longer shiny.

Make sure to wash the pan and stirring utensil in between each color batch.

Allow it to cool enough for handling.  By the time I cooked all of my colors and washed the pan they were all cool enough to handle.  If it’s sticky you can try adding a small amount of flour.  Knead in your hands and enjoy the vibrant colors you have captured from nature.

Homemade Playdough Recipe 4

Aren’t you proud of yourself for making this homemade playdough recipe?  Now call the kids in and have a ball with your homemade playdough.

Homemade Playdough Recipe 5

Some final notes from my experience:

The cabbage in the blue and purple dyes really stinks.  I actually like cabbage and the first day the dough didn’t bother me at all.  But the smell of the dough after 4 days was almost unbearable to me.  Just a heads up.

Also, all of my doughs kept really well, but I did notice that the blue dough was much more tacky than the rest.  I kneaded in flour until I liked the consistency.  This did mute the color a little, but not too much.  Conversely, if the dough was a little dried out I just carefully added tiny amounts of water and worked the dough really well.  They all bounced back to like new condition.

Visit this page for more fun playdough ideas.

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By |2013-12-04T05:35:25-04:00August 22nd, 2012|Home and Garden, Parenting|12 Comments

About the Author:

I'm a former sweet-tooth turned health-nut. After a difficult loss of a first pregnancy and having a second child with a heart condition, I became obsessed with health and wellness. I revamped our entire family's lifestyle, dropped seven pant sizes, and created a website where I could share our story and help support people wanting to make small changes day by day in order to live well. I also support my family by the work that I do here through advertising content, affiliates, and partnership/consultant links within content. When you click and/or order, it puts food on our table. Thanks for all your support, and may you live well and thrive!


  1. Lee Ann Kaplan August 22, 2012 at 10:32 am - Reply

    Do you know of an alternative to the flour? We are allergic to it 🙁 play dough time was no fun with swollen hands.

  2. Crystal Collins August 22, 2012 at 1:23 pm - Reply

    Lee Ann – I haven’t tried anything besides regular flour, but perhaps you could try rice flour? Not sure how it would work. If you try it, let us know how it works!

  3. Beth August 22, 2012 at 3:13 pm - Reply

    Lee Ann, I one for celiacs that uses rice flour and cornstarch in equal parts to replace the flour. Hope that helps!

    • Beth August 22, 2012 at 3:13 pm - Reply

      I *found* one. 🙂

  4. Rebecca August 23, 2012 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    This is great! I knew there were natural alternatives to food dye out there, but I haven’t been able to find them. This is a perfect list – thanks!

  5. […] this particular playdough retains a strong cabbage-y odor, or, in Thrifty Mama’s words, is “really stinks” and “tacky” in […]

  6. Crystal November 12, 2012 at 11:27 pm - Reply

    This recipe & natural dye ideas look great! Do you know how long these will last? I am hoping to sell some at a farmer’s market/ craft fair next year, and am wondering how long I can tell people that they will last for? Thanks!

  7. Dena January 16, 2013 at 5:00 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the dye suggestions! For those of you allergic to flour, try this: http://www.cooks.com/rec/doc/0,199,148188-227203,00.html It’s worked and kept well for us.

  8. Rachel February 13, 2013 at 6:45 pm - Reply

    Of course, you know the kids are going to eat it right?

  9. Carolyn June 5, 2013 at 10:00 am - Reply

    Have you had any issues with the colour staining clothes or surfaces? I usually just give my son the dough to play with on the floor but I worry natural dyes might transfer to the wood.

    • Crystal Collins June 6, 2013 at 8:57 pm - Reply

      I am unaware of any issues, but you should probably test an out of the way area first. Let me know how it goes!

  10. Missy Kluesner November 6, 2013 at 1:09 pm - Reply

    Have you put this play dough in the oven at all to bake the creations for making ornaments. Does this dough work well for that? Do you know how long and at what temperature you would bake for?

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