Quite often we can be icing cakes, or colouring the sponge itself, and we need a few drops of food colouring to achieve a more indulgent effect, or we may be designing the cake based around a specific image, which might require colours that just cannot be achieved naturally. I know myself, when making a red velvet, or a barbie birthday cake, I try to achieve the pink or reds through natural flavourings, such as berries, but sometimes this just isn’t an option. As a result, we buy food colouring. Usually, this has absolutely no impact on the flavour of the cake and the frosting, however, red food colouring can often leave people with a bitter taste. Today I am going to explore this a little bit more and see if there is any way to achieve the reds and pinks we need without also gaining either a bitter flavour from food colouring, or a completely new flavour from natural colourants such as berries.

Does red food coloring have a taste?

To really judge whether or not your food colouring also comes with a bitter taste, you would have to try it alone. Once mixed into a vanilla or chocolate frosting, the taste may be disguised – but this is a good thing! However, in some cases, particularly with people who have a very good sense of taste, that bitterness may overpower the food itself. Whilst most food colourants come with no flavour, it has been reported that red food colouring can often taste quite bitter. This may be a problem. When cooking birthday cakes that need a red or pink frosting, but want to keep that vanilla sponge birthday cake taste, it can be hard to find a solution.

Why does red food colouring have a bitter taste?

A lot of people may think that the odd taste comes from using too much food colouring – this is due to the chemicals in the dye, however they should not usually be strong enough to alter the taste. Food colouring comes in different numbers, and the most commonly used food colouring for red is red #40.

Whilst this usually doesn’t have a bitter taste, it can sometimes be made with red #3, a chemical derived from erythrosine. This chemical has in fact been proven to cause cancer in animals, and has been banned from any cosmetic and skincare products, but not banned from foods. Whilst most companies no longer use it in their food products, some food colourings may consist of it, so be sure to check this before you buy! Red #3 gives a bright pinky-red colour, often used in products like glace cherries, and so for a deeper red colour you would be better with #40 anyway. Try to find red colourants that are advertised as ‘no taste’.

How do you get the bitter taste out of food coloring?

Why does red food colouring taste bitter_Alices Kitchen

You cannot so much alter the food colouring taste itself, however you can alter the flavour of whatever you are cooking in order to cover up any bitter flavour you are getting from the colouring. In the first instance, try and use as little dye as necessary in order to gain your desired colour. People often go overboard with the colouring and this can be the problem. If you are using minimal colourant and still tasting a bitter flavour, try and use more measures of the more prominently flavoured ingredients.

For example, if you are making a sponge cake, you could use more vanilla extract or add some almond extract to counteract with the dye. If you are making a chocolate cake or a red velvet, you can add slightly more cocoa or try melting some baking chocolate through the recipe to help disguise any flavours. Alternatively, you can use naturally red foods to help colour your goods. As previously mentioned, berries do a good job of staining any sweet treats you are making, and beetroot can work as a good dye for any savoury products. Of course, these come with their own flavours though so make sure you consider this when adding to your cooking.

Colour Me Red

I guess it goes without saying that using red food colouring may create more problems than it is worth. If your foods can be naturally coloured with berries or beetroot, then I would always opt for this. If not, look for a red #40 dye, and avoid using any products that contain red #3! With a little bit of research and recipe alteration you can avoid those harsh chemicals and bitter tastes!

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Does red food coloring have a taste?

Not all red food dyes have a taste, but it has been reported that some red food colourings may cause quite a bitter taste.

How do you get the bitter taste out of food coloring?

You cannot remove it from the colouring itself, but you can counteract the flavour by increasing the other ingredients that have a more powerful and sweet taste. Alternatively, try to use natural colourants or a red dye that does not include red #3.

How do you fix bitter red frosting?

Why does red food colouring taste bitter_Alices Kitchen

You can help reduce the bitterness of your red frosting by increasing any extracts you are already using. If you are not already using any extract, try adding a splash of vanilla essence or almond extract and the sweetness of these will help to counteract the bitterness from the dye. You should also make sure to use a red dye that does not include any red #3.

How do you make red icing without the bitter taste?

To make red icing without a bitter taste, you can increase any extracts you are already using. If you are not already using an extract, try adding a splash of vanilla essence or almond extract and the sweetness of these will help to counteract the bitterness from the dye. You should also make sure to use a red dye that does not include any red #3.