What Colors Make Yellow Food Coloring? The Ultimate Guide!

Yellow food coloring is a popular additive in various food industries, including beverages, desserts, and snacks. It makes products look more appealing and appetizing to consumers and has the power to influence buying decisions. However, not all yellow food colorings are created equal. Some are natural, while others are artificial dyes, and the ingredients used to make them vary.

If you’re curious about what colors make yellow food coloring, this ultimate guide is here to help.

The Science Behind Yellow Food Coloring

Yellow food coloring works by selectively absorbing wavelengths of light in the visible spectrum, creating the perception of yellow. The color of a food product depends on the amount of coloring used and the type of additive used. Natural yellow food coloring comes from the pigments found in vegetables and fruits like turmeric, saffron, and carrots, while artificial yellow food coloring comes from chemical dyes like tartrazine.

Natural Yellow Food Coloring

Natural food colorings are obtained from plant, animal, or mineral sources. They are generally safe and come with several health benefits. Here are some natural yellow food colorings that you can use in your recipes:

  • Turmeric. Turmeric is a spice that is commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. It is a vivid yellow-orange color and is often used to create a natural yellow food coloring.
  • Saffron. Saffron is one of the most expensive spices globally and is often used in Indian, Middle Eastern, and Spanish dishes. It adds a yellow-orange tint to food and is used in many desserts, including rice pudding.
  • Annatto. Annatto is a natural food coloring obtained from the seeds of the achiote tree. It has a slightly nutty flavor and is often used in dairy products, such as cheese and butter.
  • Carrot juice. Carrots are a natural source of beta-carotene, which gives them their orange color. However, when concentrated, it can be used to create a yellow food coloring.

Artificial Yellow Food Coloring

Artificial food colorings are synthetic and are often made from petroleum. They are commonly used in processed foods and have been linked to several health risks. Here are some artificial yellow food colorings that are commonly used:

  • Tartrazine. Tartrazine is a synthetic dye that is often used to create a bright yellow color in foods and drinks like soda, candy, and cake mixes. It has been linked to hyperactivity in children and allergic reactions in some people.
  • Sunset Yellow FCF. Sunset Yellow FCF is another synthetic dye used to create yellow food coloring. It is often used in desserts and sweets.
  • Yellow 5. Yellow 5 is a synthetic dye that is often used in processed foods like mac and cheese, potato chips, and candy. It has been linked to hyperactivity in children and allergic reactions in some people.

Recipes Using Yellow Food Coloring

If you’re looking for some recipes that use yellow food coloring, here are a few to get you started:

Yellow Butter Cake

If you’re looking for a classic cake recipe, this yellow butter cake is perfect. It’s moist and delicious and is sure to be a hit at any gathering. Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredient Amount
All-purpose flour 2 1/2 cups
Baking powder 1 tbsp
Salt 1 tsp
Unsalted butter, softened 1 cup
Sugar 2 cups
Egg yolks 4
Vanilla extract 2 tsp
Yellow food coloring 1 tsp
Milk 1 1/2 cups
Egg whites 4


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Beat in the vanilla extract and yellow food coloring.
  6. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
  7. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  8. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.
  9. Pour the batter into a greased and floured 9×13-inch baking pan, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Lemon Meringue Pie

For a tangy dessert, try this lemon meringue pie recipe. It’s sweet, tart, and has a beautiful yellow color. Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredient Amount
For the crust:
All-purpose flour 1 1/2 cups
Sugar 2 tbsp
Salt 1/4 tsp
Unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces 1/2 cup
Cold water 4-5 tbsp
For the filling:
Granulated sugar 1 cup
Cornstarch 1/4 cup
Salt 1/4 tsp
Water 1 1/2 cups
Lemon juice 1/2 cup
Egg yolks, lightly beaten 4
Unsalted butter 2 tbsp
Yellow food coloring 2-3 drops
For the meringue:
Egg whites 4
Cream of tartar 1/4 tsp
Sugar 1/4 cup


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. For the crust, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
  4. Add the water one tablespoon at a time, stirring until the dough comes together.
  5. Form the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap.
  6. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
  7. Roll out the dough on a floured surface and transfer to a 9-inch pie plate.
  8. Trim the edges and crimp as desired.
  9. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  10. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.
  11. For the filling, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan.
  12. Gradually stir in the water and lemon juice until smooth.
  13. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil.
  14. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens.
  15. Remove from heat.
  16. Stir in the egg yolks, butter, and yellow food coloring.
  17. Return to heat and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.
  18. Remove from heat and let cool.
  19. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form.
  20. Add the sugar gradually, beating until stiff peaks form.
  21. Pour the lemon filling into the baked pie crust and top with the meringue, making sure to spread it all the way to the edges to seal in the filling.
  22. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the meringue is lightly golden brown.
  23. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving.


Yellow food coloring is an excellent way to add a pop of color to your recipes. Whether you choose to use natural or artificial food coloring is up to you, but it’s always best to opt for natural food coloring when possible. Experiment with different yellow food colorings to see which ones work best for your recipes. Remember to use them in moderation and enjoy the beautiful hue they bring to your dishes.

Common Questions About Yellow Food Coloring

  • What is yellow food coloring made of? Yellow food coloring can be made from natural sources like turmeric or artificial dyes like tartrazine.
  • Is yellow food coloring safe? Natural yellow food colorings are generally safe and come with several health benefits, while artificial food colorings have been linked to several health risks.
  • What can I use instead of yellow food coloring? You can try using natural food colorings like annatto or saffron to replace yellow food coloring.
  • Can yellow food coloring be used in savory dishes? Yes, yellow food coloring can be used in savory dishes like rice or soup.


  1. Bingley-Pullin, L. (2019). ‘Additive Alert: Your Guide to Safer Shopping.’ Macmillan Publishers Australia: Sydney.
  2. Derossi, A., et al. (2020). ‘Application of Natural Origin Pigments in Food: Traditional Uses, Present and Future Perspectives.’ Foods 9(7), 800.
  3. Mojica, L., et al. (2019). ‘Natural Food Colorants: A Review of Analytical and Extraction Techniques.’ Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 59(16), 2680-2697.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *