I don’t like artificial colors or flavors. And even though it’s impossible to avoid them completely, I try to cut them out as much as I can. Whether you are planning a party or packing a Valentine’s bento for someone you love, I thought it’d be really helpful to have a list of foods that are naturally red and pink to help you keep your fun food plans on the healthy side.
Let’s get started with the color red:
Natural Red Foods:
Red bell peppers – You can use large red bell peppers, but in this case I used mini bell peppers so I could use the tip ( the end) of the pepper for the tip of a heart shape. It’s really easy to use a small knife to cut it into a heart. I have also used a small heart shaped mini cookie cutter before. Pro tip: don’t use a plastic cutter, use steel – and cut from the back side( or inside) of the pepper piece instead of the front ( shiny, smooth side). You will get a much cleaner cut that way!
Beets – I used a can of beet slices for this picture, and I used a tiny, scalloped heart cookie cutter to cut the slice shown in the center there. Canned beets are my favorite, because they are already cooked and soft. But best of all, you can use the liquid from the can to color other foods pink! I’ll show you that in a minute – save that beet juice, and read on!
Grape or cherry tomatoes – When I need a touch of red, grape tomatoes are what I use most! I use these so much to add a touch of color or to fill in a gap in a bento box. They don’t need any extra prep – just pile them on a relish tray or in a lunch box. Perfect!
Strawberries – A strawberry is another naturally red food that easily lends itself to a heart shape. I cut out the stem, cut the strawberry in half, and use a knife to cut a v-shape in the the top to shape it like a heart. It’s an extra sweet way to add a touch of love to a lunch, or to top a cupcake or other dessert.
Apples – Apples are so versatile, especially if you like to get a little fancy! Slice a thin side off a red apple to use as your “creative material”. Now you can get out your little bento cutters, alphabet cutters, and mini cookie cutters and go to town. Or you can do like I did and cut your heart shape with a checkerboard design! It takes a little practice, but once you get the hang of it you can put one together in about 5 minutes. Spritz it with a water/fruit preservative mixture to keep it from turning brown. Now pack it in a lunch or top a dessert with it, and make someone’s day!
There are other red foods that I didn’t include in this list, I’m sure. Watermelon comes to mind… but I wasn’t sure if it fell into the red or the pink category, so I left it out 🙂
Let’s move on to the pink food:
Natural Pink Foods:
Pink Veggie Dip – Remember that beet juice I asked you to save earlier? Here’s one of many ways you can use it to color food pink, without using artificial food color. For this dip, I just mixed regular ranch dressing mix with greek yogurt, and added a few drops of beet juice from the can of beets in the picture above. Be careful to only add a few drops at a time, or you’ll end up with bright neon pink dip ( unless that’s the color you want)…
You can use beet juice to color a lot of things. For rice, cook the rice first then stir in a few drops of beet juice while it’s hot ( shown below). For pasta, add some beet juice to the cooking water as it boils. Did you know you can even use it to color frosting? Just go for a light pink color rather than a bright pink – if you use too much beet juice you will begin to taste beets, and that isn’t a great combo for cupcakes! Here’s what pink rice looks like:
Cooked shrimp – Shrimp is one of those foods that can represent pink when you need it to, and also represent a pale orange or peach color when you need it to. Arrange two pieces of shrimp into a heart shape to add a little bit of love to a salad or main dish. Skewer it with a toothpick or an arrow shaped pick to look like a cupid’s heart shot with an arrow for some extra fun 🙂
Radish – I originally intended to include this in the Red category, but it didn’t look at all red when I put it in the red silicone cup. Did you know radishes are really a fuchsia/pink color? Well they are. Add something fancy by cutting a simple star shape in the center for an impressive touch.
Ham Rosettes – These look really hard, but are super easy! Just cut a slice of deli ham into a strip, and roll it up tightly. Secure with a leaf pick. Isn’t that cool? They look best in a bouquet, and are the perfect thing to spruce up a dish for a romantic dinner or add to a Valentine’s Day bento.
Products I Used: