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How to make your own colored sugars

red sugar

While I enjoy icing cookies by hand, drawing little designs and other decorations (especially for gingerbread cookies), I always use a fair amount of colored sanding sugar around the holidays. Colored sugars are perfect for finishing off sugar cookies and butter cookies, giving them a fun and festive look for the holidays. In fact, it has always been a bit of a tradition for my family to make butter cookies and dress them up with red, green and blue sugars, then serve them with coffee and tea – whether we’re having breakfast or dinner/dessert – around the holidays.

I have lots of store-bought sugars and they can’t be beat for convenience, but it is really easy to make your own colored sugars at home, as well. And doing so gives you a lot of flexibility for colors and flavors that you wouldn’t ordinarily get. To make the sugar, all you need is food coloring and sugar. A coarser sugar (organic types tend to have larger grains) will give you the best look and mouthfeel in the finished product. Simply pour some sugar into a bowl and add a couple drops of food coloring. Mix the food coloring in well with a fork and add more as needed until you get the color you want. Then, just let the sugar dry out (an hour or so at room temperature) before storing it in an airtight container.

For flavorings, you can use vanilla sugaror add a pinch of ground spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, etc.) to the sugar before adding in the food coloring. The moisture from the coloring allows the spices to adhere to the sugar much better than simply stirring some in to pre-colored or plain sugars, so you get a little more flavor in your finished product.

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16 Comments
  • JEP
    December 13, 2007

    And save a huge amount of money by making your own 🙂

  • Surviving
    December 13, 2007

    I’ve done this using a ziploc bag. One way the kids can help without making a big mess. They just “play” with the bag for a few minutes.

  • Stef
    December 13, 2007

    OK. I feel dumb. That is so obvious, but for some reason I never thought of it. Thanks so much for sharing. I will definitely use this sometime.

  • Alicia
    December 14, 2007

    Thanks for this. It’s so simple and obvious, but I’d never thought of it!

  • Irene
    December 14, 2007

    You can also color white sprinkles. This way you can make darker or lighter-pastel colored sprinkles. I usually use powdered food coloring instead of the liquid kind.

  • Aparna
    December 17, 2007

    Thanks for this idea. A simple enough thing to do.

  • Adriana Brown
    December 1, 2008

    Great advice and great website, exactly what I was looking for! Thanks and happy baking! 🙂

  • Nicole
    December 19, 2009

    Gee this is fantastic! all the stores are closed thx to that snow…. But now i can make my cookies A-S-A-P :d:d:d:d:d:D

  • Angela
    February 13, 2010

    Thanks – none of the stores around my area sell sanding sugar so this makes it soooo much easier. I can now make my own, saving on cost too 🙂

  • Ava
    December 14, 2011

    Just made some red and blue for my holiday spritz cookies, worked really well. Thanks for the budget/creative idea and tips!

  • Duby
    December 15, 2011

    Brilliant !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    i almost want to say “duh” why didnt i think of that? 🙂

  • Emma
    December 21, 2011

    Thank you so much. This is super easy but. And I feel stupid for asking but do you add them to the cookies before or after baking – and how do you get the sugar to stick to the cookie? Thanks!

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