Six natural plant food colorings in the Philippines


The Philippines has a wide variety of plants that can be utilized as natural food colorings, providing an enticing visual appeal to various dishes. These plants not only add vibrant colors but also bring unique flavors and nutritional benefits to culinary creations. Here are some of the plants commonly found in the Philippines that can be used to enhance the color and taste of dishes.

Annatto (Bixa orellana)

Annatto, locally known as achuete, is a plant native to the tropical regions of the Philippines. It is primarily cultivated for its red-orange seeds, which contain a natural pigment called annatto, which imparts a rich color to food.


Annatto (Junior Peres Junior/Pixabay)

Annatto is commonly used in Filipino cuisine as a natural food coloring. It is often used to give a vibrant hue to dishes such as stews, rice, and sauces. It adds a visually appealing touch to traditional dishes like kare-kare and pancit.

Aside from its coloring properties, annatto also offers nutritional benefits. It contains antioxidants, which help protect the body against free radicals. Additionally, it is a source of vitamin E and may have anti-inflammatory properties.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

Turmeric or luyang dilaw is known for its vibrant yellow color. It has a slightly bitter taste, making it a versatile ingredient in both savory and sweet dishes.


Turmeric (MYCCF/Pixabay)

Turmeric is widely used in Filipino cuisine to add a bright yellow hue to dishes such as curries, soups, and sauces. It is a key ingredient in popular dishes like chicken tinola and yellow rice. Turmeric can also be used to make refreshing turmeric tea.

Turmeric is also known for its health benefits. It contains a compound called curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It istraditionally used as medicine to support digestion, reduce inflammation, and promote overall well-being.

Purple Yam(Dioscorea alata)

Purple yam, locally known as ube, is a vibrant purple tuber widely used in Filipino desserts. It has a sweet and nutty flavor profile and offers a rich purple hue.


Purple Yam (Obsidian Soul/Wikimedia Commons)

Purple yam is a popular ingredient in various Filipino desserts, such as ube halaya, ube ice cream, and ube-filled pastries. Its distinct color adds an attractive element to these sweet treats.

Purple yam is not only visually appealing but also nutritious. It is a good source of dietary fiber, essential vitamins, and minerals. Additionally, purple yam contains antioxidants that help protect the body against oxidative stress.

Blue Ternate (Clitoria ternatea)

Blue ternate, also known as blue pea flower, is a plant native to Southeast Asia, including the Philippines. Its vibrant blue flowers contain natural pigments that can be extracted to create blue food coloring.


Blue ternate (Nabajyoti Lahkar/Pixabay)

The blue ternate flower is often used to add a beautiful blue color to dishes, beverages, and desserts. It is commonly used in rice dishes, drinks, and even in colorful desserts like jelly. The color can change when the pH is altered, turning from blue to purple with the addition of acidic ingredients like calamansi juice or lemon.

Aside from its culinary uses, blue ternate flower is known for its medicinal properties. It is believed to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cognitive-enhancing effects. Traditional medicine often utilizes butterfly pea flower for its potential health benefits.

Pandan(Pandanus amaryllifolius)

Pandan is a tropical plant widely cultivated in the Philippines. Its leaves offer a natural green color and a unique aromatic quality.


Pandan (Nabajyoti Lahkar/Pixabay)

Pandan leaves are commonly used to add a distinct green color and aroma to various dishes and desserts. They are often used in rice, cakes, and traditional Filipino delicacies like kakanin. Pandan-infused beverages, such as pandan juice, are also popular.

Beyond its coloring properties, pandan leaves have a sweet, floral fragrance, which adds a delightful aroma to dishes. The aroma pairs well with coconut-based desserts and savory dishes, providing a refreshing and fragrant note.

Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa)

Roselle, also known as hibiscus, is a flowering plant cultivated for its vibrant red calyces, the outermost whorl of a flower. These calyces can be used to create red food coloring.


Roselle (Carlito/Pixabay)

Roselle calyces are commonly used to make a tangy and refreshing drink known as hibiscus tea or roselle tea. The calyces can also be used to create a natural red food coloring for beverages, jams, jellies, and sauces.

Roselle is known for its potential health benefits. The calyces contain antioxidants and vitamin C, which may help support the immune system and promote overall well-being. Hibiscus tea is often consumed for its potential cardiovascular benefits and as a natural diuretic.

The Philippines offers a rich variety of plants that can be used as natural food coloring, adding both visual appeal and unique flavors to dishes. From the vibrant red hue of annatto seeds to the striking blue of blue ternate flower, these plants not only enhance the appearance of culinary creations but also offer nutritional benefits and potential health advantages. Exploring the diverse colors and flavors of these natural food colorings truly elevates Filipino cuisine.

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