How to Color Powdered Sugar

Powdered sugar, also known as confectioners' sugar or icing sugar, is a fine sugar that has been ground to a smooth, powdery texture. It is a staple ingredient in baking and is used to make frostings, glazes, dustings, and more.

While plain white powdered sugar works great in many recipes, coloring powdered sugar opens up fun new possibilities for decorating cookies, cakes, and other treats.

How to Color Powdered Sugar

Adding a pop of color to powdered sugar is easy to do at home with just a few ingredients and takes only a few minutes.

Why Would You Want Colored Powdered Sugar?

Before jumping into the how-to, you may be wondering why you'd want colored powdered sugar in the first place. Here are some of the most popular uses:

  • Decorating baked goods - Colored sugar is perfect for dusting cupcakes, rolling doughnuts, coating cookie pops, and any other treats you want to add a pop of color to. It creates an eye-catching, sugary coating.
  • Making naturally colored royal icing - Mixing powdered sugar with meringue powder and water makes royal icing. Add colored powdered sugar instead of regular to tint the icing.
  • DIY sprinkles - Colored sugar makes great homemade sprinkles for cupcakes, donuts, ice cream sundaes, and more.
  • Edible art - Get creative by using colored powdered sugar to paint directly onto cakes, cookies, or even plates.
  • No mess color - Unlike liquid food dye, powdered color won't turn batters or doughs an unappealing purplish brown. The color stays on the outside.
  • Cost savings - Purchasing pre-colored powdered sugar can cost a fortune. Make your own for pennies on the dollar.

Now that you know all the fun things colored powdered sugar can do, let's get into how to make it!

Supplies Needed for Coloring Powdered Sugar

Coloring powdered sugar only requires a few ingredients you likely already have on hand:

  • Powdered sugar
  • Food coloring
  • Airtight container or resealable plastic bag

You'll also need a small bowl and a utensil for mixing. Options include:

  • Fork or whisk
  • Toothpick
  • Chopstick
  • Small spoon

And that's it! Now let's get into the various ways to color powdered sugar.

Key Takeaway: You only need powdered sugar, food coloring, a mixing utensil, and an airtight container to make colored powdered sugar at home.

Method 1: Liquid Food Coloring

Liquid food coloring is easy to find, inexpensive, and provides the widest range of colors and shades. However, because liquid coloring contains water, it will slightly moisten the powdered sugar. Take care not to over-mix or use too much coloring to prevent clumping.

What You'll Need:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • Liquid food coloring
  • Small bowl
  • Fork or whisk
  • Airtight container


  1. Add 1 cup powdered sugar to a small bowl. Make a well in the center.
  2. Add 2-3 drops of liquid food coloring to the well. Use more or less depending on the shade desired.
  3. Use a fork or whisk to mix the food coloring into the surrounding powdered sugar until thoroughly combined. Mix gently to prevent over-moistening.
  4. Add additional drops of food coloring if a darker shade is desired. Mix until color is even.
  5. Transfer colored powdered sugar to an airtight container. Store away from humidity. Use immediately for best results.

The colored sugar may still appear slightly damp. To fully dry:

  • Spread in a thin layer on a plate or baking sheet and allow to air dry for 1-2 hours.
  • Place in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes, stirring halfway.

This method works well for small batches. For larger amounts, the liquid coloring can over-moisten the powdered sugar. In that case, try the next method.

Method 2: Gel Food Coloring

Gel food coloring provides vibrant colors similar to the liquid form, but with less moisture content. It takes more drops of gel to achieve the same shade as liquid coloring, but results in a fluffier finished product.

What You'll Need:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • Gel food coloring
  • Small bowl
  • Toothpick or chopstick
  • Airtight container


  1. Add 1 cup powdered sugar to a small bowl.
  2. Dip a toothpick or chopstick in the gel coloring and dot on top of the powdered sugar. Start with 5-6 dots.
  3. Use the toothpick or chopstick to gently fold the gel into the surrounding powdered sugar until thoroughly combined.
  4. Add more dots of gel as needed to achieve the desired color shade. Mix until color is even.
  5. Transfer colored powdered sugar to an airtight container. Store away from humidity.

The thicker consistency of gel coloring allows it to mix easily into the powdered sugar without adding excess moisture. This makes it an ideal choice when coloring large batches.

Method 3: Powdered Food Coloring

Powdered food coloring is harder to find than liquid or gel, but creates the fluffiest textured colored sugar. It does not contain any moisture, so over-mixing is not a concern.

What You'll Need:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • Powdered food coloring
  • Small bowl
  • Spoon
  • Airtight container


  1. Add 1 cup powdered sugar to a small bowl.
  2. Add a pinch of powdered coloring. Start with 1/8 teaspoon.
  3. Use a spoon to fold and mix the powdered color into the surrounding powdered sugar until thoroughly combined.
  4. Add more powdered coloring a pinch at a time if a darker shade is desired. Mix until color is even.
  5. Transfer colored powdered sugar to an airtight container. Store away from humidity.

Powdered food coloring evenly tints the powdered sugar without lightening the texture. It's the ideal choice for coloring large batches of powdered sugar.

Method 4: Colored Granulated Sugar

For powdered sugar with perfectly even color distribution, start by coloring granulated sugar. Then process it into a fine powder.

What You'll Need:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Liquid food coloring
  • Resealable plastic bag
  • Food processor or blender
  • Airtight container


  1. Add 1 cup granulated sugar to a resealable plastic bag. Add liquid food coloring a few drops at a time and seal bag.
  2. Massage the bag to distribute coloring until sugar is evenly tinted. Add more drops if needed.
  3. Transfer colored sugar to a food processor or blender. Process on high until transformed into a fine powder, about 1 minute.
  4. Use a sieve to sift out any remaining granules. Transfer colored powdered sugar to an airtight container.

Because the granulated sugar is evenly colored before grinding, you end up with richly hued powdered sugar that distributes color consistently. This takes a little extra effort, but provides beautiful results.

Storing Colored Powdered Sugar

When stored properly, colored powdered sugar will retain its color and remain fresh for up to 6 months. For best quality, store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place away from excess moisture and heat. Avoid plastic bags, as they can allow moisture transfer over time.

If stored in a humid environment, the powdered sugar may clump. You can revive clumpy colored sugar by sifting it or mixing it with a fork. But for peak freshness, use colored powdered sugar soon after making it.

Storage ContainerShelf Life
Airtight jar or tin3-6 months
Plastic bag1-2 months
No container1-2 weeks

Key Takeaway: Store colored powdered sugar in an airtight container in a cool, dark place to retain color and prevent clumping for up to 6 months.

Troubleshooting Colored Powdered Sugar

Occasionally, you may run into issues when coloring powdered sugar. Here are some common problems and how to avoid them:

Powdered sugar turned wet and sticky - This happens if too much liquid coloring was used or over-mixed. Dry it out by spreading on a baking sheet and letting sit 1-2 hours.

Coloring won't blend into powder - If using gel coloring, switch to liquid. Or use a chopstick vs. spoon to mix and dissolve the gel better.

Powdered sugar turned dark purple - A small amount of liquid coloring can turn powdered sugar this unappealing shade. Use gel or powdered coloring instead.

Color isn't evenly distributed - Sift the powdered sugar after mixing to evenly distribute the color throughout.

Color faded after storage - Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place to prevent moisture getting in and fading.

Powdered sugar became hard and clumpy - Clarify any lumps by sifting the powdered sugar or mixing with a fork. Store in an airtight container next time.

FAQ About Coloring Powdered Sugar

Does coloring powdered sugar change the taste?

When using only tiny amounts of food coloring, the taste is not altered. However, dark or brightly colored powdered sugar may impart a mild tasting of the dye.

Can you use natural food coloring?

Yes, powdered or liquid natural food coloring can be used. Because natural coloring tends to be less vibrant, you may need to use more to achieve the desired shade.

What gives the brightest colored powdered sugar?

Gel food coloring results in the most vivid and intense shades of colored powdered sugar. Liquid coloring will also create bright colors but may over-moisten the powdered sugar.

Is colored powdered sugar safe to eat?

Yes, as long as food-safe dyes are used to color the powdered sugar. Avoid dyes intended for non-edible uses. Colored powdered sugar should only be used to coat the outside of foods, not baked directly into batters.

Can you use beet juice or other natural liquids to color powdered sugar?

It is not recommended. Any type of liquid, even natural juices, will dissolve the powdered sugar before coloring it. Stick to gel, liquid, or powdered food coloring instead.


With just a bit of food coloring, plain powdered sugar transforms into a colorful decorating tool. The four methods above provide options to suit any project - whether you need just a spoonful to dust mini cupcakes or a big batch to roll cake pops for a party.

Colored powdered sugar adds cheer, creates an inviting presentation, and saves money compared to buying pre-colored powdered sugar. Once you learn how easy and inexpensive it is to DIY at home, you'll never pay high prices for colored powdered sugar again.

Sarah Cortez
Sarah Cortez

My name is Sarah and I'm a baker who loves trying out new recipes and flavor combinations. I decided to challenge myself to use a new spice or ingredient powder in my baking each week for a year. Some successes were the cardamom sugar cookies, vivid turmeric cake, and beetroot chocolate cupcakes. Failures included the bitter neem brownies and overwhelmingly hot ghost pepper snickerdoodles. Through this experience I've discovered amazing additions to spice up desserts while learning how to balance strong flavors. Follow my journey as I push the boundaries of baking with unique powders!

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