Have you ever been making red velvet cupcakes or colored icing and saw the recipe called for gel food coloring? What exactly is gel food coloring, and what is the difference between gel food coloring vs liquid food coloring? You're about to find out.

Gel Food Coloring

Gel food coloring is made out of synthetic coloring with water and a corn syrup or glycerin base. The corn syrup and/or glycerin give it a very viscous texture. Therefore, this form of food coloring is very concentrated and not as "liquidy" as liquid food coloring. 

For this reason, gel food coloring is good to use when you want very vibrant colors. It also means you use less of it. It's also good to use when you don't want to add liquid to whatever you are dying.

Gel food coloring is great to use in frostings or icings for bright colors, red velvet cupcakes, and candy. It is not good for using in dying cookie doughs because it is so concentrated, it is hard to blend.

Liquid Food Coloring

Liquid food coloring is made of synthetic colorings with a water base. The water base makes it very "liquidy" and fairly low in concentration. I find that using liquid food coloring often gives me more pastel colors because it is not highly concentrated.

You should use liquid food coloring for frostings (although it will not give very vibrant colors), Easter egg dyes, thick doughs (like sugar cookie dough), and icings. Be careful to account for the amount of liquid that you end up using though when you add liquid food coloring.

Another pro of liquid food coloring is that it is easy to find in grocery stores and it is inexpensive.

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Caitlyn Heter

So, are you decorating sugar cookies with icing for July 4th? You may use either food coloring option, but most likely liquid food coloring. Making some red velvet cupcakes? I would suggest investing in a bottle of gel food coloring. Making these fun pinwheel cookies? Use liquid food coloring so it's easier to knead into the dough. Now you finally understand when to use gel food coloring vs liquid food coloring next time you bake.