Last Updated: Apr 26, 2023 @ 10:00 am.

What's the best gel food coloring? And why is gel food coloring better than liquid? To find out, we started baking . . . and trying out 7 different brands of gel food coloring in icing, cakes and cookies. What worked the best? Had the best color? Here are the winners.

FYI: We've been reviewing and rating products for the home and families since 1994. To keep things independent, we don't take money or freebies from brands we review! Our work is 100% reader-supported!

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Best Gel Color For Icing

Concentrated = a little goes a long way!
Our go-to coloring for frosting, this set of 4 primary colors has an excellent red and vibrant blue. Made in USA, we loved the bright colors.
$3.89 ($3.24 / Fl Oz)

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Best Gel Color For Icing: Wilton Primary Icing Colors, 4-Piece – Gel Icing Colors

Let’s talk food coloring.

There are two basic types of food coloring: liquid and gel. As the name implies, liquid food coloring is made of water and synthetic colors. Quite affordable, it’s great for lighter, pastel colors (blush pink, for example).

The downside to liquid food coloring: it’s messy. And you have to use a bunch of it to get darker or more vibrant colors.

That’s where gel food coloring comes in. As you might guess, it is thicker and more like a paste. This food coloring is concentrated—a little goes a long way!

Gel food coloring is great for brighter, more vibrant colors. On the downside, it is harder to mix into dough since it is thick to start with!

To find the best gel food coloring for icing, we tried out seven popular brands. We looked for best color and ease of use (some gel food coloring is thicker than others). The winner: Wilton’s Primary Icing Colors 4-count set. Here’s why:

What We Liked

• Soft gel paste mixes well in icing and frosting.

• Consistent overall quality.

• Blends well in any type of frosting, including buttercream and cream cheese.

• Concentrated = a little on a toothpick goes a long way!

• Made in USA.

What Needs Work

• High fructose corn syrup is one of the ingredients.

• A bit messy. This food coloring comes in jars, which can get messy when we get cooking. We prefer squeeze bottles, like the food coloring recommended below.

• Synthetic dyes include Red #40.

• Allergy alert: made in facility that processes tree nuts, egg and soy.

• Aftertaste? We didn’t notice a problem with this in our tests, but others parents told us they thought some colors altered the taste of buttercream icing. Interestingly, one of the colors (red) is labeled as “no taste.”

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Best Gel Color For Baking

Excellent for cookies
Vibrant, rich colors are the hallmark of this set—we loved it for macarons and holiday treats. A nice plus: squeeze bottles with flip-top lids limit the mess. Made in USA .
$32.25 ($3.84 / Ounce)

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Best Gel Color For Baking: Food Coloring AmeriColor Student Kit

Our test of food coloring included mixing different brands into dough, specifically holiday cookies!

For this type of baking, we prefer food color gel that is easier to mix into dough. After trying out a few options, we thought AmeriColor’s Student Kit of 12 colors performed the best. Here’s why:

What We Liked

 Easy to dispense.  We liked the squeeze bottles with flip top lids. Much less messy than jars!

• Vibrant colors! These are true colors: the red is red, the blue is blue!

• Made in USA.

• Bigger bottles. This food coloring comes in bottles with three-quarters of an ounce of gel—other competitors had smaller, half ounce jars or bottles.

• Less aftertaste than others we tried. This is less of an issue with cookies and other dough-based treats, than icing, however!

• Excellent for macarons.

What Needs Work

• Pricey. But you need to less of this concentrated gel to get good results, so we think it is worth they money.

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Best Budget-Friendly

Nice gift for your baker friend
If you are a novice baker, this is a good place to start: 8 basic colors in small half-ounce jars. Love this for frosting! Caveat: no black color.
$15.09 ($3.77 / Ounce)

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Best Budget-Friendly: Wilton Icing Colors 8 ct. gel-based food color

For the occasional baker, a large set of 12 colors is probably overkill. We think this eight-color set of half-ounce jars is an excellent starter set—at a price that is easy on the wallet.

This set is made by Wilton and has the same pros and cons as the first pick in this article. The only difference is the number of colors. This set includes Leaf Green, Lemon Yellow, Christmas Red, Sky Blue, Brown, Orange, Pink and Violet.

What’s missing? There is no black. So if you need a gel food coloring for spooky holiday cookies, this probably isn’t the right set to get!

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Best For Cake Decorating

"Fleshtone" color is a standout
Got more advanced baking skills? If you work with fondant, meringues or royal icing, this is the gel food coloring we'd recommend. Vibrant colors, concentrated formula!

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Best For Cake Decorating: Chefmaster Liqua-Gel Starter set of 12

If you are a more experienced baker, you might be interested in food coloring gel for advanced cake projects like fondant icing. Or gum paste flowers. Or colorful meringues.

For these projects, we recommend Chefmaster’s Liqua-Gel Starter set of 12 colors. Why? This food coloring gel doesn’t alter the texture of items—that’s critical when doing fondant. We tried this food color gels when decorating cakes and thought it was excellent.

What We Liked

• Squeeze bottles with flip top lids = less mess.

• Zero taste. 

• Great for royal icing on sugar cookies.

• Excellent for lace effect on wedding cakes.

• Made in USA.

• “Fleshtone” color is unique! We loved this for skin tones, when creating cartoon cakes.

• Good for fondant icing.

• Very vibrant red.

• Excellent black that is, well, black!

What Needs Work

• Can stain. Yes, we discovered this super concentrated food coloring gel can stain—take care when using!

Why Trust Us

We’ve been rating and reviewing products for the home and families since 1994. We do hands-on testing—we buy the products like the gel food coloring in this article with our own money and evaluate with an eye toward quality, ease of use and affordability.

Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Our work is 100% reader-supported!

Photo credit: American Heritage Chocolate, Unsplash

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