Top

Blueberries can turn green in your muffins

If you’ve ever baked a batch of blueberry muffins and noticed the blueberries seemed to turn green, instead of purple or blue, that’s normal! Keep reading to find out out why blueberries turn green in your muffins and baked goods!

Why'd my blueberries turn green?

 

It happens even to the best of them, moist and sweet honey blueberry muffins, made with care and love, but that end up with unsightly green blobs of what should have been pretty purplish blueberries. The taste is the same, but the colour of the blueberries wasn’t expected. That, my friends, is anthocyanin‘s fault. But actually, to be more precise, the pH of the muffin batter also has a role in this story.

What is anthocyanin?

I guess I should actually say “anthocyanins,” plural because actually anthocyanins are a family of similar compounds. They are the antioxidants in plants, like leaves and berries, and they are responsible for much of the colour you see on the tables at the farmer’s markets, from red cabbage and purple corn to many different types of berries, cherries, and grapes. The anthocyanins are not to be confused with the carotenoids (like beta-carotene): carrots get their orange colour (and even purple colour) from beta-carotene, while blueberries get their violet-blue tones from cyanidin 3-glucoside (an anthocyanin).

Why do anthocyanins change colour?

Anthocyanins are actually really good pH indicators: they change colour depending on if they are in an acidic, neutral, or basic (alkaline) environment. The colour changes observed vary from one anthocyanin to another, but for cyanidin 3-glucoside, the anthocyanin found in blueberries, the colour varies from red to violet to blue or even green (from low, acidic pH to higher, alkaline pH). A change in pH entails a small change in the structure of anthocyanins, like cyanidin 3-glucoside, thereby affecting how anthocyanins absorb/reflect light rays: they change colours.
Effect of pH on blueberry color | Jance Lawandi @ kitchen heals soul

 

What do anthocyanins have to do with the colour of the blueberries in my muffins?

The answer is easy: does your recipe have a lot of baking soda, a chemical leavener that you might add to muffin batter with the hopes of giving those muffins lots of oomph and rising powder? When you bake with baking soda, your recipe will also have an acidic ingredient  (or two) to react with. If there aren’t enough acidic ingredients in your recipe to balance out that alkaline baking soda, then your muffin batter will be basic (alkaline): your blueberry muffins will probably have splotches of green berries, instead of violet, because the blueberries turn green under basic conditions.
Bowl of blueberries | Jance Lawandi @ kitchen heals soul

 

If your favourite blueberry muffin recipe yields the best muffins you’ve ever tasted, but the blueberries end up an unfortunate green, know that it’s not the end of the world, but if that green colour bothers you, make a note. In the next batch, consider adding in a little extra vinegar (or buttermilk, or whatever acid that is called for in the recipe) to balance out the extra baking soda, or you could even use a touch less baking soda in the next recipe, and add more baking powder instead.

, ,

16 Responses to Blueberries can turn green in your muffins

  1. Mallory @ Because I Like Chocolate July 12, 2014 at 12:29 am #

    You have made this all sound so simple! I love these posts when you take your chemistry background and apply it to food and cooking. It’s something different from what the rest of the food blogging world is doing and I find it quite refreshing!

  2. Stephanie July 13, 2014 at 7:04 pm #

    ooooh so interesting! The muffin recipe I use doesn’t turn green, but I’ve had some very good cake-like versions of the blueberry muffins where I pondered the greenish blobs (briefly.. before shoving the whole muffin in my mouth, because I’m a lady)

  3. Vina December 26, 2014 at 9:35 am #

    Thank you for explaining the reason for the color change! My favorite cookie to bake is raspberry white chocolate and always turn green. The green with the red raspberries makes for a perfect Christmas cookie, but I’ve gotten used to people asking “why are they green?” and now I have an answer!

  4. Dave August 9, 2016 at 6:37 am #

    So, does it kill you if you eat it? I mean.. I don’t want to have cyanide in my cake.

    • Janice August 10, 2016 at 12:07 am #

      Hi Dave,
      Cyanide is not at all the same as anthocyanins, and the anthocyanins found in blueberries certainly won’t kill you (I think the human body just metabolizes and excretes them). No worries!

  5. John Stois November 26, 2016 at 5:48 pm #

    Does the same color change happen with pumpkin for those reasons? My pumpkin pie turned a shade of green .It was pumpkin color when i put it in the oven but turned a shade of green when I pulled it out. I almost threw it out but i tried a taste and it was delicious.

  6. Heidi February 2, 2019 at 6:40 pm #

    I made muffins some with blueberries and some with only chocolate chips and they all turned green! But not just near the blueberries, the whole muffin! I used almond meal, walnuts, and spices, yes there was baking soda in the batter-but I have made a similar recipe in the past with only chocolate chips and they were a normal color. Could the blueberry “essence” pass through the air and into the muffins without blueberries? Or could the muffin tin turn them green? It was so weird, I threw them out even though they tasted normal.

  7. Annie October 26, 2019 at 11:35 am #

    Thanks for the information, I had the same thing happen to my white raspberry cake where there were small specs of blue. It certainly wasn’t mold and I was afraid to serve it. Was this the same reasoning?

  8. Chris January 3, 2020 at 10:41 am #

    This is lovely. I appreciate the detail and specifics, as I had recently started baking blueberry muffins and observed a rich red color, wondering what caused it. This post helped me understand what’s going on, and beyond that, helped me understand how to adjust ingredients in the future when I start developing my own recipes. I have a scientific, analytical mindset, and love being able to use the knowledge I’ve gained from this post to use actual science in my cooking.

    Thank you for this post and all its detail. More like this, please!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Banana & cardamom buttermilk loaf cake | Kitchen Heals Soul - May 2, 2017

    […] Apparently I was wrong. The banana chunks greyed a little around the edges. Conclusion: I really need to get a pH meter or even some pH paper to verify the pHs as I go. Or maybe I need to work more on my banana browning theory (or rather my banana greying theory in this case). I could also do a test like I did with blueberries to show the impact of pH on blueberry colour. […]

  2. Carrot focaccia | Kitchen Heals Soul - May 9, 2017

    […] get their colour from anthocyanins (yes, the same family of compounds that are responsible for the colour of blueberries), while yellow carrots get their colour from xanthophylls. The orange carrots are loaded with […]

  3. Honey blueberry muffins | Kitchen Heals Soul - January 4, 2020

    […] muffin, try these blueberry bran muffins. And if you bake a batch of muffins and you notice the blueberries turned green or changed colour as they baked, don’t panic. That could be the effect of pH on the colour of […]

  4. Banana & cardamom buttermilk loaf cake | Kitchen Heals Soul - January 13, 2020

    […] on my banana browning theory (or rather my banana greying theory in this case). Remember blueberries turn green with changes in […]

  5. Blueberry bran muffins & a Baking With Less Sugar giveaway - January 29, 2020

    […] baking a batch of blueberry muffins, you might notice the blueberries turned green or changed colour as they bake, don’t panic. It’s probably the pH of the batter that […]

  6. Mini blueberry almond pies - January 30, 2020

    […] you are baking with blueberries and you notice the blueberries turned green or changed colour as they bake, don’t panic. That could be the effect of pH on the colour of […]

  7. How to bake the best fruit muffins | Kitchen Heals SoulKitchen Heals Soul - June 13, 2020

    […] muffins. In fact, if you let the blueberries defrost, you can end up dying the batter blue and the blueberries turn the muffins green as the muffins […]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.