Whether or not you like to eat red cabbage, you are going to love doing science with it by making your own red cabbage pH indicator. This is an amazing kitchen science experiment that turns solutions different colors as if by magic! Making a red cabbage pH indicator is a fantastic way to introduce children to acid/base chemistry.

Use red cabbage to make your own pH indicator! Watch as acidic solutions turn pink, basic solutions turn blue, and neutral solutions turn purple! Fun kitchen science experiment to introduce kids to acid/base chemistry.

Make a Red Cabbage pH Indicator

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Making a pH Indicator from red cabbage is easier than might be expected. We headed to the kitchen to gather the following supplies:

  • One half of a head of red cabbage
  • Ice cube tray
  • Tall clear cups
  • Vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Water
  • Optional: More acidic/basic household items such as lemon juice, washing soda, cream of tartar, or antacids

Use red cabbage to make your own pH indicator! Watch as acidic solutions turn pink, basic solutions turn blue, and neutral solutions turn purple! Fun kitchen science experiment to introduce kids to acid/base chemistry.

After gathering our supplies we followed these simple directions to make the red cabbage pH indicator solution:

  1. Chop up the red cabbage into small pieces. Place 2-3 cups in a saucepan and cover with water.
  2. Bring the solution to a boil and then turn off the heat. Let it sit for about 30 minutes to cool down.
  3. Pour the cabbage water through a strainer into a jar or large measuring cup. The dark purple liquid in the jar is the pH indicator liquid.
  4. Pour the red cabbage indicator liquid into the compartments of an ice cube tray. Freeze for a couple of hours to make ice cubes. (Save some of this out for the fantastic color changing chemical reaction. It will get the kids SO excited about learning science!)

Use red cabbage to make your own pH indicator! Watch as acidic solutions turn pink, basic solutions turn blue, and neutral solutions turn purple! Fun kitchen science experiment to introduce kids to acid/base chemistry.

Acid/Base Science Experiment

Once our cabbage ice cubes were frozen solid we followed these instructions to perform the actual pH experiment:

  1. Fill one cup with water (this is neutral, or the control), one with vinegar (this is acidic), and one with a teaspoon of baking soda mixed with water (this is basic).
  2. Drop a couple of indicator ice cubes into each cup. Notice how the colors change in each one.
  3. Repeat with other acidic or basic household items in other cups. Try to guess what color the solution will be before dropping an ice cube in!

Make your own red cabbage pH indicator! Watch as solutions turn various vibrant colors. Fun kitchen science experiment to introduce kids to acid/base chemistry.

I was shocked at how fast the colors changed and how delightfully beautiful the colors were! My three-year-old daughter was excited because the solutions turned into her three favorite colors: pink, purple, and blue.

This experiment can be found in 50 Science Things to Make & Do, along with several other hands-on and kid-friendly science activities.

Red Cabbage pH Indicator: How it Works

Scientists use the pH scale to describe the concentration of hydrogen protons in a solution. A pH of 7 means that the solution is neutral. It is neither basic or acidic. A pH less than 7 means the solution is acidic while a pH greater than 7 means the solution is basic. The lower the pH, the more acidic a solution is.

Red cabbage contains a chemical called anthocyanin that changes color depending on the acidity of its environment. In an acidic environment it is reddish-pink, in a neutral environment it is purple, and in a basic (or alkaline) environment it turns bluish-green and even yellow. This is a great way to introduce the concept of acids and bases to a child since they can see the color change before their very eyes.

We used these same scientific principles to create an amazing fizzy color changing chemical reaction and to dye Easter eggs naturally, which were both so much fun. Who knows, maybe doing all this chemistry with red cabbage will inspire the kids to eat it one of these days πŸ™‚

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By | 2017-03-30T22:04:50+00:00 March 7th, 2015|Kitchen Science, Science, STEM Saturday|12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Natalie PlanetSmartyPants March 7, 2015 at 7:46 pm - Reply

    I love how you approached it. Very spectacular!

  2. Jeanine H March 9, 2015 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    Wow! I cannot believe this is FURST I’ve seen your blog! It is SOO SUPER AMAZING!!! I cannot wait to start using these with my 5 year old! I needed something to get excited about besides Spring weather–Thank you SOO much for sharing all of these incredible ideas and linkys too πŸ˜€ !!! Your new subscriber πŸ˜‰

  3. Sadie March 10, 2015 at 2:37 pm - Reply

    So awesome! I’m going to have to try this. πŸ™‚

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  5. Ibrahim September 7, 2016 at 1:17 pm - Reply

    Now I am interested in doing it ….thanks

  6. Elizabeth January 25, 2017 at 8:04 pm - Reply

    I was trying this tonight, and my water turned dark blue(doesn’t appear purple at all). Should I do it again?

    • Crystal January 25, 2017 at 10:46 pm - Reply

      Hi Elizabeth, I would just use the dark blue cabbage water and see what happens when you drop into acidic or basic solutions. It could be very interesting!

      There are a variety of reasons that your red cabbage water came out dark blue instead of purple. There may have been some kind of residue in your saucepan or there might be minerals in your water that make it slightly alkaline. The red cabbage you purchased may have been grown in more alkaline soil, too. Feel free to try it again with a different head of cabbage or using bottled water instead of tap water and see if it comes out purple. And let me know what you find out from your experimentation!

  7. Cotton February 11, 2017 at 9:36 am - Reply

    Do you recommend distilled water versus tap water to prevent mineral contamination?

    • Crystal February 27, 2017 at 9:04 pm - Reply

      It probably depends on what’s in your tap water! I have always used tap water, but I can certainly see the benefit of using distilled water to prevent contamination. I have had some readers write in to say that even the “neutral” tap water turned blue, so if that happens, I would give it another try with distilled water. Great question, thanks for asking.

  8. Christopher A.M. Paquette February 15, 2017 at 10:53 pm - Reply

    it works better if the cabbage water is hot chemical reaction happen faster the more broken down ad hotter the compounds are take the class cup of baking soda and dont add water just really hot to boiling purple cabbage and the reaction will happen a lot quicker. also use a glass cooking pan to boil the water the metal can become ionized and try a controlled water boil with distilled water and cabbage and then tap to see if your results vary they should but bottled water from different companies can have different ph so watch out!

  9. aysha March 7, 2017 at 3:47 am - Reply

    what if i use the liquid cabbage as an indicator instead of the icecubes??would that still work the same way?

    • Crystal March 16, 2017 at 10:39 pm - Reply

      Yes, that will work the same way!

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