All natural color-changing lemonade using the magical butterfly pea flower.

Do you believe in magic?

Like most magic tricks, this one is based resoundingly in science. That doesn’t detract from the fun and amazement of it, however. Never before has lemonade been so gosh darn fun.

I call it magic butterfly lemonade or amazing color-changing lemonade, but you could also call it unicorn lemonade if you’re into that sort of thing (I think Starbucks had a secret version of this on their menu along with those ghastly unicorn frappicinnos, the difference is this version is completely natural.)

You heard me: there is nothing artificial about the color of this lemonade.

Butterfly Pea Lemonade changes from blue to pink right before your eyes!

The magic in this recipe comes from a little blue flower native to Southeast Asia called the butterfly pea.

Tea made from these flowers starts out a rich, sapphire blue. Hard to believe, actually, that something that blue can come from nature (how many other truly blue foods are there? Not many.)

When the pH of the blue tea is changed, in this case with the addition of lemon juice, it transforms into a vibrant magenta.

Magic Unicorn Lemonade - Watch it change color right before your eyes!

To make this magic lemonade, you’ll need to get your hands on some dried butterfly pea flowers. These are steeped along with sugar and hot water to make a vibrant blue sugar syrup, which makes up half the final lemonade. The other half is simply lemon juice and water.

The magic color changing effect comes when these two components are mixed: the blue tea turns purple and eventually magenta the more acid is added.

Fun food science: Butterfly Pea Lemonade magically changes color with lemon juice!

But how does it work, exactly?

(Click through to find out… plus a video so you can see the magic in action!)

Well, this little blue flower contains a high concentration of a blue-violent plant pigment called anthocyanin; the color of this pigment depends on the acidity of its environment. It starts out blue, and slowly changes to purple and then magenta the more acidic its environment. (Conversely, if you added a base liquid to the tea the color would change to green and even to yellow around pH 13/14… but that doesn’t make for very good drinking). Red cabbage actually has similar compounds, and a ‘tea’ made from steeped red cabbage would make a similar magic lemonade. But who wants to drink red cabbage lemonade? Blech.

Butterfly pea tea, on the other hand, really doesn’t taste like much, slightly earthy and woody not unlike a mild green tea. Here, however, any subtle flavors it may impart are readily masked by the tart lemon juice. We’re really only using it for its color… although, apparently they’re good for you too. Rich in natural antioxidants, the butterfly pea plant is said to improve blood circulation and eye health as well as nourish skin and hair, one reason why it is so prevalent in Southeast Asia in both food and beauty products.

Magic Color-Changing Lemonade recipe made with Butterfly Pea Flowers

I love the natural gradient that forms when the lemon hits the syrup, but you’ll need to stir it before drinking (otherwise you’ll be drinking straight up sugar syrup in the bottom of the glass followed by tart unsweetened lemonade). Just stir until the entire glass is solid magenta, then enjoy!

Color-changing Butterfly Lemonade Recipe - Changes from blue to pink right before your eyes!

Magic aside, I’m kind of obsessed with the natural coloring possibilities. Butterfly pea flowers are also available in powdered form as well as liquid extracts, and could be added just about anything to impart a gorgeous blue hue. Sticky rice? Pasta dough? Ice cream? My mind is going a mile a minute right about now thinking of all the blue possibilities. Needless to say, you can probably expect some more blue foods around these parts in the near future.

Butterfly Pea Lemonade aka Unicorn Lemonade: Magically (and naturally!) changes color!

Whether you call it magic butterfly lemonade, amazing color-changing lemonade, or unicorn lemonade (if you’re into that sort of thing — I think Starbucks had a secret unicorn lemonade on their menu along with those ghastly unicorn frappuccinos. The difference, of course, is that this version is completely natural) I think we can all agree this is quite possibly the prettiest (and most entertaining) lemonade ever.

How to make magic color-changing lemonade at home!

This is one of those recipes that is hard to describe in still pictures alone, so I put together a little video so you can experience the magic for yourself! Enjoy!

This recipe makes about 6 cups/48 ounces of lemonade, but can easily be scaled up or down for a crowd.

If you’re making a big batch for a party, I recommend keeping the two components in separate pitchers until ready to serve, and let guests pour their own to experience the magic first hand. Because, let’s face it, premixing would ruin all the fun. Adults and children alike will watch in awe as their lemonade transforms from brilliant blue to vibrant pink right before their very eyes. Abracadabra!

Butterfly Pea Lemonade

Butterfly Pea Lemonade

Yield: 48 ounces (about 8 servings)

Total Time: 15 minutes

This magical color-changing lemonade gets it’s natural color from the butterfly pea flower, changing from rich blue to vibrant magenta right before your very eyes!

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups filtered water, divided
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup (1/4 ounce) dried butterfly pea flowers
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 8-10 lemons)

Directions:

  1. In a saucepan, combine 3 cups filtered water with sugar. Stir in butterfly pea flowers. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, discarding solids. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a jar or glass measuring cup, combine lemon juice and remaining 2 cups of water.
  3. To serve, fill glasses with ice. Pour cooled butterfly pea syrup into glass, filling about half way.
  4. Pour lemon mixture over top, and watch the magic happen! Where the lemon meets the syrup, the color will change from blue to pink. Stir to combine the two mixtures until the color is pink throughout and enjoy!

Did you make this recipe?

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15 Comments Leave a Comment »

  1. I just ordered dried butterfly pea flowers and am trying to decide what to do with them. This lemonade looks gorgeous!! And obviously awesome that those beautiful colors are natural.

  2. I love this! Even more, I love the scientific explanation.

  3. WHAT! And I love the video :)

  4. This has to be one of the most beautiful drinks I’ve ever seen!

    Paige

  5. Definitely the most beautiful lemonade ever and unreal that it’s all natural! The ombre unicorn look is gorgeous!

  6. Who needs Starbucks when you can make your own magic!
    Really loved the amazing photographs! This inspired me to make my own lemonade! Ordering the Butterfly Pea Flower Tea from Amazon right now!
    Thank you for sharing Lindsay and Taylor! xoxo

  7. What a pretty drink! This sounds yummy!

  8. I have never hear of butterfly pea flowers, but after seeing this, I am ordering some. This is so SO beautiful.

  9. My dad gave me some butterfly pea tea last year! It was so cool watching it change colours! It didn’t have a lot of taste on its own though so I like the sound of making it with lemonade (we had it as tea with a splash of lemon juice).

  10. SOOOO cool! I love how colorful this is! What is the flavor like?

    • Butterfly pea doesn’t taste much like anything… if it weren’t for the color you’d think it was just plain old fashioned lemonade. :)

  11. So, is this like a half and half? Half the blue syrup, half the lemon juice? Just trying to get a sense of the correct ratio to produce a nice lemonade, too. :)

  12. Is there anyway to do this in a way that it’s not so expensive?

    • I’ve heard you can achieve a similar effect with red cabbage; although I haven’t tried it personally so I can’t say how it might affect flavor. Also, know that one bag of dried butterfly pea flowers goes a long way, you certainly won’t be using $5 worth of flowers in a single batch of lemonade. :)

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