Annatto Article -
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A derivative of achiote seed, the slightly musky-flavored seed of the annatto tree. Annatto is available whole or ground in East Indian, Spanish and Latin American markets. Buy whole seeds when they're a rusty red color; brown seeds are old and flavorless.


Americans may recognize annatto from ingredient statements on packaged foods, where the spice is primarily used to provide orange-red color in butter, margarine, cheese and smoked fish. However, annatto is a staple in Latin American cooking, imparting flavor as well as color.

Flavor Trend

As the Hispanic population in the United States grows, so does the demand for annatto; as Americans discover its earthy flavor, annatto is becoming much more than just a splash of color in our food. Like paprika and saffron, annatto is a key component in a number of dishes. Whole or ground annatto seeds can be steeped or roasted in oil, then combined with other spices to create a flavorful paste for rice, beans, meats, stews, soups, and tamales. Annatto is also prevalent in Caribbean and Asian cuisines and is a natural partner for Southwestern dishes.

    What The Experts Say

    "I use annatto to make a flavored oil for fish or pork tenderloin," says Chef Tory McPhail, of Commander's Palace in New Orleans. "I also grind the seed and combine it with salt, black pepper, ground ginger, and garlic as a rub for shrimp."

      Perfect Flavor Partners Include:

      black pepper, chile peppers, cilantro, cumin, garlic, ginger, lime, and oregano


        Rusty red



        Sensory Profile

        Earthy, with a slight edge of bitterness

          Joyce L. 
          Oct. 26, 2009 7:23 am
          Thanks, Chef McPhail, for this flavored oil suggestion. J.L.
          Aug. 26, 2012 8:47 am
          Annatto also planty produced in Africa, here the bexin of product can reach 3.8%.we come from Cote D'ivoire of Africa, have farm here, can supply the 500ton annatto at low price. if you are insterested in it, please add my skype, my skype account is :abidjan.2008 email is
          Aug. 27, 2012 9:24 pm
          How do I steep or roast it in oil? For how long? Until the seeds turn dark? How do I make a paste out of the seeds?
          Sep. 12, 2012 6:03 pm
          I'm exited to give these a try
          Miss Dee 
          Jul. 18, 2013 5:21 pm
          Try it in pinto beans with garlic,chili peppers, cumin,oregano,onion powder, black pepper,salt, and smoked meat, or smoked ham bone, so good and the color is inviting.....Happy Dining!!
          Sep. 8, 2013 2:12 pm
          Okay article, thanks, but it would be nice if there was something about how to use annatto i.e. soak it or warm it in oil or just toss a handful of it into a dish.
          Jun. 5, 2014 12:37 pm
          Place a little olive oil in a small pan and add a tablespoon of annatto seeds and let it heat slowly. Stir with an old spoon since annatto oil may permanently color a new spoon. When you have a lovely color of a color a bit darker than yellow rice, strain the oil and use it in your recipes. You can add any spice you wish to the oil but don't make a lot, just make a little, because you have to use it fairly quickly.
          Sep. 20, 2014 5:38 pm
          I have tried to find ground Annatto achiote and no local stores had it. Guess I will have to order from online. I had a Columbia recipe that called for ground. I did use the hot oil method .
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