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Annatto Seed

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Annatto seed from the Achiote Tree

Annatto seed is the bright red colored seed from the tropical Achiote tree. They are used as a spice to flavor savory dishes, especially pork and chicken dishes on the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico.

Annatto Seed's earthy flavor is used to flavor foods in many other tropical areas around the world including other parts of the Caribbean, Latin America, the Philippians and Asia.

Annatto seed is also an "all natural" food coloring allowing foods to be labeled as containing "no artificial colors". See more below.

Annatto seed's flavor is nutty, slightly sweet and peppery without being spicy. It is used to favor chicken, pork, seafood, beef, and vegetables.

Annatto seed is sometimes used as a saffron substitute because it can be used to give foods a similar color as saffron does, but the flavor is not comparable making Annatto is a suitable saffron substitute when only the color of saffron is desired.


Buying Annatto Seed

4 oz. Annatto Seed
Only $1.97

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8 oz. Annatto Seed
Only $3.47

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16 oz. Annatto Seed
Only $4.97

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Cooking with Annatto Seed

Annatto Paste

Annatto seed is often used to color foods as well as adding a difficult to describe nutty and earthy flavor to foods. Since the Annatto seed is extremely hard, grind it in a spice mill or electric coffee grinder to make ground Annatto powder prior to being used in cooking. Annatto seed should never be added to foods whole.

The Annatto powder is then often combined with other spices, herbs, garlic, and onion to make an Annatto paste, sometimes called Achiote paste that is most often used to marinate chicken and pork before cooking, but the paste can be used in a variety of other ways.

Annatto paste is generally combined with an acidic ingredient such as the traditional bitter orange juice, other citrus juices, or vinegar to make an Annatto marinade that is the consistency of a thick sauce. This method of cooking meat with Annatto seed, which often involves tightly rapping the meat in banana leaves prior to cooking, is most popular in the Yucatan part of Mexico, but is used throughout the Caribbean.

Sometimes Annatto seed's color is more desired than its unique flavor. In this case, the Annatto seed is steeped or simmered in a hot liquid to extract the Annatto seed's color. Interestingly enough, two distinct colors, and to a lesser degree flavors, can be created from Annatto seed depending upon the liquid in which it is simmered.

Annatto Oil

Annatto seed simmered in oil will create an Annatto oil (sometimes called Achiote oil) with a deep red color and warm rich flavor. The Annatto seed should be simmered in twice the amount of hot oil as seeds for 5-10 minutes. The Annatto oil will get darker in color the longer it simmers. The oil should not be overheated and the seed should be strained out prior to use.

Annatto oil is well suited for coloring frosting, confections, and batters, but also is used to flavor and color rice and polenta. In Filipino cooking this oil is called Atsuete oil and is used as a flavored and colored cooking oil to fry or marinated meats and vegetables.

Annatto Water
Annatto seed can also be simmered in water to produce an annatto water that is more yellow in color and can be used to color rice, soups, sauces, and confections. Simmer Annatto seed in water for 5-10 minutes before straining and using the annatto colored water to add color to foods.
About Annatto Seed


Achiote is the Spanish word for Annatto.

Two tablespoons of darkly colored Annatto oil will color one cup of rice bright orange once it has finished cooking and has been thoroughly mixed.




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