The scientific name of Annatto seeds (pronounced ‘a-na-toe’) is Bixa orellana and these are native to South America. Today they’re grown in Brazil, Guatemala, India, Peru, the Philippines and western Africa. Our Annatto seeds are cultivated in India. When used in cooking, annatto seeds are usually referred to as Achiote (pronounced ‘ah-chee-OH-tay’).
Annatto seeds grow on a shrublike plant that produces heart shaped pods that mature to a brown or reddish brown in color and are covered with stiff, short hairs. The pods are found in groups of ten to fifteen and when fully mature the fruit splits open, exposing the numerous seeds. The seeds range in color from yellow to red to black.
Annatto seeds are used as a natural food dye in dairy products like butter and cheese and give cheese that familiar yellowish orange coloring. In Caribbean cuisine the seeds are cooked in oil and once the oil is infused with the achiote flavor the oil is strained and the seeds are discarded. Achiote oil is used to flavor chicken, fish, meats, rice, tamales and vegetables. In Peru, annatto seeds are used in pork marinades and in sofritos. In Venezuela they’re used in the condiment alino criollo. Fans of the flavorful cuisine of the Yucatan region of Mexico know that annatto seeds are a key ingredient in the signature spice blend Recado Rojo which can be made into a paste or wet rub to season chicken, fish and pork.
Our Yucatan Recado Rojo blend can be used to make your own achiote paste and it makes for a flavorful and unique grill rub for your chicken. Achiote paste is a critical part of the Yucatan region’s signature dish Pollo Pibil (sometimes referred to as Achiote Chicken) which is marinated chicken wrapped in a banana leave that is then cooked in a fire pit.
To make your own achiote paste use 5 tablespoons of our Recado Rojo to 2-3 tablespoons of either lemon juice, water or wine vinegar. You can either rub the paste onto the meat or add a bit more liquid and use instead as a marinade for the meat. The meat is then baked, barbecued, broiled or grilled. Achiote paste may also be added to corn dough to create a vibrant color and earthy flavor for homemade empanadas and red tamales.
We’re offering ground Annatto Seeds because the seeds are very hard and are very difficult to grind and use in most home kitchens.
Annatto’s aroma has a touch of peppermint or flowery scent while the flavor profile is delicate, mildly sweet with a slight peppery taste with earthy and flowery undertones.
Helpful hint: Achiote is mostly used for coloring so be careful not to overuse or the result will be a noticeable earthiness in your recipes that while some will enjoy immensely others will not.
Annatto works well in combination with allspice, chili powder, citrus juice, cloves, cumin, epazote, Mexican oregano and paprika.
Annatto goes well with beef, chicken, egg dishes, legumes, okra, onions, pork, rice, squash, sweet peppers, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.