achiote annatto seeds

Achiote and Annatto and what Sprouts from the Seed

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Photo by Bill Gracey

The small yet seemingly impenetrable achiote seed, which is often commonly named the annatto seed, is available worldwide both as a whole seed and in ground form. It is a highly-regarded ingredient in both Hispanic and Indian cuisine for its subtle bitter and earthy flavors along with its gorgeous burnished copper russet color. Annatto extract is used worldwide asa food coloring and finds its way into the manufacturing process of common foods like cheese, margarine and butter. Achiote seeds can be sed in various forms as an ingredient, here are some of the most popular:


Most commonly used as an ingredient in Puerto Rican cooking, this is a type of pork fat that has been infused with achiote seeds for flavor and color. Achiotina can be added to rice and bean dishes as well as stews, curries or any kind of meat or vegetable dish.

Achiote Paste

This special paste was originally exclusively used in Oaxacan and Yucatan cuisine. It is made by grinding achiote seeds together with vinegar or water and often, but not compulsory other herbs and spices such as oregano, cilantro, cloves, cinnamon an salt. Achiote paste is most often used in tamales, moles, tamales, rice dishes, and stews both with seafood and meats.

Achiote Oil

Usually a low-in-flavor type cooking oil with little flavor that has been infused with achiote seeds to enrich both its flavor and color. Achiote oil is used in both Indian and Mexican cooking to add its characteristic bright russet color and unique flavor to many dishes that include tamales, rice, chicken, meats and fish.

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