What is achiote/annatto? - General Description:
The product goes by many names. “Annatto, called urucul by the Tupi-Guarani Indians of the Amazon region, achiote in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs in Mexico, annatto by the Caribs, and achuete by Filipinos, is better known today as achiote by Mexicans and Caribbeans.” (Raghavan, 2006) It’s known as roucou in Trinidad and Tobago, Martinique, and Guadalupe.
Achiote is native to the tropical areas of the Americas including the Caribbean and Mexico. The Spanish brought Bixa orellana from the Americas to Southeast Asia in the 1600s where it is now a common food ingredient. It’s also produced in India and West Africa in this day and age.
Traditional Uses for Achiote/Annatto:
Achiote powder mixed with other spices and herbs can be turned into a paste to marinate and give a smoky flavor to meats, fish and poultry. A popular product made with ground achiote is sázon, available in small foil packets ready to use in your recipe. Most sázon brands contain MSG, but Badia does not.
Achiote seeds are steeped in cooking oil (achiote oil) or lard (achiotina), infusing them with color and flavor. Sautéing in or cooking with the oil or lard colors the rice, paella, meats, soups, stews, fish, and sometimes yuca dishes.
Taste and Aroma:
Buying and Storing:
Ground or powdered achiote is often mixed with other herbs, spices, and even cornstarch. Read the label if you have food allergies.
Buy brightly colored red-orange seeds. Do not buy dull or brown seeds as they are past their prime. They are too old and have lost their flavor.
Both seeds and ground annatto will keep a long time, up to 3 years, under proper storage. Keep in an airtight glass container and store in a dark cabinet away from light. Achiote oil or achiotina will keep a few months stored in a glass jar in the refrigerator.
Houston, Lynn Marie. Food Culture in the Caribbean. pp 34 – 35. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005. (COMPARE PRICES)
Norman, Jill. Herbs & Spices: The Cook's Reference. Pp. 214 – 215. DK Publishing Inc., 2002. (COMPARE PRICES)
Raghavan , Susheela . Handbook of Spices, Seasonings, and Flavorings, Second Edition . pp 68 – 69. CRC Press, 2006. (COMPARE PRICES)
Wolfe, Linda. The Cooking of the Caribbean Islands. P. 38. Macmillan, 1985.