7 Facts About Annatto Seeds

Update: 2/19/2013

By: Rachelle Santos

Popular recipes with annatto seeds: Chicken Inasal, Java Rice, Jun Jun's Java Rice, Adobo de Campesino, Fresh Papaya Lumpia, Pancit Sotanghon Guisado, Grilled Chicken-mansi
1  They were all yellow
Orange, yellow, red Annatto seeds (also called achiote or atsuete) are the terra cotta-colored seeds of the achiote or annatto tree (also known as the lipstick tree) native to the Central and South Americas. 
2  Say cheese!
Shaped like tiny stones, they are primarily used to give an orange, yellow, or red color to foods like butter, margarine, various cheeses (Cheddar, Gouda, Brie), and smoked fish. 
3  Saffron-ish
The annatto seeds have been called the "poor man’s saffron" since the color they produce is similar to that of the prized seasoning.
4  Coast to coast
Aside from Latin American and Caribbean cuisines, annatto seeds are also present in Asian cooking (used as basting oil for our chicken inasal and as coloring for China's roast pork). 
5  Taste test
They have a mild peppery flavor and slight lemony scent. 
6  Very fine indeed
The seeds are either ground to a fine powder, or steeped in oil or water to extract its color and taste. It is then added to marinades, sauces, stews, and rice dishes. However, since annatto has been linked to many food-related allergies, precautions must be taken in using it.
7  Where to buy
Annatto seeds are widely available at the spice section of supermarkets and at wet markets. Stored in an airtight container away from sunlight, the seeds will keep for about a year.
Photography by Patrick Martires | Styling by Rachelle Santos

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