Annato (Achiote)

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Annato (Achiote)

Bixa orellana

Achiote, also known as Annatto, is the seed from the fruit of the evergreen shrub Bixa orellana. The reddish seeds are found in dry form, powder, paste or steeped in cooking oil or lard. The shrub is native to the tropical parts of the Americas including Mexico and the Caribbean. Achiote is an integral part of a spice mix called Sazón, very common in Latin cuisine.

Achiote is used to color confectionery, butter, smoked fish and cheeses like Cheshire, Leicester, Edam, and Muenster. Its scent is described as “slightly peppery with a hint of nutmeg” and flavor as “slightly nutty, sweet and earthy peppery”. It is mainly used to add color to your food.  In many Latin American kitchens, achiote is used to color rice, soups, stews, and meats. They may be added directly to a cooking liquid or infused in hot water until the desired color is obtained and then used for stocks or coloring rice. It is also common to fry the seeds in oil for a few minutes (best done in a covered pan as the hot seeds jump), then discard the seeds and use the oil.  It is excellent to help meats like chicken and pork to get a darker color when roasting or grilling. The seeds are also particularly associated with Filipino cuisine, in dishes like; ukoy, shrimp and sweet potato fritters; pipian, chicken and pork in an annatto oil sauce; and kari-kari, a brightly coloured vegetable and oxtail stew. Due to its main purpose of coloring food, paprika, turmeric or a mix of the two is a decent substitute.

It is also known as:

  • English: Achiote, Anatta, Annato, Annotta, Aploppas, Arnotta, Arnotto, Orellana, Orlean, Orleana , lipstick tree
  • French: rocou, roucou
  • Italian: annatto
  • Spanish: achiote, achote, annatto, onotto, urucu
  • Portuguese: anato, urucú, açafroa-do-Brasil, urucum
  • Caribbean: bija, bijol, foucou
  • Indian: latkhan, sendri
  • Tagalog: achuete, atsuwete, achwete, atsuete, echuete
  • German: annatto, orleanstrauch
  • Vietnamese: Hột điều màu, Điều nhuộm
  • Mandarin: yan zhi shu

Annatto was once used to control fevers, dysentery and kidney diseases. In India, the pulp is used as an insect repellent.

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