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Aug 15, 2008 01:31 AM

Achiote aka Annatto aka Achuete uses in Filipino Cuisine

I spotted whole Achiote seeds at Foodland in Honolulu. It was packaged in the Phillippines for a Filipino audience and labeled as "Achuete".

Anybody know how its used in Filipino and other Asian cuisines?

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  1. Achuete is used as in Caribbean cookery for making annatto oil or annato water which is then used to color or flavor foods like chicken inasal, kare-kare, tamales, etc. Most Filipino cooks think to use the seeds solely for color and will sometimes substitute paprika, but in certain dishes, particularly inasal, it does lend a slightly peppery flavor.

    3 Replies
    1. re: JungMann

      Do they cultivate it in the Phillipines or is it imported from the Caribbean? As with many other things... there is a HUUUGE gulf from the fresher seeds & pastes in the Yucatan and the old, lackluster stuff we get in the U.S. Ground Achiote actually has quite a distinct aroma & flavor (particularly when it is brought to life with an acid)... I wouldn't describe it as peppery but rather floral, clay-ish & bright.

      1. re: Eat_Nopal

        Are clay-ish and bright taste terms or visual descriptors? One of the tribes in Ecuador is famous for make a paste with achiote and clay, and applying it to their hair, creating bright red 'hats'.

        oops, the wiki article says they use grease, not clay.

        1. re: Eat_Nopal

          There is a native crop, likely introduced by Mexicans travelling the Manila-Acapulco route during the colonial era.

      2. In 14 years in the Philippines, I never used or knew of any fellow cook who used achiote. Achiote (Bixa orrellana) was widely planted throughout Latin America after the US banned one of the synthetic red food dyes. Agricultural development projects thought that there would be a huge increase in US demand for natural red colorants. Didn't work out that way.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          My grandmother had an ancient and dusty bottle of achuete that probably lasted her through the Marco regime. I think once she started using pre-made mixes like Mama Sita's, the seeds were redundant since the flavor packs already contain achuete powder. But whenever I make kare-kare from scratch, achuete is a must.