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Any recipes that use Annato seeds?

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On a whim, I purchased Annato seeds, having recalled seeing them in various recipes over the years. Trouble is...I can't find any of those recipes. Has anyone out there used them, for what purpose and what is the basic flavor that is imparted from them?


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  1. Somebody gave me a jar a few years ago and I still haven't opened it, On the PBS show, Daisy Cooks, she makes annatto oil by warming the seeds in oil over low heat - if memory serves, it is not to bubble or it is ruined. Oil turns a deep rusty red and is strained. It is then used in some of her recipes. No idea what the flavor is.

    1. i've only used the seeds to make annato oil that i use to make yellow rice.
      they're pretty hard things but i could imagine you could grind them too.

      1. In most of Latin America, they are used for coloring (yellow/orange), such as the oil that Daisy describes.

        As far as I know, on southern Mexico, Yucatan, uses them in a large enough quantity to contribute much flavor to dish. Cochinita pibil is one such dish.
        Notice this recipe calls for a achiote paste - which is the ground annato, sold in small blocks (e.g 4 oz). You could grind your own seeds, but they are pretty hard.

        1. Filipino cuisine widely uses annatto seeds both as a colorant, but also to lend and earthy note to dishes. Kare-kare and pancit immediately come to mind. But chicken inasal, which relies on a combination of lemongrass, annatto, vinegar and garlic to create a tropical barbecue rub would likely be your best introduction to the powers of annatto. Alternatively arroz con pollo and arroz amarillo both rely on annatto as previously mentioned.

          1. hmmm, ok, I am getting a general idea of how to use them. For the yellow rice, is it sort of a replacement for a saffron-type yellow rice?

            1 Reply
            1. re: kgreig

              Annatto is NOT a substitute for saffron (there is none) but it does give the Paella a "different" taste. I heated olive oil, the seeds, chopped garlic and a dash of sweet, smoked paprika (instead of earlier on).

            2. I make annato oil for vietnamese beef stew. Mai Pham's recipe from Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table book. You heat up 2 tbs vegetable oil, Add one tbs of seeds, then remove from heat. Strain 20 or so minutes later. Then fry the beef cubes briefly in the red oil, and it gives the stew a deep red color. Though they have a faint flavor, annato is used for coloring. All the other flavors in the stew (lemongrass, star anise, garlic, shallot) would mask any flavor given by the annato seeds.

              1. I have lived off and on in the Yucatan for 14 years, where annato seed ( or achiote when crushed ) is used more than elsewhere. It definitely has a distinctive subtle flavor and is not just for color or as a substitute for another spice. I use it in a dry rub for pork, but most often on baked fish, with very thin slices of onion, tomatoes, limes, and chilis, wrapped in banana leaf. I wish my photos were digital, you would be a believer in this old Yucatan tradition.
                I semi-crush the seeds with a large spoon.

                1. kgreig... I discovered BLACK BEAN SOUP while in the caribbean..its uses annato. Ifyou are interested, I can put the recipe up for you.