Nutrixia Food

Annatto seed / अन्नतो बीज / Bixa orellana

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What is Annatto?

Annatto is used both as a spice and a dyestuff. It may be better known to Mexican and Latin markets as achiote or in the Philippines as atsuwete or achuete .In the West it used to colour confectionery, butter, smoked fish and cheeses like Cheshire, Leicester, Edam and Muenster. As an effective natural colouring it is also used in cosmetics and textile manufacturing. It provides a bright and exotic appearance for many kinds of dishes. Yeats wrote “Good arnotto is the colour of fire” (Natural History, 1870). The Mayan Indians of Central America used the bright dye as war paint.

Smell: slightly peppery with a hint of nutmeg 
Flavour: slightly sweet and peppery. 
Hotness Scale: 1 -2

Preparation and Storage

Annatto seeds are washed and dried separately from the pulp of the seed pod for culinary use. They may be added directly to a cooking liquid or infused in hot water until the desired colour is obtained and then used for stocks or colouring 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. Try using one teaspoon of seeds to 4 tablespoons of oil. Annatto seeds should be kept out of light in an airtight container.

Culinary Uses

As mentioned above, annatto is used for colouring cheeses, confectionery, butter and cheeses. It is more widely used in the Caribbean and Latin America, especially Guatemala and Mexico. 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.

Other Names

Achiote, Anatta, Annato, Annotta, Aploppas, Arnotta, Arnotto, Orellana, Orlean, Orleana 
French: rocou, roucou
German: Annatto

Italian: annatto

Spanish: achiote, achote 
Argentine: urucu 
Caribbean: bija, bijol, foucou
Indian: latkhan, sendri 
Philipines: achuete, atsuwete

Scientific Name

Bixa orellana

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