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Annatto seeds

Annatto is a little-known spice, far less commonly used than many of the spices in our range. You may have seen annatto feature as an ingredient in some your favourite cheeses, pies, pastries or other goods, where its strong red-orange pigmentation is used to add vibrancy to these products. But you can use your natural annatto seeds to flavour, colour and enliven all kinds of dishes. Read on to find out more…

How to use annatto seeds

This tiny, soft seed is taken from a tropical plant called ‘achiote’ or informally, “the lipstick tree”, which grows throughout Central and South America and the Carribean. It will come as little surprise then, that you can grind them into tasty Carribean, Mexican and Filipino recipes of every description.

A cool historical fact is that the Mayans used it to paint their bodies. Of course, you can do the same – and if you do, please post us the evidence on social media! Another famous South American empire, the Aztecs, used annatto seeds to intensify the colours of their cocoa-based drinks. While we keenly endorse both of these ancient uses, you can get far more out of annatto seeds. So first things first, you might want to get an idea of their flavour and aroma…

What does annatto taste like?

Descriptions of this seed’s flavour vary quite widely. Some of the most popular terms used to describe its taste and aroma are: musky, earthy, floral and peppery. With all that going on, there’s a very slight sweetness, and some say a tiny tang, running through annatto seeds too. But instead of us throwing countless words at your brain – the simplest way to get a feel for this beautiful spice is to try it!

Further usage tips

For best results, always grind up your annatto seeds to release maximum flavour. This will also help you to gauge the amount you are using. Annatto is certainly something that should be used with care and delicacy – a little goes a long way, and it’s all too easy to use too much. Please also remember to use grinding equipment that you don’t mind becoming slightly stained, due to their strong red pigmentation. To minimise this effect, wash your utensils straight away.

How to cook with annatto seeds

Looking for recipes? Caribbean, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Filipino and Yucatán chefs will serve as great guides on your creative annatto quests. Besides, lots of the BWFO team believe that South American, Latin and Caribbean cuisine is still wildly under-appreciated in both the UK and wider Europe. It’s really vibrant, varied, often quite rustic and always delicious!

To get your annatto cooking up and running, you might want to explore this rather tidy collection of tasty annatto recipes.

Share your annatto recipes with us

Do you have any impressive annatto based recipes to show off? Whether you’re a fanatic for traditional Carribean food, a professional chef or just an intuitive-creative food lover, we want to share your annatto recipes with the world! So please post your handiwork on any and all social media outlets. Then tag us up, along with other food-loving friends and contacts, to maximise your exposure. We look forward to seeing and trying your tasty annatto recipes!


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