What Is Annatto?

Also know as achiote, achuete, bija, roucou, and urucu, here’s how to use the South American spice in the kitchen.

Description: Annatto is the seed or extract from the spiky, heart-shaped fruit that grows on the achiote tree, which is indigenous to Latin and South America; it is used as both a spice and a dye, ranging in color from bright yellow to deep orange. The seeds can be ground into powder, turned into a paste, or infused into oil. 

Flavor Profile: Earthy, musky, and mildly peppery; it pairs well with the mild flavors of rice, poultry, and onion. 

Color Me Annatto: Annatto is used to color soups, stews, rice, and spice rubs in Latin America; it’s also used to shade butter, margarine, and yellow cheese (all of which would be a pale, creamy color otherwise). It’s used as a colorant in other products such as processed meats, smoked fish, and beverages. 

Poor Man’s Saffron: Annatto can be used to achieve a similar bright yellow color to saffron without the exorbitant price.   



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