The secret behind the beautiful golden color of many Latin foods comes from achiote. Learn how to make achiote oil with only 2 ingredients and less than 15 minutes!
To make it you need the seeds also called annatto seeds. they’re the fruit of a tree native to the Caribbean, Mexico, Central, and South America.
I also wrote a post about what achiote is in case you want to know more.
If you wonder where can I buy achiote? know that you can always find it online. You can also go to Hispanic, Asian, or African stores. There you’re most likely to find achiote in seeds, powder, or a paste.
- Achiote seeds- I ¼ cup of the seeds per cup of oil.
- Oil- I used vegetable oil because it has a neutral flavor. Some people use olive but remember that it changes the finished flavor. I suggest using a neutral flavor oil because it won’t mask the smokey, nutty, and earthy flavor.
📓 Note: In Puerto Rico, manteca (lard) used to be the preferred fat to make achiote oil. I always watched my grandma do it this way when using it to make pasteles de masa or yuca alcapurrias. Also was used in the masa for empanadillas.
How to make it
Step 1: In a medium size pot add your oil over high heat. The high heat helps it get infused faster.
Step 2: Add the seeds to the pan. You’ll notice the color changing anywhere from a deep orange to a reddish color.
⭐️ Tip: Make sure you use a stainless steel or aluminum pan. This is to prevent your pan from staining. I will avoid using a ceramic-coated pan. I used a caldero.
Step 3: Cook for 5 minutes while stirring. Try not to cook it longer on such high heat. Because when you burn the seeds the achiote oil tastes bad.
Step 4: Let your oil cool. This can take anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes. Strain the seeds using a metal strainer instead of plastic to avoid any stains.
Step 5: Let the seeds rest on a strainer to make sure you have everything out. Store the used seeds, don’t discard them.
Step 6: Store and make sure to clean up any spill to avoid any staining.
⭐️ Tip: Please do not discard the seeds used. Store them in a container for later use. They’re good at least for 1 more use.
You can add herbs! I hardly do because sometimes that specific flavor of the herb is not needed in the recipe I’m making.
- Make sure that when making this you are aware of any spills. The reason for this is that it can quickly stain. Make sure to rinse your utensils with warm soapy water quickly because they can easily stain plastic or wood.
How to store?
I suggest storing it in a glass jar or bottle with a lid to ensure its freshness. Store at room temperature in a cool place, out of sunlight for up to a year. Do not refrigerate!
How to use it?
It can be added to soups, stews, and rice for color and flavor. You can make marinades for seafood and meats. My mother-in-law uses the oil to coat the top of the pernil to make skin crispier.
Uses Latin America
In Venezuela, hallacas are made with achiote oil as a base like Puerto Rican pasteles. While in Ecuador is used to saute in everyday recipes. In Mexico is widely used but in its paste form to make delicious recipes. According to this Smithsonian Magazine article, achiote was used by Mayans as body paint and by Aztecs to color drinks.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, they’re the same thing and both words are used interchangeably. Both words refer to the (Bixa Orellana) name of the tree. So remember that achiote oil and annatto oil are the same.
Heat your oil over medium heat for about 3 minutes, shut it off, and add the powder. Wait for it to cool and for the powder to settle. Then I like to strain all the powder I can out and discard it. You can leave it in if you like to, I just don’t.
A benefit is that is a natural food additive. Besides in foods, it can be used in cosmetics and fashion. It has been linked to various benefits according to the Healthline article Annatto benefits.
💬 Do you have any questions or comments on how to make achiote oil? Leave your questions or comments below!
- 2 cups oil
- ½ cup achiote seeds
- In a small pan over high heat add your oil and achiote seeds.
- Cook for 5 minutes while constantly stirring. Turn off the heat and let the oil cool. Once is safe to do so, strain the oil and save the seeds. Transfer the oil to a container with a lid.
- Fat- I used vegetable oil because it has a neutral flavor. A lot of people like using olive oil but that adds a different flavor to the result. Another great option is to use lard.
- Achiote- While I use the seeds in this recipe you can use it in powder form. You just have to heat the oil and then add ¼ cup of the powder. You can remove the excess powder if you like.
- Use a caldero, steel, or aluminum pan to avoid staining your pan.
- Let the oil cool before storing. I suggest storing the oil in a glass container with a lid.
- It is important to know that achiote oil stains things quickly. It can stain your counter, utensils, and clothes if left even for a couple of minutes. So I suggest rinsing everything off with warm soapy water as quickly as possible.
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