Have you ever seen annatto seeds in your grocery store and did not know what it was or how to use them? Learn what this spice is and its amazing uses.
What is Achiote?
Achiote is the name given to the seed of the Bixa Orellana tree that is native to Mexico, Central and South America. The tree is also known by some people as a lipstick tree or just an achiote tree. More than a tree it looks like a shrub with bright orangey red pods that when dried turn a brown color. These pods carry the seeds. Depending on where you go achiote will have different names. In Venezuela, it is called onoto, while in Colombia it is known as bixa and urucu in Brazil. In the Philippines the name is atsuete and in the Caribbean, we call it achiote.
What is Achiote used for?
Achiote has many unknown uses. They were first used as hair dye and body paint in religious rituals in Central and South America. They are still used in those parts of the world as medicinal remedies to treat varicella, headaches, conjunctivitis and many other things. Nowadays many things have it as a natural colorant. From beauty products such as lipsticks and eyeshadow. To fabrics in which is used as a dye. In the food industry achiote is used for foods such as margarine and cheeses.
Is Achiote the same as paprika?
No, achiote and paprika are not the same. Some people confuse the two but achiote is the seeds of the bixa tree and paprika is made from grinding dried sweet peppers. In taste, They are quite different. Achiote tends to be stronger in smell and taste.
Achiote powder is very easy to make. You just have to ground the seeds in a blender or mortar and pestle. The best thing about the powder is that it can last up to a couple of years if stored in a dry cool place. The best way to store it is in a glass jar with a lid. Achiote powder is great in food recipes. The almighty sazón that is used in many Latin and Caribbean dishes has achiote as one of its ingredients. In the Philippines, is used in many recipes like the kare kare recipe. You can buy it in your local supermarket, in Asian or Latino ones. You may find it by achiote or by annatto powder but it is the same thing.
Achiote paste is a staple in Mexican cuisine. It is made with bitter orange juice, garlic, salt, oregano, coriander, cumin, black peppercorns and of course achiote seeds. You blend all these ingredients until you make a paste. To store preferably in your fridge for no more than two weeks. This paste is sometimes harder to find locally and that’s why many people prefer to make it at home. But you can easily find it online. You can make delicious Mexican dishes with the paste. You can make tacos al pastor or pollo al achiote.
Achiote oil is very popular in Latino and Caribbean recipes. To make achiote oil is as simple as taking your preferred oil and frying achiote seeds until all your oil is infused with the color and aroma of the seeds. When you make this oil your kitchen will smell so good. To store the oil is best to keep it in a glass jar. Some people suggest only keeping the oil for 2 weeks but I keep it for a couple of months and it is always good. Before using it just taste it, if it is rancid discard it.
Achiote Oil is used in many many great recipes. When you make Puerto Rican pasteles you will need it for the dough and the meat. It is used for the color and that distinct flavor. It is also used in soups like the delicious sancocho. But you can incorporate the oil into your daily recipes. You can use it in rice to give it that nice yellow color. You can use it as an oil to sauté veggies. You can use it to cook your meat. You just have to remember that when using any form of achiote in your cooking not add a lot of other colorant spices like paprika because your food is going to have a very bright color.