Spice Descriptions and Uses

Achiote, or Annatto


The fruits are heart-shaped, brown or reddish brown at maturity, and are covered with short stiff hairs. When fully mature, the fruits split open exposing the numerous seeds. Although it does not produce an edible fruit, the achiote is widely grown for the orange-red pulp that covers the seeds. The achiote dye, which is prepared by stirring the seeds in water, is used to color butter, cheese, rice and other foods. In the Philippine Islands the seeds are ground and used as a condiment. American Indians used the seeds to make a body paint, and as a lipstick. (also called achiote, and lipstick tree).

Achiote Oil


2 tablespoons achiote seeds

1 cup oil (vegetable)


Put the seeds and oil into a saucepan and turn the heat on low. Stir them occasionally as they cook for about 5 minutes. They are done when the oil is a rich orange color. Do not overcook them, or the oil will begin to lose its flavor. The color of the oil will begin to lighten if it is overcooked.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool. Strain the oil and store it in a covered container in the refrigerator. This keeps for several months.

Achiote Paste
2 tb Annatto seeds
1 ts Cumin seeds
1 ts Oregano
5    Allspice berries
1 ts Sea salt
4    Garlic cloves -- pressed
4 tb Lime juice
   Combine the annatto seeds, cumin seeds, oregano,
   allspice berries, and salt in a spice mill or coffee
   grinder. Grind to a powderlike consistency. In a small
   bowl, mix the powder with the garlic and lime juice.
   Store in an airtight container, in the refrigerator.
   Use for Cochinita Pibil or any grilled seafood. Yield:
   about 1/2 cup

Achiote Sauce


1 1/2 tablespoons crushed annatto seeds

1/2 cup water

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup chili powder

4 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon oregano

3 cloves garlic

1/2 medium-sized white onion

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup pineapple juice

1 1/2 cups orange Juice

1/4 cup lemon Juice 1 teaspoon oil


Cut the onion into slices. Crush the garlic in a mortar and pestle, and then place the garlic and onion in a frying pan with the oil. Lightly fry them until they are softened.

Use a blender to finely mix all of the ingredients.

Stores in the refrigerator for up to a week.