Annatto (Bixa orellana )
Plant family: Bixaceae (a family with only two representatives in
Origin: South America.
Used plant part: Dark red seeds (about 3 mm diameter).
Sensoric quality: Annatto has a weak, perfumed odour.
Use: is currently mostly in use as a flavouring and food colouring
in Central and Northern South America. In the Caribbean, the seeds
are usually fried in (animal or vegetable) fat; after discarding the
seeds, the then golden-yellow fat is used to fry vegetables or meat.
By this procedure, a golden yellow to golden brown colour is
achieved. Mexican cooks often use a paste (achiote) of annato seeds
with some preservatices (acetic acid) that dissolves completely in
hot fat; it is easy to use and can also be added to marinades and
sauces to improve the colour.
The original Aztec drinking chocolate (see also vanilla) is reported
to have contained annatto seeds as well; given their high fat
content, this is entirely plausible. Using annatto to deepen the
colour of chocolate was common in Europe until the 17th century.
By Spanish influence, annatto also has made its way to South East
Asia. On the Philippines, the seeds are often ground to a powder and
added to soups and stews; meat is often marinated with annatto-coloured
seasonings. The colour obtained hereby is brownish-yellow, less
vibrant than the colour resulting from usage of annatto oil in the
Main use of annatto nowadays is as a food colour, E160b