With their distinct colour and flavour, annatto seeds make a great addition to any dedicated cook's store cupboard. Derived from the achiote plant in central America, it's peppery taste is said to have a hint of nutmeg to it. Grind up and add to your dishes for a great Mayan kick! Our annatto seeds are ethically sourced from the very best suppliers worldwide.
Open fruit of the achiote tree (Bixa orellana), showing the seeds from which annatto is extracted.
Annatto is an orange-red condiment and food coloring derived from the seeds of the achiote tree (Bixa orellana). It is often used to impart a yellow or orange color to foods, but sometimes also for its flavor and aroma. Its scent is described as "slightly peppery with a hint of nutmeg" and flavor as "slightly nutty, sweet and peppery".
The color of annatto comes from various carotenoid pigments, mainly bixin and norbixin, found in the reddish waxy coating of the seeds. The condiment is typically prepared by grinding the seeds to a powder or paste. Similar effects can be obtained by extracting some of the color and flavor principles from the seeds with hot water, oil, or lard, which are then added to the food.
Annatto and its extracts are now widely used in an artisanal or industrial scale as a coloring agent in many processed food products, such as cheeses, dairy spreads, butter and margarine, custards, cakes and other baked goods, potatoes, snack foods, breakfast cereals, smoked fish, sausages, and more. In these uses, annatto is a natural alternative to synthetic food coloring compounds, but it has been linked to rare cases of food-related allergies. Annatto is of particular commercial value in the United States because the Food and Drug Administration considers colorants derived from it to be "exempt of certification".