DAY 12 - Annatto Seeds

neil bougourd | 12 December, 2021

            DAY 12 - Annatto Seeds

Known as achiote in Spanish, ANNATTO SEEDS are native to America & the Caribbean but can be found in Asian cuisine.

Annatto has an earthy, slightly nutty flavour, and is one of the key ingredients in achiote paste. The plant is sometimes called the 'lipstick tree' as it is used as body and lip paint! It is often used as a food colorant, especially for cheeses like Cheddar, Gloucester, and Red Leicester.

Here is a recipe for CHamoru Red Rice ( I have also seen it as chamorro red rice)a dish from Guam.
" Rice has been an important part of life in the Marianas for centuries.  Archaeologists recovered pottery sherds with rice impressions at different archaeological sites on Guam; one sherd had a radiocarbon date ranging from AD 1325-1491. But its role in Marianas life has changed over time. During the Ancient CHamoru period of Marianas history, rice was a ceremonial food, used in drinks and foods meant for special occasions. In the past 400 years, as the Marianas and its relationship to the rest of the world has changed, so too has the place of rice on the CHamoru fiesta table. Today in the Marianas, rice is a staple, an iconic and necessary part of every party and every gathering."
  • 2 tablespoons – annatto seeds 
  • 4 cups – warm water
  • 3 cups – white rice, I used Jasmine, see notes
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 – teaspoon – salt
  • Olive oil 
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon – garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon – onion powder


  1. In a medium sized bowl, soak annatto seeds in warm water with a strainer for 1 hour.
  2. After soaking, rub seeds against the strainer to release colour. Remove seeds and strainer from water. Set aside until ready to use.
  3. Heat up vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute the diced onions until translucent. 
  4. Then add in the dry rice, annatto water, onions, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and black pepper. Mix until well combined.
  5. Continue to stir until most of the liquid evaporates and the rice mixture has become thick. Then, reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid, and simmer for 10 minutes. Try not to uncover during this time, because the steam will help cook the rice.
  6. After 10 minutes, fluff up the rice to make sure that the bottom is not burning. Continue to simmer for another 5 minutes. 
  7. After 5 minutes, turn off the heat and fluff up the rice again. Allow it to cool slightly before serving!