Katie's Healthy Bites: Discovering Achiote

Commonly used in Latin American, Indian and Spanish cuisines, achiote is a seed harvested from the annoto shrub. Earthy, sweet and peppery, this spice not only adds flavor but a deep, reddish color to foods.

Commonly used in Latin American, Indian and Spanish cuisines, achiote is a seed harvested from the annoto shrub. Earthy, sweet and peppery, this spice not only adds flavor but a deep, reddish color to foods. It is used in the United States as a coloring agent for margarine, butter and cheese, but there are  many more ways to use it! Here are some of my favorites, plus and buying tips and recipes.

Buying Tips

Buy seeds that are a reddish rust color as brownish seeds are old and lack in flavor. Achiote can be purchased whole or ground, or in one of these forms:

  • Achiote oil is mild in flavor, but bears the rich, rust color of the seed. It is used in Mexican and Indian Cuisine to flavor and color rice as well as fish, chicken and meat dishes.
  • Achiote paste is specifically used in Latin American (yucatan and Oaxacan) cuisine. It is a mixture of ground seeds, vinegar, water, herbs and spices. It can be purchased in specialty grocery stores, or try making your own.

Interested in experimenting with this fascinating spice? Try these recipes:

Katie Cavuto Boyle, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, personal chef and owner of HealthyBites, LLC. See Katie's full bio »

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