• The Fantastic Spices World
  • The Fantastic Spices World
  • The Fantastic Spices World
  • The Fantastic Spices World

ANNATTO ( Bixa orellana L. )
Names in Other Languages:

English Achiote, Lipstick tree
French Rocou, Roucou, Achiote, Rocouyer
German Annatto, Orleanstrauch
Spanish Achote, Annatto, Achiote; Onoto (Venezuela)
Italian Annatto, Anotto
Turkish Arnatto
Japanese ベニノキ Beninoki

FAMILY: Bixaceae

ORIGIN:   : South America; Brazil is the main producer and exporter. Annatto is widely grown on the Philippines which is introduced by the Spanish.

Annatto seeds


Annatto seeds are brick red, triangular in shape, 3 - 5 mm. The seeds are available whole and can often be purchased in a block or paste form.

USEFUL PARTS: Dark red seeds.

SENSORY PROPERTIES: Annatto has a weak and perfumed odour.


The flowery scent of the seeds is caused by a tricyclic sesquiterpene hydrocarbon, ishwarane. The red colour is due to several apo¬carotenoids located in the seed epidermis, of which bixin (9′Z-6,6′-diapo¬carotene-6,6′-dioate) is the most important. Several more carotenoids and apo¬carotenoids have been identified, e.g., norbixin. Their total amount varies strongly: Common values are 2 to 5%, but the content may reach up to 7% of the dry seeds’ mass.[1] Furthermore carotenoid coloring is found in the seed pulp of the fruit.


Annatto is used both as a spice and a dyestuff. It is used to colour confectionery, butter, smoked fish and cheeses. As an effective natural colouring it is also used in cosmetics and textile manufacturing. It provides a bright and exotic appearance for many kinds of dishes. The seed of annatto are usually fried in animal or vegetable fat and the resulting dyed fat is then used to fry meat or vegetables to achieve a golden yellow to golden brown colour. Mexican cooks use annatto seeds and acetic preservatives mixed to achiote, a paste that dissolves in hot fat. This is easy to use and can be added to marinades and sauces to improve the colour. The original Aztec drinking chocolate reputedly contained annatto seeds combined with vanilla, and using annatto to deepen the colour of chocolate was common in Europe in the past decades.

The spice is sometimes used to deepen the colour of butter or cheese but has little other culinary significance. The seeds may be used ground (often after soaking in hot water to soften them) or in form of annatto oil.


Leaf infusions and seed extracts which are obtained by maceration of annatto have been proved to prevent or treat a large variety of diseases. Annatto active components reinforce the immunological system action. Annatto may help as an antioxidant, antiseptic for ear, eye, and skin infections, antimicrobial, diuretic, digestive stimulant, hepatoprotective as liver protector, hypocholesterolemic which lowers cholesterol, Digestive problems such as heartburn, constipation, stomachache, prostate and urinary infections, hypertension, antihemorrhagic that reduces bleeding, Skin anti-aging because of its antioxidant and ultraviolet ray UV-protective effect, strong diuretic, high blood pressure It has also astringent, aphrodisiac and anti-poison effect. It is considered as aphrodisiac and When used orally, the seed pulp can combat certain poisons so that it has anti-poisinal properties.

Cautions: It might raise blood sugar levels and may potentiate medications used to treat hypertension.