How to Use Annatto Powder

Annatto powder is excellent if you want orange- or red-colored hands for fall celebrations. However, this spice is more commonly used to color soups, rice and meat. The powder is made from the seeds found inside the fruit of the bixa orellana plant 1. Annatto seeds are covered in a thin layer of red-orange pulp, which is removed from the seed for use as annatto powder. Annatto powder may also be called achiote powder or achote powder.

Sauté and Roux

Mix equal volume measurements powder and cooking oil in a small bowl.

Stir the ingredients together until thoroughly combined.

Use the oil to sauté onions, garlic and meat; the oil will impart a yellow, orange or red hue to your dish, depending on how much powder you use.

Melt butter in a pan and add annatto powder for a richly colored and flavored dark roux.

Flour and Rice

Add annatto powder to the seasoned flour mixture you use for coating chicken, beef or pork chops before frying.

Combine annatto powder with your corn flour mix for orange-colored, annatto-flavored tortillas and tamales.

Rinse your white rice then drain the water. Pour annatto powder directly over the rinsed, uncooked rice; stir. Add seasoning salt and garlic powder if desired, then cook the rice as normal for an annatto-flavored dish.

Mix annatto powder with dry cream of rice before you make soups or savory breakfast porridge for added color and flavor.

Flavored Oil

Mix equal volume measurements of powder and extra-virgin olive oil in a small bowl.

Stir the ingredients together until they are completely mixed.

Drizzle the annatto oil over cooked meat, rice, bread or pasta.


If you run out of annatto powder, saute the seeds directly in the butter or oil; remove the seeds once the oil reaches the desired color.

You may also soak the seeds in warm water overnight in a zip-sealed bag; agitate the bag and seeds to release the pulp. Use the colored water as you would the water called for in savory recipes.


Discard expired annatto powder and seeds as they impart a bitter taste to a dish.