Achiote oil is a handy ingredient to have on hand. This is especially true if you cook Latin American and Mexican cuisines. The oil is made from beautiful red annato seeds, which are about the same size as cardamom seeds. Why this oil is not called annato oil, I’ll never know. For some reason the seeds have their own name, and the oil, a different one.
An 8 or 12 ounce jar of achiote oil is easy to prepare, and the oil will keep in the fridge for quite a while.
To make the oil, crush the annato seeds slightly – I do this in my wonderful little Magic Bullet, but it could even be done with a knife. Be careful, though. The yellow-orange of these seeds will stain your fingers and everything else.
The suggested ratio for the oil is 1/4 cup of annato seeds to 1/2 cup of vegetable or grapeseed oil. In the end you get a lovely colored oil, along with it the smoky annato flavor.
Bring the oil with the seeds in it to a light boil, then turn off the heat. Let the oil become infused with the flavor and color of the annato seeds, until the oil is cool enough to handle.
Using a fine sieve, strain the crushed seeds from the oil. Store the oil in the refrigerator.
This oil can be used in absolutely any dish, either as part of the oil for sautéeing aromatics, or as a little drizzle on top of a finished dish like a soup or stew.
Try it in a rice or risotto dish, in any stew, or rub it over a pork loin! Here I’ve used it in a cornbread.
note: Do not “cook” the annato seeds in the oil. Simply heat the oil to a light boil and then remove from the heat. If you prefer, just warm the oil, and then let it sit overnight or for a few hours. Once I accidentally boiled the annato seeds, and the oil came out very bitter and nasty. Don’t do that!