Achiote Oil

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Editor's Note: Once you get cooking with this Achiote Oil recipe, you won't know where to stop! From your favorite grilled food to roasts and more, this delightfully easy recipe is one that you will use again and again. If you've always wanted to learn how to make achiote oil, then you'll be pleased to learn how easy it is to prepare. Just remember that you must use this oil within a few days of making it, so mix it with a plan in mind. You'll love adding some serious heat to your favorite dishes when you make this spicy recipe.

Annatto seeds, known as achiote in Spanish, are small, irregularly shaped, deep-reddish-colored seeds about the size of a lentil. They grow in pods but are sold loose in jars in the spice aisle (or see Sources). Steeping annatto seeds in hot olive oil for a few minutes will do more than give the oil a brilliant orange-gold color: It will infuse it with a nutty, delicate aroma and add a quick kick to whatever you use it in.

This incredibly simple technique will become part of your repertoire, not just for the many dishes that call for it in this book but anytime you want a splash of color and a hint of annatto flavor.

In addition to using achiote oil to sauté onions, garlic, and such, you can paint it on fish and poultry headed for the grill or broiler.

You can also add a spoonful to mashed potatoes, bread dough, or pasta dough. Use room-temperature achiote oil to replace some of the oil in your favorite salad dressing. Take meatballs from gray to fabulous with a tablespoon or two of achiote oil.

Serves1 cup



Make Ahead RecipeYes

One Pot MealYes

Five Ingredients or LessYes

Taste and TextureHot & Spicy, Nutty, Spiced

Type of DishSauces


  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons annatto/achiote seeds


  1. Heat the oil and annatto seeds in a small skillet over medium heat just until the seeds give off a lively, steady sizzle. Don’t overheat the mixture, or the seeds will turn black and the oil a nasty green. Once they’re sizzling away, remove the pan from the heat and let it stand until the sizzling stops. 

  2. Strain as much of the oil as you are going to use right away into the pan; store the rest for up to 4 days at room temperature in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. ​

  3. Dishes that call for achiote oil: Noodle Paella.


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