Annatto oil, as known as Achiote Oil and Atsuete Oil, is a natural orange-red food dye used in Asian and Latin cuisines. It is made by steeping dried annatto seeds in either vegetable oil, canola oil, olive oil or corn oil. When heated, the pebble-like annatto seeds release a beautiful vibrant orange/red color. The annatto seeds is then discarded and the annatto oil is used to color a dish. The oil has a mild fragrance and very subtle taste. Add as much or as little as you like without affecting the overall flavor of a dish.
I use annatto oil a lot in my everyday Vietnamese cooking so I make a large batch ahead of time. It keeps very well at room temperature for up to three months.
To make annatto oil, add 1/2 cup whole dried annatto seeds directly to 1 cup room temperature oil. Other people tend to heat up the oil first then add annatto seeds. I find that doing it that way tend to scorch the outsides too quickly, imparting bitter taste on the oil. Dropping the seeds in room temperature oil will give the seeds more time to release its vibrant color without burning. Once you add the annatto seeds to room temperature oil, heat the pan on medium-high. As the temperature rises, the red color will release from the seeds. Give the pain a swirl to help them along. Once the seeds start to darken to deep red/brown color, use a slotted spoon to remove the seeds or pour the content of the pan into a strainer placed over a jar. Place the annatto oil in a air-tight jar and store at temperature in your pantry.
Annatto Seed Oil (Dau Hat Dieu)
Makes 1 cup
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup dried whole annatto seeds
- In a small sauce pan, add annatto seeds to room temperature oil. Heat on medium high for 3-5 minutes.
- Swirl pan to help annatto seeds release more color.
- Once seeds appear deep red/brown, use a slotted spoon or strainer to remove annatto seeds from oil and discard. Store annatto seeds in a air-tight container. Annatto oil will keep for up to 3 months at room temperature.