The reddish-brown annatto seeds are a popular coloring agent in Central and South America in the preparation of soups, sauces and pastes for pickling meat. Annatto gives Mexican moles their heavy character and, when used liberally, a pleasant earthy flavor.
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The indigenous people of South and Central America used the fruit of the Orleans tree for body painting for centuries. Today, annatto is used especially for coloring food and traditional dishes. These include recado rojo, a spice paste consisting of pepper, coriander seeds, cumin, allspice and bitter orange juice in addition to annatto, which is used to marinate chicken and pork. In Asia and the Caribbean, annatto is used similarly to saffron for coloring rice dishes. For this purpose, the seeds are briefly roasted in fat and removed before final use.
Annatto goes well with poultry, fish, pork, potatoes, beans and rice. It has almost no flavor of its own when used in small quantities, but a heavy, earthy aroma when used in larger quantities.
For coloring, either cook the seeds or roast them in a little fat. Then remove again. Alternatively, annatto seed can be soaked in a little hot water until it turns orange.
Almost tasteless, slightly earthy.
Chili, garlic, cumin, cloves, allspice.