History/Region of Orgin: Native to Brazil, annatto was originally used in Central and South America not as a spice, but for body paint, insect repellent, and to ward off evil. In India, annatto is called sindoor, and is considered auspicious for married women, who wear it along their hairline.
Uses: Annatto is widely used in the Caribbean and Latin America, especially in the cuisines of Guatemala and Mexico. Annatto seeds are also particularly associated with Filipino cuisine, in pipian, chicken and pork in an annatto oil sauce. Whole or ground annatto seeds are tasty additions to rice, beans, meats, stews, soups, and tamales.
Annato is sometimes called “poor man’s saffron”, a good substitute for saffron’s golden coloring, at a fraction of the cost. It does NOT, however, duplicate saffron’s unique flavor!
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 3 pounds pork shoulder, cubed
- 3 tablespoons achiote (annatto) seeds
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 2 cups chopped fresh cilantro
- 12 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
- 1 (15 ounce) can pigeon peas, drained
- 15 ounces black olives, pitted and halved
- 8 cups uncooked calrose rice, rinsed
- 9 cups water
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add pork and brown in oil. Meanwhile, place remaining oil in a small saucepan over medium heat and add achiote seeds. Heat until oil becomes very dark orange/red. Remove from heat and set aside.
- To the browned pork add the onion, cilantro, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook to reduce veggies, then add the tomato sauce, pigeon peas and olives. Mix well. Strain achiote/oil mixture into pork mixture and stir together. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add uncooked rice and water to pork mixture; stir well. Raise temperature to high, cover saucepan and bring all to a boil. Stir again, reduce heat to low and cover; let cook on low about 10 minutes. Remove cover, stir again, replace cover and cook another 10 minutes; stir again. Remove from heat and allow to stand 15 minutes.