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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Gandule Rice

Published by Culinary Chick

My name is Anna Hattauer and I love to cook. I am a personal chef living in Maryland. I grew up in California, joined the United States Army right after high school, got married, raised three children while going to college and working full time. As a young military wife and mother, we didn't have the money to go out to eat on a regular basis and had to make each pay check stretch. I learned how to prepare meals that were delicious, while staying within budget. While working full-time in the corporate world with the usual 2-3 hour I-270 commute, coupled with school & sports events, scouts and taking care of three children, it was tough to find the time or the energy to come home and prepare healthy meals for my family. Being a military family, we have traveled to many places around the world. I love trying new foods, the challenge of cooking new recipes and having friends over for dinner as well as cooking for special events. After cooking for my friends and family for over 25 years, I decided that I wanted to share my love of food and make people happy, so I dropped the corporate chaos and attended a formal culinary school and became a certified personal chef. I am a member of the United States Personal Chef Association and I am licensed, insured and ServSafe certified.

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