AskDefine | Define annatto

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A tropical American evergreen shrub, Bixa orellana; the lipstick tree.
  2. The seed of this tree used as a colouring or in Latin American cooking.
  3. An orange-red dye obtainied from this seed.


a tropical American evergreen shrub, Bixa orellana
  • Hungarian: orleánfa
the seed of this tree used as a colouring or in Latin American cooking
an orange-red dye obtainied from this seed




  1. annatto

Extensive Definition

Annatto, sometimes called Roucou, is a derivative of the achiote trees of tropical regions of the Americas, used to produce a red food coloring and also as a flavoring. Its scent is described as "slightly peppery with a hint of nutmeg" and flavor as "slightly sweet and peppery".
Annatto is produced from the reddish pulp which surrounds the seed of the achiote (Bixa orellana L.). It is used in many cheeses (e.g., Cheddar, Red Leicester, and Brie), margarine, butter, rice, smoked fish and custard powder.
Annatto is commonly found in Latin America and Caribbean cuisines as both a coloring agent and for flavoring. Central and South American Natives used the seeds to make a body paint, and lipstick. For this reason, the achiote is sometimes called the lipstick-tree.
In Venezuela, annatto (called locally 'onoto') is used in the preparation of hallacas, perico, and other traditional dishes.
In Brazil, both annatto (the product) and the tree (Bixa orellana L.) are called Urucum and the product itself may also be called Colorau.
In Cuba and other Caribbean islands, both fruit and tree are popularly called Bija (pronounced bee-ha) instead of Bixa.
In the Philippines, it is called "atsuete" and is used as food coloring in traditional dishes.
It is a major ingredient in the popular spice blend "Sazón" made by Goya Foods.
As a food additive, annatto has the E number E160b. The fat soluble part of the crude extract is called bixin, the water soluble part is called norbixin, and both share the same E number as annatto.

Allergies to Annatto

Annatto has been linked with many cases of food-related allergies, and is the only natural food coloring believed to cause as many allergic-type reactions as artificial food coloring. Because it is a natural colorant, companies using annatto may label their products "all natural" or "no artificial colors". However, consumers with food dye sensitivity or intolerance may wish to avoid products containing annatto.


References and Sources for Further Reading

  • The Herb Book, John Lust (Bantam Books, New York, USA, 1984)
  • Cooking With Spices, Carolyn Heal & Michael Allsop (David & Charles, Vermont, USA 1983)
  • The Book of Spices, F. Rosengarten Jr. (Livingston Publishing Co. , Penn., USA, 1969)
annatto in German: Annatto
annatto in Italian: Annatto
annatto in Japanese: アナトー
annatto in Dutch: Orleaan
annatto in Portuguese: Colorau
annatto in Finnish: Annatto
annatto in Polish: Annato
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