How to make Achuete (Annatto) oil and water

September 25, 2019

If there was such a thing as makeup in Filipino food, it’s the use of achuete or annatto to brighten up a dish. In fact I know of some kitchens that use achuete oil to brighten up their spaghetti sauce or to add color to many dishes that use tomato sauce or tomatoes since may times tomatoes can be expensive when they are not in season and to extend the sauce. It is also used to color meat and it has this metallic and mace aromas that give the dishes a background note.

There are two ways to extract the coloring and flavor from the achuete. One is through heating the seeds with oil and the other one is with the use of lye water. I personally use the lye method since it gives me better control of the color.

Watch my tutorial video here:

How to Make Achuete (Annatto) oil and water

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I will show you two methods of extracting the color and flavor of achuete or annatto seeds - either with oil or with lye water.


  • Achuete (Annatto) in lye water
  • 1 tablespoon achuete seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon lye water
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • Achuete (Annatto) in oil
  • 1 tablespoon achuete seeds
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil


Achuete (Annatto) in lye water


In a measuring cup, place the achuete seeds and then mix in the lye water. Mix thoroughly.


Pour in the hot water; give it a stir and then let is stand for about half an hour.


Give it another stir and then strain into another bowl before use.

Achuete (Annatto) in oil


Use a small skillet and place over a very low fire.


Place inside the achuete seeds and pour in the cooking oil.


Using a wooden spoon, slowly mix the achuete and oil together.


Do this for a few minutes until the oil looks like a bright, bright orange.


Set aside to cool.


Strain into a bowl or bottle until it is ready to use.


When you are sauteing the liquid, you will notice that there is this metallic smell and taste. Keep sauteing it until that goes away. You will see the difference when you have the finished product.

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