Commonly known as annatto seed, the correct term for the seeds of an annatto tree is achiote seeds. They have been used to color food and cosmetics. These seeds have a peppermint scent and a slightly peppery taste with just a hint of bitterness.
Annatto seeds have been used as a dye for fabrics and body paint since pre-Columbian times.
The seeds can be ground and added to soups and stews or made into a paste to be spread on vegetables before grilling. It’s a tough process to work with annatto, as the dried seeds are very hard and quite difficult to grind.
To make paste:
Cover seeds with water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for a couple of hours. Drain and pat dry using a paper towel so as to not stain the cloth. Transfer to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and grind to a paste.
The seeds are often added to oils to flavor and color them, or soaked into hot water to make a flame-colored broth. Add a few seeds to rice dishes or stews for color and a subtle spicy flavor.
The flavor is bittersweet with notes of mace and mint.