I'm amazed at how superior your vanilla is!
- Des, The Grommet
I opened the bottle of your vanilla extract last weekend to bake some cookies and the difference in taste is extraordinary." – Judy


Annatto or achiote, comes from Bixa orellano, a tree native to the Americas.  While the tree is believed to have originated in Brazil, it spread throughout Latin America very early.  The pulp surrounding the seeds of this tree produce a dye that varies from reddish to yellow.  It was most likely originally used as body paint and lipstick, and then later became a food coloring and flavor.  Because of its early uses, it has been referred to as the lipstick tree.  It is now grown and used in Asia.

The heart-shaped fruits of the tree become reddish-brown when mature.  The fruits split open, exposing the seeds.  The fruit itself is not edible; the seeds inside the fruit are what are used.  The seeds have a mildly sweet, peppery flavor. 

The dye created from achiote is made by stirring the seeds in water.  It is regularly used as to color cheddar and other cheeses, in margarine, butter, and in culinary applications such as coloring rice or as a flavor in smoked fish.  It is also used extensively as both a flavor and coloring in Latin American cuisine, especially Mayan foods from the Yucatan south through Guatemala, and in indigenous dishes in Brazil and Venezuela.  Annatto is also used as an insect repellant and sunscreen in tropical America.

Despite its regular use as a food coloring, it causes an allergic reaction in some people.  In fact, it is considered the only natural food coloring that causes a reaction similar to reactions from artificial colorings.

Patricia Rain
Follow me
Latest posts by Patricia Rain (see all)

Trackback from your site.

Patricia Rain

is an author, educator, culinary historian, and owner of The Vanilla Company (www.vanillaqueen.com), a socially conscious, product-driven information and education site dedicated to the promotion of pure, natural vanilla, and the support of vanilla farmers worldwide. She also does culinary presentations for food professionals, cooking schools, trade shows, food fairs, and private groups, and is a regular radio and TV guest.

Leave a comment

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

Why do our customers love Rain's Choice vanilla?

  • 99% of all vanilla products are imitation. Ours are 100% PURE!
  • We carefully choose all products to assure best QUALITY & FLAVOR!
  • Our farmers are paid a FAIR PRICE.
  • Our vanilla beans are SUSTAINABLY grown.
  • Everything we sell is grown WITHOUT CHEMICAL pesticides or fertilizers.
  • Your purchase here supports our HUMANITARIAN efforts.

Thank you for supporting The Vanilla Company and our farmers! BUY HERE now.

For an update on the 2016 vanilla shortage, please see "Why is Vanilla so Expensive?"

Newsletter Signup

Join our community, get news on issues of concern about our planet and its inhabitants, recipes and deals. Over 5,000 subscribers!

The Vanilla Company