Here’s How To Make Annatto Oil + Recipes To Try

It's super easy to make atsuete or annatto oil, and once you have, you'll surely want to try these gorgeously colorful dishes.
Chicken Inasal in a banana-leaf-lined wooden plate
With just two ingredients, and proper technique, you can be making annatto oil.

Updated as of June 5, 2023 by Camille Georgia Uy.

What is Atsuete or Annatto?

Atsuete seeds, which are also called annatto seeds in English, are orange-red seeds from the achiote tree that are can be used as food coloring in recipes. It’s a popular ingredient in Filipino cuisine, and is most commonly used to color the rice served with most barbecue dishes. In fact, it’s iconic and expected of many Filipino barbecue places to serve their rice tinged with the yellow-orange hue taken from the seeds. 

atsuete seeds in a coconut husk

It’s pretty easy to make annatto or atusete oil. In fact, finding the seeds may be harder to do. Once you obtain the seeds, it’s a matter of a simple heating, infusing, and (the optional) cooling process with the other ingredient: the oil.

Where to Buy Annatto or Atsuete Seeds

Atsuete seeds can be commonly found in the market or grocery stores, and they usually come in small packets containing the tiny orange-red seeds. More often than not, annatto or atsuete seeds will be found in the condiments section.


What Kind of Oil To Use In Making Atsuete Oil

What type of oil you use is a personal choice. We suggest a neutral tasting oil to allow the gorgeous hue of the annatto and its earthy flavors be the star. Once you add it into your dish, beit rice, a stew, or a marinade, its brilliant color will dye ever ingredient it comes into contact with.

Some neutral oils you can use to make atsuete oil are:

  • Canola Oil
  • Corn Oil
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Palm Oil
neutral oil in a glass pitcher and annatto fruit and seeds on the side
Photo by Adobe Stock

How to Make Atsuete Oil

  1. Pour 1/4 cup oil into a saucepan. Add 2 tablespoons annatto (atsuete) seeds. 
  2. Heat over a medium heat until just heated and seeds just begin to sizzle with the heat.
  3. Turn off the heat, and let the seeds steep in the oil until just warm.
  4. Stir occasionally to let the seeds transfer its color to the oil.
  5. Once warm, strain the seeds and use the oil immediately for best results. 

Recipes With Atsuete Oil

Atsuete or annatto oil is a very versatile condiment; not only does it impart an earthy flavor and aroma to dishes — it gives them a beautiful yellow-orange hue, too! Once you’ve made your very own annatto oil, you can use it in these colorful and delicious recipes:


Recommended Videos

1 Java Rice Recipes

healthy chicken barbecue on a plate with java rice on the side

Java rice gets its signature yellow color from atsuete or annatto, and once you’re stocked up on annatto oil, you can whip it out any time you want to fancy up your rice. Try this easy pork barbecue Java rice recipe, or Chef Jun Jun de Guzman’s simple yet flavorful Java rice recipe. You can even pair up Java rice with chicken barbecue!

2 Inasal Recipes

chicken inasal

Chicken inasal is a popular Bacolod dish that is made by grilling marinated chicken quarters. The result is a flavorful, herby, smoky barbecued chicken that’s charred on the outside yet juicy on the inside. No matter what kind of marinade you use, you’ll find that chicken inasal recipes wil alwasy include chicken oil! The chicken oil is made by infusing chicken fat (from the chicken skin) to annatto or atsuete oil, and chicken inasal just isnt’ complete without it. Here’s an easy chicken inasal recipe you can try. If you’re not a fan of chicken, you can also try this pork inasal recipe, or this bangus inasal recipe for a seafood version!


3 Filipino Stew Recipes

kare kare in a ceramic bowl with bagoong on the side

That gorgeous orange kare-kare sauce that gets your mouth watering the moment you see it? You guessed it right: it’s made with annatto oil! Like this classic kare-kare recipe, a lot of other Filipino stews are also made tantalizingly colorful with the addition of atsuete oil, like this indulgent balbacua recipe, and there’s even a pork adobo sa atsuete recipe that gives the classic adobo this deep red hue.

4 Pancit Palabok Recipes

jollibee-style palabok in a white plate

Another iconic Filipino dish that famously gets its color from atsuete is the palabok! This pancit palabok recipe recipe gets its signature orange sauce from annatto oil. You can also try it Jollibee-style, or fry up your noodles to add a crunch, making it a crispy palabok recipe instead!


5 Use it in sauces

Grilled Seafood Platter With Atsuete-Calamansi Sauce Recipe image
| Photo by Majoy Siason | Styling By Lady Badoy

Atsuete oil can also be used in sauces — it adds an appetizing dark red-orange color and gives your dishes a fragrant aroma. We’ve tried it on various seafood in this grilled seafood platter with atsuete-calamansi sauce recipe (which, incidentally is also a featured recipe in our summer-themed May 2023 Digital Issue), and you’re going to want to make a lot of the sauce, because we found ourselves addint it to our rice, too!


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Photo by: Yummy Team
Photo by: Yummy Team

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