Annatto is used in Caribbean, Central American and South American cuisine, to impart a warm but not spicy flavor to drinks and cooked food. It is blended used to flavor empanadas, tamales, grilled, roasted foods and yellow rice dishes. It has a warm but not spicy flavor similar to saffron. Sazón, for making yellow rice, for example, primarily consists of annatto powder along with garlic powder, cilantro, cumin, coriander and salt.
Pro tip: At Calabash Cafe, we use ½ tsp of this blend in 8-12 oz of non-dairy milk to create a delicious latte. Great hot or chilled
Fun facts: Annatto is traditionally used as an internal detoxifier. It was used as ink for ancient Aztec scrolls and is still used to dye cloth and body paint. The Tsáchila tribesmen of Ecuador dye the top portion of their hair on otherwise shaved heads with Annatto powder paste. This practice began when a shaman was led by spirit to use Annatto as whole body dye as an antidote to smallpox. At the time, however, the Spanish referred to these men as Colorados, which means “red-colored,” because they thought that was the true skin color of the indigenous people.