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Annatto Oil- Palm Oil Substitute

August 9, 2010 | 15 Comments

Annatto Oil

Annatto Oil, is an oil derived from Annatto or Achiote seeds. It is mainly used in Latin and Caribbean cooking to add color to oil and food in general. Achiote Oil has a reddish orange color, much like Palm Oil but without the extra saturated fat often found in the latter since you can use virtually any kind of oil to lightly toast the seeds. You can use Olive oil, Canola Oil, Vegetable Oil or even a mix of clear oils.

I’ve had this for a while, but just got round to actually making it! Taste wise, Annatto is often said to have a ‘nutty’ flavor, but personally, I don’t detect any taste; it takes on the taste of whatever oil you use, but it does have a slight nutty smell to it. You can purchase it online, in the ethnic section of most grocery stores or Latin/Caribbean stores. If you’re in Nigeria, I’m not really sure what it would be called or where it would be available, but I imagine if you ask market sellers from the North (Hausa), they might have an idea. It’s very easy to make, but should be done in batches and refrigerated for up to two weeks.

To make Annatto Oil, here’s what you’ll need:

Prep Time: 5 Minutes Cook Time: 3-5 Minutes Difficulty: Easy Serves: N/A

Annatto Seeds_Canola Oil

1. Pour oil into fry pan, add seeds

2. Turn on heat to medium

3. Stir; Once it starts to sizzle, turn off heat, let cool

4. Drain oil from seeds using a sieve

5. Transfer to a storage bowl/plate/jar, and you’re done!

Annatto Oil

Side by Side Comparison of Palm Oil & Annatto Oil (Left: Palm Oil, Right: Annatto Oil)

Palm Oil vs Annatto Oil

(Annatto Seeds Up Close)

Annatto Seeds


  1. Good or fresh Annatto seeds should have an almost rusty red color. Seeds that are dark brown or shriveled are no longer fresh and should be avoided. The above image has a few bad seeds, but for the most part, it’s the right color.
  2. You can store the seeds in a cool, dark place, but be sure to refrigerate the actual oil once you’ve made it. (It won’t solidify in the fridge.)
  3. There’s not much difference between the blanched/bleached palm oil and the annatto oil, so if you’re worried about palm oil and it’s heart clogging properties, you might want to consider Annatto Oil as it’s much more heart friendly.


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15 Responses to "Annatto Oil- Palm Oil Substitute"

  1. Renee says:

    Does it taste like palm oil?

    • Yetunde says:

      Hey Renee,

      Nope, it doesn’t taste at all like palm oil. It tastes like whatever oil you use in preparing it. So for instance, if you use vegetable oil, it’ll taste like that (or even corn oil, olive oil or peanut oil).

      Hope that helps!

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  3. Kanyin says:

    I will be making annatto oil this weekend!

    • Yetunde says:

      Hey Kanyin!

      Yay for you! Much healthier too :)

  4. Bola says:

    Where can you buy the Annato seeds?

    • Yetunde says:

      Hey Bola!

      I bought mine online. You can also google it or check health food stores around you.

      Hope that helps!

  5. Bola says:

    Please do you have recipe for Nigerian coconut candy?

    • Yetunde says:

      Yup, coming up next week! ;)

  6. Adelola Odunlade says:

    Are there any bad sides to the anatto seeds. like side effects or disadvantages. stuff like that.

    • Yetunde says:

      Hey Adelola!

      That’s actually a great question I never considered till now.

      A quick google search on the side effects turned up the following:

      Annatto is safe for most people when used in food amounts. It is not known if annatto is safe for use as a medicine.

      Annatto might raise blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes, check your blood sugar levels.

      Do not use annatto if:

      You are pregnant or breast-feeding.

      You are scheduled for surgery in the next two weeks.

      Hope that helps!

  7. Toyin says:

    Hello Yetunde,
    Is the oil good in cooking Egusi soup and ogbonno?

    • Yetunde says:

      Hey Toyin!

      Yes, it should be good for cooking those soups, as the important thing to remember is that the main component is the type of oil used in cooking e.g vegetable oil and the other difference is the color, which does not affect taste.

      • Toyin says:

        That is true, thanks for the reply

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