Annatto

Nomenclature

  • Achiote: in Mexico
  • Roucou/Oucou: in Trinidad and Tobago, Martinique, and Guadalupe
  • Sindoor: in India
  • Annatto/Atsuete/Achuete/Achwete/Echuete: in the Philippines
  • Urucul: as known by the Tupi-Guarani Indians of the Amazon

Source

  • Extract from Seeds of Achiote Plant (Bixa orellana)
    • Also known as “lipstick tree”
    • Plant is tropical and native to Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean

Uses

  • Food Coloring in Yellow-Orange Cheeses: annatto may be used as a food coloring in yellow-orange cheeses (Cheddar, Gloucester, and Red Leicester) and cheese products (American cheese, Velveeta)
    • During the summer months, carotene-rich grasses eaten by cows would normally impart a yellow-orange color to the milk -> this “summer milk” has traditionally been used to manufacture higher quality cheeses, giving them their characteristic yellow-orange color
    • In an attempt to mimic this coloration, inferior quality yellow cheeses typically use annatto as a food coloring
  • Food Coloring in Latin American Cuisine:
    • Example: food coloring that was traditionally used to deepen the color of the ancient Aztec chocolate drink
    • Example: Mexican arroz con pollo (annatto is used instead of saffron in Spanish recipes where saffron would have been used)
    • Example: Puerto Rican arroz con pollo (recipe uses “sazon con culantro y achiote”)
    • Example: Yucatan cochinita pibil (spicy pulled pork dish)
  • Food Coloring in Filipino Cuisine
    • Example: kari-kari (beef stew)
    • Example: Filipino-style tamales (made with rice, instead of corn)
  • Skin Decoration
    • Ancient Mayan/Inca/Aztec body paint: accounts for the historical “red skin” descriptions
    • Used to designate “married” status in East Indian women

Clinical

  • Food Allergy

References

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