How to Make Achiote Oil

achiote oil familia kitchen

Welcome to Familia Kitchen’s Abuela Cooking 101 how-to series. You know those traditional kitchen techniques and tips that everyone seemed to somehow just know a generation or two ago? Our bisabuelas taught them to our abuelas, they taught us, and now we’re passing them on to you—the next generation of Latinx cooks.

Today, we look at how to make achiote cooking oil, a staple of so many traditional Caribbean and Latin American recipes. Have you ever wondered where that glorious golden-yellow color in your favorite rice dishes comes from? That’s achiote oil. It doesn’t just make the food look pretty, it also adds a nutty-peppery slight flavor that’s hard to define—but you miss it if it’s not there. Trust us.

To make achiote oil, you need just two things: olive oil and a handful of rust-red anatto seeds. They come from the achiote tree, but you can buy them in bottles or bags at your local Latinx grocer and often even at your favorite large-chain food store.

Ask any abuela, cooking with achiote means you’re really cocinando criollo.

To kick off Familia Kitchen’s Abuela Cooking 101 explainer series, we turn to one of our go-to cocineras, Michelle Ezratty Murphy. Michelle grew up in Puerto Rico and often cooks side by side with her Puerto Rican husband and mother in law (just check out their holiday pork, green banana and plantain pasteles.)

Listos? Here’s Michelle’s recipe, photo and video how-to for: achiote oil.—KC

How to Make Achiote Oil

Recipe by Michelle Ezratty Murphy
5.0 from 1 vote
Cuisine: Puerto Rican


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 1/4 cup annatto seeds

  • 1 cup olive oil


  • In a pan, add 1/4 cup annato seeds to 1 cup olive oil. Bring to a simmer on medium high heat.
  • Once the oil simmers, bring temperature down to low. Leave uncovered and let steep on low—to infuse and color the oil for about 10 minutes. The longer you let it steep, the deeper the color gets, but 10 minutes should do it. The oil takes on a deep, brownish red hue.
  • Drain the oil through a sieve. Discard the seeds.
  • Store the amber-red oil in a tightly covered glass jar in your refrigerator or in a dark, cool area of your pantry. Achiote oil will last for months, at least 4 and likely 6. Use as your starter oil for rice, stews, roasts—all things savory, hearty, orange-yellow, and authentically Boricua.


Now that you’re an abuela-cooking pro on how to make achiote oil, put your cocina skills to good use in another achiote recipe: pasteles de pork with yautia and green banana.

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