"If you're a label reader, you may recognize annatto as one of the ingredients frequently found in a brick of cheddar—it's a natural coloring that gives cheese and other foods a bright orange hue. It comes from the Bixa orellana, a tropical plant commonly known as achioteor lipstick tree (from one of its uses). The ground seeds are a common spice in Mexican, Caribbean and Filipino dishes. The seeds are a brick-red color, about five millimeters long, and shaped like little puppy teeth.
Annatto is native to tropical regions in Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. It was used by ancient Mayans as a body paint, and by Aztecs to deepen the color of their chocolate drink, according to the Handbook of Spices, Seasonings and Flavorings by Susheela Raghavan.
Learn more about our red recado in our blog section.