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The 5 Best Substitutes for Annatto Oil

Have you ever tried cooking with Annatto Oil? Did you enjoy the tangy, citrus-like flavor it gives to your food?

In fact, did you know that annatto oil is used in South American cuisine?

Nowadays, most people rely on commercial foods.

This means that they will not need to use ingredients like annatto oil to flavor their dishes.

This oil is produced from the seeds of a tree called Bixa Orellana.

While some people might find this fruit interesting and intriguing, most people prefer to use supermarket ingredients rather than deal with the hassle of finding annatto oil.

Perhaps you do not like the flavor, or you simply cannot get around to how hard it is to find this oil.

Are you looking for a good substitute for annatto oil? What are some ingredients you can use instead of this oil?

Here are five alternative ingredients that will work well with your foods.

What is Annatto Oil?

what is annatto oil

Annatto oil is an orange-red oil extracted from the seeds of the achiote shrub, Bixa Orellana.

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It is commonly used as a natural food coloring and flavoring in margarine, cheese, cakes, popcorn, etc.

However, it can also be applied topically for medicinal purposes as an anti-inflammatory agent’s pain reliever.

When used as a food additive, annatto oil is isolated from the seeds of the bixa Orellana plant using steam distillation.

It can also be extracted via solvent extraction or mechanically.

However, this is rarely done due to the high cost involved with this process.

The coloring power of Annatto essential oil is not very strong, meaning it must be used in conjunction with other food additives.

Delivering a mild peppery flavor, the main products Annatto uses are butter, cheese, popcorn, etc.

It can be found in Mexican and Peruvian cuisines due to its prevalence in Latin American cooking and culture.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Annatto Oil

If Annatto oil is either unavailable or unaffordable, there are several substitutes that you can use in your cooking.

The top 5 best substitutes include:

1 – Tumeric Powder

tumeric powder

Turmeric powder is made from the plant Curcuma longa.

It can be purchased in almost any grocery store and possesses a bright yellow shade.

It’s crucial to note that turmeric is not as vivid as Annatto due to its subtle flavor; however, it helps foods maintain their natural meaty colors such as red chicken, orange bell pepper, and so on.

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Tumeric is what you would use to color curry paste or rice yellow.

It’s also a vital part of many Asian cuisines as the primary ingredient in the popular dish called ‘yellow chicken rice’.

The main benefit of turmeric is that it possesses anti-inflammatory properties, unlike annatto oil which is primarily used topically.

2 – Paprika Powder

paprika powder

Paprika powder is made by drying and grinding the pods of the plant Capsicum annuum, which is a cultivar of chili pepper.

The main ingredient in paprika powder is capsaicin.

However, it also contains carotenoids such as beta-carotene.

The paprika powder has a bright red/orange color and is available as mild or spicy.

It’s very common in many cuisines such as Italian, German, Spanish, and Hungarian cooking.

In addition, it can be used to make the popular French dish Beef Bourguignon (translated to ‘stew of Burgundy’).

It can be used to make a number of dishes such as meatloaf, BBQ sauce, scrambled eggs, and so on.

3 – Saffron Threads

saffron threads

Saffron is a popular substitute for annatto oil since it’s strong and vivid with the right blend of heat.

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This spice comes from the flower Crocus sativus.

It possesses an earthy flavor which can be helpful in making risottos, casseroles, paella, and soups.

In addition, it can be used to make desserts such as cakes and creme brulee.

Saffron is becoming more and more expensive by the day.

This is due to how long it takes to produce, which results in a limited supply and an extremely high market demand.

Approximately 150 flowers must be harvested to create one ounce of saffron spice.

4 – Ground Cumin

ground cumin

Ground cumin is made from ground seeds of the plant Cuminum cyminum.

It has a hot and earthy flavor which can be helpful in making Italian pasta dishes, Mexican chili, and Southwestern-style soups and stews.

In addition, cumin can be used to make pickles, curries, and cheeses such as Mexican queso fresco.

Ground cumin is widely used across the world and may even be sold as whole seeds or powder, depending on where you look.

However, it’s considerably less expensive than saffron and turmeric.

5 – Safflower


If you do not have access to saffron, turmeric, or paprika, then safflower may be your best option.

The main ingredient in the oil is carotenoids which are responsible for giving it its vivid orange/yellow color.

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Safflower oil is a very bland oil with little to no taste, which makes it perfect for cooking.

In addition, the color is strong enough for adding a bright yellow hue to dishes such as rice and risotto.

Safflower oil is almost always genetically modified in order to produce more vivid colours and greater yield.

This puts it at risk of containing traces of toxins which can be harmful to your health.


Annatto oil is widely used as a substitute for saffron and turmeric.

However, there are several substitutes available such as annatto oil which can be used in its place.

Depending on what you’re cooking, saffron may be the best substitute.

Paprika powder is also popular and provides a deep red/orange color.

Ground cumin can be used to make curries, cheeses, and pickles, while safflower oil has a vivid orange/yellow color which makes it fit for cooking.

Whether you’re looking to make risotto or curries, there are several substitutes for annatto oil.

Yield: 4 Servings

The 5 Best Substitutes for Annatto Oil

The 5 Best Substitutes for Annatto Oil
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes


  • Tumeric Powder
  • Paprika Powder
  • Saffron Threads
  • Ground Cumin
  • Safflower


  1. Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  2. Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.
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