This recipe comes to us via Puerto Rico, where annatto seeds (or achiote) can be found growing locally on backyard trees. Annatto seeds soaked then  blended with citrus juices and cumin make a bright and tangy marinade for lean protein like fish and chicken.

Annatto Marinade from Savory Spice


  • 5 Tbsp. annatto seeds
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 2 tsp. Maldon sea salt
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Juice of 1 grapefruit
  • Juice and zest of 1 orange
  • Juice and zest of 2 limes


Try not to use plastic containers with this recipe as annatto seeds can stain plastic. Glass containers are best.


In a glass bowl, soak annatto seeds in the hot water for about 30 min. Place soaked seeds (along with any remaining water) in a blender with cumin seeds and salt. Add remaining ingredients and blend for about 1 min. until mixture is a smooth as possible. (It will be a bit grainy from the seeds; that’s okay.) Transfer to marinating container.

Serving Suggestions

Yields enough marinade for 4 to 6 lbs. of protein. Great for white fish (tilapia, cod, halibut); marinate fish for no more than 2 hours. Delicious on chicken breasts or thighs; marinate chicken for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. For a great presentation, wrap individual fish or chicken servings in banana leaves, brush leaves with oil, and grill over medium-high or bake at 350 degrees for 5 min. (fish) to 10 min. (chicken) or until protein feels firm through the leaf. Also works well for pork shoulder; cut pork into cubes and marinate overnight before slow cooking with any remaining marinade. Marinade also freezes well.


2 cups marinade, enough for up to 6 lbs. protein

Thanks To

Andy Klein, chef/owner of One Ten Thai—Aguadilla, Puerto Rico

Make This Recipe!

Make this recipe how many times?
Savory Spice Shop Ingredients
Annatto Seeds 4 floz bottle $3.65
Maldon Sea Salt $10.00
Cumin Seeds, Whole, Organic 1 oz bag $2.35



Other Recipe Suggestions

Items in this Recipe

Have a Savory Spice recipe you would like to share?

"I LOVE Savory Spice Shop and they honestly are the best spices I have ever used. I love to cook and copied off some recipes from your site and look forward to making a few of them and letting you know how they turn out!"
-Lisa S, of Portland, OR

Customer Reviews ( Add a Review )

5 stars 2/12/16 suzykklein
I've always been afraid of annatto seeds because I didn't know exactly how to use them. I love that this recipe gives me a chance to explore them. It's a tangy and colorful marinade, loved it on fish.