Add the olive or vegetable oil to a 3-quart saucepan. Warm the oil over medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes.
Add the achiote seeds and garlic (if you're using it) to the pot once the oil is warm. As the oil heats the achiote seeds, little bubbles will surround them. This indicates that the seeds are gently heating and releasing their color and flavor into the oil. Gently heat the achiote seeds for 15-20 minutes.
Steep the Achiote in the Warm Oil
After 20 minutes, turn the stove off and allow the seeds to steep in the oil for another 10 minutes or longer.
Strain, Bottle, and Store the Achiote Oil for Up to One Year
To avoid ruining your countertops, put your storage jar into your kitchen sink before pouring the oil into it. After the achiote oil has cooled slightly, strain it through a funnel lined with cheesecloth into a glass bottle.
Allow the oil to cool completely before covering it tightly with a lid. Store the achiote oil in a cool, dark area of the kitchen or in the pantry for up to a year, maybe longer.
Swaps and Substitutions or Add-Ins:
Omit the garlic for a plain achiote oil.
You can add more flavor to your achiote oil by infusing herbs or spices like bay leaves, oregano, black pepper, or spicy habaneros.
For Italian flavored achiote oil: add basil, thyme, or marjoram.
To enhance your Indian cuisines: add cardamom, cumin, and/or a garam masala combo.
For Asian dishes: infuse the achiote oil with ginger, garlic, and gochugaru.
Replace the olive oil with vegetable oil, canola oil, or peanut oil.
You can double or even triple the quantities of oil and seeds as needed. This is especially helpful if you want to make a lot of achiote oil.
Tips and Techniques:
Oils like flaxseed, walnut, pumpkin, or sesame have prominent, unique flavors that don't allow the achiote flavor to shine through, so avoid using these.
Annatto seeds take on an acrid flavor if cooked too long or at too high a temperature.
Glass is the best storage container for achiote oil since it doesn't stain as plastic does.
Achiote oil stains easily and permanently, so handle it carefully when straining, pouring, and using it in your recipes.
Avoid exposing achiote oil to extreme temperatures that will cause the oil to heat or cool dramatically since it will change the oil's molecular structure and flavor.
Replace the oil in your meat or poultry marinades with achiote oil to add more color to the recipe.
You can use achiote oil to sauté your vegetables and give them more color.
Pan-fry your home fries or eggs for breakfast in it to impart color and a nutty flavor.