Friday, January 23, 2009

Chili ninjadillas and Annatto Oil

Chpotle chili ninjadillas. The secret to the ninjadillas really is the annatto oil. It's just achiote seeds steeped in oil. It lends a little flavor a LOT of color to Spanish or Mexican food. Fry up the tortillas in a little oil and they get all crispy and yum. Topped with chipotle vegenaise.


Achiote or annatto seeds are really small and hard little seeds that come from the achiote tree cultivated in tropical South America and Southeast Asia. Annatto is used as a commercial all natural food coloring. It's also much cheaper than saffron for adding that splash of orangish color to Spanish rice and Mexican food. The seeds alone aren't much on flavor as a berry (I just tried one for your benefit,) so are best extracted through oil. Even the oil only has a slightly different flavor, but the color is amazing.

For the annatto oil, I put 1/2 cup of corn oil in a pan and then 1 TBS annatto seeds. Set on medium heat and when the seeds start to sizzle remove from heat and strain out and toss the seeds. Don't heat for too long after the sizzle or the seeds get black and the oil turns kind of green. If this happens, toss and start over. I store the annatto oil in the refrigerator in one of those Good Seasoning salad dressing containers you get with the dry mix.


I originally picked up annatto seeds from Penzeys, but I have found it in the spice or latino section of normal grocery stores. If you see Goya, you can probably find it. They do make prepared annatto oil, but I haven't tried it since I'd already figured out how to make my own and it's really simple.


I use corn oil because it stays liquid in the refrigerator and seems pretty mexicanny anyway, but you can use any kind of vegetable or olive oil.

I've only recently discovered the beauty of annatto oil when I was trying to impress my mother in law by making Spanish food for lunch this summer. This was one of my first blog posts.

19 comments:

livinginalocalzone said...

Okay, silly questions, but what are achiote seeds? Where can they be found?

Tara said...

I would never have known about annatto oil if it wasn't for you. Where do you buy it?

Jenn said...

Updated with more on annatto oil. Thanks for asking!

Alexandra (lean and strong) said...

I love that jar!

Joanna said...

whenever i think of chilies, i always think of bobby flay. i swear he uses them in everything dish he makes; therefore, your name for now is jenn flay.

Jenn said...

Aaah! I don't know how I feel about being compared to Bobby Flay...ever since he stood on the counters in the 1st American Iron Chef challenge, ugh the offense...but I digress. I've been to Mesa Grill pre-vegan and it's pretty good. I'll take celebrity chef, though.

Jeni Treehugger said...

Gorgeous looking Oil. I've seen Anatto listed on a few ingredients - it's definitely a nicer way than squished bugs to get colouring!
I'm lucky here in Spain because Saffron is grown just up the road so therefore it is very cheap!!

Amey said...

funny,
I just finally found annatto seeds a few months ago, and I plan on using some for tomorrow night's dinner.

by the way, I love the name of your blog so much.

River said...

The ninjadillas strike again! Thanks for all the annatto oil info!

Tara said...

Thanks for adding the information about the annatto oil! I'll be on the lookout!

Burp~! said...

ooh, I'm getting such a great education from your blog! thanks for the great info!

For the Love of Guava said...

dang... I was just complaining that my mexican rice always tastes like poo... I bet this is what it's missing!

For the Love of Guava said...

... also... in "Bobby Flay Tasting Ireland" he wears an offensive orange sweater through which you can tell the Irish air is a bit nippy... fail Flay... FAil. :)

aredcardigan said...

Wow chili ninjadillas...very cute...hehehe

Never heard of annatto oil...thanks for sharing:)

Joanna said...

ok jenn, i do remember about the iron chef challenge. that wasn't one of bobby's shining moments, although he did win. i wasn't too offended- mainly because i probably would've done the same thing!! haha don't hate me!

Jen aka Jewbacca said...

thanks for the lesson. i really enjoy posts with little homework assignments. i've been wondering how to punch up my mexican food besides adding guacamole and salsa.

those seeds look like fenugreek seeds only rust colored instead of mustard colored.

Bianca said...

I've never even heard of annatto oil until now but after looking at those crispy ninja things, I want to make some. And that veganaise topping....my god, that looks so good!

Alisa said...

Very cool. This is the first I have seen or heard of annatto oil. I don't think I have seen the seeds in stores, but will have to take a closer look!

caribbeanvegan said...

I just got some on a trip to Guadeloupe. The lady told me it is not good on vegetables but I took it anyways because I know I will find a way to colour some rice with it. I plan to make the oil this weekend as I have to find a bottle to store it. Can I add you to my blogroll?