The 5 Best Substitutes For Annatto Oil

What can I use to substitute annatto oil? Replace annatto oil with saffron, safflower, or a turmeric and paprika blend. You can also make homemade annatto oil if you can access annatto seeds. However, yellow and red food coloring is an ideal replacement for annatto oil if you only want to mimic the distinct orange-red color. 

Annatto oil is produced by seeping the seeds of the achiote tree into vegetable oil. The oil imparts a deep golden-red hue, subtle peppery flavor, and earthy aroma into recipes. Unfortunately, annatto oil isn’t commonly available at grocery stores. So, we’re providing several close replacements to help to tie your dish together without it. 

The Best Annatto Oil Substitutes


Saffron is exotic and one of the most expensive spices on the market.

The red threads transform recipes into an alluring golden-red tint with a sweet, musky, earthy flavor that makes a delicious replacement for annatto oil.

You can use saffron oil to add a punch of color and flavor to savory and sweet dishes like risottos, paella, soups, curries, casseroles, cakes, and Crème Brulee.

You can also use saffron oil – a blend of saffron strands and almond oil – if you need an oil-based substitute for salad dressings.

A tiny amount of saffron goes a long way; only use one to three threads in your recipes to replace annatto oil.

You can use annatto oil and saffron oil interchangeably in recipes as the almond oil dilutes the intense saffron flavors.


Safflower is cultivated chiefly for its seeds to make safflower oil.

However, the bright yellow flower petals are also harvested and dried for their mild flavor and excellent ability to imbue a yellow hue into foods.

Safflower oil is colorless and flavorless. You’ll want to use the dried flower petals instead to mimic the color of annatto oil.

Add safflower spice to recipes like rice, risotto, stew, soup, or meat rubs, or enhance the color of lattes and teas.

You will need to use more safflower to add color to your recipes than the recipe typically requires when substituting annatto oil.

We recommend using a 2:1 ratio to mimic the yellow-orange hue of annatto closely.

Turmeric & Paprika

Paprika lends a spicy-sweet, peppery flavor and fiery orange-red tone to dishes, and turmeric adds an earthy, slightly sour taste and a brighter yellow tone to your recipe.

Combining the two spices closely with olive or vegetable oil mimics the color and flavor of annatto oil.

You can substitute annatto oil with turmeric, paprika, and oil in sauces, marinades, rice, paella, soups, and stews.

Use ½ teaspoon paprika, ½ teaspoon turmeric, and 1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil for every tablespoon annatto oil. Feel free to tailor the ratios to suit your preference.

Food Coloring

You can use artificial food coloring to replace annatto oil in recipes that you want to brighten without changing the flavor.

However, you can also use natural ingredients to dye foods if you don’t mind slight changes in the taste of your recipes.

Add food coloring to any recipe that calls for annatto oil. But only use water or stock instead of oil when mixing the colors, as food coloring does not mix well with oil.

You can also use beets, hibiscus powder, and turmeric to color dishes like curries, paella, risotto, and casseroles, but beware that the dish’s flavor will change slightly.

Mix two drops yellow and one drop red food coloring into water, stock, or juice, and add it to the recipe.

Use 1 teaspoon of beet, hibiscus, or turmeric powder for every teaspoon annatto oil.

Homemade Annatto Oil

You can make homemade annatto oil with two simple ingredients: annatto seeds and olive or vegetable oil. You can keep annatto oil in a tightly sealed jar for about five days at room temperature.

Heat 1 cup of oil and annatto seeds in a saucepan over medium heat and stir frequently. Remove the saucepan once the seeds start to bubble, and leave it to cool down. Strain the oil and pour it into a jar with a sealable lid.

Add your homemade annatto oil to your favorite recipes using the same ratios as store-bought annatto oil.