Annatto as Natural Soap Colorant

I received some powered annatto recently and wanted to see how it would behave in soap. You probably have some annatto in your refrigerator. It’s a natural colorant, derived from the achiote tree, and used commonly in cheddar cheese, butter, margarine, custard, etc. Soapmakers sometimes use it by soaking whole seeds in oil. This colors the oil which is then used to make the soap. But I had some powered annatto seeds and decided to try just adding that directly to my soap in order to save myself some time.

I tested the annatto at different concentrations: 1 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon, 1/4 teaspoon and 1/8 teaspoon per pound of oil in the soap recipe. The color is very nice: cheery and bright. For the lightest concentration, the bits of annatto add an interesting texture to the soap. But it gets to be a bit much at the higher concentrations. I’m afraid that it may be too scratchy to use like that. For a darker orange color, I’ll have to try coloring the oil and straining out the bits.

But I love this method of trying out different concentrations of colorant. Since (most of the time) I like to be able to predict what color the soap will turn out, there are quite a few other colors that I want to test right away just like this. In the end, I hope to have a good reference that I can use when planning and designing my soap.


4 thoughts on “Annatto as Natural Soap Colorant

  1. Annatto is a great natural colorant. Thanks for sharing your experiment! I would love to see how the color changes after you strain it =)

  2. great experiment ruth! (and great picture!) maybe you should have done the color presentation at the soap guild instead of me :). i LOVE annatto seed. it’s interesting to see how it doesn’t get much darker when you increase it significantly from 1/8 tsp to 1 tsp. and since annatto can stain, i would recommend sticking with the 1/8 tsp. can’t wait to see what you test next!

  3. I purchase some annatto seeds and infused oil with some of the seeds. The color, in the bottle at least, looks a redish color however once you use it in batter, it turns a nice, cheery yellow. I use it in all my yellow colored cupcake frosting batter. Great choice for a colorant as it is inexpensive and, best of all, it is all natural!

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