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You may have noticed me mentioning this word (roucou) when I posted the cornmeal pastelle recipe a few weeks ago. So I thought it would be nice to do a post on this natural red colouring , and how it is made.

A little About Roucou

Roucou or Oucou, as some people call it, comes from the fruit of the Achiote (Bixa orellana) tree. Here in Trinidad we have two types, the usual red that most people know of and a green variety that doesn’t get red but dries after a while. So if you are waiting for this kind to get red or ripe you will be waiting in vain haha!!! This natural dye has long been used by Amerindians as a body paint. Perhaps this is a remnant of our Amerindian heritage, mainly the Caribs, in our country who have been here long before Columbus, supposedly discovered Trinidad and Tobago. But just as a side note, could you discover or rediscover a place….and find people living there before you discovered it?
Hmmmm Just imagine that is what they taught us as “Caribbean History”. Anyhow where were we… Yes! roucou.
Achiote pod showing the seeds

Roucou Used in Cooking

Roucou is now a mainstay in any trini kitchen and is used to add colour to our wonderful dishes, especially when we are making pastelle. And who could forget Golden Ray Margarine, it also has roucou that gives it that signature red orange colour we all know. I have been doing a little research online lately and saw that this plant also has a lot of medicinal uses, too many to mention here but of course you can click here and here for more information. Some of these uses I do not know of so I will have to do some reading myself. It’s good to read and expand the mind a little.

Before I go I’ve noticed something else. The Tupi people’s word for Roucou is Urucu, don’t you find it almost sounds the same as roucou? Well just something to get you thinking a bit. So here’s how we make Roucou or Oucou naturally in Trinidad and Tobago.

How to Make Roucou

Gather some of the fruit and scrape out the seeds into a bowl using a spoon.
Add some water and allow to soak fror a few hours or overnight if you have time.

After soaking, strain the water in a separate bowl. Add a little water to the seeds and rub the seeds between your hands to get some more of the dye out and strain again. This could be done about three times.

Bring the roucou to a boil and add salt to taste.
Not too much though. Set aside to cool.
When cool pour in bottles and store.
Tip: After rubbing the seeds rigoroursly between the hands, your hands will get the red dye, so for easy cleanup you can use use bleach.
Roucou could be refridgerated or not; it is just personal preference since it doesn’t really spoil.
Well that’s it for a long awaited post. Until then bye!
Don’t forget to leave your comments on roucou in the comment box below.


  1. Voila says

    Love this site. Tried this recipe and the sauce came out great. A helpful tool for clean up that is not as harsh as bleach is baking soda or any cleaning agent with sodium bicarbonate as its active ingredient. Everything cleaned of nicely. I would also suggest using gloves to reduce the reddening of the hands. Hope this helps. Btw, the new look of this blog is really refreshing.

  2. Anonymous says

    I simply wanted to thank you for the amazing blog you have designed here. It truly is full of ideas for those who are genuinely interested in Trini Cooking and Culture.

  3. Henry says

    Haha, i did a Google search and this link was in the top 5 and lead me right back to here. So no need to answer me on last comment lol.

  4. Henry says

    Very much enjoyed learning about this and that it came from the Achiote Plant. I actually enjoy learning new things. Yet having left my Island of St.Kitts so young as a kid I’ve realized there is lots that I have forgotten and lots of things that I don’t know about much of the native plants. Great many Plants, Fruits, Herbs wildly populate the island as well plants brought to the island by the Caribs and Europeans dating all the way back to the Caribs who had a prominent existence on St.Kitts and during the Colonial British and French Wars over the Island known back then as the “Mother Colony”.

    So its a bit sad that I don’t know much of my local plant vegetation that are used and can be used in cuisines. The Caribs used to use this plant for dyes and paint. And though I can’t quite recall ever seeing or noticing this Achiote Plant used in any dishes growing up as a kid don’t mean its not used. But this plant grows on my Island. We had a local clothing industry that used allot of local made dyes in making colorful clothing of the island. I can only guess this might have been used. I just never really knew other than dyes what else it was good for. But now I know.

    Living in the U.S. I don’t think i’d be that lucky to find that many pods of the plant to make the Roucou. But hey at least i know just in case i do what it can be used for. Maybe i find it in a bottle the finished product.

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