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Annatto Seed Soap Recipe

How to make natural orange colored soap using this Annatto Soap Recipe. Annatto seeds can tint your soap yellow to vivid pumpkin orange.

Though there are a lot of dyes that you can use to color soap, it’s often roots, herbs, and seeds that create the most beautiful shades. Alkanet for purple, woad for blue-green, and even carrots for yellow. Use this Annatto Soap Recipe to get a vivid orange-colored soap. It’s honestly almost electric orange, yet won’t stain your body or the bubbles.

In both south and central America, annatto seeds have been used to color food and to create body paint. When ground up they’re also said to taste and smell slightly peppery although they didn’t scent my own oil. Annatto is also used in modern food coloring to tint cheese, butter, and popcorn. My soap color is similar to cheddar cheese so I can definitely see that.

How to make natural orange colored soap using this Annatto Soap Recipe. Annatto seeds can tint your soap yellow to a vivid pumpkin orange #soaprecipe #soapmaking #naturallycolorsoap
Make this annatto soap recipe with annatto seeds and calendula petals

Citrusy Annatto Soap Recipe

This is a 1lb / 453g batch and made two chunky bars and two normal-sized bars. Annatto seeds aren’t common in the average supermarket but you can purchase them from some ethnic food shops. However, the easiest and probably less expensive place to get them is online. You’ll need to order and infuse the seeds for at least a month before you make the annatto soap recipe below. Read my free 4-part soapmaking series here

Annatto Soap Recipe -- a natural orange colored soap
Annatto seeds come from the Achiote Tree and are used as a natural food dye

Lye Solution
65g / 2.3oz Sodium Hydroxide
120g / 4.23oz Distilled water

Herbal Courses To Choose From

Solid oils
137g / 4.83 oz Coconut Oil, Refined
116g / 4.09 oz Sustainable Palm oil

Liquid oils
142g / 5 oz Olive oil (all or some infused with Annatto Seeds)
38g / 1.34 oz Grapeseed oil
20g / 0.71 oz Castor oil
1 tsp Dried Calendula flower petals (pressed firmly into measuring spoon)

After Trace
3 tsp May Chang (Litsea cubeba) essential oil — a lemony-scented natural fragrance
6 drops Grapefruit Seed Extract (optional)
Dried Calendula flower petals

Special Equipment needed
Digital Thermometer
Digital Kitchen Scale
Stick (Immersion) Blender
Silicone Loaf Soap Mold

Annatto Soap Recipe -- a natural orange colored soap

Step 1: Infuse the Annatto seeds in oil

The way that the color is extracted is through infusing the whole seeds in light-colored oil. For this recipe, I filled a glass jar with 142g of light olive oil and then added 1 teaspoon (6g) of annatto seeds. You then leave it in a warm place out of direct sunlight for about a month. If you can leave it longer, even better as the color will get more intense. I’ve left my seeds in the oil for six months before and got amazing color.

To use the oil you need to strain it through a fine sieve and measure it — of the 142g of oil I began with, I only got 127g in the end. The rest was stuck inside the jar and on the sieve. I used all 127g of it to make this batch of soap and supplemented the rest with uncolored olive oil. If you use less of the colored oil, or if it hasn’t infused long enough, you’ll get a lighter orange to yellow colored soap.

Annatto Soap Recipe -- a natural orange colored soap
Straining the seeds from the oil

Step 2: Organize your workspace

Before you make this Annatto Soap Recipe it’s safety first! Make sure to be wearing closed-toe shoes, long sleeves, eye protection (goggles), and latex/vinyl or washing-up gloves. You’ll be working with Sodium Hydroxide (Lye) and splashing a bit on your skin isn’t pleasant.

To learn more about lye and lye safety read this piece on the equipment and safety needed for soapmaking. You also need to have all of your ingredients measured and your work surface organized. Open a window for ventilation, close doors on pets and children, and have everything you need prepared:

  • Sodium Hydroxide and water measured into heat-proof containers: glass, pyrex, or polypropylene plastic
  • Solid oils measured into a small stainless steel pan.
  • Liquid oils measured into a bowl
  • The mold set out and ready. You’ll also need a light towel so have that ready too.
  • Stick blender plugged in and ready
  • Digital thermometer out
  • Utensils laid out: stainless steel spoon for stirring the lye solution, a small fine-mesh strainer, and a flexible spatula
  • Fragrance and extras at the ready: essential oil, grapefruit seed extract, and flower petals
  • Read all of the directions in this piece thoroughly before making your soap.
  • To read my free four-part series on natural soapmaking head over here
How to make natural orange colored soap using annatto seeds
Calendula will stay bright yellow/orange in homemade soap

Step 3: Create the Lye Solution

If you’re like me and have a window above your kitchen sink then you can work there. If not, you’ll need to create your lye solution near another window (or better yet, outside) for ventilation.

  • Holding the jug of water away from you and towards that open window, pour the lye crystals into the water and stir well. Steam, fumes, and heat are the product of water and dry lye combining. Be wary of all three.
  • Place the steaming jug of lye-water in the sink. Next, fill the sink with a little water to help the lye solution cool. Use a basin if you’re working away from your sink.

Step 4: Heat the solid oils

Move away from the lye and begin melting the solid oils on the lowest heat possible on your hob. When there are just a few pieces of solid oil floating in the pan, turn off the heat and move the pan to a potholder. Stir with your spatula until all of the oils are melted.

Step 5: Mix your oils

When the solid oils are melted, pour your liquid oils into the pan. Use the spatula to get as much of the oils in as possible — castor oil has a real tendency to stick. Also, place the 1 teaspoon of calendula petals in the oils at this time too. Now measure the temperature of your oils with your digital thermometer. You want to get it down to about 130°F / 54°C.

Step 6: Balance the temperatures

Once you have a read on your oil temperature, head back over to the lye solution and take its temperature too. It’s fine to go back and forth with the digital thermometer for both. You’re aiming here to get the lye solution and the oils in the pan to be within 5 degrees of each other in temperature. You also want that range to be around the 130°F / 54°C mark.

Step 7: Stick Blending

When the temperatures are balanced, it’s time to mix the lye solution with the oils. Pour the lye solution through the mini strainer (to catch any pieces that might not have dissolved) and into the pan of warm oils. Next, place the stick blender into the pan and use it to stir the mixture together gently. The head of the stick blender should be completely immersed in the oil-lye solution. If it isn’t, you need to use a smaller pan.

Bring the stick blender to a stand-still in the center of your pan and then press pulse for a few seconds. Then stir gently again for a moment and repeat the stand-still stick blending. Use the stick blender to shred the calendula petals. Continue pulsing and stirring your soap batter until it hits a light ‘Trace’. This means that the batter thickens and if some of it dribbles down from the stick blender, it will leave a mark on the surface of your soap batter before falling back in.

Step 8: Add the Fragrance

When your soap batter has thickened to a ‘light trace’ it’s time to stir in your essential oil and the Grapefruit Seed Extract which is an anti-oxidant. You do not need to use preservatives when making handmade soap. Anti-oxidants help keep the oils in your soap from going ‘rancid’. Pour each of them into the soap batter and gently stir until they are all dispersed. Give it a good thirty seconds of stirring.

Annatto Soap Recipe -- a natural orange colored soap

Step 9: Mold & Decorate your Annatto Soap

Pour your annatto soap batter into your silicone mold in a place where you can leave the mold for 24 hours. If you’re using a Silicone Loaf Soap Mold like mine it will only come part of the way up. Use your spatula to get as much of your soap out of the pan and into your mold. Settle the soap so that it has a flat top. You do this by gently shaking the mold.

The final touch is laying more dried flower petals on top, making sure to think about how you want to cut the loaf up into bars. When this is finished, wrap the mold with the towel making sure it doesn’t touch the top of the soap.

Step 10: Cut and Cure your Annatto Soap

After a day has passed you can take your annatto soap out of the mold. This recipe hardens quickly so it should pop right out of the mold. Next, use an ordinary kitchen knife and cutting board to slice it into bars. Now is the hard part — waiting for your soap to ‘Cure’.

Place your bars on a layer of grease-proof paper on a book-shelf or another place that’s airy and out of direct sunlight. Leave for a full month before using the bars. It needs that time to finish turning into soap and to allow the water to evaporate out.

Using Infused-Oils in Soap Making

If you enjoyed this Annatto Soap Recipe, check out these other naturally colored soaps you can make using infused oils.

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  1. Hello,
    I love your site, and this is a great recipe for making a gorgeous colored soap! I am wondering if you have a percentage of Grapefruit Seed Extract per pound of oil? Even a measurement, rather than drops? Like a teaspoon ppo? That would be SO helpful! If you do, please pass it along?!
    Thank you!

    1. It’s literally drops of GSE, rather than teaspoons. When I do use GSE (and it’s always an optional ingredient) I plan for one drop of GSE per standard (90g) bar of soap.

  2. Hi,
    I have a question I’m hoping you can answer. But first, THANK YOU for your beautiful site, for sharing your soap recipes and for your clear instructions. I made my first batch of CP soap in May, following your “Eco-friendly” soap recipe. I got totally hooked and have made 10 batches of a variety of CP soap since then! My question is about this annatto seed soap recipe. I infused the seeds in oil, used the calendula flowers as decoration on top and added an orange essential oil. I had read that kaolin clay helps the soap retain it’s fragrance so I added some of that dispersed. The soap is a lovely orange color. It has been curing for 3 weeks ad has developed round white spots of about .5 cm. Do you know what this could be? Is this the kaolin clay. I hadn’t ever used it before.

  3. It would be so great if you could give the % of oils and butters for your recipes so we do not have to calculate each time as I normally make 80 ounce batches.
    Your soaps are so beautiful.

  4. This looks beautiful! I’ve been making soaps, lotions and bath bombs from your site since discovering you on Gardeners’ World – and they have brought so much joy. Thank you for sharing.

    I made your chamomile soap using annatto seeds infused in sweet almond oil. Can I substitute that for the infused olive oil here?

  5. Hello!
    Thank you very much for sharing this recipe!
    I wanted to know if it is possible to use the annatto seeds to colour the water/lye, instead of colouring the oil.
    Have a nice day!

      1. 5 stars
        Today, I made 2 lbs of cold process soap; I added Annatto seed powder to the lye water. The Annatto seed powder did get gummy but eventually it did mostly dissolve into a lovely shade of mango orange. Once added to the oil it came to trace easily (I strained the lye water). I poured it into a silicon/wooden mold (wrapped in cling-wrap) in the freezer for 24hrs, leave it out at room temperature for 24hrs, then I will cut the soap. Here’s hoping the colour stays fast during the curing phase!

  6. I love reading all your posts, they are very informative. Can I follow the same recipe for hot process soap?

    Thank you for your time.

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