Achiote Paste: Substitute, Recipe, Uses, And Flavor Revealed

Achiote paste not only adorns a beautiful red color on foods but also adds deep rich flavors to meats. Marinate your dishes, especially meat dishes such as pork, beef, chicken, and even seafood with this paste if you’re a kind of spicy food lover.

This article explores the recipe, uses, and substitutes for achiote paste.

What Is Achiote Paste?

Recado rojo or achiote paste is a popular blend of spices. It’s made with annatto seeds, cumin, coriander, oregano, pepper, garlic, and cloves.

This paste is mostly used for coloring and flavoring meat dishes and seafood. It works as a marinade, meat rub, or sauce.

It’s a popular marinade for meat dishes in Mexican, Caribbean, and Central American cuisines.

Achiote paste has a complex flavor and aroma. It adds a slightly smoky and earthy flavor; moderately sweet and spicy.

Annatto seeds are the base ingredient in Achiote paste. In fact, the name achiote (pronounced ah-chee-oh-tah) is the Mexican name for annatto seeds. The terms “Achiote” and “Annatto” are used interchangeably. They are the seeds of the achiote tree (Bixa Orellana), native to tropical regions from Mexico to Brazil.

Besides its use in cooking, in the Caribbean and America, annatto seeds are a natural dye (yellowish or bright red color) used for body painting, cloth dyeing, and food coloring.

Related Post: Achiote Powder: Substitutes, Uses, Flavor Revealed

Where To Buy Achiote Paste?

It’s easily available in most grocery stores in the whole of America and the Caribbean. Mostly, you’ll find it in the Mexican/Latin section of a grocery store. Outside Mexico, they are commonly labeled as annatto or ground annatto seeds. If you can’t get it in your area, use a suitable achiote paste substitute listed below.

The pre-made achiote paste that you purchase needs to be diluted with broth or water before using it in your cooking. If you have the time and patience, a homemade achiote paste is the best for the fresh and original flavor.

Achiote Paste Recipe

A homemade condiment is better in many ways to enhance and complement any food. It’s easy to make achiote paste with its authentic rich, bold, tangy flavor and color. Your homemade paste can last up to a month if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.



Using a spice mill or mortar and pestle grind the annatto seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cloves, and peppercorns into a fine consistency.

Transfer the ground spices, thinly sliced garlic cloves, and orange juice into a blender and process until it is smooth.

Your Achiote paste is ready for use or stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

How to Use This Condiment?

Use achiote paste by rubbing the mixture onto beef, pork, chicken, or fish and let it stay untouched for a minimum of 4 hours.

Dilute the paste with water, oil, broth, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, or lemon juice, and use it as a marinade.

Diluted Achiote paste can be used as a sauce to be served with tacos, burritos, or any dish. Similarly, this paste can also be added to tamale and empanada dough for flavor and color.

Not necessary to refrigerate the freshly made achiote paste before use but refrigerate it for future uses.

Best Achiote Paste Substitutes

Don’t have Achiote paste? Nothing to worry about! Here are 3 simple alternatives to achiote paste.

Homemade Achiote Paste

This paste is made of all common ingredients; most of them are readily available in the spice rack of every kitchen. Making your own condiment is the best substitute for achiote paste that you buy from a grocery store. For your reference, its recipe is already included above on this page.

Prepared Chili Paste

A chili paste is typically made of toasted and reconstituted dried chilies. It has a stronger flavor and color than most hot sauces and chili powders that you can think of. Chili paste is a lot similar to achiote paste in color, texture, and peppery flavor. Also, they both have similar uses in cooking. In a pinch, use chili paste as a substitute for achiote paste, especially as a marinade or rub for meat dishes.

Turmeric/Saffron + Paprika

Just like achiote paste used for food coloring, you can use turmeric or saffron for the same purpose. They cannot mimic the flavor profile of achiote though they produce a similar color. However, a simple concoction of ground paprika and turmeric/saffron would work as an emergency replacement for achiote paste.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Achiote Paste the Same as Sazon Seasoning?

The golden-orange hue-colored Sazon seasoning is a lot similar to achiote paste both in ingredients and color. Both of them are different in texture and uses. Sazon seasoning is a powder sprinkled into recipes. On the other hand, the paste-like texture of Achiote paste is formed by the bitter orange juice added to it. Achiote paste has strongly flavored cloves but Sazon seasoning includes cilantro. In a pinch, Sazon seasoning can be a workable achiote paste substitute.

Does Achiote paste have MSG?

Achiote paste does not contain MSG. Usually, kosher salt is used in it for saltiness. However, most brands of Sazon seasoning sold in the market do contain MSG.

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