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9 Best Substitutes for Achiote Paste

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David Larsen
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Achiote paste is a unique ingredient used in Mexican and Latin American cuisine. It is made from annatto seeds, which give the paste a bright orange color. Achiote paste is used to add flavor to dishes like chicken and pork, and it also has some health benefits.

However, if you can’t find achiote paste or don’t want to spend money on it, there are some substitutes that you can use. In this blog post, we will discuss some of the best substitutes for achiote paste!

best achiote paste substitutes

What Is Achiote?

Achiote, also known as annatto or bija, is a small red seed native to Central and South America. Achiote has been used traditionally by the Maya and Aztec cultures for centuries to color food, provide medicinal benefits, and even as a dye for clothing.

The main active ingredient in achiote is annatto, which is a yellow-red pigment and is used to color food products such as cheese and margarine. The seed can be ground into a powder or paste and added to recipes for an earthy, peppery taste.

Achiote also has several health benefits related to its antioxidant properties. Studies have shown that it may help reduce inflammation and lower cholesterol.

What Is Achiote Powder?

Achiote powder is a spice blend made from annatto seeds, also known as achiote. Annatto is an edible seed native to Latin America and the Caribbean that’s characterized by its reddish-orange hue.

The seeds are dried and ground into a fine powder, which has a smoky, peppery flavor with hints of nutmeg and cinnamon.

It’s commonly used to add a mild, earthy flavor to dishes like tacos, tamales, soups, and stews. Additionally, it can be used as a natural food coloring for items such as cheeses and sauces.

What Is Achiote Paste?

Achiote paste is a traditional Mexican condiment made from annatto seeds. It has been used for centuries and is known for its distinct flavor. The paste can be used to color and flavor many dishes, such as tamales, tacos, enchiladas, burritos, and more. It also adds beautiful hues of yellow, orange and red to any dish.

The paste is made by first grinding the annatto seeds until it forms a powder. The powder is then combined with other ingredients such as garlic, oregano, cumin, lime juice, salt, pepper and vinegar to form a thick paste. This paste can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Achiote paste brings a unique flavor to any dish, and its vibrant colors are sure to make any meal look beautiful. Whether used as an ingredient or condiment, achiote paste is a must-have in any Mexican kitchen.

What is achiote paste made of?

Achiote paste is a Mexican condiment made from annatto seeds, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and other spices. The annatto seeds are ground with the other ingredients to form a thick paste-like consistency.

Achiote paste is used as a marinade for meats and fish and can also be added to sauces or stews. It is known for its distinct flavor, which has an earthy sweetness and slightly spicy kick.

Substitutes for Achiote Paste.

For those who don’t have access to achiote paste, there are several substitutes that can be used.

1. Cumin And Cayenne Pepper

Cumin and Cayenne pepper are both popular spices that can be used as a substitute for Achiote paste. Cumin is an earthy, nutty spice with a strong aroma and bold flavor.

It has been used in cooking for thousands of years and adds depth of flavor to a variety of dishes.

Cayenne pepper is also a popular spice that has a strong, spicy flavor and can be used in many dishes to add a kick of heat.

These two spices are great substitutes for Achiote paste because they have similar earthy, nutty flavors with the addition of heat from the cayenne pepper.

Cumin and Cayenne pepper can be used in equal parts to make a spicy and flavorful paste. This paste can then be used in recipes that call for Achiote paste, or it can be added to dishes as a flavor enhancer.

2. Guajillo Chili Powder

Guajillo chili powder is a ground form of the guajillo chile, which is one of Mexico’s most popular dried chiles. It has a mild heat level with an earthy and fruity flavor.

This makes it an ideal alternative to Achiote paste when you want to add flavor without too much spice. Guajillo chili powder is widely used in Mexican cuisine, but its mild flavor makes it also great for seasoning soups, stews, and marinades.

Using guajillo chili powder as a substitute for Achiote paste gives you the opportunity to still achieve that desired flavor without having to buy the paste.

3. Harissa Paste

harissa paste

Harissa paste is a spicy condiment made from a combination of chilli peppers, garlic and various spices like cumin, caraway, coriander and mint.

It is often used as an accompaniment to Middle Eastern dishes like couscous or tahini. In some cases, harissa can be found in jars or tubes in supermarkets.

When it comes to substituting for achiote paste, harissa paste is the next best thing. It provides similar flavor depth and spiciness that achiote paste does.

While harissa can’t replicate all the flavors of achiote paste, it still adds an earthy and smoky quality to dishes like stews, soups, and marinated meats.

Harissa can be used as is or mixed with other ingredients to create the desired effect. For example, if you want a milder flavor than achiote’s traditional spiciness, add some olive oil or cream to your harissa paste before using it in recipes. Additionally, you can mix harissa with other spices like cumin, coriander and/or turmeric to increase the flavor profile.

4. Paprika Paste

Paprika paste is a substitute for Achiote paste that can be used in many Latin American dishes.

Paprika paste is created by combining ground paprika (an orange-red spice made from dried and ground red peppers) with other ingredients such as garlic, onion, oil and vinegar.

Paprika paste has a smoky flavor that is reminiscent of Achiote paste, although it is slightly milder.

When using paprika paste as a substitute for Achiote paste, it is important to note that the flavors are not an exact match. The flavor of the dish may be slightly different than when made with Achiote paste. Additionally, paprika paste does not have the same vibrant orange-red color as Achiote paste.

Despite the differences in flavor and color, paprika paste can be a great substitute for Achiote paste when making dishes such as tacos or burritos. It is easy to find in most grocery stores and it is also relatively inexpensive.

5. Saffron

Saffron is a spice derived from the dried stigmas of a flower called Crocus sativus. It has been used for centuries as both a flavoring agent and food coloring in many different cuisines around the world, including Indian, Spanish, Italian, Persian and Middle Eastern.

Saffron has also long been prized for its medicinal properties, with records of its use going back to ancient times.

Saffron is an excellent substitute for achiote paste because it offers many of the same flavors and colors. It has a deep reddish-orange hue that makes it great for adding color to foods, and its unique flavor is unmistakable and hard to replicate with other ingredients.

Saffron is a bit more expensive than achiote paste, so if you are looking for an economical option it might not be the best choice. But if you want an authentic flavor and color experience, then saffron is definitely worth considering as an alternative to achiote paste.

6. Sambal Oelek

Sambal Oelek is a popular Southeast Asian condiment made from red chiles, garlic, salt and vinegar. It has a spicy-sour taste that’s similar to the flavor of Achiote paste.

Sambal Oelek can be used as a substitute for Achiote paste in Mexican dishes such as tamales, tacos and enchiladas. It can also be used in marinades or to flavor soups and stews.

7. Sriracha

Sriracha is a type of hot sauce which is popular in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. It has been gaining popularity in the United States as a condiment, topping or dip.

The distinctive flavor of Sriracha comes from its main ingredients: red jalapeno peppers and garlic, along with vinegar, sugar and other spices.

Sriracha can be used as an alternative to achiote paste in many dishes, such as tacos, ceviche and marinades. The heat and flavor of Sriracha is similar to that of achiote paste, but it has its own unique flavor profile that is worth exploring.

Sriracha can be used to provide a slightly different flavor to dishes, without the need to buy or prepare achiote paste. Using Sriracha as an alternative is also convenient and easy since it can be found in most grocery stores.

8. Tex Mex Paste

Tex Mex paste is a combination of ground chiles, cumin, oregano and garlic. This paste can be used to add bold flavors to various dishes. It can also be used as an alternative to traditional Achiote Paste in Mexican cooking.

Tex Mex paste has the same flavor profile as Achiote Paste – spicy and smoky – with the added benefit of being able to be adjusted to individual tastes. The paste can be made hotter by adding more chilies, or milder by omitting them.

9. Homemade Achiote Paste.

Achiote paste is a staple of Latin American cooking and can be used to flavor many dishes, from grilled meats to soups. The paste is made with annatto seeds, which are often ground into a powder and combined with spices like garlic, cumin and oregano, as well as acidity-providing ingredients such as vinegar or citrus juice.

Making your own achiote paste can be surprisingly simple and gives you the opportunity to customize the flavor profile to suit your tastes. To start, gather all of the ingredients needed for the recipe; this typically includes annatto seeds, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, cumin, oregano and acidity-providing ingredients like vinegar or citrus juice.

Once you have your ingredients, toast the annatto seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until they become fragrant, about one to two minutes. Be sure to keep an eye on them—they can burn quickly! Next, remove the seeds from the heat and add them into a blender or food processor.

Add the garlic, onion, salt and pepper to the blender or food processor and blend into a paste. Then add the cumin, oregano and acidity-providing ingredients (like vinegar or citrus juice) to the mixture and blend until everything is well incorporated. The final step is to transfer your homemade achiote paste to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Using your homemade achiote paste is easy—simply add it to dishes like grilled meats, soups, stews and more for a hit of bright, earthy flavor. Enjoy!

Homemade Achiote Paste Recipe

Homemade Achiote Paste Recipe

Yield: 8
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Make your own achiote paste easily with this simple recipe.


  • 1/2 cup annatto seeds
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Half an onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar or citrus juice


  1. Toast the annatto seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add the annatto seeds to a blender or food processor and blend into a paste.
  3. Add garlic, onion, salt, pepper, cumin and oregano to the blender and blend until everything is well incorporated.
  4. Finally, add the vinegar or citrus juice and blend until mixed.
  5. Transfer the paste to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
  6. Use as desired! Enjoy!


- You can adjust the ingredient amounts to customize the flavor of your achiote paste!

- Be sure to keep an eye on the annatto seeds while toasting - they can burn quickly.

- You can also substitute other acidic ingredients, such as lime or orange juice, for vinegar.

- If you don’t have all of the ingredients on hand, you can make a simple version of achiote paste with annatto seeds and either citrus juice or vinegar.

- Make sure to store your achiote paste in an airtight container for optimal shelf life. Enjoy!

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How to use achiote paste.

Achiote paste is a versatile and flavorful ingredient often used in Mexican cuisine. It can be used to make everything from marinades and sauces to soups and stews. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Start by combining one teaspoon of achiote paste with two tablespoons of oil, such as olive or vegetable oil. This will form a thick paste that you can use to marinate meats, poultry, and seafood before cooking.
  2. To make a flavorful sauce, combine achiote paste with water and garlic and simmer for about 10 minutes until the mixture has thickened. Add additional seasonings such as oregano, cumin, or chili powder to taste.
  3. Achiote paste can also be used to make a delicious soup. Saute diced onion in oil until softened, then add the achiote paste and simmer for a few minutes before adding other ingredients such as beans, tomatoes, and vegetables. Simmer for at least 30 minutes before serving.
  4. To add a unique flavor to stews and chili, stir in one or two tablespoons of achiote paste before bringing it to a boil. Simmer for at least thirty minutes before serving.

What does achiote paste taste like?

Achiote paste is a seasoning made from annatto seeds, and has a unique earthy flavor with hints of sweet-spicy and peppery notes. It also has an orange-red hue when used as marinades and sauces, which can add both visual flair and flavor to your dishes.

Achiote paste is often used in Middle Eastern, Latin American and Caribbean cooking, as well as in traditional Mexican dishes like Cochinita Pibil. It adds a depth of flavor to your meal that’s hard to replicate with any other seasoning or ingredient.

For those looking for an interesting way to add some flavor and color to their recipes, achiote paste is definitely worth trying. It can be found in most international grocery stores and is relatively inexpensive.

Is Sazon Goya the same as achiote paste?

No, they are not the same. Sazon Goya is a seasoning mix made from annatto seed, coriander and cumin. Achiote paste is also made from annatto seeds but it also includes other spices like oregano, garlic and pepper.

While both have a similar flavor profile, they do have different ingredients and therefore are not the same. Sazon Goya is a convenient seasoning mix that can be used to quickly add flavor to a variety of dishes while Achiote paste requires more effort and time to prepare.

What is the flavor of achiote paste?

Achiote paste, a Mexican ingredient made from annatto seeds and spices, has an earthy flavor with hints of citrus and smoky flavors. It is commonly used as a condiment in dishes like tacos, enchiladas and tamales.

achiote paste can also be used to marinate meat or vegetables for flavorful dishes like pollo achiote, a Mexican-style chicken dish. The paste can also be used as an ingredient in sauces and soups.

Achiote paste is often combined with other ingredients to create flavorful dishes that are popular throughout Mexico. Its unique flavor makes it a great addition to any meal!

Is achiote paste hot or spicy?

The answer to this question depends on your preference and spice tolerance. Achiote paste is usually not considered to be very hot or spicy, but it does have a mild flavor that some people might find slightly spicy.

The paste is typically made from annatto seeds, which are known for their earthy, peppery taste. The spices used in the paste will vary depending on the recipe, but it usually includes oregano, cumin, garlic and/or onion. All of these ingredients combine to create a flavorful paste with a mild kick.

Is annatto paste the same as achiote paste?

The answer is yes! Anatto paste and achiote paste are both made from the same ingredient: annatto seeds. Annatto Paste is made by grinding the seeds into a paste, while achiote paste usually contains additional ingredients like cumin, garlic powder, oregano, vinegar and salt.

Both pastes have a deep red color and a slightly nutty, earthy flavor. The main difference between the two is that annatto paste tends to be richer in flavor and color than achiote paste.


If you are looking for a substitute for Achiote paste, there is no exact replacement that will give you the same flavor and color. However, turmeric powder, annatto seed powder or cumin can be used to get similar results.

Alternatively, purchasing ready-made Achiote Paste online or in specialist stores is an easy and convenient way to make a dish with an authentic flavor. When substituting, it is important to adjust the amount of seasoning needed to get the desired color and taste.

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