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Jun 12, 2009 10:18 AM

Substitute for Achiote Paste?

Does anyone know what I could substitute for achiote paste? I'm slow roasting pork in banana leaves and can't get my hands on achiote paste. Any suggestions?

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  1. Anchiote paste is earthy, maybe safron? The color would be close, and the earthiness would be there, but that's another one that has such a unique taste, like asking "what can I sub for cinammon?"

    1 Reply
    1. re: chef chicklet

      I suspect you're right. I'm going to try the suggestion of Gio and see what happens.

    2. Here's what I found:
      The substitution: add "3 more cloves garlic, 1 more tablespoon salad oil, 2 more tablespoons vinegar, 3 tablespoons paprika, 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Mexican or regular oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin in step 1; whirl until smooth."

      Scroll down to: Yuca's Achiote Roast Chicken with Red Onions en Escabeche

      4 Replies
      1. re: Gio

        gio, don't you think the vinegar would be a mistake with the op's recipe?

        1. re: Gio

          Thank you! I think that's worth a try. I read one report that said you can make paste by diluting the ground seeds of the annato (which I don't have) with vinegar. The other spices and herbs are in my recipe already, so these mesh nicely.

          1. re: JENNYBEEAY

            Next time, you'd still rather get the preground paste. Those seeds are HARD.

            1. re: gordeaux

              But you can make achiote oil very easily with those seeds. Fry in olive oil until the oil turns a nice orange color. Don't over cook because just like frying garlic there is a fine line between toasted and burnt. Once the achiote seeds turn black and are over cooked you need to just dump it and start again.

              Anyway achiote/annatto oil is often used in making arroz con pollo. It has a very different flavor than saffron but is commonly used in Puerto Rico, Cuba and other Caribbean islands. For the OP achiote/annatto seeds are found more often these days in our grocery stores. I can find Badia brand annatto in most of your grocery stores around here but a Latin market will surely have them

        2. I have annato seed and I just crush it with a tablespoon for pibil pork and fish dishes. Simple. And I'll munch on a few while the bag is open; I enjoy the taste.

          1. I also have a recipe that calls for achiote paste, which my grocery store didn't have (not a big surprise), but they did have Sazon seasoning which looks like a salt blend flavored with coriander and annatto. It was the closest thing they had, so I bought it, but I'm wondering if anyone has any experience using it. I'm hoping that it has enough of the achiote flavor, but don't really know how to use it. It's going in a marinade for a vegetables to be grilled and used in enchiladas. Any thoughts?

            6 Replies
            1. re: mountaincachers

              Goya's web site says "delivers all the authentic Latino flavor ". Try it and let us know. Annatto does have a very distinctive flavor but it's not overwhelming. It's used mostly for color. On the Goya product it's listed as the 2nd to the last ingredient just before red40. 1st ingredient is MSG, not that that's a bad thing.

              1. re: scubadoo97

                That Goya seasoning gives a Puerto RIcan flavor. The achiote provides color, but not much taste.

                Recipes calling for achiote paste are from the Yucatan. There's enough annatto in the paste to give some flavor in addition to color. But that flavor is not strong. One of the other posters described it as earthy.

                Heating the seeds in oil gives color, but again, not much flavor.

                The paste usually comes in paper wrapped tablets (1 x 2" more or less).

                1. re: paulj

                  I've never made the paste but do make achiote oil often when making yellow rice and chicken. My family prefers the flavor of the achiote over saffron. Yes the flavor is subtle but distinctive

                2. re: scubadoo97

                  The problem is that I have never cooked with achiote paste, so I don't know if I'll be able to say how they compare. There is a small Latin market in town, where I probably would be able to find the paste, now that I'm looking for it. The problem is that they aren't open today (Sunday), and this was for dinner tonight. I think I'll use the seasoning mix, leave out additional salt, and see how it is. If I otherwise like the recipe, I could always make it again after finding the paste and would be able to make a true comparison.

                  1. re: mountaincachers

                    I would absolutely use the Goya product. I would bet it's used in a lot of Latin homes. When you have a chance take a stroll through the Latin markets near you. I love shopping at ethnic markets. You find so many interesting things. Stock up on annatto seeds. They last a long time.

                    I found a few reicpes for making the paste
                    The first one is said to be Spanish

                    Recado Rojo (Red Achiote Paste) Notes
                    This recipe comes to us courtesy of Jill Norman's fabulous spice book, "Herbs and Spices: The Cook's Reference." It's the best book on spices and herbs we've seen yet, and it has great recipes as well.

                    ■1 1/2 tablespoons achiote seeds
                    ■1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds
                    ■1/2 tablespoon black peppercorns
                    ■1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
                    ■3 whole cloves
                    ■2 teaspoons dried oregano
                    ■5 cloves garlic
                    ■1 teaspoon salt
                    ■1-2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, or Seville orange juice
                    Preparation Instructions
                    Grind the first 6 ingredients to a powder in an electric spice mill. Achiote seeds are very hard, so it will take a little time. Crush the garlic with the salt in a mortar, then gradually work in the ground spices. A hot red chili pepper could be added; crush it with the garlic. Moisten with the vinegar or bitter orange juice so that you have a smooth paste.

                    Form the paste into small disks or balls and let them dry, or put the paste into an airtight container to dry. Whether dried, or as a paste, the recado will keep for several months if refrigerated.

                    To use, mix with more Seville orange juice.

                    The 2nd on is more Mexican

                    5 tablespoons achiote (annatto) seeds
                    2 teaspoons cumin seeds
                    1 tablespoon black peppercorns
                    8 whole allspice berries
                    1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
                    3 habanero peppers, seeded
                    1/2 cup orange juice
                    1/2 cup white vinegar
                    8 cloves garlic
                    2 tablespoons salt
                    5 lemons, juiced
                    1 teaspoon premium tequila
                    1.With a spice grinder, grind the annatto seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns, allspice berries, and cloves to a fine powder.
                    2.In a blender or food processor, mix the ground spices, habanero peppers, orange juice, vinegar, garlic, and salt. Blend until smooth. Mix in the lemon juice and tequila.

                    Even if you never make the paste it give you a hint as to the flavor profiles and may help in your dish tonight

                    1. re: scubadoo97

                      Wow! Thanks for your help. I also love to look in ethnic markets, though they are few and far between where I live. Nevertheless, thanks for the recipes, which did help me think about the flavor profile and what was missing in this seasoning. The paste was meant to be used in a marinade, so i have added (in addition to the Goya product) some Mexican oregano, garlic, and pepper to help give it a little more flavor.

              2. Those annato seeds ARE hard, but I have an awesome granite molcajete and it kicks butt vs. a spice grinder. I've never used the achiote paste, but I have a couple of Puerto Rican friends who use those Goya products all the time, and I love everything they cook! Could be the MSG though