Best Substitutes For Achiote Paste

7 Best Substitutes For Achiote Paste

Achiote paste, which is pronounced “ah-chee-oh-tay,” is a common condiment in Latin American, Central American, and Caribbean cuisines because of the earthy, pungent flavor and vibrant yellow or reddish color it imparts to many dishes. There are several excellent substitutes you can use if you don’t have any achiote paste! What are the best alternatives to achiote paste then? Harissa, sambal oelek, Guajillo chili, paprika paste, Tex Mex paste, and others are some of the best achiote paste substitutes. Continue reading to learn more about achiote paste, including how to use it, what ingredients are used to make it, what it tastes like, and some of the best alternatives.

What Is Achiote?

Achiote (also known as annatto) is a small, reddish seed produced by the achiote tree. This tree is native to South and Central America, and its seeds have a distinct, slightly earthy flavor and a red-orange color. Because of its flavor and color, achiote is an excellent condiment and food colorant for a variety of sweet and savory dishes. Aside from its culinary applications, achiote is also known for its medicinal properties in the treatment of various digestive and skin disorders.

What Is Achiote Powder?

Achiote powder is simply ground achiote seeds that is used to flavor food. You can make your own achiote powder by cleaning, roasting, and grinding achiote seeds into a fine powder, which is a common ingredient in Latin American and Mexican cuisines.

What Is Achiote Paste?

Achiote paste is a condiment made with annatto seeds, cumin, pepper, coriander, oregano, garlic, and cloves. It is also known as “annatto paste” or “bija paste.” Its main ingredient, annatto seeds (also known as achiote in Mexico), has been used for centuries by people in Central and South America and the Caribbean to give skin, cloth, and food a yellowish or bright red color.

The earthy, smoky, and slightly sweet flavor of achiote paste can be used as a sauce, marinade, or rub for meat, chicken, pork, and fish. It is primarily used to flavor Latin American dishes such as tacos, tamales, and enchiladas. Pre-made achiote paste is simple to find in stores and online — try the El Yucateco Achiote Paste on Amazon!

How Is Achiote Paste Used In Recipes?

Many dishes from Latin America and the Caribbean use achiote paste to give them a unique flavor and color. It can be used in both sweet and savory dishes, and Puerto Rican cuisine uses it frequently. Achote paste can be used in a variety of ways, either by itself or in combination with other ingredients. It can be combined with other herbs and spices to make a marinade that will give your food flavor and richness. To make your soups, stews, and sauces more colorful, you can also add it to them.

Apply generous amounts of achiote paste to your meat or fish before letting it sit for about 4-6 hours. If you prefer a more potent flavor, marinate the meat or fish overnight in an airtight container. Make sure to throw away any leftover paste and to rinse the meat before cooking.

Even water, broth, citrus juice, vinegar, or Worcestershire sauce can be used to thin it out. The paste can also be used to flavor and color the dough for tamales and empanadas. Since achiote paste can be quite potent, start with a small amount and adjust the amount to your taste when using it in recipes. If you think the dish needs more flavor, you can always add more; however, once it has been added and combined with the dish, it cannot be taken away.

Best Substitutes For Achiote

If you can’t find achiote paste, you can substitute it with another product with similar properties, such as harissa, Sambal Oelek, Guajillo chili, and Tex Mex paste — don’t worry, we’ll explain why below. The key to finding the best achiote paste substitute is to try different flavors and see what works best for your recipe. There are plenty of options for creating delicious dishes that do not rely solely on this unique spice, whether you choose harissa or Tex Mex.

Whatever substitute you use, make sure to gradually incorporate it into your dish so that you don’t end up with an overly spicy dish. With some trial and error, you should be able to find the perfect achiote paste substitute for all of your favorite recipes!

1. Harissa

North African chili paste known as harissa is most frequently used in the Moroccan, Tunisian, and Algerian cuisines. Coriander, caraway seeds, bell peppers, garlic, and chilies, all of which are ground into paste form, are used to make it. Depending on the nation where it is made, harissa comes in a variety of forms, some of which use whole chilies rather than ground ones. Some might also contain extra spices and ingredients, like rosewater. Each of its varieties has a distinct flavor and works well as a seasoning or ingredient.

Depending on the types of peppers and chilies used to make it, this hot sauce has a peppery and smoky flavor and varies in heat. Additionally, it has potent garlicky undertones that are boosted by a citrus kick. There are various varieties of harissa paste that can be found in Middle Eastern shops and online. While some are smooth, others might be a bit chunky.

You can also make your own harissa paste at home, but try the Mina Harissa Spicy Sauce on Amazon! Harissa is typically used in dishes made with lamb meat and serves as a fantastic alternative to achiote paste. It is used as a sandwich spread for an earthy, spicy, and smoky kick, to season meat and vegetables, and to flavor soups and stews.

2. Sambal Oelek

Sambal is a flavorful chutney made from freshly and dry-ground herbs and spices. There are numerous varieties of sambals in Indonesia that change based on regional ingredients and preferences, much like salsa in Mexico and chutney in India. Sambal Oelek is the most likely sambal to be found in the US.

Red chilies, vinegar, sugar, and salt are all used in equal amounts to make the Indonesian chili paste known as sambal oelek. Sambal Oelek can be made in a number of ways, some of which also include onions and lemons.

It is typically sold in Asian grocery stores and online; check out the Huey Fong Sambal Oelek Chili Paste on Amazon if you want to try it! It has a spicy flavor and is significantly saltier than other chili pastes. suitable for marinades

3. Guajillo Chili Powder

Guajillo powder is a Mexican chili powder made from ground guajillo chilies that is a great alternative to achiote paste. Guajillo chilies are not particularly spicy, with a Scoville rating of 1,500-2,500, and are an excellent choice for those who prefer milder flavors. Guajillo chili powder has a smoky, sweet flavor that can add depth to your dish and is perfect for marinating chicken and fish. It also complements other ingredients like tomatoes, garlic, onions, and cumin. Amazing Chiles And Spices’ Guajillo Chile Powder is available on Amazon, or you can make your own at home with dried guajillo peppers and a spice grinder.

4. Paprika Paste

Another acceptable alternative to achiote paste is paprika paste, which is made from dried and ground red peppers. Although it might not produce the exact same flavor, it does give the dish a vivid red color. Although they are not the same, paprika and achiote are both common spices used in Latin American and Caribbean cuisines and can be used interchangeably in some dishes.

Red peppers are used to make paprika, which has a mild, sweet flavor that is perfect for seasoning or adding color to a variety of dishes like stews and soups. Authentic Univer Piros Arany Red Gold Hungarian Paprika Paste is available on Amazon, or you can try making your own at home. In the case of paprika paste

5. Tex Mex Paste

Tex Mex paste is a popular Southwestern condiment. It has similar ingredients to achiote paste and is a good substitute for it. It is made with ancho chili peppers, garlic, cumin, and other spices. Tex Mex paste, made popular by HelloFresh, a meal kit delivery service, is a great rub for meats and a flavorful taco filling.

This particular brand of paste is not available in stores, but there are several similar seasoning blends that work well as an achiote substitute. It’s also incredibly simple to make at home, with only a few basic ingredients. Mix Tex Mex paste with olive oil and rub it all over the meat when using it as a meat rub. The

6. Cumin And Cayenne Pepper

You can search for spices that have flavors and aromas that are comparable to achiote paste, such as cumin, an aromatic spice with peppery undertones. For a little extra heat, you can also add some cayenne pepper to the mixture! Cumin and cayenne pepper can be combined and used similarly to achiote paste. Although it is a great option for stews, soups, and marinades, you must be aware that this mixture has a slightly bitter flavor. The combination of tomatoes, onions, and garlic enhances the flavor of the dish, as do cumin and cayenne pepper.

7. Homemade Achiote Paste

You can make your own achiote paste at home if you can’t find store-bought achiote paste and don’t want to use any of the aforementioned alternatives. Achiote paste made from scratch is superior and has a much better flavor because it is fresh and free of preservatives, like other homemade condiments. Its vibrant colors and rich, strong, and tangy flavors will improve any dish to which it is added. A spice mill and blender are also required, along with a few simple ingredients. The best achiote paste can be made at home using these steps!


  • ¼ cup annatto seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup bitter orange juice

1. Collect all of your ingredients.

2. Grind the annatto seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, oregano, peppercorns, and cloves in a spice mill (or mortar and pestle).

3. Combine the ground spices, salt, garlic, and bitter orange juice in a blender.

4. Blend the mixture until it forms a smooth paste.

5. Keep the achiote paste in the refrigerator in an airtight container and use it as needed.


You can also use an old coffee grinder to grind the spices if you don’t have a spice mill, grinder, or mortar and pestle. If you do, be careful not to use it for coffee later because the achiote paste’s potent seasoning flavor and aroma will probably be retained.
Buy the GoyaBitter Orange Marinade on Amazon if you want to buy bitter orange juice, which is frequently referred to as “sour orange” in grocery stores and online.
Orange juice combined with Mexican lime juice or white vinegar can be used in place of bitter orange juice.

Related Questions

Now that you’ve learned everything there is to know about achiote paste and the alternatives, here are a few more questions we thought you might have.

What is achiote oil?

Try the La Favorita Vegetable Oil With Annato on Amazon if you want to try some achiote oil, a popular culinary ingredient made from achiote seeds and prized for its bold and mildly spicy flavor. Achiote oil is made at home by roasting achiote seeds until they are fragrant and then combining them with your preferred fat, such as coconut oil or olive oil.

Additionally, you can include ingredients like onion and garlic. To do this, simply cook the mixture on low heat for a number of hours and then strain it through a fine mesh.

How long does achiote paste last?

Because of the presence of preservatives, store-bought achiote paste keeps in the refrigerator for a few months. Homemade achiote paste, on the other hand, will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks if stored in an airtight container. Wrap your container of achiote paste in plastic wrap and aluminum foil to freeze it for up to a year to extend its shelf life.

What is the difference between achiote paste and Sazon seasoning?

The Latin seasonings achiote paste and sazon, which are both used on meats, fish, and poultry as well as in soups and stews, are very dissimilar from one another. Sazon is a type of seasoned salt used to flavor recipes, whereas achiote paste gets its texture from the addition of a liquid, like bitter orange juice to achiote powder. Both achiote paste and sazon have cloves in them, whereas sazon also contains cilantro.

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