Homemade Achiote Paste is perfect for adding flavor to a number of Mexican dishes and it's SO easy to make at home. Made from annato seeds, fresh garlic, citrus juice and lots of seasonings, this paste is anything but bland.
Achiote Paste Recipe
If you've never cooked with achiote paste, you're in for a wonderful discovery of flavor that just may open up a whole new world of cooking. It is huge on flavor, unlike anything else you've ever tried.
You can purchase achiote paste from the store, sure, but it is so much better when made at home, as you can use fresher ingredients and control everything that goes into it. I like to make mine with habanero pepper for an extra spicy version, though you can make yours with milder or hotter peppers.
Ingredients in Achiote Paste
- Annatto seeds achiote
- Mexican oregano (or use Italian oregano)
- Coriander seeds
- Cumin seeds
- Black peppercorns
- Clove (use 2 if you love cloves)
- Chili pepper
- Bitter orange juice
How to Make Achiote Paste
Process the first few ingredients together. Add the annatto seeds (achiote), oregano, coriander, cumin, peppercorns and salt to a food processor or blender. Process to break everything apart. You can also use a mortar and pestle to grind them up.
Form the paste. Add the garlic, orange juice, lime juice and vinegar. Process to form a thick paste.
PRO TIP: You can adjust with extra juice or a bit of water for a thinner paste.
Recipe Tips & Notes
- Pick the right pepper. Use a jalapeno for a touch of heat, serrano peppers for hotter, or habanero pepper for good level of heat. I love habanero with this.
- Add more ingredients. You can add other ingredients to your preference. Other popular additions include bay leaf, cloves, lime zest and orange zest. Add a splash of hot sauce!
- Make your own orange juice. Bitter orange juice is traditional, but can be difficult to find for some cooks. If you can't obtain it, use 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice + 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice + 2 tablespoons white vinegar.
What is achiote paste?
Achiote paste is a flavorful mix of annatto seeds (aka achiote), garlic, optional chilies, bitter orange juice and a mix of seasonings. Everything is ground down then mixed to form a thick paste. It is best used as a rub or marinade, essential to certain Mexican dishes like cochinita pibil, and very widely used in Mexican cuisine.
What are annatto seeds?
Annatto seeds (aka achiote in Mexico) come from the pulp covering the seeds of a tree native to the Caribbean. Known for their distinctive red color, Central and South Americans have been using them as a coloring for dishes such as meats, fish, vegetables and rice, as well as a dye for clothes, paint and more. They are mild in flavor when used sparingly, ground in a spice grinder, though certainly distinctive for their earthy and somewhat floral, smoky flavor.
Can I buy achiote paste?
Yes! If you prefer to buy achiote paste rather than make it, you can often find it at your favorite local Mexican grocer, or in the International section of some grocery stores, though you can also order it online. Order Achiote Paste from Amazon or Buy Annatto Seeds from Amazon to make your own (affiliate links, my friends!).
How to Use Achiote Paste
Use it as a rub or marinade. I use this primarily as a meat rub or a marinade for pork. It's an essential component of this cochinita pibil recipe, which is a fantastic Mexican recipe of pork marinated with achiote paste and more citrus juices, cooked low and slow until fall apart tender, then shredded. Perfect for tacos!
You can keep this paste in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week! Feel free to freeze it for up to 6 months to keep it around for even longer. As always, don't forget to date and label!
Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.
Achiote Paste Recipe
- 1/4 cup annatto seeds achiote (1 ounce by weight/28 grams)
- 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano or use Italian oregano
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 clove (use 2 if you love cloves)
- Salt to taste
- 1 spicy chili pepper (optional - use a jalapeno for a touch of heat, serrano pepper for hotter, or habanero pepper for good level of heat)
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup bitter orange juice or use 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice + 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice + 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- Add the annatto seeds (achiote), oregano, coriander, cumin, peppercorns and salt to a food processor or blender. Process to break everything apart. You can also use a mortar and pestle to grind them up.
- Add the garlic, orange juice, lime juice and vinegar. Process to form a thick paste.
- You can adjust with extra juice or a bit of water for a thinner paste.
- Use as desired.