Homemade Achiote Paste
This achiote paste recipe is perfect for seasoning many Mexican dishes, made from annato seeds, fresh garlic, citrus juice and lots of seasonings. Learn how to make it at home!
Let’s make achiote paste tonight, my friends. Who’s in? 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.
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. 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, though certainly distinctive for their earthy and somewhat floral flavor.
Let’s talk about how we make achiote paste, shall we?
Achiote Paste Ingredients
- Annatto Seeds – use 1/4 cup of annatto seeds (achiote), or 1 ounce by weight (28 grams). You can use more if you’d like.
- The Seasonings – 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano (or use Italian oregano), 2 teaspoons coriander seeds (or equivalent powder), 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (or equivalent powder), 1 teaspoon black peppercorns (or equivalent ground black pepper), 1-2 cloves (or use ground) salt to taste. See the recipe notes for other optional ingredients.
- The Fresh Additions – 6 cloves garlic and 1 spicy chili pepper (optional – 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. Onion can be added as well.
- The Citrus – 1/2 cup 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.
How to Make Achiote Paste – the Recipe Method
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. I often just throw everything into the food processor together and process it all up. I have a pretty powerful model.
Process to form a thick paste.
You can adjust with extra juice or a bit of water for a thinner paste. Use as desired.
Makes about 1 cup.
Boom! Done! Homemade achiote paste, my friends. Easy enough to make, isn’t it? I love this stuff. Super unique, and absolutely delicious.
Recipe Tips & Notes
- Optional 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!
- 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! Patty’s absolute favorite. She orders it all the time.
Where to Buy Achiote Paste
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!).
That’s it, my friends. I hope you enjoy my achiote paste recipe. Let me know if you make it. I’d love to hear how it turned out for you. Keep it spicy!
Try Some of My Other Popular Recipes
- Tacos al Pastor
- Carne Asada
- Salsa Macha
- Aji Amarillo Paste
- Chili Pastes from Around the World
- How to Make Chili Paste from Scratch
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.