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The 7 Best Substitutes for Achiote Paste

Are you looking for a way to add color and flavor to your food without using achiote paste?

Achiote paste is made from annatto seeds, which are native to Central and South America.

It has a unique flavor that can be described as earthy, nutty, and slightly sweet.

While it’s an incredibly versatile ingredient, some people may not have access to it or want to use something else instead.

If that’s the case for you, then this article is perfect for you!

In this article, I will discuss 7 of the best substitutes for achiote paste so that you can still enjoy all the flavors in your dishes without having to worry about finding or using achiote paste.

What is Achiote Paste?

Achiote Paste

Achiote paste, also known as recado rojo or annatto paste, is a traditional Mexican condiment made from ground annatto seeds.

Annatto is a small red seed that comes from the achiote tree and has been used in Latin American cooking for centuries.

The seeds are dried and then ground into a powder which is mixed with other spices such as cumin, oregano, garlic, cloves, allspice and salt to create an aromatic paste.

The flavor of the paste can be described as earthy and slightly sweet with hints of nutmeg and pepper.

It has an orange-red color that will stain whatever it touches so it’s best to use gloves when handling it.

Achiote paste can be used in many dishes including tacos al pastor (pork tacos), tamales, enchiladas verdes (green enchiladas) or even added to soups or stews for extra flavor.

It can also be used as a marinade for meats like chicken or pork before grilling or baking them.

The 7 Best Substitutes for Achiote Paste

Achiote paste is an essential ingredient in Mexican and Central American cuisine, but it can be hard to find in some places.

If you’re looking for an alternative, here are seven substitutes that will still give you the same flavor and color:

1 – Harissa


Harissa is a spicy, North African chili paste made from roasted red peppers, garlic, olive oil and spices.

It has a smoky flavor with a hint of sweetness and can be used as an ingredient in many dishes or as a condiment.

Harissa is often used to add heat and depth of flavor to stews, soups, marinades and sauces.

It can also be added to couscous or rice for extra flavor. Harissa pairs well with vegetables like eggplant, squash and potatoes.

Try adding it to your favorite recipes for an extra kick!

2 – Sambal Olek

Sambal Olek

Sambal olek is a spicy condiment made from ground red chili peppers, vinegar, and salt.

It is popular in Southeast Asian cuisine and is often used as a dipping sauce or spread on sandwiches.

The flavor of sambal olek can vary depending on the type of chilies used and how much vinegar is added.

Sambal olek has a bright, acidic flavor that pairs well with many dishes. It can be used to add heat to stir-fries, soups, curries, noodles, rice dishes, and more.

Sambal olek also works great as a marinade for grilled meats or vegetables. Try adding it to your favorite recipes for an extra kick of flavor!

3 – Cumin + Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper

Achiote paste is a traditional Mexican condiment made from annatto seeds, garlic, oregano, and other spices.

It has a mild flavor with hints of nutmeg and cinnamon. Achiote paste is used to give dishes an earthy flavor and vibrant red color.

If you don’t have any achiote paste on hand, you can make your own by combining cumin and cayenne pepper in equal parts.

This combination will provide the same earthy flavor as achiote paste but with more heat from the cayenne pepper. You can also add some garlic powder or onion powder for extra depth of flavor.

4 – Guajillo Chili Powder

Guajillo Chili Powder

Guajillo chili powder is a type of chili powder made from ground guajillo chilies.

It has a mild heat and smoky flavor, with notes of berry and raisin.

Guajillo chili powder is commonly used in Mexican cuisine to add flavor to dishes such as tacos, enchiladas, salsas, and sauces.

Achiote paste is made from annatto seeds which are native to Central America and the Caribbean.

The paste has a slightly sweet taste with hints of nutmeg, pepper, oregano, garlic and cumin.

Achiote paste can be used as a marinade for meats or fish or added to soups or stews for extra flavor.

Guajillo chili powder can be used as an alternative to achiote paste when you’re out of it.

It will give your dish that same smoky flavor but without the sweetness that comes with the annatto seeds found in achiote paste.

5 – Paprika Paste

Paprika paste is a type of seasoning made from ground paprika, garlic, and other spices. It has a deep red color and a smoky flavor that adds depth to dishes.

Paprika paste can be used as an alternative to achiote paste in many recipes.

Paprika paste is great for adding flavor to soups, stews, marinades, sauces, and more. It’s also an excellent way to add some heat without overpowering the dish with too much spice.

The smokiness of the paprika pairs well with meats like chicken or pork and can be used as a rub or marinade before cooking.

Pro Tip: If you’re looking for something milder than traditional paprika paste, try smoked paprika instead! Smoked paprika has all the same flavor notes but isn’t quite as spicy.

6 – Tex Mex Paste

Tex Mex Paste is a blend of spices and herbs that originated in the Southwestern United States.

It is used to season dishes such as tacos, enchiladas, burritos, and fajitas.

The paste typically contains chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, oregano, paprika, onion powder and salt.

Tex Mex Paste has a smoky flavor with hints of sweetness from the chili powder and garlic. It adds depth to any dish without overpowering it.

Try adding some Tex Mex Paste to your next batch of tacos or burritos for an extra kick!

Pro Tip: To make your own Tex Mex Paste at home combine equal parts chili powder, garlic powder, cumin and oregano with half as much paprika and onion powder plus a pinch of salt.

7 – Make Your Paste

Making your own achiote paste at home is easy!

All you need are annatto seeds (also known as achiote), garlic cloves, cumin powder, dried oregano leaves, ground black pepper, apple cider vinegar or white vinegar and some salt.

Simply grind the ingredients together in a food processor until it forms a thick paste.

You can store the paste in an airtight container for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

Pro Tip: Achiote paste can be used as both a marinade or rub for meats like pork or chicken before cooking them on the grill or stovetop.

The smoky flavor of this homemade condiment will add an extra layer of deliciousness to any dish!


Can I use paprika instead of achiote?

Yes, you can use paprika instead of achiote. It is a great substitute for the flavor and color that achiote provides in a dish. Paprika is made from dried peppers and has a deep, rich flavor. It also has a bright red hue that can add color to any dish. Paprika can be used as a substitute for achiote in many recipes, including tacos, stews, marinades, and more.

What is achiote paste made of?

Achiote paste (also known as recado rojo) is a traditional Latin American condiment made by grinding together annatto seeds, vinegar, garlic, and peppery spices like oregano, cumin, cinnamon, and clove.

This flavorful paste has a deep red hue that makes it popular for dishes like tamales, tacos, and stews.

The annatto seeds are the main component of achiote paste, providing a rich, earthy flavor and a vibrant reddish-orange color. The vinegar helps to enhance the flavor and the spices add a spicy kick. Achiote paste can be used as-is in any dish to add flavor and color, or it can be cooked down to form a sauce.

What is the flavor of achiote paste?

Achiote paste is a flavorful condiment made from ground annatto seeds. It has a vibrant orange-red hue, a peppery aroma, and a unique flavor profile that is lightly nutty, sweet, and slightly earthy all at the same time.

It is a popular ingredient in Latin American cooking, and can be used to season meats, soups, and stews. It is also a great addition to marinades and sauces to add complexity and unique flavor.

What is achiote paste in English?

Achiote paste is a Mexican condiment made from annatto seeds, also known as achiote. Annatto seeds are native to South America and have been used for centuries to add flavour and colour to dishes.

Achiote paste is a mix of annatto seeds, cumin, garlic, oregano, and other spices, and is used to give dishes a smoky, earthy flavour. It can be used as a marinade, a rub for meats, or a sauce for tacos.


In conclusion, achiote paste is an important ingredient in many Latin American dishes and can be difficult to find in some areas.

Fortunately, there are a variety of substitutes that can be used to achieve a similar flavor.

The best substitutes for achiote paste are harissa, sambal olek, cumin + cayenne pepper, guajillo chili powder, paprika paste, Tex Mex paste, and making your own paste.

Each of these ingredients brings a unique flavor profile to the dish, so depending on your taste preferences, you can find the perfect substitute for achiote paste.

So, the next time you’re looking for a substitute for achiote paste, try one of these ingredients and see how it works in your dish.

Achiote Paste

The 7 Best Substitutes for Achiote Paste

Achiote paste is a flavorful and spicy ingredient that can add a lot of depth to dishes, but it can be hard to find. That's why I'm here to share the seven best substitutes for achiote paste. Whether you're looking for a more economical option or a vegan alternative, I've got you covered. I'll explain the flavor profile of each substitute, how it compares to achiote paste, and how to use it in your recipes. So get ready to take your dishes to the next level!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Substitutes
Cuisine American, Asian, Mexican
Servings 4 people
Calories 50 kcal


  • Harissa
  • Sambal Olek
  • Cumin + Cayenne Pepper
  • Guajillo Chili Powder
  • Paprika Paste
  • Tex Mex Paste
  • Make Your Paste


  • Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  • Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.
jenny happy muncher
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Jenny has always been passionate about cooking, and she uses her platform to share her joy of food with others. Her recipes are easy to follow, and she loves giving tips and tricks to help others create their own unique culinary creations.