This is not a spice that I would normally use.


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However I was given some and then looked for how to use it. Food52 has this to say about it:

Achiote paste is a beautiful blend of spices which give the chicken a wonderful complex flavor.

(Great recipe here) I became a bit suspicious of the spice's freshness, so threw it out - however would like to make the Mexican chicken - but need an alternative to achiote. The question being: What spice can I use instead of achiote to achieve a similar flavor?

It may be more commonly known as 'Annatto' - see answer below.

  • Could you please clarify whether you're asking for a substitute for the blend of spices, or just the annatto that's in it? It sounds like the latter, but you do have that quote in there saying (a bit misleadingly, honestly) that it's a blend.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 15:35
  • According to your profile, you live in Spain. I would expect that you could get more achiote about as easily as you could find a substitute. I know it's used in Ecuadorian cuisine as well as Mexican, so possibly also in most of the countries in between, and there are plenty of shops in Spain which cater for Ecuadorian and Colombian expats. Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 12:31
  • Canary Islands (and a very small one of those), not Spain, though Spanish waters. Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 13:35

1 Answer 1


Achiote, commonly known as annatto (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annatto), is seed from the achiote fruit.

The seed is used for coloring more than for flavouring, often to mimic the colour of saffron. The flavour is very subtle - slightly peppery and lemony.

Saffron would, therefore, be a suitable subsitute for the colour. It would introduce a new flavour to the dish, but generally not one that would be out of place. Alternatively some yellow/orange food coloring or leaving the achiote out altogether would be easy replacements.

Subsitutions for the flavour could be pepper, pink peppercorns or nutmeg, in very small amounts

The spice paste known as 'Achiote paste' is different, but includes achiote seed as a main ingredient. Here (http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/achiote-paste) is a recipe for it. The annatto in the recipe can be replaced as described above

  • Thanks for all of that - a rummage through the cupboards should suffice to get the show on the road. Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 7:26
  • 1
    This also means that freshness (the OP mentioned throwing out something old) is not as big a concern as usual; the flavor may fade a bit but the color should still be pretty good.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 15:37
  • @Jefromi - where did I say old? Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 17:01
  • "I became a bit suspicious of the spice's freshness..." I used "old" to mean "(maybe) not fresh." However you'd like to phrase it, my point is the freshness is less of an issue because it affects color less than flavor.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 17:04
  • Oh, turmeric might also be a decent idea here. It's not the right flavor either, but I don't think it's worse than saffron, and it's often a lot cheaper. Also has the benefit of already being a bulk powder, so while with saffron you'd have to figure out how to bulk up the paste to match the original quantities, with turmeric you could just use a good amount.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 15:35

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