The Best Achiote Paste {2023}

Store-bought achiote paste can be a great shortcut for creating super flavorful Mexican and Central American dishes at home.

You get the earthy, tangy, slightly smoky flavor of achiote paste without having to grind the annatto seeds and seasonings together yourself. 

But if you’ve ever tried to purchase achiote paste, you might be overwhelmed by all of the options!

To help save you some time, we tested the five most popular brands of storebought achiote paste to determine which one is the absolute best. (You’re welcome!) 

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Our top choice

Recommended
El Yucateco Achiote Paste
4.5

Tangy, earthy, and smoky with no artificial colorings. This is our top store-bought choice.

Pros:
  • Great authentic taste
  • No artificial food dyes
Cons:
  • High in sodium
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What is achiote paste?

Achiote paste is a traditional ingredient in Mexican and Central American cuisine. 

It’s made by grinding whole achiote seeds with garlic, spices, and acidic ingredients such as vinegar or citrus juice until it forms a thick paste. 

While you can make achiote paste from scratch at home, it is somewhat time-consuming and labor-intensive, so many people opt for store-bought varieties instead.

Store-bought achiote paste is shelf-stable and can last up to two years if stored in a cool dark place. 

It is also relatively inexpensive, making it an excellent option for people who frequently cook dishes such as tacos al pastor or cochinita pibil.

Choosing the best achiote paste

Here are the qualities we evaluated when choosing the best achiote paste, in order of importance:

  • Taste: Which product had the richest taste when dissolved in water and when mixed with plain white rice?
  • Ingredients: Does the product actually contain a lot of annatto? Or is it mostly filler ingredients? Does the product rely on artificial dyes for color? 
  • Nutrition: Does the product contain high amounts of sodium?
  • Ease of use: How well did the product dissolve in warm water for cooking? Was it easy to handle? Or crumbly and messy?
  • Price: How much does it cost per ounce?

We selected the five most popular achiote pastes available on Amazon and only reviewed Mexican-style pastes, not those from Central or South America.

The achiote pastes were sold as solid bricks, wrapped in plastic, inside a cardboard box for packaging.

The best achiote pastes ranked

Here are our rankings for the best storebought achiote pastes:

  1. Best Overall: El Yucateco
  2. Easiest to Use: La Perla 
  3. Middle of the Road: El Mexicano
  4. Most Artificial: La Anita
  5. Least Flavorful: Goya

Scroll down for in-depth reviews of each.

#1. El Yucateco

El Yucateco Achiote Paste Review

El Yucateco achiote paste was the clear winner for best store-bought achiote paste. 

It’s bright and vinegary, but the distinctive bitter-smoky achiote flavor shines through. 

It’s one of the most authentic varieties we tested – made and imported directly from the Yucatan region of Mexico. 

We also love that it doesn’t contain any artificial colorings, but still provides a bright pop of red color from the annatto seed.

The sodium content is a little high, but the paste is typically used in relatively small quantities in recipes, so its overall contribution to each serving should be moderate.

Overall Ratings:

  • Taste: 10/10
  • Ingredients: 9/10
  • Nutrition: 8/10
  • Ease of use: 9/10
  • Price: 9/10

Average Score: 9/10

Pros:

  • Smells tart, vinegary, and slightly smoky
  • Tastes earthy, smoky, and lightly bitter 
  • Contains no artificial colorings
  • Affordable price per ounce
  • Cuts smoothly into slices, isn’t messy to work with

Cons:

  • Contains more water and corn flour than annatto, by weight
  • High in sodium – one 20 gram serving provides nearly 25% of the daily value
  • Dense and clay-like, which makes it harder to dissolve in water than crumblier brands
  • Uses sodium benzoate as a preservative, but all the brands we tested use this

#2. La Perla Del Mayab

La Perla Achiote Paste Review

La Perla achiote paste came in close second on our list of best achiote pastes. 

It is less vinegary and smokier than El Yucateco, perhaps because annatto seeds are the #1 ingredient in this paste (as opposed to corn flour in El Yucateco) and it includes crushed chilies in the ingredients. 

This brand also uses corn meal (instead of corn flour) and much less water, creating a drier, crumblier block of achiote paste, which makes it much easier to dissolve in warm liquids – a big plus!

La Perla contains much less sodium than El Yucateco, but we don’t love that it relies on FD&C Red #40 artificial food dye for coloring.

This brand of achiote paste is made in California, but the company was founded in the 1970s by a husband and wife who were originally from Yucatan, Mexico.

Overall, this is a solid supermarket choice.

Overall Ratings:

  • Taste: 8/10
  • Ingredients: 8/10
  • Nutrition: 8/10
  • Ease of use: 10/10
  • Price: 10/10

Average Score: 8.8/10

Pros:

  • Annatto is the main ingredient, above cornmeal and water
  • Sandy texture makes it super easy to dissolve in liquid
  • Relatively low in sodium compared to most brands
  • Tastes earthy, smoky, and lightly bitter 
  • Sold in a larger block than most brands

Cons:

  • Less vinegary tasting than most brands
  • Contains FD&C Red #40 food dye
  • Uses sodium benzoate as a preservative, but all the brands we tested use this
  • The crumbliest variety, which makes it a little harder to handle and more likely to cause accidental stains on clothes, hands, etc.

#3. El Mexicano

El Mexicano Achiote Paste Review

El Mexicano achiote paste has the exact same ingredients and nutrition facts as La Perla, which made us wonder if they share a manufacturer. 

However, despite having the same ingredients, our batch of El Mexicano achiote paste had a denser texture than La Perla, making it slightly harder to dissolve in water. 

We did enjoy the flavor of this paste – it had a nice umami pop and a strong earthy taste and smell, likely due to the high amount of annatto in the paste.

This brand was founded in the 1980s as a distributor of authentic Mexican products and is located in Northern California. They are perhaps best known for their highly rated Mexican cheese products.

Overall, El Mexicano is a decent option for storebought achiote paste, but not at the top of our list.

Overall Ratings:

  • Taste: 7/10
  • Ingredients: 8/10
  • Nutrition: 8/10
  • Ease of use: 9/10
  • Price: 8/10

Average Score: 8/10

Pros:

  • Annatto is the main ingredient, above cornmeal and water
  • Sandy texture makes it easier to dissolve in liquid
  • Relatively low in sodium compared to most brands
  • Tastes earthy, savory, and lightly bitter 
  • Well-priced per ounce

Cons:

  • Less tart than most brands
  • Contains FD&C Red #40 food dye
  • Uses sodium benzoate as a preservative, but all the brands we tested use this

#4. La Anita

La Anita Achiote Paste Review

La Anita achiote paste is another authentic brand made in the Yucatan region of Mexico. 

We enjoyed the tartness of this achiote paste (it contains the most acid out of all the brands), but did not like that it contains four different types of artificial food dye and two different preservatives.

When we dissolved this paste in water, it turned a very unnatural pink color, which we found somewhat off-putting.

La Anita contained the least amount of sodium per serving, so if sodium is a concern, this could be a suitable option.

Overall Ratings:

  • Taste: 8/10
  • Ingredients: 5/10
  • Nutrition: 7/10
  • Ease of use: 6/10
  • Price: 6/10

Average Score: 6.4/10

Pros:

  • The most vinegary tasting
  • Lowest amount of sodium per serving
  • Cuts smoothly into slices, and isn’t messy to work with

Cons:

  • Contains more water and cornmeal than annatto, by weight
  • Uses four different artificial food dyes (Red #40, Yellow #5, Yellow #6, Blue #1)
  • Turns a pink color when dissolved in water
  • Most expensive option at the time we tested products
  • Dense and clay-like, which makes it harder to dissolve in water than crumblier brands
  • Uses sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate as preservatives

#5. Goya

Goya Achiote Paste Review

Goya achiote paste is also produced in Mexico but was the least favorite in our taste tests. 

Unlike the other brands, it has a lighter orange color (rather than a rich red hue) – perhaps because it is the only brand that contains annatto extract, in addition to annatto seed, which has a more orange hue.

It was also very very dense and clay-like and was the hardest of the brands to dissolve, leading to a very weak, watered-down flavor.

Goya achiote paste doesn’t contain any artificial food dyes, which is a plus, but it contains potassium sorbate as a preservative, which many other brands don’t include.

Overall Ratings:

  • Taste: 5/10
  • Ingredients: 8/10
  • Nutrition: 8/10
  • Ease of use: 4/10
  • Price: 7/10

Average Score: 6.4/10

Pros:

  • Contains no artificial colorings
  • Comes in two long narrow blocks, rather than one large block

Cons:

  • Very weak flavor, possibly because it’s so hard to dissolve
  • Most orange-hued, likely due to the use of annatto extract
  • Contains more water and corn flour than annatto, by weight
  • One of the more expensive options at the time of testing
  • Extremely dense and clay-like, hard to dissolve in water
  • Uses sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate as preservatives

Where to buy

Achiote paste is available in many grocery stores, but if you cannot find it at a store near you, check a local Mexican market or purchase it online through retailers like Amazon.

Achiote paste alternatives

If you cannot find achiote paste near you, consider one of these common achiote substitutes or make the paste from scratch using annatto seeds or annatto powder.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for the best store-bought achiote paste, our favorite is El Yucateco, followed by La Perla.

Both options have great earthy, smoky, tangy flavors, quality ingredients, and are easy to use. Look for them at a supermarket near you!

Want to learn more about achiote?

Read our in-depth post:

Erica Julson is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in sunny California. She has over a decade of experience in food writing and recipe development and is the proud founder of four blogs in the food and nutrition space. Erica has also been part of Healthline's Nutrition Team and is an expert at translating research into helpful information for readers.

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