What Does Achiote Taste Like?

Achiote, also known as annatto, is a small red seed commonly used as a spice and natural food dye in Latin American cuisines.

You can find achiote products, such as achiote paste and oil, at Latin grocery stores and sometimes the international foods aisle of supermarkets.

If you’ve never tried achiote before, you may be wondering what it tastes like. We’re here to give you the scoop on this delicious spice!

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Achiote flavor

Achiote has a subtle, earthy taste with hints of pepper and smoke flavors. It is often compared to paprika, which is commonly used as a substitute for achiote.

As a spice, achiote adds depth and complexity to traditional Latin recipes like arroz con pollo, tacos al pastor, carne colorada, and empanadas.

It can also be used in smaller amounts to color food, adding a beautiful reddish-orange hue to dishes without affecting the flavor too much.

Achiote pairs well with citrus, garlic, onions, chiles, cumin, and oregano. It is a key ingredient in sazón, a popular spice blend in Puerto Rican and many other cuisines.

Is achiote spicy?

No, achiote is not spicy on its own. However, achiote paste may be spicy depending on the other ingredients added.

Does achiote add flavor?

Achiote powder or oil adds more color than flavor to dishes, but achiote paste is made with other spices and acids that impart a lot of flavor to a dish.

Using achiote

Achiote is used in cooking differently depending on the form (powder, paste, or oil).

Achiote powder

Achiote powder is simply whole achiote seeds that have been ground in a fine powder.

This versatile spice is used in traditional dishes like arroz amarillo (yellow rice) and carne colorada (achiote-marinated meat), and can also add color and flavor to spice rubs, marinades, and sauces.

Achiote paste 

Achiote paste is made from achiote seeds, garlic, spices, and citrus juice that have been mixed together and ground using a mortar and pestle or food processor.

It is used to season traditional dishes like pollo asado (grilled chicken) and cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork), as well as meat marinades, sauces, and stews.

Achiote oil 

Achiote oil is a beautiful red-orange oil made by infusing achiote seeds in vegetable oil. It is mainly used to add color and interest to dishes and offers only a subtle hint of achiote flavor.

Achiote oil is used in traditional dishes like arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) and arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas), and empanadas.

It can also be brushed onto seafood or added to soups and stews.

Final thoughts

Achiote has a subtle, peppery flavor and vibrant red-orange color that enhances meat marinades, spice rubs, sauces, and rice dishes.

The versatility of achiote in powder, paste, or oil form makes it easy to incorporate into your cooking, whether you want just a hint of color or a robust achiote flavor. 

Bottom line, achiote deserves a place in your spice cabinet. Give it a try!

Amy Richter is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Missouri. She is an experienced nutrition writer and medical advisor for Healthline and Medical News Today.  Amy is passionate about all things food-related and enjoys translating complex science into easy-to-understand articles.

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