Recado rojo

What is Achiote Paste?

February 10, 2015Katie

Recado rojo

Recently you may have read my review of the Tacolicious, Festive Recipes for Tacos, Snacks, Cocktails, and More cookbook I raved about.  I love cooking out of this book and am trying each and every recipe with their spicy authentic Mexican flavors.

One revelation upon cooking out of Tacolicious is that I have a new-found love for some formerly unknown ingredients like the dried chiles I see hanging around our stores down here in the southwest.


These chiles can be toasted in a dry pan, then soaked in hot water and blended into marinades and sauces and hello….salsas to give you some never-known-before tastes of wonder that will have you craving them again and again. Never fear, if you’re in the north and these aren’t readily available to you, there is this wonderful thing called the world-wide web now and you can get them too!

One ingredient I had no earthly clue about was something called achiato paste. So let me save you the trouble and tell you about it.

Sometimes called by a few other names like Annato paste, recado rojo, or roucou, achiota paste has a brick-red vibrant hue that comes from one of its prime ingredients – crushed annato seeds.  Once crushed they are called annato powder.

Annatto Seed

Annato seeds are the seeds from, well, the Achiote tree and are found within its fruit.

achiote fruit with annato seeds

The flavor in these seeds is somewhat earthy, nutty and peppery with a slight nutmeg-spiced quality as well. Because of their bright coloring, annato seeds have been used over time to color things like foods and lipstick and is responsible for the red-hued color you’ll see on Tacos Al Pastor meat.

When these seeds are ground into a powder, they can be mixed with other ingredients like salt, garlic, Mexican oregano, cumin, and allspice berries along with either vinegar or lime juice to form achiote paste.  The paste is then often added to liquid marinades to marinate meat or used as a meat rub. It is popularly used in recipes like Tacos Al Pasto or Cochinita Pibil (the next dish I plan on making with it!)

I buy achiote paste in a Latino grocery store here in a large 2 pound box, as we make Tacos Al Pastor on a regular basis out of the Tacolicious cookbook.

Recado rojo

My family begs me to make them often (we substitute boneless, skinless chicken thighs for the pork).

Tacos Al Pastor

The achiote paste does not need to be refrigerated but will keep longer if you do. The shelf life is about 6-8 months, so you may want to refrigerate it if you won’t be using it often.

If you can’t find achiote paste, here is a link to lots of places to order it on the net:

Achiote Paste on Amazon

Achiote Paste on

Oklahoma City residents – purchase it here locally at the Buy-For-Less on MacAarthur (about 36th Street) or at Savory Spice Shop (4400 N. Western Avenue).

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