If you’ve ever tried the slow-roasted citrusy pork dish, cochinita pibil, from the Yucatán peninsula, then you’ve certainly experienced the flavor or achiote or annatto seeds.
The achiote tree or bush is native to the tropical regions of the Americas. The fruit of the plant is very peculiar looking. The orange-red seeds grow inside hairy brown pods and have been used to color everything from lipstick to cheeses.
In the Yucatán peninsula of México, achiote seeds are used as a flavoring in many dishes. They have a waxy texture and a very distinct fragrance and taste that could be described as mildly pepper-like. If you ever visit a Yucatecan market, you will certainly find bags of recados (pastes) made with a myriad of spices. One of the most common pastes, is the recado rojo made with a blend of achiote and other spices.
Unfortunately, there are no vendors around here selling freshly made achiote paste, and while you can often find achiote paste in a box in the Latin American aisle at the supermarket, I’d rather not be adding corn flour, acetic acid, or sodium benzoate to my food. (These items are listed as preservatives in most brands of achiote paste sold at stores).
So, what’s a girl to do when she’s dreaming of warm breezes and citrus-infused achiote dishes? Well, make her own paste, of course!
This paste was incredibly simple and quick to put together, and with the exception of achiote seeds, most of the spices are ones you probably have on hand.
Now, I’m one bite closer to tropical breezes and sunny skies.
homemade achiote paste
Achiote Paste – Makes 1 cup
3 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
¼ cup annatto (achiote) seeds*
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp kosher salt*
4 garlic cloves
¼ cup distilled white vinegar
1 tsp finely grated lime zest
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
→In a spice grinder, grind cloves, bay leaf, annatto (achiote) seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, oregano, peppercorns, and salt until finely ground. Pour into a small bowl.
→In a blender, blend garlic cloves, vinegar, lime zest, and orange zest until garlic is thoroughly pulverized.
→Add this mixture to the ground spices, and stir to combine. This should form a thick paste.
→Store in airtight container for 1 month in the refrigerator.
- Annatto (achiote) seeds can be found at a Latin American/Mexican grocery store or online.
- I use pink Himalayan salt.
Recipe Source: Bon Appetit