Skip to Content

15 Best Substitutes for Achiote Paste & Powder (annatto seed) 

If you’ve ever cooked Caribbean or Mexican cuisine, you’ve likely heard of achiote paste or powder. This adds a splash of color and flavor. However, if you don’t have it on hand, or can’t find it, you’ve probably wondered what is the best achiote powder substitute?

The best substitute for achiote powder is paprika. Paprika has a similar earthy, slightly sweet, and smoky flavor, making it the perfect alternative for achiote powder. It’s inexpensive, widely available, and effortless to use.

But depending on the recipe, there may be other spices or blends that will work better.

So in this article, I’m exploring 15 different alternatives for achiote powder or paste or annatto seed which is where those come from, that you may already have right in your pantry!

Let’s dive in!

achiote substitute lg

1. Paprika Powder

Paprika powder is one fantastic alternative you can consider if you can’t find achiote paste or powder in your local grocery store or if you’re looking for a less spicy alternative. Paprika is made from dried, powdered chiles and has a mild, smoky flavor. It is widely available in supermarkets and comes in various colors to add visual appeal to dishes.

Paprika is much milder in flavor than achiote, so you’ll need to use more of it to get the same taste when substituting it for achiote paste or powder. Paprika also has a mild smokiness, which can add an exciting flavor to dishes.

Because of its mild flavor and vibrant hue, spicy paprika is a great substitute for achiote paste or powder in rice dishes, beans, tacos, and enchiladas. You can also use it in marinades, soups, and sauces.

2. Turmeric Powder

Turmeric is a brightly colored spice, most notably used in Indian cuisine. Turmeric belongs to the same class as ginger and has a similar mild. Yet, distinctively spicy and earthy flavor, making it an attractive and popular substitute for Achiote paste and powder.

Although the annatto seed has a unique flavor and bright red color, many people shy away from using it in their cooking because of its strong, pungent taste. On the other hand, turmeric is subtle enough to compliment a wide range of dishes and add a slight hint of flavor without being overpowering.

To use turmeric as a substitute for Achiote paste or powder, add a tablespoon of ground turmeric to your recipe. Turmeric is an ideal natural colorant for yellow sauces and dishes such as curries, rice dishes, and soups. Using turmeric as a substitute for Achiote paste and powder is not only accessible but also incredibly healthy.

3. Cayenne Powder

Cayenne pepper is another alternative many people turn to replace the achiote paste and powder. Cayenne pepper is a spicy red pepper found in most grocery stores. It’s much more affordable than achiote and easier to find. Plus, it has a similar spicy and smoky flavor profile.

When using cayenne pepper as a substitute, a good rule of thumb is to use half the amount of cayenne pepper that the recipe calls for achiote. For example, if your recipe calls for one teaspoon of achiote, you would use half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper.

It’s also important to remember that cayenne pepper has a much peppery flavor than achiote, so you may want to adjust the amount according to your taste. Start with a smaller amount, then add more as needed.

4. Chili Powder

Chili pepper is another perfect substitute for Achiote Paste and Powder. Not only does chili powder have a similar deep color, earthy flavor, and smoky aroma, but in many cases, it can provide an even more intense and flavorful taste than Achiote Paste and Powder. Chili powder is also widely available, so you don’t have to hunt for it.

Chili powder is a blend of common ingredients that typically contains chilis, cumin, oregano, and garlic powder (but there are variations). This blend can add excellent heat and a Mexican flair to your dish.

When substituting chili paste for Achiote Paste and Powder, you should keep in mind that it’s usually spicier, so you may want to use a smaller amount than Achiote Paste and Powder. You can also adjust the heat level by adding more of the other spices to the chili powder blend.

5. Red Pepper Flakes

You should consider red pepper flakes if you’re looking for a delicious substitute for achiote paste and powder (annatto seed). Red pepper flakes are a good substitute because they provide the same intense flavor and vibrant color as achiote paste and powder but are much easier to use.

Red pepper flakes have a deep, spicy flavor that adds a beautiful depth of flavor to any dish. They are made from dried and crushed red chili peppers, and these peppers are known for their intense heat and vibrant red hue. They also have a slight sweetness to them so that they can be used as a unique flavor enhancer in many dishes.

Although red pepper flakes are a great substitute for achiote paste and powder, it is essential to note that may not be able to provide the same yellow color that achiote paste and powder do.

6. Garlic Powder

Garlic powder is one of the most versatile and commonly used spices, and it’s no wonder it’s often used as one of the closest substitutes for achiote paste and powder. Whether you’re trying to add a smoky, earthy flavor or just a hint of garlic to your dish, garlic powder is a great choice.

Achiote paste and powder have a distinct flavor that is quite different from the taste of garlic powder. However, garlic powder can still provide a similar flavor profile. When used in small quantities, garlic powder can provide a deeper flavor with a subtle savory note that can nicely complement a dish.

7. Hibiscus powder

Hibiscus powder is one of the best alternatives for achiote paste and powder, also known as achiote seeds. This vibrant and earthy-tasting seasoning has been used in Latin American and Caribbean cuisine for generations to add color and flavor to dishes.

8. Beetroot Powder

Beetroot powder is another incredible best annatto powder substitute. It’s easy to use, tastes delicious, and is a unique way to add a hint of earthy sweetness to your dishes.

Beetroot powder is made from dried and ground beets, making it an excellent alternative to achiote paste and powder. Because the powder is already ground, it’s easy to use. You will only need to spend a little time prepping or cooking the paste or powder before using it.

Beet powder also has a unique and very pleasing taste. This makes it an excellent option for anyone who wants to add a subtle flavor to a dish without overpowering everything else. It’s also packed with antioxidants and many other vitamins and minerals, making it a fantastic choice for those looking to add a bit of nutrition to their dishes.

9. Onion Powder

One of the best achiote substitutes is onion powder. This versatile seasoning can replace the annatto seed in almost any recipe, including tacos, enchiladas, empanadas, and more.

If you’re looking for a less-spicy and more mild flavoring than annatto, onion powder is the way to go. Not only is onion powder milder, but it also adds a modest sweetness to the dish. Unlike annatto seed, which has a distinct and spicy taste, onion powder offers a more subtle flavor that won’t overpower the other flavors.

In addition to being milder, onion powder is super convenient to use. Unlike annatto seed, which you have to grind in a mortar and pestle or, preferably, the food processor for maximum flavor, onion powder is already in a dry, powdered form that is easy to sprinkle into the dish.

10. Saffron Powder

You should consider saffron if you’re looking for an excellent substitute for achiote paste and powder. Not only is it an incredibly flavorful spice, but it’s also a perfect substitute for achiote that offers a unique flavor and aroma.

Saffron powder is a spice made from the stigmas of the crocus flower. It has a unique flavor and aroma that’s unlike any other herb, which is why it’s used in so many dishes around the world. It also has a distinct yellow or orange color, making it an ideal substitute for achiote paste and powder, which both have a similar hue.

11. Coriander

Coriander can be an excellent substitute if you’re looking for an alternative to the classic annatto seed used in Mexican dishes. Coriander is a very flavorful spice that has been around for many years and is used in many dishes. It has a warm, slightly sweet, and citrusy flavor, making it excellent for adding depth and completeness to any dish.

Coriander has a similar flavor profile to achiote paste & powder, and it’s much easier to find and more budget-friendly. It can also be easily incorporated into dishes, either as a powder or as a paste. When used in powder form, it can be added directly to dishes, while a thick paste is best cooked first to develop the flavor.

12. Cumin

Cumin is the best option if you are looking for a substitute for achiote paste and powder. Cumin works well in both sweet and savory dishes. It is the main ingredient found in various dishes across the world, lending its distinct flavor to so many iconic dishes. Its earthy, slightly smoky flavor complements a variety of foods, from tacos and rice dishes to smoothies and baked goods.

Cumin is more potent than achiote, so use about half the amount to get the same flavor profile. When it comes to specific dishes, you can use cumin instead of achiote in pico de gallo, salsa, enchiladas, tacos, burritos, and other Mexican dishes. For something more exotic, you can use cumin in a variety of Indian dishes like curry, biryani, and tandoori chicken.

13. Curry Powder

Curry powder can be a great substitute if you’re preparing your favorite meal and need access to achiote paste and powder. Curry powder is a fine blend of spices and herbs, usually giving off a warm and aromatic flavor. It typically consists of such flavors as turmeric, coriander, fenugreek, and cumin, along with other spices like mustard, ginger, and cardamom.

Using curry powder as a substitute for achiote paste and powder can really elevate your meal. It adds a deep and robust flavor while still maintaining the brightness and earthiness of achiote paste and powder. For an even more significant flavor upgrade, you could mix the curry powder with cilantro, garlic, and lime juice to make a flavorful marinade or paste.

14. Nutmeg

When it comes to substituting for achiote paste and powder, nutmeg will do the trick. This spice has long been used as a flavoring in cuisines from different parts of the world. Its flavor makes it popular in savory dishes, sweet confections, and desserts. From Southeast Asian dishes to Indian curries, nutmeg’s versatility makes it a favorite for many dishes.

Nutmeg has a warm and aromatic flavor reminiscent of cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. Its taste is slightly sweet and woody and pairs well with both savory and sweet recipes.

In addition to its flavor, nutmeg has numerous health benefits. It contains various vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, potassium, calcium, folate, and magnesium. Nutmeg can also help aid digestion, relax muscles, and relieve pain.

15. Star Anise

Star Anise is a suitable substitute and can be used in recipes where the distinct flavor and deep natural red food coloring of annatto seed are desired. The flavor of star anise is more intense than the flavor of annatto seed and has an earthy, sweet licorice taste.

It is important to note that star anise should be used in moderation because of its intense flavor. When substituting star anise for annatto seed, use less than the amount required in the recipe. Depending on your taste, start with half the star anise as annatto seed and adjust until you’re happy with the flavor.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is achiote paste made from?

Achiote seeds. Achiote paste is made from achiote seeds native to Central and South America. The seeds of the achiote tree are also referred to as annatto, bija, and roucou and have a distinct, earthy, slightly peppery flavor.

The paste is made by crushing or grinding the seeds into a fine powder and then combining the powder with other spices, oil, and citrus juice. The result is a thick paste that can add flavor to many different cuisines and meat dishes. It’s great for marinades, sauces, and even desserts.

Achiote paste is also known for its vibrant red color, making it just as fun to use in cooking as it is to eat.

What is the best substitute for achiote powder?

Paprika. Look no further than paprika if you’re looking for a delectable substitute for achiote powder. It’s the perfect way to add a punch of flavor and color to your dishes. Paprika is a wonderfully versatile spice in sweet and savory dishes.

Not only that, but it’s easy to find, inexpensive, and keeps for a long time. Plus, when it comes to flavor, paprika delivers. From earthy and smoky to bright and zesty, it has a range of flavors depending on the type you buy.

Is Sazon Goya the same as achiote?

No, Sazon Goya and achiote are not the same. Achiote is a seed, while Sazon Goya is a seasoning blend that often contains achiote. Achiote is a common ingredient used in Latin American and Caribbean cuisine and is made up of annatto seeds, cumin, and garlic.

Sazon Goya, on the other hand, is a pre-made seasoning blend often used in Latin American cooking and can contain various ingredients, including achiote. Achiote gives dishes a savory, smoky flavor, while Sazon Goya adds an overall delicious taste and a hint of heat.

Do annatto seeds add flavor?

Yes, annatto seeds can add flavor to your favorite dishes. They have a slightly nutty and earthy flavor and add a subtle kick of heat, which is excellent for adding complexity to a plate.

Annatto seeds are also incredibly versatile, allowing you to use them in various recipes, from soups to baked goods. Plus, they come in different forms so that you can find the ideal one for your needs. They can be used in various dishes, like chili, fish, yellow rice, and desserts.

How spicy is achiote?

Achiote is a spice that can range from mild to fiery hot, depending on how much of it you use. It has a unique flavor with a hint of sweetness and tartness.

Achiote’s spicy flavor pairs well with various foods and can make anything it touches more interesting. A little bit of the powder goes a long way, so you only sometimes need a little to get a nice kick. And if it’s still too spicy, adding other ingredients like onions, garlic, or cilantro can help to tone it down.

Final Thoughts

Achiote Paste and Powder is an excellent ingredient in your kitchen cupboard that adds flavor to various dishes. If you ever run out of this ingredient and are in a pinch, you can consider other substitutes, such as paprika, annatto seeds, oil, turmeric, and saffron.

Each key ingredient has its unique flavor and can be used as a replacement in equal parts for achiote, depending on your recipe. Remember that each achiote substitute will impart a different flavor and color to your recipe, so make sure to adjust accordingly.

Check out all my ingredient substitution articles:

15 Best Substitutes for Achiote Paste & Powder

9 Best Agar Agar Substitutes

15 Best White Balsamic Vinegar Substitutes

9 Simple Madras Curry Powder Substitutes

15 Best Browning Sauce Substitutes

13 Best Substitutes for Mustard Seed

15 Fool-Proof Lyle’s Golden Syrup Substitute Options

Can I Substitute Maple Syrup for Honey?

Hoisin Sauce vs. Oyster Sauce (Difference & Best Substitutes)

19 Best Substitutes for Potato Starch (and when to use them)

21 Best Paneer Substitutes (for your Indian recipes)

21 Best Turmeric Substitutes (you probably have on hand)

Kaffir Lime Leaves vs Lime Leaves: Differences & Substitutes

11 Best Porcini Mushroom Substitutes (dried and fresh)

13 Top Substitutes for Nutritional Yeast (Simple Options)

Achiote by Leslie Seaton is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, and had a text overlay added.

Jeff Campbell