What To Do If You Run Out Of Achiote Paste – 5 Great Alternatives

If you know your pastes and spices, then you’ll be aware of achiote paste. This stuff is very spicy with a tangy aftertaste that has become a staple of a lot of Latin American and East Asian dishes.

This paste is made from the seeds of the Achiote tree, which grows on evergreen trees in the area of Central America. You can use this paste on many dishes, it is the most versatile that you can find on the market.

So what happens if you can’t find any achiote paste at your local supermarket? Well, we’ve scoured the length and breadth of the internet to find some of the closest substitutes to this delicious paste.

What To Do If You Run Out Of Achiote Paste - 5 Great Alternatives

So Exactly Is Achiote Paste?

Well, put simply, this paste is a savory spice that is often used in many dishes, either as one of the main ingredients or as a side dish.

Whether it is soups, stews, meat rubs, marinades for shimp and other seafood, chorizo, pickled vegetables and a whole host of other dishes.

When you are cooking with this paste you’ll have to be wary of using too much or too little. If you add too much, then your dish will become way too bitter.

This paste is also very rare, which is what accounts for its expense. You will find yourself paying a lot of money for some of this achiote paste. You also won’t be able to find it at your regular supermarket.

This is why having an alternative in place will really help you. Sometimes getting a hold of something like this is not always easy. This is why this list of some of the best substitutes will definitely give you a leg up.

5 Best Achiote Paste Substitutes

1. Harissa


First up, we have a paste that is very similar to achiote in terms of texture and taste. It is made from chilis, caraway seeds and garlic. This is what gives it such a distinctive flavor.

This has a very strong flavor and is definitely a paste for those who like their food extra hot. One of the great things about this paste is its versatility.

You can add this as a topping for your salad or you can spread it on your tortilla if you fancy a spicy burrito.

This sauce goes really well in certain lamb dishes. This will add a certain degree of spice to what can often be considered very bland meat.

This has a very smoky flavor that you can get with a lot of chili recipes. It also comes with a certain sweetness, although you might find this hard to notice after getting hit by the overwhelming heat.

This paste is quite hard to get, you’ll probably have to travel to your own Latin American food market to get it. It is much harder to get organically, although you can probably find some dried out or pickled at Amazon.

2. Sambal Olek

Sambal Olek

This is a chili paste that comes from Indonesia, it is made from red chilis, vinegar and salt. This gives it that bitter flavor, which can be combined with heat to create a flavor palate that is not too distinctive from Achiote paste.

You can often find a condiment like this in certain Asian supermarkets. It will either come in its raw form or in powder. You can also pick it up from Amazon for very little.

This is also another very versatile paste which can be sued in many different dishes. Some people like to use it as a fish marinade, whereas some people simply like to put it in a salad.

If you want that smoky what that you can often get with chilis, then Sambal Opoek will be a good substitute. This has a lot more heat than Achiote paste, so you should be prepared for an increased heat level.

You can either get a red or green paste, either will depend on what peppers you are using. If you need to enhance quite a bland dish, then we would recommend this paste.

3. DIY Achiote Paste

DIY Achiote Paste

If you think of yourself as a confident chef, then you can always make your own paste. This quill requires a little bit of hard work and attention to detail, but once you pull it off you’ll have enough paste to last you for a few weeks.

To make your own Achiote Paste, you’ll only need some lard and some annatto seeds.

Take 3 tablespoons of lard and 1 tablespoon of annatto seeds. If you are going to wnat to make more than this, then you should keep this 3:1 ratio.

Place this mixture in an airtight container and leave it in the fridge overnight. Make sure it is kept in a dark place and it is at room temperature.

Once this has been done, then you should add your own lime juice and a little bit of cumin.

You should notice that the final mixture is a very vibrant orange color. You can keep this one for up to a few weeks. We would recommend keeping it in the fridge so that bacteria do not spread.

You can use this condiment for many things, whether it is a marinade for your fish dish, flavoring and thickener in your stew or spread on your sandwiches. It also pairs very well with chicken.

One of the downsides of making your own paste is that it will take you a lot of time and ingredients. If you are in a rush, then we would not recommend making your own dish.

4. Cumin And Cayenne Pepper

Cumin And Cayenne Pepper

This is an aromatic mixture of flavors that will be a decent alternative to achiote paste. This is very peppery, but the added cayenne pepper will bring that little bit of heat.

Combining these two ingredients will create a very similar taste to the achiote paste. This is very popular in Mexican dishes. It can be added to vegetables and meat to give it that unforgettable flavor.

If you want to add this one to soups and marinades, then you can very easily. You can mix this one easily with garlic or tomato, they will create a very balanced and fruity flavor profile.

If you are out of cumin, then we would add some cilantro, as the flavors in this will be very similar. The great thing about a lot of these recipes is that you can always find a substitute that will mimic the same taste.

This is great for use as a marinade in chicken dishes. You can also use it as a rub, simply spreading this on your chicken before you put it in the oven.

One of the drawbacks of using this is the fact that it will require a little bit of mixing and portion control. This is also not great if you are in a hurry.

5. Guajillo Chili Powder

Guajillo Chili Powder

Finally, we have something that comes in powder form that is made from the guajillo chili, which is very similar in flavor and texture to the achiote pepper.

This is not as spicy as the achiote, however, so if you prefer your seasoning a little bit milder, then we would suggest that you opt for the guajillo.

You can crush this one from dried guajillo or you can buy it in its powdered form from the store, although this will be a little harder to come by.

You can also use this to marinade your fidh or chicken dishes. This is also another very versatile paste.


We hope that our list of some of the best achiote paste substitutes has helped you decide which one you’re going to use in your recipe.

If you are brave enough, we would suggest that you try and make your own achiote paste, as this best replicates the flavors of achiote.

What To Do If You Run Out Of Achiote Paste - 5 Great Alternatives

What To Do If You Run Out Of Achiote Paste – 5 Great Alternatives

Recipe by Jenna

Are you looking at a recipe that lists achiote paste but are struggling to locate it in your local store? Well, check out our top 5 alternatives for this tasty paste.

Course: Substitutes
5 from 1 vote


  • Harissa

  • Sambal Olek

  • DIY Achiote Paste

  • Cumin And Cayenne Pepper

  • Guajillo Chili Powder


  • Decided on what substitute you need
  • Pick a substitute from the list above
  • Read what you need to substitute with
  • Create the recipe and enjoy

Recipe Video

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