Achiote - Yucatan Spice Blend (Recado Rojo) - Thyme To Mango

Achiote - Yucatan Spice Blend (Recado Rojo) - Thyme To Mango

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Time to step up your Mexican food game with this flavour bursting, Yucatan inspired Achiote spice blend.

I call myself a foodie. A person who loves food because food = life. Seriously, there is not one thing I like to talk about more than food. Even my second favourite conversation topic – travel! – will revolve around food.

But even for a food fanatic such as myself there are still areas – vast areas! – of my foodie knowledge that need to be expanded, and I find myself learning about new foods, new ingridients, and new dishes, on a daily basis.

Take, for example, Vietnamese Egg Coffee (Cà Phê Trứng). Up until a trip to Vietnam a few years ago, I had no idea coffee with a thick egg-based custard plopped on top was even a thing. It is a thing and I highly suggest you try it!

Even this week I found out that (thanks to the beyond-amazing podcast Things You Missed in History Class), in 1826, there was a riot at the West Point Military Academy over eggnog. Yes, eggnog!

You see, you learn stuff every day!

And the background to how this Achiote recipe came to being on this blog revolves around one of those foodie discovery moments; that split second in time when lightbulbs of ideas start flashing in your brain like some sort of neuron induced strobe effect.

The story begins, as most of my recipe stories do, sitting in front of my computer searching the web, flicking through recipe books, and leafing through food magazines, trying desperately to conjure up new and interesting recipe ideas.

It’s a pretty cold winter here in Australia this year, and I was yearning for a big bowl of soup. Or stew. Or anything that was warm and comforting and could be slurped from a big bowl whilst curled up on the couch watching Netflix – you know the deal.

Of course I had all the usual suspects on my mind: thai curries, laksa, pumpkin soup, beef bourguignon … the list goes on. But I wanted something a little different, something I hadn’t made before, something…

Just something.

And then I stumbled across a name for a Vietnames Noodle soup. No, I’m not talking about the all too familiar Phở (that, too, was also on my mind) but Bún Bò Huế, a recipe originating from the city of Huế, a beef and pork broth laced with sooooo much lemongrass I knew I had to make it asap.

I found a recipe through the blog Hungry Huy and made my list of ingridients which brought me to food discovery moment #1: Anatto Seeds

* cue pictures of annatto seeds *

Annatto Seeds

One of the recipe ingridients was Anatto seeds and, up until that moment, I had never heard of them before.

So, if you’re not familiar with these tiny red seeds of flavoursome joy I can tell you they are the seeds from the Achiote Tree, a shrub or small tree originating from Brazil and other tropic areas of the Americas.

They can be found in the cuisines of Central and South America and in certain Spanish and Fillipino dishes. They are also a source of natural food colouring and impart a deep red colour to food (the natural pigments found in annatto seeds were also used as dyes).

To describe the smell and taste of annatto seeds is tricky but there is a peppery, nutmeg like smell and they have a similar taste with a hint of nuttiness.

Anyway, my local supermarket certainly didn’t stock Annatto seeds so I had to source some online. It was here, whilst reading a quick description of Annatto seeds on the spice shop website that I came to food discovery #2…


“The key ingredient in Achiote Paste…”

…was the first sentence in the annatto seed description. Once again I found myself scratching my head: what is Achiote paste?!?!

I sought wisdom from the greatness that is Google and, just like that, foodie discovery explosions started going off in my head.

I had found a new and exciting spice blend which = foodie goals achieved!

What is Achiote?

Well this is a tricky question. I certainly won’t give a comprehensive guide to what is, or what it isn’t, because, like all discussions on recipes out there, there are a thousand and one opinions.

But, for the purpose of this post and recipe, Achiote is a spice mixture from the Yucatán and Oaxacan cuisines of Mexico and parts of Belize. However, since Achiote is also an interchangeable term for annatto seeds, and since annatto seeds are available across the tropical Americas, it seems (according to my research) that Achiote can describe pretty much any spice blend using annatto/ achiote.

This recipe is based on the Yucatán varietey. Some recipes I found were a simple, dry spice blends, but the more “traditional” (and I use that term ever so lightly)  come in the form of a paste – known also as Recardo Rojo.

So, the end game for this recipe is a spice paste but, as an added bonus, this recipe also starts out as a simple, dry spice blend so you can make/ use either of them however you want.

Cooking with Achiote

So what can you use Achiote spice paste for? Well for a start it is going to raise the bar on your Mexican food making game because the simple taco seasoning is not going to cut it after you have tried Achiote.

Much like any spice blend/ paste this can be used as a rub and/ or marinade for meat or seafood. You can also add it to Mexican (or other Central or South American) styled stews, soups and the like.

Basically, when ever you see a list of seasoning in a recipe, swap it out for equal parts of Achiote (either in spice blend or paste form) and you’re going to have a delicious meal coming your way.

Of course, I will also have a few recipes using Achiote coming your way in the coming weeks (hint: one of them will be kick-ass tacos!). And, just to pay homage to all my Achiote and Annatto foodie discoveries, I will also be bringing you my version of the Vietnamese noodle soup too!

So, until next time foodies


Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

PrintAchiote – Yucatan Spice Blend (Recado Rojo)

Time to step up your Mexican food game with this flavour bursting, Yucatan inspired Achiote spice blend.

Author: James Langley

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes


  • 40g Annatto Seeds
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • ½ tbsp coriander seeds
  • ½ tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp black pepper corns
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup olive oil
Read the whole recipe on The Nude Food Hero