Homemade Achiote Powder Recipe

Achiote powder, also known as annatto powder, is a popular ingredient in Latin American and Caribbean cuisines. It comes from the seeds of the achiote tree and adds a distinctive reddish-orange color and flavor to dishes.

Homemade Achiote Powder Recipe

Making your own achiote powder at home is easy and allows you to control the freshness and flavor.

What is Achiote Powder?

Achiote powder is made from the brick-red seeds of the achiote tree (Bixa orellana) which is native to tropical regions of the Americas. The seeds are dried and ground to a fine powder that is used as a coloring and flavoring agent in cooking.

Achiote powder has an earthy, slightly nutty and peppery flavor. It also lends a vibrant orange-red color to foods. It is used in many Latin cuisine dishes like meat rubs, marinades, stews and rice dishes. Commercial achiote powder may also contain some fillers, stabilizers and anti-caking agents.

Key Takeaway: Achiote powder is made from the ground seeds of the achiote tree and used as a coloring and flavoring agent in Latin cuisine.

Benefits of Homemade Achiote Powder

There are several benefits to making your own achiote powder at home:

  • You can ensure freshness - Store bought powder may sit for months, losing flavor. Homemade powder retains maximum flavor and color vibrancy when the seeds are freshly ground.
  • Control the flavor - Tailor the flavor to your liking by adding other spices like garlic, pepper, cumin etc. Commercial blends contain generic seasonings.
  • No additives - Homemade powder contains just pure, natural ingredients without any added preservatives or anti-caking compounds.
  • Cost savings - Buying whole annatto seeds costs less than constantly purchasing pre-made powder.

So if you cook Latin cuisine frequently, learning this simple homemade achiote powder recipe can be very useful for adding that authentic and vibrant flavor to your food.

Equipment Needed

You only need three basic equipment to make homemade achiote powder:

  • Dry skillet - For dry-roasting the seeds to intensify flavor
  • Spice grinder - For grinding the seeds into fine powder
  • Sifter (optional) - To remove any coarse pieces left after grinding

A manual mortar and pestle can also be used instead of a grinder if you prefer.

How to Make Achiote Powder

Follow this simple process to make flavorful, vibrant achiote powder at home:

Homemade Achiote Powder Recipe

Homemade Achiote Powder Recipe


  • Making your own achiote powder only requires two ingredients - whole annatto seeds and salt (optional):
  • Annatto seeds - This is the core ingredient that the powder is made from. The seeds provide the color and base flavor.
  • Salt (optional) - Adding a pinch of salt enhances the flavor of the spices. Sea salt or kosher salt recommended.
  • That's it! Apart from these two basic ingredients, you can experiment by adding other spices like garlic powder, chipotle powder, cumin etc. according to the intended use to customize the flavor.


  • Follow this simple process to make flavorful, vibrant achiote powder at home:
  • Dry Roast The Seeds:
  • Heat a dry skillet over medium heat. Add the annatto seeds and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. This lightly roasts them to bring out more flavor.
  • Be careful not to burn the seeds. Once aromatic, remove pan from heat and transfer seeds to a plate to cool.
  • Grind The Seeds:
  • In batches, grind the annatto seeds to a fine powder in a spice grinder or blender.
  • Make sure no large pieces remain. For a smoother powder, sift through a fine mesh sieve after grinding.
  • Store In Airtight Container:
  • Transfer the achiote powder into an airtight container immediately after making it. This prevents it from losing flavor and aroma.
  • Store in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months. For longer shelf life, store in the refrigerator.

And your homemade achiote powder is ready! You get bright, fresh and additive-free powder.

Key Takeaway: Dry roast the seeds, then grind them into a fine powder and store in an airtight container in a cool place to retain freshness.

Tips for the Best Homemade Achiote Powder

Here are some useful tips to make your homemade achiote powder taste perfect:

  • Always start with whole, fresh achiote seeds. Old seeds lose potency.
  • Dry roast the seeds just until aromatic to enhance flavor. Don’t over-toast.
  • Grind in small batches for an evenly fine powder. Large batches don’t grind evenly.
  • Use a coffee grinder only for grinding spices to prevent cross-contamination of flavors.
  • Sift with a fine-mesh sieve if the powder has some coarse bits.

How to Add More Flavor

Customize the flavor of the achiote powder according to intended use:

Add about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of your favorite spices per 1 tablespoon of achiote powder.

Common Uses for Achiote Powder

Achiote powder is very versatile. Here are some of its most popular uses in cooking:

• As coloring agent

The vibrant hue of achiote powder provides rich color to dishes naturally. Use it in:

  • Rice like Mexican rice, arroz rojo, arroz amarillo
  • Stews and soups like birria, posole, sancocho
  • Meat dishes like tacos al pastor, cochinita pibil

• As flavor enhancer

The earthy notes boost flavor in absence of artificial enhancers:

  • Meat or poultry rubs and marinades
  • Seafood dishes and ceviche
  • Plantain and yucca dishes

• Combined with other spices

It blends very well with other dried herbs in spice mixes. For example:

  • Sazón Completa seasoning blend
  • Adobos creole seasoning
  • Sofrito sauce base

So homemade achiote powder can provide natural, additive-free flavor and color to many dishes.

Spice BlendFlavor notesUsage
Sazón CompletaAchiote powder,coriander, garlic powder, oréganoMeat, rice, stews
Adobos creole seasoningAchiote powder, paprika, garlic, onion, oreganoChicken, pork, seafood
Sofrito sauce baseAchiote powder,culantro, peppers, onions, garlicStews, rice, beans

Key Takeaway: Achiote powder is highly versatile - use it for color, flavor, or combine it with other spices in seasoning blends.

Storage and Shelf Life

Store homemade achiote powder in an airtight glass jar away from heat, light and moisture to maximize freshness and shelf life.

Kept in a cool, dark place, the powder will stay fresh for 6 months. For longer shelf life, store the powder in the refrigerator for up to a year.

Check for visible moisture and clumping as signs the powder is no longer adequately sealed or losing its potency.

Safety and Handling

When handling dried achiote powder, keep these safety guidelines in mind:

  • Avoid contact with eyes as the powder can be irritating
  • Prevent inhalation to minimize respiratory irritation
  • Wash hands after handling to prevent accidental ingestion
  • Wipe up spills promptly to avoid stains which can be difficult to remove
  • Store out of reach of children and pets

With some basic care and precautions, achiote is safe to consume and work with in your kitchen.


What’s the difference between achiote paste and powder?

Achiote paste contains the annatto powder mixed with other ingredients like vinegar, citrus juice and spices. It has a wet paste consistency used for rubbing or marinating meat. Achiote powder is only the ground annatto seeds in dry powder form used for coloring and seasoning food.

Can I use jarred paste instead of making powder?

You can, but the flavor is usually milder compared to homemade powder. Use about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon paste instead of 1 teaspoon powder.

Does the powder lose potency with storage?

Yes, over time on the shelf, the powder will degrade and lose vibrancy and flavor. Proper air-tight storage helps maximize shelf life but for absolute best quality, make smaller batches to use up quicker.

Can I substitute paprika for achiote powder?

You can substitute in a pinch but the flavor will be more bitter and lack the sweet, earthy notes. Increase paprika by half compared to amount of achiote powder called for. Cumin and turmeric also work flavor-wise but won't provide the red-orange color.


Homemade achiote powder is incredibly easy to make yourself using just annatto seeds from the Mexican spice aisle. With very little hands-on effort, you can create fresh, additive-free achiote powder perfect for lending authentic color and flavor to Latin cuisine dishes.

Experiment with adding extra spices tailored to how you will use the powder. And with proper storage, this vibrant powder will stay fresh for months, letting you cook up amazing Mexican and Caribbean dishes anytime.

Sarah Cortez
Sarah Cortez

My name is Sarah and I'm a baker who loves trying out new recipes and flavor combinations. I decided to challenge myself to use a new spice or ingredient powder in my baking each week for a year. Some successes were the cardamom sugar cookies, vivid turmeric cake, and beetroot chocolate cupcakes. Failures included the bitter neem brownies and overwhelmingly hot ghost pepper snickerdoodles. Through this experience I've discovered amazing additions to spice up desserts while learning how to balance strong flavors. Follow my journey as I push the boundaries of baking with unique powders!

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