Mexican yellow rice with achiote

January 13, 2015 Published by Dina

I am learning a little about Mexican cooking while we are vacationing here. The more I learn, the more there is to learn. I have been experimenting with different rice dishes lately and this red rice turned out to be one of my favourites. I used achiote paste that I heard about at a cooking class with Claudia of Can Cook in Cancun and after discussion (mostly with hand gestures) with staff at our place here, made this rice painted yellow-orange with the achiote.

Annato fruit seeds

Annato fruit seeds (credit tressure of food)

Achiote is a special Mayan spice blend made from the seeds of the annato plant. Mayans used to make paint with the Annato seeds but their aromatic nature eventually led them to use it in cooking as well. The red paste, also known as Recado Rojo, is made with annato seeds that give it its red colour, and other spices, garlic and salt. The mixture is pressed in to a block of paste and needs to be diluted for use in cooking. The paste, depending how much of it you use, will colour the food anywhere from yellow to orange to red.

I have added achiote paste to rice and love the colour and depth of flavour it impart to the otherwise plain Mexican rice. Mexican rice is a bit of a different breed than Basmati or Jasmine or other varieties. You cannot just rinse and boil it, it doesn’t lend itself well to this simple preparation. Rather, Mexican rice needs to be washed, dried and cooked in a bit of oil or butter to coax flavour and texture out of it. This is a simple but delicious way of cooking Mexican rice. the colojur you get depends on how much achiote you add. I found that adding the achiote to the oil when you first cook the rice gives it a more yellow colour. Adding it with the water makes it a little more orangey-red. I have to continue and experiment and I will update this post as to the colour possibilities.


Mexican yellow rice with achiote

Mexican yellow rice with achiote



1 teaspoon achiote (or more)

Achiote paste

Achiote paste

1 cup Mexican rice

2 tablespoons oil

1/2 an onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 carrot. peeled and diced

2 cups water Salt

A handful cilantro, chopped



Annato seeds (credit The Spice House)

Annato seeds (credit The Spice House)

Dissolve the achiote paste in the water.

Rinse the rice in cold water until the water runs clear.

Soak the rice in clean water for 10 minutes, then drain and dry somewhat.

Heat the oil in a pot, add the onion and cook until softened.

Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.

Add the carrots and cook until beginning to soften.

Add the rice and cook on medium low heat stirring, until the rice begins to turn just barely golden.

Add the achiote and cook another couple of minutes until the rice absorbs the colour.

Add the water and salt and bring to a  boil.

Lower heat to simmer, cover the pot and cook until the water is absorbed and the rice cooked through.

Leave covered off the heat for 10 minutes before serving, to allow the rice to fluff up.

Fluff with a fork, sprinkle with cilantro and serve warm.


Mexican yellow rice

Mexican yellow rice

Mexican yellow rice with achiote

Mexican yellow rice with achiote




  • pragati says:

    Heard of annato seeds but they will be impossible to get where I live..So I will enjoy via your pretty photos! Those bougainvillea(?) flowers look good.
    Thanks, Dina!

    • Dina says:

      Hi Kamal, thanks for the comment. I know what you mean about getting specialty ingredients. I did discover though that there is an online Mexican grocer website and you can get just about anything there, including annato seeds. Here is the link However, I used achiote paste made from the seeds. Thanks for checking in. Ciao.