Vicki Taylor shares a recipe to help authenticate your next Mexican fiesta.
Vicki Taylor shares a recipe to help authenticate your next Mexican fiesta.

Add an authentic tang to Mexican cooking

Cooking programs are definitely an influence in our kitchen these days.

The old FOMO (fear of missing out) kicks in and we want to get our hands on the latest fashionable ingredients as soon as we can. Spices are no exception.

The latest trend in popular spices covers juniper berries, szechuan pepper and fenugreek seeds. And now I'm being asked a lot about annatto seeds.

These come from the achiote tree which is native to regions in Mexico and Brazil.

Annatto seeds are a hard brick-red colour and they look very similar to that of fenugreek. The flavour is somewhat earthy, peppery and smoky.

Annatto seeds are a great natural alternative to synthetic food-colouring agents which is particularly good for people who have food allergies to synthetic foods.

These are used a lot in Mexican and Filipino cooking as the seeds are used to make achiote paste. You can also infuse them in warm oil, which can be used when deep orange/yellow/red colour is needed, such as paella.

Chicken with achiote paste

Serves: 2


2 chicken breast fillets

½ tsp vinegar

½ tsp annatto seeds

½ tsp dried oregano leaves, chopped

½ tsp cumin seeds

½ tsp black peppercorns

½ tsp salt

½ tsp allspice berries

1 tbsp water

1 tsp chopped garlic (or paste)

1 tbsp olive oil or oil of your choice, for frying

To serve: Mexican rice or tacos (save the pan juices and use as a little sauce.


Combine spices and grind with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.

Tip this into a small bowl and add the vinegar, garlic and water. Mix well.

Coat chicken breast fillets with the paste mixture and leave to marinade for about 15 minutes (but longer is better).

Heat some oil in a pan and cook chicken over a medium heat for about six minutes before turning and cooking on the other side.

Alternatively, you can cook the chicken in a slow cooker so that the meat is very tender. If you do, after it's cooked, shred the meat with two forks. In this instance, I would use a cup of reduced-salt chicken stock, throwing in a few sliced onions and cooking slowly until done.

Recipe Credit: Ian Hemphill, from Herbie's Spices

Visit Vicki at Red Hot Chilli Pepper, 9/65 Bulcock St, Caloundra

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