south-of-the-border essentials: flavor base

ThePretentiousChef avatar
By Andy Anderson !
from Wichita, KS

This recipe is based on the popular Annatto/Achiote paste that is considered a staple in many Mexican recipes. The problem is that most stores do not carry it, and if you want to make your own by purchasing Annatto/Achiote seeds, you will need access to a Mexican grocer, or order online. This recipe gives you the flavor notes of that amazing Mexican paste, but by using spices that you probably have on hand in your spice cabinet. So, you ready… Let’s get into the kitchen.

serves Several
prep time 10 Min
method No-Cook or Other

Ingredients For south-of-the-border essentials: flavor base

  • 2 Tbsp
    ground turmeric
  • 1 Tbsp
    ground cumin
  • 1/2 Tbsp
    ground paprika, smoked variety
  • 1/2 Tbsp
    ground paprika, mild variety
  • 1 Tbsp
    oregano, dried variety
  • 2 tsp
    ground coriander
  • 2 tsp
    ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp
    ground cloves
  • 1 tsp
    kosher salt, fine grind
  • 1 tsp
    white pepper, freshly ground
  • 5 clove
    fresh garlic, peeled and rough chopped
  • 1/4 c
    orange juice
  • 1/4 c
    lime juice

How To Make south-of-the-border essentials: flavor base

  • 1
  • 2
    You will need a blender or mini prep kitted out with an S-blade to make this recipe.
  • 3
    Annatto/Achiote Paste The primary ingredient to this popular flavor base is Annatto/Achiote seeds that are ground up into a powder. If you have some, you can replace the first four ingredients with one-quarter cup of the ground seeds and continue the recipe as is. My objective, however, was to come up with the same flavor notes using common kitchen spices and after about six tries I believe that I have achieved that singular goal. This paste gives the dish a somewhat sweet, spicy, slightly smokey flavor, typical of many South-of-the-border recipes. Try tossing in a tablespoon or two into your next soup or stew and see the difference it makes. I have more ideas on how to use this flavorful base later on in the recipe.
  • 4
    Storage Of Homemade Condiments, Spices, and Sauces Because homemade spices and condiments do not contain any preservatives, it is important to store them properly. Non-reactive (glass) containers with tight-fitting lids are a must. If I am making a dry spice, I love to use old spice bottles that I have run through the dishwasher. If I am doing homemade sauces, I love using Weck jars. They are all glass, come in all sizes and shapes, and have excellent leakproof lids. If you shop online, you can go to Amazon, and type in “Weck Jars” and you will find a ton of them. Dry spices should be kept in a cool space, away from sunlight (spice cabinet), and sauces, in most cases, should be stored in the fridge. If properly stored, this flavor base should last 6 – 8 weeks.
  • 5
    Gather your ingredients (mise en place).
  • 6
    Mix the orange juice and lime juice together in a bowl, or a measuring cup and reserve.
  • 7
    Measure out all your spices.
  • 8
    Add all the ingredients, except the orange juice/lime mixture, to the bowl of a food processor, or mini prep, fitted with an S-blade. Give the mixture a few 1-second pulses, to chop up the garlic cloves, and mix them with the dry spices.
  • 9
    Add the liquid (orange juice/lime mixture) and blend until smooth.
  • 10
    It should be thick; like a tomato paste.
  • 11
    Because the majority of this flavor base is dried spices, it is a good idea to let it sit in the fridge overnight before using. That gives the spices a chance to absorb and mix with the liquid ingredients.
  • 12
    Properly store in the fridge until needed.
  • 13
  • So yummy
    Add to Mexican themed soups and stews or put a bit into your taco meat. Rub the mixture on some chicken, pork; even fish, and let it rest for 4 to 6 hours before cooking. Dilute it with water, broth, citrus juice, Worcestershire sauce, or vinegar and use it as a marinade.
  • 15
    It is no wonder that this simple paste is a staple in many South-of-the-Border dishes. But do not limit yourself, try it in other dishes and see what you can come up with. Enjoy.
  • Stud Muffin
    Keep the faith, and keep cooking.