Main Dishes Salsas and Sauces — By Ben on 11 January 2008
A Taste of Yucatan

One of my all-time favorite Mexican spice blends is achiote, an original Mayan blend made with annatto seeds. Achiote paste, a.k.a. recado rojo, is now associated with the cuisine of the State of Yucatan. In my parents’ restaurant they used to prepare achiote dishes at least once every other month. It was sometimes cochinita pibil, and other times just chicken drumsticks and thighs in an achiote sauce.

This is another one of those recipes I had never tried until I needed new material for this blog. Isn’t it great that blogging challenges you to try new things? My dad used to buy an achiote paste for those recipes, but since I found some achiote seeds on sale I wanted to make it from scratch. First I thought about making cochinita (Ms. Peggy would be a cochinita in Spanish, just as a reference) but that required more ingredients than what I had at hand so I went with the other option, chicken “legs”.

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Chicken Legs with Achiote Sauce
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
*If you have trouble finding the ingredients at your local store, click on the links to get them online •You can get the achiote paste at any Mexican market or some grocery stores. In that case just follow the instructions on the package. But where’s the fun on that? •I like to cook chicken with the skin on. It gives the dish a lot of flavor. You can take it off right before serving or eating it. •You can replace the amount of chile ancho to adjust spiciness to your liking. It can be replaced with ground red pepper or ground chipotle peppers. •It is not necessary to marinate overnight, but make sure that it marinates for at least 2 hours before baking.
Ingredients
  • •1 TBSP annatto seeds*
  • •½ tsp cumin
  • •½ tsp ground oregano
  • •1 tsp whole allspice*
  • •2 TBSP ground chile ancho*
  • •4 cloves garlic, minced
  • •¼ cup vinegar
  • •½ cup fresh orange juice
  • •½ tsp olive oil
  • •6 pieces chicken drumsticks and thighs
  • •salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Dry-toast annatto seeds along with the rest of the spices in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Stir constantly until fragrant, around 2-3 minutes.
  2. Cool slightly and grind in a food grinder (I used my blender on high speed)
  3. In a large bowl whisk together spice mixture, garlic, vinegar, orange juice, and oil until well blended.
  4. Coat chicken pieces with salt and pepper and arrange in a baking dish.
  5. Add the annatto sauce and marinate overnight.
  6. Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C)
  7. Cover baking dish and bake for about 45-60 minutes. Chicken should be tender and fall right off the bone when tested with a fork.
  8. Serve with white rice and enjoy!

 

 

Pollo en achiote

 

Although I remember my mom’s achiote being a lot tastier than mine, it was still very flavorful and didn’t disappoint me. I will try other recipes in the future and I will update this post with the new findings.

Buen provecho!

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About Author

grew up around food. His family owned a restaurant in Mexico City and he spent a big deal of his childhood helping and learning after school the art of creating delicious dishes from simple ingredients. He created this blog to share his kitchen adventures with the world.

(12) Readers Comments

  1. I definitely have to try this. I make Robert Rodriguez’s recipe (writer/director of Once Upon a Time in Mexico) for cochinita pibil every now and then, and love the blend of spices.

    • Vicki,

      Cochinita pibil is one of my mom’s favorite recipes. I remember it was a feast every time she made that. I will have to make that soon.

  2. That is one dish I would love to eat! Great recipe!

    • Fruity,

      Yes, you should really try it. I am sure you won’t be disappointed. You can let me know how it tasted afterwards. :D

  3. I love reading about authentic Mexican cuisine. It’s something that I don’t know much about. Annatto seeds sound very interesting; I’ve never had them.

    I love the word, Yucatan. Yucatan chicken. Sounds good, right?

    • Emiline,

      Yes, Yucatan chicken sounds alright. And learning about other countries’ cuisines is always that I love to do. It’s been a nice experience learning about American cuisine. When I am rich I want to travel the world trying the original cuisine of every country. Hehehe

  4. Don’t tell me that because I’m hungry. I love this dish, but better pork than chicken here because of the stronger flavor and stronger sauce.

    • I agree that pork has a stronger taste and it goes better with achiote. I will have to make that soon. I really miss cochinita pibil. I haven’t eaten it in a couple of years.

  5. Somehow, I missed this post…I just had annato for the first time this week. There is this great little mexican place, called Casa Maya in St. Augustine – this is the real deal – I didn’t recognize most of the dishes on the menu. Always a good sign – AND it was the first time Roberto had Mexican food that he liked (he apparently is not fond of the Americanized stuff). I was so happy!

  6. Hi Ben! Mucho gusto!

    I have a small jar of annato seeds that I use to make oil for frying steak (when I make carne asada tacos), but I didn’t know it was the base for achiote! I’m really excited to try your recipe.

  7. Pingback: Grilled Adobo Chicken (Pollo Adobado) : Andrea Meyers

  8. Emiline,

    Yes, Yucatan chicken sounds alright. And learning about other countries’ cuisines is always that I love to do. It’s been a nice experience learning about American cuisine. When I am rich I want to travel the world trying the original cuisine of every country. Hehehe

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