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Achiote is not just bright and beautiful

October 4, 2009

Juicy, shredded pork with spicy pickled red onions in a taco, quesadilla, over rice or on a Trader Joes pizza! It is hard to go wrong with this magical Yucatan treat.

Achiote is the annatto seed. A bright orange/red seed that looks like earthen clay and gives everything a deep, earthy flavor and bright sunrise orange/red color that you cannot resist. It is commonly used in paste form made by grinding annatto seeds with cumin, Mex oregano, garlic, salt, and an acid (orange juice or cider vinegar). The good news is that you can buy the paste ready to go. One source is  It is used traditionally in the Yucatan region of Mexico to make a dish called Cochinita Pibil. (Pork cooked in an earthen, stone lined oven) You don’t have to dig a hole in your yard to enjoy the culinary magic of this spice! Here is what you do:

Slice a boneless pork loin thin. In a bowl mix together 2 oz. of the achiote paste with the juice of two oranges (greener if you can find them), two limes, a tsp of whole cumin seed, 2 tsp. of oregano and a tsp of salt. (I like to do this to wake up the paste; you could just use the paste alone). Mix to combine. Sear the pork in a pan with some thinly sliced onion until all is golden. Pour in the achiote mixture, add 1 C of water. Stir, cover and cook in a 275 degree oven for three hours. Take two forks and with the effort of an infant you can shred the pork into strands of succulent, juicy pleasure. Let it cook another 30 minutes if you have time and the strands will melt into the sauce. In the meantime slice a red onion thin and cover it in a bowl with the juice of two limes, some salt and as much heat as you can take! (I shred half a frozen habanero chile in mine). Let them sit for at least an hour (while the pork is cooking). Serve the pork over rice, in a taco or a quesadilla topped with the onions.

Other versions:
Coat the pork pieces raw, leave out the water and half the juice and sear the meat and chop in small pieces. This is the quick version I did a couple days ago. The leftovers ended up on a Trader Joes pizza last night with some queso fresco and chopped cilantro.

You can also line a pan with banana leaf and pour your seared mixture (the first version above) in there. Cover and bake. Great presentation as well as another layer of flavor.

The citrus brings out the earthy flavor of the annatto and creates a color that defines eating with your eyes. The juices of the meat and the achiote paste combine to make a natural sauce. The pickled red onions give you a slight crunch and a bright balance to the richness of the sauce. So sorry that I did not take pics! We were too hungry!!

Eat well, Enjoy life, be happy!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. October 4, 2009 2:37 pm

    This sounds magical, thanks for the source link! YUM!

    • Jeffrey Saad permalink
      October 7, 2009 6:53 am

      my pleasure, enjoy!

  2. Rachel Farha permalink
    October 9, 2009 2:44 pm

    wow – this looks great. thanks for giving the recipe!!

    • Jeffrey Saad permalink
      October 14, 2009 1:02 pm

      My pleasure rachel, thanks for following!

  3. Zack permalink
    November 11, 2009 9:08 pm

    I remember you mentioning this in the first episode of TNFNS, you didn’t get it for your dish and had to improvise. The first episode’s the only one i remember you mentioning it. If you haven’t already i hope you’ll post the recipe for the original Zucchini with Achiote that you were going to make.

    • Jeffrey Saad permalink
      November 16, 2009 3:07 pm

      I will Zack, thank you!

  4. March 13, 2010 10:08 am

    And this is why I love Surprising posts.

    • Jeffrey Saad permalink
      March 15, 2010 6:27 am

      Thank you Luke! Take care, Jeffrey 🙂

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