Mexican Cooking Class Questions? Which Achiote paste is best?

    Hi Lynne. I took a couple of your classes and was in your class last night (Enchilada sauce). We have company coming this weekend so I thought I would make the sauce ahead, so got my tomatoes and seasonings. I ran into a problem, however, and wonder if you could help me out or clarify one of the ingredients. I purchased (awhile back) 2 kinds of “Achiote” paste (they were in a brick form). Neither looked the same as what you took out of your box last night.I got them both at Del Leon’s. Apparently there are different types of achiote. The two I got were:1. One was achiote negro – it was black, black, black. Didn’t taste good, tasted and looked like coal. I didn’t use that in the sauce I made because my tasting the brick told me that would be a BAD idea.2. The one I put into my sauce was called, “Del Maya B La Perla Achiote condimentado yucateo – annatto seed seasoning” and it was a very light orange in color – not the deep red color that the brick of paste you had. The box mine came in was kind of red with some green on it. On the end of the box it says’ “Dissolve in your choice of: lemon juice, water, oil or vInegar to create marinade.” I thought they forgot to put on there to use it to season enchilada sauce! I went ahead and used it – I used exactly one tablespoon and it added an almost tangy, bright flavor – not at all the deep, musky, smoky flavor that yours had. It is definitely not a sauce I would serve company, just because of the flavor. It didn’t taste like enchilada sauce – I just threw the batch out. I’m not sure what type of Achiote to get now.Is it possible to find out exactly what your box of achiote says, so that I can get the right kind? I think De Leon’s had some others, but I assumed it was all one kind?

    By the way, I really enjoy your classes and have learned a lot. Mexican cuisine is my favorite and it is so nice to be able create meals at home that taste as good as yours. And I intend to use my husband as a guinea pig as many times as needed to come up with a tamale pie worth eating. I’m thinking one of the sauce recipes on your website would work good for the filling, just not sure which one would be best.

    Thank you for sharing your experience and expertise with us.

    Ruth Schmidt=

Hi Ruth,   I’ll try and clear up the confusion about achiote paste so your enchilada  sauce will taste exactly like the one we made in class.  The black achiote paste you purchased is actually quite tasty, it is used to make the black mole popular in Oaxaca.  The Perla achiote, which is grainy, is used more as a seasoning, the flavor is not as concentrated.

The brand I like to use and find very flavorful is El Yucateco. It comes in
a bright yellow box with red lettering, saying condimento annatto on the
English side and Achiote condimentado on the Spanish side of the 15 oz. box.
There are other fine brands, just be sure the dense brick of seasoning paste is an ochre red color with a  clay-like texture.

Hope this helps, let us know how your enchilada sauce and the enchiladas turn out.

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