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Achiote Red Rice Pilaf

Brown rice, onions, and carrots cooked in an brightly seasoned tomato broth, achiote red rice pilaf has the deep color I’ve always dreamed about for Mexican red rice. Praise be to the Mayan gods for giving us achiote (ah-chee-o-tay), a common cooking spice in the Mexican Yucatán peninsula! For it’s achiote that gives this simple rice dish its bright color and unique flavor.

Achiote Red Rice Pilaf

Achiote paste’s orange red comes from the same red-orange annatto seeds that tint cheddar cheese orange. Give me white cheddar cheese, please, but, for rice, give me the punch of annatto achiote!

Achiote Paste for Achiote Red Rice Pilaf

Sauté of Rice for Achiote Red Rice PilafAchiote red rice pilaf details:

  • Mexican cooks would definitely start with white to make their classic red rice, but I use brown basmati rice.
  • Vegetable juice is an easy convenient way to add tomato flavor to rice. Keep cans of V-8 juice in the pantry to make this go-to salad dressing. Knudsen Organic Very Veggie juice is an excellent option.
  • It doesn’t take much achiote to bump up red rice, two teaspoons to a cup of rice. A small block of achiote paste lasts for a long time. I’ve had a package of achiote for more than a year and it’s still as good as when I first opened it.
  • Idea: Dress up a side dish of onions and chile strips with a dab of achiote.
  • A box of achiote paste lists annatto seeds, vinegar, garlic, salt and “flavorings.” You can make achiote from scratch with the seeds, and spices like cumin and allspice, or go with the convenience of the purchased paste. Look for achiote paste in Mexican grocery stores or well-stocked Latin food aisles in supermarkets. Or order it online through my Amazon link.

Check out these achiote-sparked vegetarian dishes from other bloggers:

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Achiote Red Rice Pilaf
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Total Time
1 hr

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 8 servings.
Author: Letty Flatt | Letty's Kitchen
  • 1 cup brown or white rice (see note)
  • 2 teaspoons achiote paste
  • 1 ¼ cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed , canola or sunflower oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • ¾ cup diced ((¼-inch) carrots
  • 1 (8-ounce) can or bottle vegetable juice (see note)
  1. Rinse the rice well. Place in a bowl and cover with water. Let soak 10 minutes. Rinse again. Allow the rice to drain in the strainer.
  2. Mix the achiote paste in the vegetable broth, pushing with the back of the spoon until the paste is completely dissolved. Set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan over medium flame. Add the onions and cook and stir a few minutes. Stir in the rinsed rice and diced carrot. Cook, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes, until the rice is coated with oil and turns light golden brown.
  4. Add the achiote broth and the vegetable juice.
  5. Bring the rice to a boil, cover, and lower the heat to the lowest setting possible. Cook without stirring, 35 to 45 minutes. (To check if the liquid has been absorbed or not, tilt the pan to the side.) Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Recipe Notes
  • I used brown rice, but Mexican cooks would definitely start with white to make classic red rice. If you use white rice, reduce the vegetable broth to 1 cup.
  • Vegetable juice is an easy convenient way to add tomato flavor to rice. I keep cans of V-8 juice in the pantry for our go-to salad dressing. Knudsen Organic Very Veggie juice is an excellent option.


  • Priscilla

    As always, your recipes inspire me but the photos are icing on the cake. Reply · 23 February, 2015

    • Letty

      Thanks Priscilla! Reply · 23 February, 2015

  • I have got to get me some of that achiote paste. This rice is beautiful and I bet it spicy and extremely tasty!! Reply · 26 February, 2015

    • Letty

      MJ –annatto seeds have a nondescript fruity flavor with bright color for sure. A fingertip of achiote is not incendiary at all– let me know how you use it. Reply · 26 February, 2015

  • […] served these enchiladas with achiote red rice pilaf for color contrast. (Have you ever noticed how a lot of Mexican food incorporates the colors of […] Reply · 7 March, 2015

  • […] melamine plate remains. See it below the recipe. Like Carmen, my tortas de espinaca come with Mexican rice and pot beans, frijoles de […] Reply · 13 March, 2015

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