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The Best Alternatives To Annatto Powder For Flavor, Color, and Spice

If you enjoy Filipino, Latin American, or Caribbean foods, you probably understand how instrumental annatto powder can be when used to flavor or color foods. Annatto is made from the seeds of the achiote tree, which is most commonly grown in hot, tropical climates.

The flavor of annatto is described to have a similar earthly taste to that of nutmeg – however, in annatto, this is slightly more subtle. 

annatto powder

Understandably, it can sometimes be difficult to get your hands on annatto powder – even though it can be the most important ingredient in a number of dishes!

If you’re in a similar position and you don’t know what to use as a substitute, you’re reading the right article – as we are about to give you a rundown of the best substitutes that you can use in place of anatto powder in order to ensure that your dishes taste as close to the real thing as they can! 

What Are the Best Alternatives to Use in Place of Annatto Powder?

Whilst there are many substitutes that can be used in place of annatto powder, including turmeric powder, saffron powder, and paprika, it is important to remember that using one of these alone will not act as an adequate replacement for annatto powder in a dish – however, you can utilize the properties of these ingredients to get it as close as you can to your desired product.

Annatto is known for its properties of a colorant, introducing radiant hues of bright orange, yellow, and red to dishes, as well as it is known for its unique, sweet, peppery, and slightly nutty taste.

Many countries use annatto in their dishes as a colorant, whilst also, simultaneously improving or enhancing the flavor of their food. You can use this powder in a range of sauces and meals, including soups, rice dishes, and stews!

As a result of its vibrant colors, annatto is often used as a colorant in cosmetic items, such as lipsticks. This means that it is important for us to mention alternatives you can use if you intend to use them in a similar way. 

Each of the substitutes below can successfully replicate or act in the place of annatto powder, making it so that you don’t have to rethink your plans for tonight’s dinner as a result of not being able to find annatto powder in your cupboard. 



Who doesn’t like paprika? This mild chili powder is made from chilis that are grown, then dried, and made into a powder, ready for use. Paprika can give foods a similar red-orange color to the one that annatto powder provides.

This spice can range in its flavor and heat, depending on which chilis are used within the recipe, meaning that certain types of paprika are sweet, whereas others bring more heat. As a result, some paprika is spicier than others and can vary in color. 

Paprika is a close to perfect substitute for annatto powder, due to the peppery flavor that they both share. Whilst paprika can be used to complement a wide variety of dishes, it works particularly well in dishes including roast chicken or black bean chili.

It can also be used as a substitute for annatto oil in certain sauces. Paprika can have a range of flavors, however, all of these go well with dishes such as this. 

To use this in chili, add some black beans, onions, avocado oil, cilantro, bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, two teaspoons of paprika, and a little salt. 

Paprika contains important nutrients, like vitamin E and beta carotene, meaning that it can help to keep your eyes healthy. 


This substitute is created from the Myristicaceae, an evergreen tree that is grown in both the West Indies and Indonesia. Nutmegs flavor bears a similarity to annattos flavor, and they both have slightly similar colors.

This makes nutmeg a brilliant substitute for annatto – just make sure that you add it in small quantities so that you can ensure that you don’t add too much at once!

Nutmeg is one of the best seasonal spices, and instantly adds an extra level of flavor when added to a cold-weather soup, such as butternut squash. Nutmeg contributes a woody flavor to your food.

It’s important to remember that you do not need to use a huge amount of nutmeg – in fact, a pinch of nutmeg is often more than enough, and you should add in very small quantities in order to avoid accidentally overpowering your dish. 

Safflower Powder


You can use ground safflower seed to color your food with a slight red-orange hue. This alternative is primarily for color, as it only really alters the color of your dish. 

If you’d like to use safflower powder as a substitute, use the same amount you would annatto powder in order to get some impressive results. 

Beet Powder

Vibrant beet powder is, unsurprisingly, made from beetroot. After it is grown, the beetroot is dried and then made into a powder.

This powder can then be used in a variety of ways, including cosmetics, food, and drinks, such as smoothies, and crafts – and, thanks to its ruby-pink color, as a substitute for annatto powder! 

Beet powder can instantly improve any smoothie, adding color, flavor, and healthy goodness, as beetroot powder has essential nutrients such as fiber, manganese, iron, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin B9.

Beet powder goes well with coconut water, pineapple, raspberries, and any additional ingredients that you may choose to add in order to make a delicious smoothy, perfect to relax with after a long, hard workout. 

Saffron Powder


Saffron can successfully be used to add a hint of color and a delicious flavor to your dishes, in place of annatto powder. 

Whilst saffron might be one of the more expensive alternatives on this list, if you happen to have it in your cupboard, you can one hundred percent use this as a substitute for annatto powder.

This is because there are similarities between the flavors of the two different spices, as saffron has a deep, earthy taste, 

Hibiscus Powder

Hibiscus powder can be made from the Malvaceae plant. This plant is often found in tropical areas, as this is where it grows the best, and it can be added to food, cosmetics, and dyes. 

Hibiscus powder can be used as an alternative to annatto powder if you would usually use annatto powder as a colorant. Hibiscus powder has a red color that can be used in conjunction with another substitute in order to create a more satisfying alternative to annatto powder, or on its own in order to make use of its red colorant properties.

It should be noted that hibiscus does not quite share the same color as annatto powder, and instead has a burgundy hue that stands in contrast with annatto’s more orangey color. 

To use hibiscus as a substitute within your recipe, you can create a vinaigrette or an oil. Both of these can be used on salads – and they’re also quite easy to make!

All you need to do is add one tablespoon of hibiscus powder to your oil or vinegar in order to make the relevant salad dressing. You can also infuse teas with hibiscus powder! 

Hibiscus has many health uses, as it can be used as an antioxidant, as well as an aid in lowering blood pressure. It also has antibacterial properties. 

Red Pepper Powder

Red pepper powder

Powder made from dried and crushed red bell powders can work as a great substitute of annatto powder in your recipe.

It is important to note that different types of pepper will have different qualities – including variations in spice and flavor. You should experiment with different types of pepper, as well as amounts, adding tiny pinches and building to get your desired flavor. 

Turmeric Powder 

Turmeric powder is made from the Curcuma longa plant, native to the countries India and China, and largely produced in India.

Turmeric is extremely important in Southeast Asian cooking, especially curries, and many curries gain their characteristic yellow colors as a result of using turmeric powder. As a result, turmeric also works well as a substitute for annatto’s color, although turmeric has more of a yellow quality. 

When added to rice, turmeric can provide an instant change in color and flavor. You should make sure not to use too much turmeric, so add around half a teaspoon to the water of your rice when you first begin cooking it. Lentils also go well with turmeric – just add turmeric to your olive oil, before mixing with your lentils and legumes. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find or buy annatto powder?

You can buy annatto powder by going online to a spice retailer or a shop that sells health foods. This gives you the option to choose a blend of annatto, alongside different seasonings, helping you to just add your preferred seasoning to each dish without having to measure and mix it together every time. 

The Best Alternatives To Annatto Powder For Flavor, Color, and Spice

5 from 1 vote

A guide to the closest substitutes we can find for annatto powder, helping you to bring the most to your dishes!


  • Paprika

  • Nutmeg

  • Safflower Powder

  • Beet Powder

  • Saffron Powder

  • Hibiscus Powder

  • Red Pepper Powder

  • Turmeric Powder


  • Decided on what substitute you need
  • Pick a substitute from the list above
  • Read what you need to substitute with
  • Create the recipe and enjoy

Recipe Video

Jess Smith