Achiote vs Ancho: Understanding the Difference

Achiote vs Ancho (Ultimate Comparison)

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Achiote and Ancho are famous Mexican spices that add spicey and tempting flavor to food. Now, these two spices are quite often mistaken as the same. 

So, How do Achiote vs. Ancho differ from one another?

Achiote vs. Ancho

The main difference between Achiote and Ancho is that Achiote is made from seeds of the achiote tree, and Ancho is made from dried Poblano chili. Achiote gives a sweet and peppery flavor, whereas Ancho has a smoky flavor. Both of them have very few calories and nutritional values. However, Achiote is cheaper than Ancho.

Well, that was just an overview. We’ll go through these in detail in our article. So let’s not waste any more time and get started!

Achiote vs. Ancho: Quick Comparison

On closer inspection, Achiote and Ancho appear to be very different. As a spice with its own distinctive identity and taste, they take great pride in this. 

Look more closely at some of the main distinctions between Achiote vs. Ancho-based products.

OriginSeeds of the achiote tree (Bixa Orellana)Poblano chili pepper 
UsesUsed as a commercial food dye, also used in cosmeticsUsed in food for mild to medium taste
Calories Present2.82 calories per gram serving.11.78 calorie per gram serving 
PriceStandardPricey compared to achiote

Achiote vs. Ancho: A Detailed Comparison

Achiote and Ancho are derived from chili families and used as the finest marination and meat church rub.

It’s time to buckle up and go over their differences in great detail.


Achiote vs. Ancho Differences

Achiotes and Anchos are made from different parts of chili in separate families that also give off a different flavors.

Bixa Orellana is the source of Achiotes. First, it’s macerated in water. After that, the pulp is separated for processing. Finally, the seeds are dried and used as spices. Achiotes originated in the Caribbean, America, and Mexico. 

On the contrary, Anchos originate from dried poblano peppers. They look like giant raisins with a stem on their wrinkly skin. Since they are picked before they’re fully ripe, the poblanos you buy at the grocery store are green. 

Southwestern and Mexican cuisine uses Ancho frequently because of its smoky flavor.


Achiote has a mildly peppery taste, but it’s often used for coloring food. It appears in many forms in Mexican and Caribbean cooking, including whole seeds, ground spice, achiote paste, and achiote oil.

Achiote has no taste when used sparsely, mainly as a food dye. The earthy, peppery flavor is enhanced with a bitter undertone when used in larger quantities as a flavoring agent.

Depending on the variety, achiote seeds can have a floral or minty scent. Achiote paste has a Scoville heat rating of up to 40K Scoville Scale.

Some of the best Achiote Paste and Achiote Powders are recommended here.

Ancho, on the other hand, has a sweet and chocolatey flavor. The mild to medium-hot heat of the ancho chile pepper is reminiscent of raisins. Ancho has a strong taste in the whole form compared to the ground form.

Ancho chile has a mild heat level of between 1,000 and 2,000 Scoville heat units, which means it’s pretty mild. Habanero has 100,000 units, while bell peppers range from 0 to 100.

Here’s our recommendation for dried ancho and ancho powders.

Here we have some super quality dried ancho powders.

Read our comparison article on mei fun vs lo mein.


Achiote is used as a food color and a very light spicy condiment. It also gives sweet and peppery undertones to foods. 

Achiote is a culinary spice, a food colorant, and a commercial dye, among other uses.

The Aztecs used Achiote seeds to enhance the color of a chocolate beverage.

On the other hand, Ancho gives the foods an incredibly smoky and spicy flavor. It’s great to use in roasts and curry. Ancho is also used in the flavors of sauces, soups, and marinades. 

You can use either dried or dehydrated ancho chile, whole, or ground. The marinade or rub can be applied to meat, poultry, or seafood before cooking.

Ancho can also be added to the stew, smoky brisket, or soup as a flavoring ingredient before cooking. Ancho gives a smoky and mild peppery flavor.



Achiote and Ancho are both used as additional food flavors; hence, they have very few calories per serving.

Achiote, especially in paste form, contains 2.83 calories per gram of serving. It has a minimal amount of proteins, carbs, and sugar. 

Ancho contains 11.78 calories per gram of serving. It has very little protein, saturated fat, carbs, and potassium.


The cost of Achiote and Ancho is one of the most significant differences. The price of Achiote is very standard and affordable. It’s not as expensive as anchos.

Ancho, on the other hand, is an expensive food condiment. The price is almost 4-5 times costlier than achiotes.

Which One To Pick?

All the differences between Achiote and Ancho have been explained to you. 

As a standard replacement for the Ancho, the Achiote has much to offer. When using Achiote, the differences between the two spices become more apparent.

Achiote has a sweet and peppery flavor, and both sweet and spicy dishes benefit from adding this versatile spice. Achiote also adds color to food. 

On the other hand, Ancho gives a smoky and very mild hot flavor to your curry but does not give additional color to the food.

Upgrading to Ancho from Achiote isn’t worth the additional money. Try out the best condiment you can find.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Mexican Achiote?

Mexican achiotes are Annatto seeds. Annatto seeds and other spices like cumin, pepper, oregano, cloves, and garlic are ground into achiote paste and used as a Mexican spice ingredient in many dishes.

What is the difference between Achiote and Turmeric?

Achiotes and Turmeric are varied from each other. Though Turmeric is used as a substitute for achiotes, it lacks the bright orange color that achiotes provide in dishes.

Is Chipotle the same as Ancho?

No. Chipotle and Ancho are different. Chipotle is dried and smoked jalapeno pepper, whereas Ancho is poblano pepper that is dried.


We hope you are clear about the difference between Achiote vs. Ancho. 

You can use both Achiote and Ancho in your food. But if you wish to use one, Ancho should be your go-to.

We sincerely hope that this information was beneficial to you.

Best of luck and happy cooking!

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