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Steamed Mexican Chicken Al Achiote

One of my favorite dishes growing up in Mexico City was Chicken Achiote.

The Annatto is an orange-red condiment and food coloring derived from the seeds of the achiote tree.

“Annatto Oil” is also one of my favorite things to make and have available year round in my kitchen as it adds flavor and color to a hide selection of foods when used.

So, if you're looking for a simple way to bump up the color and flavor profile of a dish while adding in a few extra health benefits, annatto is the way to go.


2 medium size oranges, zest & juiced

1/4 cup of white vinegar

100 grams achiote paste

2 diced garlic cloves

6 big chicken breast fillets

Salt to taste

1 packet banana leaves

Kitchen string or twine


To make the marinade, 1

In a bowl combine orange zest, orange juice, garlic, vinegar and achiote paste until everything is dissolved forming a ruby marinade and adjust the salt. I used a fork, but achiote is quite lumpy, so be prepare to put some elbow grease or use the blender

Combine the (Achiote paste marinate) blend with the While chicken rests, get on with prepping the banana leaves; using scissors, cut the banana leaves in equal squares of about (10 inch). You will need one square per chicken breast, but cut a couple of spare ones in case there is breakage and you need to overlap two leaves. Set them aside and prepare a steamer by filling it with some water (the same way you would if you were steaming potatoes). Bring it to boil and lower the heat so the water just simmers.

Take a chicken breast and place it in the middle of one of the banana leaf squares. Pour a spoonful of the marinade over it and a drizzle of olive oil, fold the banana leaf to wrap around the chicken breast forming a parcel, the same way you would fold a burrito. You can use a second leaf to reinforce if needs be. Use some kitchen string to tie around the banana leaf to keep everything in place and repeat this step until all six chicken breast are parcealled led in. I've put together a quick photo presentation to show you how I did it.

Lay the parcels carefully on the basket of your steamer, put the lid on and steam the chicken for 35 - 40 minutes or until fully cooked.

This chicken can be eaten in tacos by shredding it and filling soft warmed corn tortillas with it, top your tacos up with some red onion thinly sliced. I also love it with a portion of Mexican White Rice and tortillas on the side.

Enjoy the Mexican and Hispanic flavors!

Buen Probecho!

Chef Martin Lopez

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