Dried Achiote Paste: How to Break It Down Back to Powder

Achiote paste: A unique Mexican flavour, but if it dries to a brick, is very difficult to break back down to a paste.

Achiote paste: A unique Mexican flavour, but if it dries to a brick, is very difficult to break back down to a paste.

Big Weed had purchased this in California, as we do not have access to this here in Toronto. Achiote paste has a very unusual taste which I like. As I only used a half of the small pack I did not know to tightly wrap it so that it did not dry out. The result was a brick that was as hard as rock. Instead of wasting the achiote brick, which I cannot buy here in Toronto, I decided to try to break it down back to smaller chunks of near powder. This was more difficult than I thought.

The paste bar had dried to a hard brick. Here are the solutions I tried:

  1. Mortar and pestle: Did not even dent the brick. Noisy and completely ineffective
  2. Soak in oil: marginal breakdown on the edges. I tried soaking overnight. ineffective
  3. Hammer: did not dent it
  4. Microplane grater: too hard, did not even dent it
  5. Small blender: ineffective. It just bounced around. I was afraid it would damage the blender
  6. Cut with a sharp 8″ chef’s knife: difficult and somewhat dangerous, but somewhat effective. I had to use a lot of force to hammer down on the knife. I was, eventually, able to cut the large block into 4 pieces.
  7. Two flat pieces of metal, squeezed together with a C-clamp: Put the block within a piece of plastic wrap, between two flat pieces of metal. Bent the metal.
  8. C-clamp: Put paste block within plastic wrap. It did squish down but not enough for me to make it crumble. At least it moved
  9. 1 ton arbor press: This was effective. Put the block within a piece of plastic wrap. This crushed the paste block very easily into a thin layer that I was able to crumble.

To need a 1 ton arbor press in order to crush down your achiote paste block seems very excessive, but it shows just how hard the paste can dry into. I flaked the paste block into small pieces, which then absorbed the oil and melted away, as it should.

One ton arbor press used to squish dried achiote paste block, in order to flake it down and use it as a spice. This was difficult.

One ton arbor press used to squish dried achiote paste block, in order to flake it down and use it as a spice. This was difficult.

2 thoughts on “Dried Achiote Paste: How to Break It Down Back to Powder

  1. David Ritt

    I have a much smaller block (about 50g) I was trying to break down last night when I came across this post – and I started to get very worried hearing I might need a 1 ton arbor press :D

    I soaked my 50g block in the juice of 2 limes for 15 minutes, and this turned the lime juice pink, but was still like a rock (my little block is about 4 years old..) I dried the block off, and there was a little bit of softening around the edges – I could stick a metal spoon into it and make a dent in it, but not cut through it. I found at this point though I could grate it using the smallish side of my box grater – not the parmesan side, but the medium size holes… I was able to grate most of the block except for the end nub, and then I was able to finely carve up the nub with a chefs knife. Make no mistake, it wasn’t easy!

    Then all ingredients into a vitamix for a minute (lime and orange juice, with garlic and salt) and my achiote paste was ready to use!

  2. D A

    I was trying similar methods when I came across your site. Even a 6″ bench vise barely cracked it as I had no immediate access to a 1 ton. However, I stuck it in the microwave for about 15 seconds…whammy…softens up…

    [Don: I think I did try the microwave, but maybe not long enough. Maybe my block was so dried out that there was little moisture inside. It is a good tip though.

    Thanks]

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