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Annatto Grilled Chicken Tacos with Pineapple and Avocado Salsa


By: Suellen Pineda

Cinco de Mayo is almost here! So there’s no better excuse than this popular celebration to make some delicious grilled chicken tacos to please the crowd.  And although it’s always nice to go with the classics, why not venture into trying a different seasoning to boost the flavor of grilled chicken? Well, my suggestion for this recipe is Annatto. This spice is known in Spanish as achiote or bija.

If you have not tried annatto yet, you have missed on a ridiculously powerful natural food color. It gives foods a nice deep red color and an earthy yet subtle flavor.

You can find annatto in various presentations such as seeds—which you would need to quickly cook in oil to render its coloring properties—powder and paste. So, the presentation you would need depends largely on the dish. For instance, annatto paste or seeds work perfectly when making a ‘sofrito’ type of base in soups and stews where liquid will be added.

In this taco recipe, I decided to use powder because a paste would turn crumbly when mixed with cold chicken. Remember, it’s best to always prep chicken right out of the fridge and never let it sit on the kitchen counter for too long or at room temperature.

This is an easy recipe suitable for the upcoming summer months!


Ingredients & Method  (Yields: about 20 tacos)

For the chicken

  • 3 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, cut in strips
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. annatto powder
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • ½ tsp. of dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. of dried cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the salsa

  • ½ of fresh ripe pineapple, peeled in cut lengthwise quarter pieces
  • 1 Tbsp. agave
  • 1 small red onion, finely julienned
  • 1 small bunch of fresh cilantro, the leaves only
  • 1 ripe hass avocado, peeled and diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cooking spray

Yellow corn tortillas

In a bowl, combine chicken with the rest of the ingredients and let marinate for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.

Heat the grill to medium high (I used a stove top cast iron grill).

While grill is heating, combine pineapple pieces with agave (you can also use a pastry brush for this).

Lightly grease the grill with a small and clean piece of cloth saturated with cooking canola oil or cooking spray.

Put pineapple on the hot grill and cook until the pineapple has softened (about 3-5 minutes per side). You should see some dark grill marks. Remove from the grill and let it cool before proceeding to cutting it into cubes.

Next, make the salsa by combining the grilled pineapple, avocado, cilantro, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Reserve.

Once chicken has marinated for at least half hour, place it on the grill. Cook for about 4 minutes per side (use a wide spatula to turn chicken). Chicken should look golden brown and slightly charred on the edges.

Assemble the tacos and garnish with more cilantro.

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