9 Best Tex-Mex Paste Substitutes (And How to Make Your Own)

Quick summary: Achiote sauce or paste, Adobo sauce, canned Chipotle peppers, or Chipotle sauce can be excellent substitutes for Tex-Mex paste. But you can also use Chili powder spice mix, tomato paste, canned Chili, Sriracha sauce, and Taco seasoning.

While you will find a range of Tex-Mex seasoning, salsas, chili sauces, and dinner kits, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything called a Tex-Mex paste in store. The paste is hearty and spicy with a sweet and savory flavor.

If you can’t find any of this flavor-packed paste, don’t worry! Our list of top Tex-Mex paste substitutes will have your dish coming together perfectly in no time.

But first, what is Tex-Mex exactly and what is Tex-Mex paste?

What Is Tex-Mex?

As its name suggests, Tex-Mex cuisine is a food-style fusion with a blend of Mexican and southern American flavors and cooking traditions. The food is particularly characteristic of the Texas and Mexico border regions.

Popular examples include quesadillas, tacos, chili, and nachos. Although these are common Mexican foods, their Tex-Mex counterparts have varying flavor profiles and compositions including a lot more cheesy additions.

Tex-Mex cuisine generally includes a variation of bean dishes, meat (beef, pork, and chicken), spices, and chili peppers with or without tortillas.

What Is Tex-Mex Paste?

While Tex-Mex paste is the ideal base for Tex-Mex style dishes, it has also become popular in a variety of Mexican and American recipes. 

Its spicy kick is a great match for enchiladas, burritos, and tacos. You can add Tex-Mex paste to stews, use it as a marinade, and to add flavor to soups.

Tex-Mex paste is made from a base of fire-roasted tomato puree. Other ingredients include onion puree, red chili pepper puree, chipotle chile, soybean oil, garlic powder, sugar, and salt.

Some versions may also include tomato powder, cocoa powder, other spices, and natural flavorings.

HelloFresh Tex-Mex Paste comes with the brand’s prepared meals. While this delicious Tex-Mex paste is not for sale in store, the brand’s followers are obsessed with the flavor.

How to Choose a Tex-Mex Paste Substitute

When checking out your spice cabinet and pantry for a substitute, consider the flavors and characteristics that are most important to your dish. Do you want to keep the sauce mild, do you want an exact copycat recipe, or is it spice you are after?

Once you’ve decided what the main flavor components you want are, choose a substitute that highlights those first and foremost. Then tweak it with extra ingredients as needed. 

Serving a little Mexican cream on the side or as a topping is a great addition to very spicy dishes.

In this guide, we’ll give you some ideas to specifically substitute HelloFresh Tex-Mex Paste as well as what you can use to just add that hearty spicy complexity to dishes when you’re in a pinch.

Best Tex-Mex Paste Substitutes

Achiote Paste

Achiote sauce or paste is a common Mexican ingredient made of annatto seeds, also known as achiote seeds. The seeds come from trees grown in the tropical regions of Central and South America. 

Additionally, it contains vinegar, garlic, clove, cinnamon, cumin, oregano, and other spices.

Since achiote paste is a common Mexican ingredient, it pairs well with Tex-Mex flavor profiles. 

Although it resembles Tex-Mex paste, it has an earthy, nutty, less sweet taste. It is ideal as a base for sauces, soups, stews, and rubs for grilled pork or chicken. 

With a spreadable consistency, you can also use this as a Hello Fresh Tex-Mex paste substitute in equal quantities. To get a similar sweetness add a bit of brown sugar and a pinch of chili powder for a spicier kick if desired.

It is also available in a powder form which makes a good dry rub.

Adobo sauce

This delicious and spicy sauce perfectly complements Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes. It makes a quick and easy substitute in any application.

It is made with a combination of garlic, dried spices, chili powder, and vinegar and has a similar color to barbecue sauce.

Canned Chipotle Peppers

Since chipotle chiles are really just smoked jalapenos, they have a naturally sweet and smoky taste. It’s the perfect match for Tex-Mex dishes since it has a concentrated pepper profile.

It does, however, have a slightly thinner consistency. This makes it good to use in soups and stews, but ideally, you’ll want to thicken it when using it as a rub or sauce. To do this, add some thick tomato paste. 

For a smoother consistency, give the peppers a quick whirl in a food processor. For an even closer Tex-Mex substitute, you can optionally add in a little oregano, cumin, diced onion, garlic, and sugar.

Chipotle Sauce

Chipotle sauce has a slightly sweet taste with a touch of heat. It is made from dried chipotle peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and onion. Since it has a thick consistency, you may need to add a few drops of water or broth to thin it out when using it as a replacement.

Chili Powder Spice Mix

Chili powder (not to be confused with dried, crushed, or ground chili powder) is a dry spice mix of dried chili, paprika, cumin, and oregano. Blends may differ slightly so check the ingredients label to find the closest match.

With similar spices and a similar flavor profile, this makes a great alternative to use as a meat rub or taco seasoning.

Powdered or ground chili, on the other hand, is not a blend of spices but only consists of dried and ground peppers. Although you can use this, it won’t give you the same complexity and depth but you will get the spicy flavor.

Tomato Paste

Tomato paste is versatile, and the great thing is that you can doctor it up to your liking and spice tolerance. If you’re looking to substitute HelloFresh’s Tex-Mex paste specifically, this is a good place to start since the main ingredient is tomato paste.

We recommend adding chili powder to build the complexity and even one or two roasted garlic cloves. 

With its thicker consistency, you might want to add a few drops of water to thin it out or a small squirt of honey to add a little sweetness. This is ideal for stews, marinades, and as a base for sauces.

Canned Chili

Canned Chili contains tomato paste and spices, which gives it a similar flavor profile to perfectly match your Tex-Mex cuisine.

If this is all you have available, go right ahead and use it. Keep in mind that chili usually includes other ingredients such as beans or ground beef. This means you’ll need to select the type you use (and how you use it) thoughtfully to ensure it matches the other components of your meal.

You can add it to sauces, stews, or layer it in enchiladas, burritos, or tacos.

Sriracha Sauce

Sriracha sauce doesn’t have quite the same flavor profile as Tex-Mex. It lacks the smoky earthiness and instead has a brighter fruitier taste. However, if it’s the spiciness you’re after (with a dash of sweetness and garlic undertone), this is a good quick fix.

It pairs especially well with grilled meat, seafood, tacos, and can be added to sauces, stews, marinades, dips, and more.

Sriracha is likely much easier for you to find than Tex-Mex paste and doesn’t require any further additions. You can simply squirt it right from the bottle into your cooking. To maintain the flavor and heat, add it towards the end of the cooking time.

It’s very unlikely for Sriracha sauce to spoil, but it’s necessary to provide decent storage conditions to keep the quality.

Taco Seasoning

Taco seasoning is a spice blend of ground chili, red pepper flakes, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, garlic-, and onion powder.

You can use the premade blend, or if you have most of these seasonings on hand, you can even make your own blend. While you won’t have the same saucy consistency, you can add the seasoning to your dish while cooking to get a similar flavor profile. 

Alternatively, add the spice blend to some tomato paste or cook it down with fresh tomatoes. 

Homemade Tex-Mex Paste

If you’re big on Taco Tuesday and love cooking ‘Texican’, why not make your own Tex-Mex paste and keep a stash in the fridge so you always have some on hand? 

It’s pretty simple and the ingredients are easy to find at most grocery stores. You might already have them in the pantry.

To make your paste combine all the ingredients together in a bowl. You want to make sure the spices are evenly mixed throughout and that you end up with a smooth paste. 

Add a few extra drops of vinegar or water to thin it out if needed. For extra sweetness add an optional teaspoon of sugar and mix until it is dissolved.

Here’s what you need:

¾ cup tomato paste (6 oz) or fire-roasted tomatoes

1 tablespoon of rice vinegar and a tablespoon of sugar (optional)

1 teaspoon each of coriander and oregano

½ teaspoon each of cumin, black pepper, garlic powder, and salt


  • If you can’t get fire-roasted tomatoes, add a little smoked paprika to your tomato paste to recreate the smoky flavor.
  • Instead of garlic powder, some people prefer a garlic chili paste for an extra bit of heat.
  • Another optional extra is one to two tablespoons of onion puree for added complexity.
  • If you love spicy food, add a pinch of cayenne pepper.


What dishes can I use Tex-Mex paste for?

You can use Tex-Mex paste for following dishes: beef tamales, beef Barbacoa, stuffed bell peppers, chili con carne, burritos, tacos, and almost any other Texan and Mexican food options.

What’s the difference between authentic Mexican recipes and Tex-Mex food?

There are several differences between authentic Mexican recipes and Tex-Mex food. Since Tex-Mex recipes incorporate a lot of traditional Mexican ingredients, it does have a similar flavor profile. Tex-Mex largely uses beef while authentic Mexican food often makes use of pork. 

Tex-Mex cooking also includes ingredients that are not commonly found in Mexican cuisine. These include yellow cheese, canned vegetables, black beans, wheat flour, and cumin.

Do authentic Mexican tacos include cheese?

No, authentic Mexican tacos do not include cheese. While you’ll often see Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses in Tex-Mex dishes, they’re not part of the truly authentic Mexican tradition. Queso fresco and queso Oaxaca are the most common types of cheese used in authentic Mexican dishes.

Is salsa Mexican or Tex-Mex?

Salsa is both Mexican and Tex-Mex. It is common in both cuisines with many different varieties. The traditional Mexican type, called salsa fresca, is a fresh mix of tomatoes and hot peppers. However, salsa as a dip with tortilla chips is a Tex-Mex invention.


Tex-Mex cuisine is loads of fun to cook (and eat)! Since these delicious recipes are very much fusion inspired, there’s plenty of scope to tweak your dishes the way you like them, or with what you have available.

Tex-Mex paste might sometimes be hard to find but chili powder, cumin, tomato paste, garlic, oregano, and onions are readily available. That means that even without the Texican sauce you can still get some of the same flavors in your dish in a flash.

Adobo or chipotle sauce are two other quick and easy options to use as a Tex-Mex paste substitute. Happy Cooking!

*image by serezniy/depositphotos

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