Thanksgiving Turkey


Thanksgiving Turkey

Right after we got married, we moved from Mexico City to Dallas, Texas. It was in the middle of the very hot summer, oh how I remember that.

I had always been a great eater… but not a great cook. The youngest of four daughters, I had always been labeled the intellectual one, while each one of my older sisters jumped into the cooking and lifestyle field in one way or another.

Back then, I was focusing all my efforts on finishing my political science thesis to become an academic. But not knowing anyone, with my husband traveling all the time, and sort of locking myself in the duplex we lived in to write most of the time, I became insanely nostalgic for my family and the foods that we ate back home. So I jumped in the kitchen, and started to chat with anyone and everyone who seemed open to share recipes with me, in an attempt to recreate the soups, the stews, the dishes, and the nurturing flavors that I knew would help me feel at home.

Then came October. Like a sudden rain fall, I started seeing luscious Thanksgiving menu images everywhere: in stores, at the mall, on TV, on glossy books and cooking magazines in grocery stores. “A festive turkey meal in October,” I wondered. In Mexico, turkey is eaten for Christmas! “Oh boy,” I thought, “here they really do plan ahead of time.”

I had never heard of Thanksgiving before. Yet intrigued by the photos and recipes I was seeing, I made a full Thanksgiving meal for my husband and I. That was the very first one. Since then, we have sat down for a Thanksgiving meal every single year. Fast forward 19 years, and by now, I can tell you that Thanksgiving has become my favorite American holiday.

It is not only because of the food, but because of how friends and family come together around the table. How everyone seems to contribute in what is almost a communal effort. How the holiday is so timeless, with classic dishes that need to remain classics. But there is also an open window for flavors and ingredients that can enrich the meal.

Now, so many years later, I get the meaning of Thanksgiving more than ever. Here is my humble offer for your table: a turkey recipe packed with the sazón of some of my favorite flavor combinations and the tastiest Chorizo, Apple and Cornbread Stuffing.

Oh, by the way, for Season 5 of Pati’s Mexican Table, we made a Thanksgiving episode. I really do hope you catch it! Here is a clip.

You can also find out when the episode is playing in your location, by entering your zip code here.

Thanksgiving Turkey

Pavo de Acción de Gracias
10 servings
Pati Jinich
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Keyword: achiote paste, allspice, banana leaves, bitter orange juice, cumin, oregano, pati's mexican table, Thanksgiving, turkey
Author:Pati Jinich
Prep Time: 12 hours
Cook Time: 5 hours
Total Time: 17 hours
Thanksgiving Turkey recipe from Pati's Mexican Table Season 5, Episode 11 “Turkey Day”


For the marinade:

  • 6 tablespoons achiote paste, from a bar
  • 6 cups bitter orange juice or its substitute
  • 6 cups homemade chicken broth, or store bought
  • 12 cloves garlic charred, broiled or toasted, with the skin on, and then peeled
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

For the turkey:

  • 1 16- to 18-pound turkey, rinsed and patted dry
  • 4 whole red onions, peeled and sliced
  • 8 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 to 3 banana leaves (optional)
  • 1 brining bag large enough for a turkey, (or an extra-large plastic bag)
  • Chorizo, Apple and Corn Bread Stuffing

To Prepare

To make the marinade:
  • In a blender or food processor, working in 2 batches, add the achiote paste, bitter orange juice or its substitute, chicken broth, garlic, oregano, cumin, allspice, salt, and pepper and puree until smooth.
  • Slide the turkey, with the breast side down, into the brining bag. Pour the marinade into the bag and massage it into the bird, working it into the cavity and all the crevasses. Place the bag in a mixing bowl or roasting pan and refrigerate for 12 to 48 hours, turning the turkey a couple of times to redistribute the marinade.
To make the turkey:
  • Set the oven rack at the lowest position and preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Spread the onions and tomatoes in a large roasting pan. Sit the turkey on the vegetables breast side up. Stuff the main cavity with as much stuffing as it can hold and place the rest in a buttered baking dish. Close the cavity by crossing and tying the legs with butcher’s twine. Tuck the wing tips under the turkey. Pour as much of the remaining marinade over the turkey as will fit halfway up the pan.
  • Roast the turkey for 30 minutes. Cover the turkey with layers of banana leaves, if you are using them, and then cover the entire pan with aluminum foil, sealing it as best as you can. The less steam that is able to escape the better.
  • Reduce the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place turkey back in the oven and roast for 3 1/2 hours, or for at least 12 minutes per pound. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the leaves and/or the foil, being careful as the steam is hot. Return to the oven and roast for 20 more minutes. The turkey should be completely cooked through and nearly falling off the bone.
  • Remove turkey from the oven and let it rest for at least 15 to 20 minutes, loosely covered with the aluminum foil.
  • Strain all the cooked vegetables and juice into a medium 3-quart saucepan, pressing with the back of the spoon to get as much liquid as possible. Set aside 1 cup for the stuffing. Simmer the remaining sauce for 15 to 20 minutes, until it has reduced by half.
  • While the turkey rests, pour the reserved marinade over the stuffing in the baking dish and place it in the oven for 20 minutes, or until it is hot and the top is crisped.
  • Carve the turkey and serve with the stuffing.

96 comments on “Thanksgiving Turkey

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  1. Hi, I saw your show and my husband went crazy about it. We are going to make it for Christmas and my mouth Is watering just thinking about it. I really enjoy your show, I love that to hear you speaking about Mexico, our recipes and our traditions with such passion. Thank you and Happy Hanukkah!

    1. Thanks to you and your husband for tuning in Nina, hope you guys like this Turkey for your Christmas dinner. happy Holidays to you as well 😉

  2. Paty,

    I made your recipe this Thanksgiving and my family loved it so much! It has been our favorite turkey recipe so far. The brine gave us the juiciest and most flavorful turkey ever. I will bake another one for Christmas and this time I will use the Chorizo stuffing, I can’t wait!!

    Muchas gracias!


  3. Ese día hizo un pure de camote fantastico porque no está en el video?
    Paseme la receta me la perdi siempre veo sus programa por PBS!!!!

  4. Hola Patti, I deep fry our turkey but never thought of brining it 2 days in advance. I will definitely do that this year!! Thanks for the recipe!!

  5. Started thawing my bird today, 15lbs, is it necessary for the bird to be completely thawed before I begin marinating it?

  6. We saw your Thanksgiving Turkey program, and since we are staying in Alaska this winter instead of going to Oaxaca as usual, we are going to try your recipes. We can pretend we are there! Achiote paste is not available here, but I had ordered some from Amazon when I made the Yucatán pork shoulder, and we can actually buy banana leaves in our little town. There is no delicious Mexican chorizo here, but I have made a reasonable stand-in, so we’re looking forward to the stuffing also. Thanks for the recipes, I know everyone will love them!

  7. Loved this. The presentation is beautiful. Banana leaves found at my local Mexican grocery/butcher shop. Next time I will marinate for the three days Pati mentioned for full flavor. Made the bitter orange myself because the bottled kind had mixed reviews. First roast made a beautiful color. I don’t think I got the aluminum foil perfectly sealed but I’m learning. Made the stuffing, it didn’t need more liquid for inside the turk but did for the extra dish done outside the turkey. Absolutely worth the trouble. I used the sauce from the tomato/red onion mix in soup from leftovers. Don’t you love it when people come to your house and run to the kitchen to find out what the aroma is???

  8. Hello Patti! It will be my first time cooking the turkey this year. We have purchased a 14 pound turkey. I would like to use this recipe. We are not cooking it in an oven we are cooking it in an electric roaster. What temperature would you suggest I keep the roaster at?

  9. Hola Patti!!!

    Recently moved to the middle of nowhere in the mountains in Colorado and we are CRAVING our Mexican food!!! It’s my first time cooking turkey and I have never been a fan! But banana leaves make the best pork and tamales so I’m willing to give this a shot!
    How long should it sit out before putting in oven????… I would assume like all meat you want it to come to room temp after brining in fridge. Muchas Gracias para todos!!!

  10. Does the Turkey and/or all of the other Thanksgiving recipes appear in one of your cookbooks?
    Last year I broke my turkey down, made mole (which took a day by itself) then lined a roasting pan with banana leaves and covered the turkey with more leaves and aluminum foil and braised it.

  11. Pati, what type of cornbread are you using in the chorizo, apple and cornbread stuffing? Is there a recipe for the type of cornbread you use in this, please. Big fan of your show, but a novice to Mexican cooking.

  12. Followed every single step. Comments are as follows:
    (1) Expensive to find everything and put marinade together.
    (2) Cumbersome and time taking.
    (3) Cook time is wrong…..thigh meat is not cooked.
    (4) Breast is almost dry.
    (5) dripping dont separate so hard to make gravy.
    (6) Needs serious modification Pati !!
    Not recommended at all the way it is.

  13. Pati, muchisimas gracias por compartir tus recetas deliciosas!
    Mi esposa y yo somos fanáticos de tu programa.
    Saludos desde Austin, TX.

  14. I am usually very traditional and picky about Thanksgiving but I may do the whole episode!! I’m also curious about the salad! I got spinach, fennel, pears and balsamic but what kind of cheese? Am so excited to try all these new dishes!

    1. That’s my friend Tamara’s staple salad….it’s so good! It has fennel, spinach, pears, almonds, red onion, feta or blue cheese, and a red wine vinaigrette. Happy Thanksgiving, Gena!

  15. Hi Pati!

    I just LOVE everything you do!!! From having your Boys on the show to seeing your parents in Mexico City! Can you please tell me your thoughts on using the Turkey Oven bags? I have always used them with good results so I am nervous to just use aluminum foil… please tell me what you think. Also, I would like to wish you and all of your Guys a very blessed Holiday Season!

    Elizabeth Gonzalez

  16. You, and Your Show, inspire me to cook (attempt) more traditional Mexican dishes. I have convinced the wife Unit to let me try the Gracias Turkey this year (pray for me!?)…”Wake up and smell the chorizo” (Mmmmmmmmmmmm!)

      1. As a practice run, on a whim, I made the marinade (fac’il…), 2/3’s ratio, for Pork Shoulder in my ‘new’ smoker…turned out pretty darn tasty. Pork Torta’s with homegrown Jalapeños, Slaw (homegrown cabbage), and reduced marinade…(with a side of handmade Pierogi’s). Even finicky Son-in-Law savored it !?!?!?

  17. I made this last night for a New Year’s Eve dinner party. It was amazing and even better this morning! The recipe was really easy too! I love your food and your show! Thanks for inspiring me!

  18. Hi Pati,
    I made the turkey and it is sooo juicy and tender and filled with flavor. I loved it! My family and friends loved it as well! I will be cooking this turkey again on Thanksgiving!

  19. Tried this recipe for the first time. By far the best turkey we’ve ever cooked. Meat is literally falling off the bones. No knife needed, can cut with a fork. This is the best tasting bird we’ve ever eaten. My wife knows that i’ve Fallen In love with Pati. Everyone of Pati’s recipes that we have tried, we have loved and will make again and again.
    Thank you for sharing with us…

  20. Should I follow temperature or time when cooking the turkey? My meat thermometer is already at 170 in the breast with 2 hours to go. Does the normal temperature guideline go out the window because it is steaming?

  21. I can hardly wait to get my hands on Brussels sprouts & pork belly! I think I will add tomatoes (I have some @ the Cafè to use up!) to my veggies under the turkey today, too! Thank you, Patti!

  22. I loved this show.I always brine my turkey,but I can’t wait to try your brine.I would like the recipe for the Brussels sprouts.Thank you

  23. Hello! Pati this I must make because banana leaves will give a Latino touch with Mexican flare, what a combination , love everything Pati my animal spirit are a cow or un cocinito because am away thinking of food and hungry.

  24. hola paty soy de mexico y me encanta tu programa lo sigo megusta que piensas siempre en la familia cocinas delecioso vivo en md saludos

  25. Hi Pati, my Aunt is a huge fan of your show, but she did ask me to send u a message is this the recipe of your mother for thanksgiving or is a different one. Thank you

  26. Can you have the option of Spanish in all that you write?
    Podría poner la poción de tener todas las recetas en español… a veces no se como cocinar con ingredientes tan extraños que hay acá y usted siempre encuentra la forma de que salga el plato como lo comemos en México…como con el sustituto de la maravillosa naranja amarga que hizo en esta receta.

  27. This looks nice – you could do it with a capon or chicken also. Any idea how long to steam a 6 lb chicken without the stuffing?

    1. John you can use the same recipe but cut down the ingredients and the time on each step by a third if you use a 3 pound chicken.

  28. ¡Hola Pati! Acabo de descubrir sus series en la televisión, la receta del pavo me hizo agua la boca ja ja
    ¡Le voy a mandar la receta a mi mama y yo sé que en este Noviembre haremos un pavo tan tradicional con un nuevo sabor y sazón! Es tan linda, voy a continuar a ver su programa
    Muchos saludos!!

  29. Hi Pati,
    We just watched your thanksgiving episode yesterday, now we want to make this meal soon!!! Love your show and your lovely personality!

  30. Please tell your husband that instead of another Thanksgiving in June……we are celebrating my Father’s 87th Birthday on 03/31 and we will be duplicating your Thanksgiving Dinner in a celebration in his honor. My brother is bringing the Banana Leaves from his tree to me this week! Once again, you have inspired me, not only with your recipes and how delectable you make them “taste” through your programs but your lust for each dish you make. I have always wanted to try Pork Belly, my Dad’s Birthday is a perfect reason to. But before I do, I will wake up tomorrow and make Pan de Arena. With great gratitude and best wishes to you and your family.

    Michelle. (Vigevano)

  31. Hi Pati,
    We Love your show & your family. Just finished watching your Thanksgiving episode, loved and saved all the recipes to try, as always your dishes are exciting and different, can’t wait to make a “Pati” Thanksgiving…in February LOL.
    The only thing missing…your friends brought a fennel salad which looked really refreshing to cleanse the palette and balance all the richness, however I didn’t take note when she said the ingredients because I was sure I’d find it online 🙁 but it wasn’t here. I don’t need measurements I can work it out but if you could let us know the ingredients it would really be appreciated. I thin k it would just really round out the meal. I’ve been watching you since the beginning with my Mom & Gramma, since your boys were little in your first tiny kitchen….please keep bringing your own personality to cooking, it’s like being in the kitchen with a best girlfriend! your show has introduced Mexican cooking & flavors to this German girl from Queens in a way that is simple and fun! Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!!!!

    1. Oh thank you so much Janice for your lovely message. The fennel salad is my friend Tamara’s staple salad. It has fennel, spinach, pears, almonds, red onion, feta or blue cheese and a red wine vinaigrette.

      1. You are welcome Pati, you & your shows truly deserve the praise.
        Thank you so very much for the recipe for the salad, ( and please thank your friend Tamara!), now that your son is off at college perhaps you and Tamara should cook something together one episode!

        I re-watched the episode but only the spinach & fennel are mentioned, glad I asked. can’t wait to try the recipes.
        Thanks again,

  32. Hi Pati,
    I just finished watching you in Australia.
    I love you & your cooking.
    Can’t wait to try cooking your way & buy your book.

  33. OMG, I saw the TV show reg. this episode the other day, how delicious and impressive. Definitivamente lo voy a hacer y no necesariamente en Thanksgiving. My huband and I love watching you, the way you explain and talk about your dishes makes our mouth water…. 🙂 thank you and much success to you and your lovely family. Thank you for sharing it makes you much closer to your audience!

  34. Pati,

    Muchas gracias!!!. Prepare este pavo para la cena de navidad en mi casa. Es la primera vez que cocino pavo, y la verdad a mí me gusta mucho. Pero a mis suegros y a mi esposa, el pavo no les encanta… Entonces decidí hacer algo nuevo y encontré tu deliciosa receta y decidí experimentar. La receta esta tan bien explicada que el pavo y el relleno fueron un éxito, y logre hacer que todos los que no eran fans del pavo se volvieran a servir varias veces!! Y las tortas del recalentado, todavía más ricas!!! Feliz 2017!

    Arlington VA

    1. Hola Jose! Tengo una pregunta sobre este pavo, ya que tu lo as hecho… Como salio el sabor? Y mas importante, salio seco?

      1. Hola!
        Yo hice el pavo y el stuffing el año pasado y es demasiado rico!
        No es seco para nada, yo inyecté mucho el pavo para que se le pegara más el sabor y me funcionó muy bien, además de marinarlo por varias horas.
        El sazón es difícil de explicar, predomina el sabor del achiote con la naranja, lo cual se complementa con el stuffing de chorizo y manzana.
        Mi esposo es Americano y me pidió que tengamos el mismo pavo este año porque le encantó, ya no quiere regresar al tradicional 🙂

  35. Pati,

    Muchas gracias!!!. Prepare este pavo para la cena de navidad en mi casa. Es la primera vez que cocino pavo, y la verdad a mí me gusta mucho. Pero a mis suegros y a mi esposa, el pavo no les encanta… Entonces decidí hacer algo nuevo y encontré tu deliciosa receta y decidí experimentar. La receta esta tan bien explicada que el pavo y el relleno fueron un éxito, y logre hacer que todos los que no eran fans del pavo se volvieran a servir varias veces!! Y las tortas del recalentado, todavía más ricas!!! Feliz 2017!

    Arlington VA