Thanksgiving Turkey

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.

107 comments on “Thanksgiving Turkey

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  1. I’m about to take on your Turkey Recipe this Thanksgiving. It’s my first time ever cooking the bird on my own! I’m following your recipe step by step and also making the Brussel Sprouts with Pork Belly as my side dish too!!! I’m very excited and nervous at the same time. I will let you know if it’s a success during our thanksgiving dinner! Besitos y abrazos! Gracias Pati! 🙏🦃🍁

    1. Thanks for choosing my recipes for such a special celebration Mayra, don’t forget to let me know how did you like the Turkey and the Sprouts 😉

  2. I just watched the episode for Thanksgiving!!! Just had to say I love u and love it all!!! Amazing as always!!! Happy a holiday and stay safe!!

    1. I would say visit the International Markets in your area and you will find them, they are very popular in Asian cooking as well (check the freezers, sometimes they have them there!). Or buy them online, because there is nothing that can make this Turkey so moist and flavor as banana leaves 🙂

  3. Starting to plan Thanksgiving 2020 and this turkey will be the star! I was wondering, would one be able to cook in an infrared fryer? Warmest thanks!

  4. I dutifully marinated the bird — all 20 lbs. of it: Added the stuffing at least a couple of pounds; then I sliced the onions and chopped the tomatoes which added a few more pounds. I use a Calphalon roaster, which is not lightweight and the rack. Finally, I filled the roaster pan halfway with the marinade. Then, I tried to lift it, LOL. I am not weak – I lift things all the time. This was, however, quite a bit heavier than I thought it would be. With help I got it into the oven. I followed all directions – including the banana leaves and foil. The result was everything I had hoped it would be — But, if I do this again, I will consider the weight and adjust accordingly. Thank you for a great opportunity to make a memorable feast.

  5. We made this Yucatan turkey and Chorizo stuffing on Thanksgiving! It was so tender and flavorful. We use banana leaves for our Guatemalan tamales, so I knew that the banana leaves on the turkey would give it an extra good flavor! Thank you and we LOVE watching your show!

  6. This Year My family and I are celebrating Thanksgiving Mexican Style, and we are following some of your recipes 🙂 Thank you, Patti for the inspiration! Viva Mexico

  7. My favorite recipe for marinade. Makes a juicy, flavorful Turkey. However my hubby likes my traditional potato (Nova Scotia) stuffing and gravy with red wine recipes. So this year we’ll see how it works out combining the two recipes.

  8. Hola Pati!
    I’m excited to try your turkey recipe! for the first time use banana leaves too. I’m nervous too because I’m hosting as well.
    Do you think I can use an electric roaster or should I really go with the oven? I like the idea roaster for the turkey and use my oven for the side dishes. Happy Thanksgiving Pati!


  9. Hi Pati –

    Planning to make your turkey on Thanksgiving. Where do you get your banana leaves in Washington, DC? Love all your recipes!

    1. Give these a try, Elena:
      Panam International, 14th St NW
      H Mart (lots of locations)
      Mega Mart (lots of locations)
      Happy Thanksgiving!

  10. I woke up at 3am to find this Turkey Day show on tv and I was mesmerized by all the deliciousness I was seeing. I’m hooked and look forward to all your shows. Can’t wait to start trying your recipes!

  11. I assume that the skins are on the garlic because it is toasted before blending. The recipe implies the papery skins go in the blender. That doesn’t seem a good idea.

  12. I love the bitter orange and achiote blend. use it on lamb chops (with a bit of rum).

    I’d like to try your turkey recipe. I wonder whether it might cook well spatchcocked. Any thoughts?

  13. This was one of the very first episodes I ever watched of your show! And from that day forward, I always look forward to seeing it stream every Saturday afternoon. As for this dish, I may not be the master of roasting turkey, but I love this a twist from the classic and the flavors sound delicious together. Happy Thanksgiving Pati, to you and your famliy 🙂

  14. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Pati, thank you so much for sharing your culture and being such a great ambassador for Hispanic culture. As well as showing how much more the food of Mexico really is! Muchas gracias Señora.

  15. Last year I had everything ready and the element in my oven burned out while it was pre heating! We ended up smoking it which all the flavors away! So this year, with a NEW oven Im so excited to make it!!! Wish me luck!!!

  16. Hola Pati hermosa, me inspiras mucho, eres una mujer linda, gracias por ser como eres, el ano pasado hice esta receta, pero ya no hayo el video, Pati me puede ayudar porfavor, quiero ver el video..
    Gracias Dios los bendiga grandemente🧡

  17. My mother in law was from mecico city she was mayan. She made a meat dressing but it had olives in it. Shes gone now and im wondering if i could get your thoughts

  18. Well I had a whole house full of Mexicans for Thanksgiving they enjoyed the turkey but they did not like the cornbread stuffing it was too sweet white people like the stuffing

  19. Hi Pati, What do you recommend we do with the grease that comes off the turkey? Do you separate it off before you push the solids through the sieve? Thanks for your help!

  20. Pati – Feliz Día de dar Gracias! Tengo 2 pavos este año. Uno a tu estilo – Yucatán/Mexicano, el otro a mi estilo – Cubano. Aquí vamos atener parte de las Naciones Unidas jajaja. Muchísimas gracias por compartir tantas recetes requisimas e historias tan lindas por tantos años! ❤️

  21. We just put the bird in to marinate last night at 1:30 AM. Ivan has posted the photo on FB. Can’t wait to see how it turns out at tomorrow’s dinner here in DC!

  22. Hey Pati! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. I’m proud to say I’m doing your Thanksgiving this year. The turkey, the stuffing, the sweet potatoes. But I chose a dessert out of all your desserts, and I’m doing Oreo Conchas. Thank you. Have a great holiday.

  23. Hola paty. Gracias por la receta, es facil y el turkey se mira delicioso. Donde puedo ver el video del relleno. Bye. Tnks.

  24. Hi! Pati,
    If I am cooking the turkey in a bag instead of banana leaves (I could not find any) would I add the onion and tomatoes in the bag or sauté separately???

    Im Truly one of your biggest fans!!!

  25. Pati thank you so much for your show. Mi mama ya no esta conmigo y cocinar pues mas o menos puedo. Pero gracias a ti estoy cocinando mas. Grabo todos tus shows y luego me ando hablando contigo como si estuvieras escuchandome. jaja

  26. Pati – I fell in love with your show while I was on maternity leave last year. I’m trying your recipe for Thanksgiving this year. I am so excited to try it! Wish this 1st time Thanksgiving cook good luck!

    1. Absolutely! You can also do it with a chicken if you like. I recommend you cut down the ingredients and the time on each step by a third if you use a 3 pound game hen or chicken.

  27. Just saw this episode in Australia. Mexican food ingredients are not widely available here. So what can I use to substitute achiote paste? Also, would regular orange juice instead of bitter orange work? Thanks!

  28. I’ve been watching you for ages. Just watched the Thanksgiving episode this week. As much as I love your trips through Mexico, I think this was my favorite episode! Your joy in cooking and especially your pleasure in cooking with your so precious son (and I’m a sucker for boys!) was shining through the airwaves! I’ve cooked several of your recipes and can’t wait to try these! Almost makes me want to cook the family Thanksgiving meal this year…almost 🙂

  29. If I didn’t want to put stuffing inside the turkey, what would you recommend to put inside in order to infuse flavor and maintain moisture in the turkey?

  30. I’m watching now and can’t wait to make this — also, thanks to the other viewer that mentioned trying this with chicken — what a great idea! Pati, thank you for entertaining us with your stories and delicious recipes. You’re a wonderful teacher!
    I love your molcajete ^-^

  31. Just saw this on TV. I tell you I was drooling the whole time and I’m not waiting for Thanksgiving to do this. Thanks.

  32. looked so good and the ingredients sounded so good that I thought it would make a tasty experiment on the second turkey. Thank you

  33. I tried this recipe on a chicken. The aroma was amazing & the chicken so moist. My husband enjoyed it too. Can’t wait to do the turkey now. Thank you!

  34. Dear Patti,
    Thank you so much for your show!! I just saw your Thanksgiving turkey episode. .. your a great ambassador to Mexican cooking and culture…and thank you so much for your honest, non-sarcastic sense of humor… its refreshing that your not trying to be anyone but yourself…humor and lighthearteness are so important in our daily lives…and your