Pavo al Pastor

October 27, 2021
4 Ratings
  • Prep time 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Cook time 2 hours
  • Serves 8 to 10
Author Notes

Al pastor is typically a dish made with pork, spit-roasted over an open flame—but why should we let pork have all the fun? It's time your Thanksgiving turkey got a little pep in its step. Leftovers are excellent in your classic sandwich, birria tacos, or by themselves, on the edge of your fork. —Rick Martinez

Test Kitchen Notes

This dish is part of Residentsgiving—aka the Thanksgiving menu of our wildest dreams—created by Food52's resident experts-slash-superheroes. Devour the rest of the spread here, and while you're at it, learn how to Remix & Remaster your Thanksgiving. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 6 tablespoons crumbled achiote paste
  • 9 garlic cloves, finely grated (2 heaping tablespoons)
  • 6 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, finely chopped (3 tablespoons), plus 6 tablespoons adobo sauce
  • 6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons (36 g/1.26 oz.) Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons agave syrup or honey
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 (12 to 14-lb.) whole turkey, neck and giblets removed, patted dry
  • 1 large pineapple, peeled, cored, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 2 large white onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • Warm corn tortillas, cranberry salsa macha, and cilantro leaves, for serving
  1. Use the tines of a fork to break up the achiote paste in a medium bowl so that no large clumps of paste remain. Add garlic, chipotle, adobo, vinegar, salt and stir, using the tines to smash garlic, chipotles and achiote together into a smooth sauce. Vigorously whisk agave and ¾ cup olive oil into achiote mixture until completely smooth.
  2. Place the turkey on the center of a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. Liberally brush with achiote sauce, getting into every nook, cranny and inside the cavity of the turkey. Turkey should be completely coated and there should not be any sauce remaining. Tie legs together with kitchen twine and tuck wings underneath. Let sit at room temperature 2 hours, or set on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet and chill, uncovered, up to 2 days.
  3. If chilled, let turkey sit at room temperature 1 hour before roasting.
  4. Place a rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 400°F.
  5. Toss pineapple and onion with remaining ¼ cup olive oil in a medium bowl, lightly season with salt. Arrange in an even layer on the bottom of a large roasting pan. Place turkey on top of a flat or V-shaped wire rack and arrange over top of the pineapple and onions. Roast turkey, rotating once if it is browning unevenly, until skin is brick red in spots, 25 to 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F and continue to roast turkey, rotating pan if browning unevenly, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of breasts registers 150° to 155°, and thickest part of thighs registers 165° to 170°, about 1½ hours (you can tent the top with with some foil if it’s browning a bit too quickly).
  6. Transfer turkey to a cutting board; let rest 30 to 60 minutes, uncovered before carving. Toss pineapple and onion in fat and accumulated juices and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve with warm tortillas, salsa macha, and cilantro leaves.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Laura415
  • Tina
  • dronkgator
  • Carmen kelly
    Carmen kelly
Rick Martinez

Recipe by: Rick Martinez

Rick Martinez is currently living his dream—cooking, eating and enjoying the Mexican Pacific coast in Mazatlán. He is finishing his first cookbook, Under the Papaya Tree, food from the seven regions of Mexico and loved traveling the country so much, he decided to buy a house on the beach. He is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit, New York Times and hosts live, weekly cooking classes for Food Network Kitchens. Earlier this year, he was nominated for a James Beard Award for “How to win the Cookie Swap” in Bon Appétit’s holiday issue.

4 Reviews

Tina November 27, 2021
Absolutely loved this recipe for our turkey this year and it got rave reviews. Used the marinade to cover the turkey the day before and let it sit uncovered in the fridge.had lots left over so did another coat before cooking. The only bad part was something in the sauce caused the skin to start burning less than an hour into it so would recommend covering until the end. The turkey was moist and incredibly flavorful tossed in the drippings. Served as recommended with tortillas and cranberry salsa macha and it was a great pair
dronkgator November 25, 2021
Ugh, ruined thanksgiving, partly my fault.

The crumbled achiote paste, at least the one I bought, already has a ton of salt in it. Combined with the salt recommended in the recipe, this was an overly salty but beautiful mess. Skip the recommended salt and keep in mind the achiote paste already has a day's worth of salt in it.
Laura415 November 4, 2021
Love love these flavors. This turkey would look great spatchcocked with this marinade so as much of the skin will get beautifully red and crispy as possible. One concern for me would be burned pineapple and onion on the bottom of the roasting pan. Tempting to saute them or bake them separately to avoid burning.
Carmen K. November 2, 2021
I’m assuming in step two you’re talking about setting the turkey on the wire rack.