Pavochon (Thanksgiving Turkey Puerto Rican Style) is a whole turkey that’s seasoned and cooked like Puerto Rican roast pork! It’s garlicky, herbaceous, and just plain, freaking delicious.
Wow, mi gente! I cannot believe it, it’s almost Thanksgiving! This time of year makes me especially grateful for my Puerto Rican heritage. The holiday season is an opportunity for my family to gather around delicious food that is rich in tradition, history, and FLAVOR! The star of our Thanksgiving dinner table has always been, and will always be pavochon.
What is Pavochon?
Well, it’s really a made up word, or portmanteau, that combines the Spanish words for turkey (pavo) & roast suckling pig (lechon). So pavochon is turkey that’s been seasoned and cooked like Puerto Rican roast pork, AKA pernil. Also known as the holy grail of Thanksgiving dinner. Pavochon is garlicky, herbaceous, juicy, tender and just plain, freaking delicious. As you may well have experienced, turkey is one of those meats that really needs a ton of flavor before it can shine. This marinade technique does just that, and more! It’s packed with Latin flavors and spices that result in the most delicious turkey you’ve ever had. Once you have pavochon, you’ll never go back to making a regular turkey again!
How Do You Make Pavochon?
Just like Puerto Rican Roast Pork Shoulder (Pernil), pavochon features a robust marinade of garlic, oregano, black pepper, olive oil and vinegar. To add a delicious golden color to the turkey, I also add organic Sazon and organic Adobo from Loisa (get 15% off with my coupon code “delish15”). First, you take a whole bunch of peeled garlic and mash it with a wooden pilón (mortar and pestle). The goal is to make the garlic into a paste and extra all of the fragrant oils. Then you mix in your seasonings, olive oil and vinegar, and slather the turkey all over with this potent mix. Allow the turkey to marinate overnight, and then roast it for 15 minutes per pound, or until the breast reaches 160F and the thigh is at 180F.
What Can You Serve With Pavochon?
If you’re in the mood to take Thanksgiving to the next level, try my mofongo stuffed turkey recipe! Yup, you heard that right! Forget plain old stuffing, we’re stuffing this bad boy with Puerto Rican style mofongo! For an authentic Puerto Rican holiday meal, browse our other essential Puerto Rican Thanksgiving recipes!
Essential Puerto Rican Thanksgiving Recipes:
- Puerto Rican Chicken Empanadas (Empanadillas de Pollo)
- Pollo En Escabeche (Puerto Rican Pickled Chicken)
- Ensalada de Pulpo (Octopus Salad)
- Salami, Guava & Cheese Appetizer (Entremeses Tipicos)
- Pizza Empanadas (Empanadillas De Pizza)
Main Dishes & Sides
- Arroz Con Gandules (Puerto Rican Rice with Pigeon Peas)
- Slow Cooker Pernil (Puerto Rican Roasted Pork Shoulder)
- Puerto Rican Pasteles De Yuca
- Pastelón (Sweet Plantain Lasagna)
- Habichuelas Guisadas (Puerto Rican Stewed Beans)
- Asopao De Pollo (Puerto Rican Chicken & Rice Gumbo)
- Coconut Cream Cheese Flan (Flan De Coco)
- Budin (Puerto Rican Bread Pudding)
- Natilla (Puerto Rican Custard Dessert)
- Mantecaditos (Puerto Rican Guava Thumbprint Cookies)
- Pastelitos De Guayaba Y Queso (Guava and Cheese Puff Pastries)
- Coquito (Puerto Rican Coconut Rum Drink, Egg-Free)
- Arroz Con Dulce (Puerto Rican Coconut Rice Pudding)
- Chewy Coquito Cookies (Puerto Rican Eggnog)
Have a wonderful holiday season, mi gente! Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Facebook for even more delicious recipes!
Pavochon: Thanksgiving Turkey Puerto Rican Style
Thanksgiving Turkey, Puerto Rican Style
- 1 whole turkey 12-18 lbs, thawed and giblets removed
- 24 cloves of garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons Adobo All Purpose seasoning
- 6 teaspoons Sazon seasoning
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons white or cider vinegar
Defrost the turkey according to the package instructions, remove the giblets and pat it dry. Place the turkey in a non-reactive container or extra large ziptop bag.
Mince up the garlic cloves in a mortar and pestle (pilon), or food processor. Add in the Adobo, Sazon, pepper, oregano, olive oil and vinegar. Stir to combine.
Using your fingers, gently separate the skin from the meat. Be gentle, so you don’t tear the skin up too much. Flip the turkey over, and do the same thing on the other side. Spread half of the mixture underneath the skin on the back side of the turkey. Do the same thing on the breast side of the turkey. Lastly, sprinkle the outside of the bird with a liberal amount of Adobo (2 teaspoons).
Cover the turkey and marinate for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
When you're ready to cook the turkey, preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Place the turkey breast side up on a roasting pan fitted with a roasting rack. Don't cover the turkey with foil, otherwise it won't brown. If you notice the breast getting too browned, you can cover the breast with foil.
Cook for 15 minutes per pound, until a meat thermometer reads 160F in the breast and 180F in the thigh, basting occasionally. This should take about 3-4 hours, depending on the size of your turkey.
I made this last night. This was my first time having to cook a Thanksgiving meal since we moved away from my family. It came out perfect! So flavorful and juicy. Thank you so much for the perfect Turkey recipe.
I’m so happy to hear this!
Could you add sofrito and if so how much should u use?
Yes you can; I’d probably use about 1/2 cup.
I’m about to put it in the oven here in WA and I’m excited! I told my sister in OH about it and she made it too. I’m wondering if anyone has a gravy recipe to go with it? My turkeys in the past we’re more traditional herbs and seasoning.
You can make a basic gravy with the turkey drippings. Make a roux with 2 tbsp flour and 2 tbsp turkey drippings. Then add the rest of your turkey drippings and some extra chicken or turkey broth if there’s not enough liquid. Taste and season with salt if needed.
I just made my pavochon with your recipe. Awesome! It’s juicy, flavorful and beautiful in color. Thanks so much! I added some pieces of onions to the tray for some extra flavor. Very tasty!!!!
Thank you Marisol! Happy Thanksgiving!
I’m going to start cooking the marinated turkey at 8. Should I add more seasoning. Turkey is 10 pounds. Also can I cook it in an empty aluminum pan or do I add chicken broth to the bottom. First time and I’m nervous. Happy Thanksgiving to you
You’ll be fine with the recipe amount of marinade. I recommend roasting the turkey on a baking rack or roasting rack, so that it’s not sitting in liquid and getting soggy. You can put some chicken or turkey broth into the pan to create moisture during the cooking process.
Omg it was perfect and I also used your coquito recipe. Thank you. I’ll be using more recipes
Ah I’m so glad! Thank you!
Instead of white vinegar, can you use apple cider vinegar?
I prepped tonight and if it tastes 1/2 as good as it smells ill be in heaven. Ill let you know tomorrow.
Yessssss!!! Happy Thanksgiving!
Getting ready to spread it on the turkey for tomorrow. Using a 19 pd turkey though so I hope it is enough. Can’t wait to try it.
You can always add more marinade, more is better!
Im super nervous about it being too garlicky. We love garlic but do you think doubling the recipe for a 13 pound bird would be too much? Do you only double the garlic or the entire seasoning recipe?
This recipe is for a 12-16 lb bird so I would follow as is.
Thank you for the recipe-do you cut holes into the Turkey to get the seasoning into the meat?
I find that putting the seasoning under the skin flavors it enough but you can take that extra step if you desire to
Great recipe. Do you think this can be fried? Thanks!
I’m sure it can. Just take the appropriate turkey frying precautions that come in your turkey fryer instructions.
What type of Goya Sazon?
I use the one with achiote.
Pavochon, comes from “El Barrio Collores de Juana Diaz”. The gentleman that came up with the idea of seasoning the turkey like that, had a dream for many years of a turkey transforming into a pig, that’s how it all started.
I used this recipe for the first time on Thanksgiving. My hubby loved it so much that he wants me to make another turkey for Christmas eve. …that’s tomorrow! Lol. Well, happy spouse, happy house.
So, Pavochon it is!
Hello! i just made my 3rd turkey ever since the last time in 2016. Needless to say i was super nervous. However, i found this recipe and am sooo happy I did. My PAVOCHON came out so yummy. thank you so much for posting this. This will be my recipe forever! LOL.
This is awesome Carmen, thanks for sharing!
My first time hosting and I’m super excited. Saw this and I’m hoping your recipe works for me because I’m nerves and never done this before. Thanks for sharing your wonderful dish. Can’t wait to eat today and see the results smells really good.
Thanks Lisa, I’m sure it turned out great!
Here goes nothing everyone I’m attempting this recipe but cut back on the garlic
Can’t wait to hear how it went!
A 22 quart electric roaster oven will fit a bird up to 24 lbs!! Great for freeing up the oven during the holidays. 🙂
Sooo We are making ours on a turkey roaster… to crisp the skin… After removing from turkey roaster? What do you suggest?
You can bake it in the oven at 375-400F until crisp, should take about 15-20 minutes.
For the seasoning, how much would you recommend for a 12 or 15 lb turkey?
Mario, you can double or even triple the marinade recipe for a bird that size. If you want it super garlicky, triple it.
Hey! Making an 18 lb turkey. Instead of doubling the ingredients can i add the Goya mojo? Or should i just double?
I would do both, Turkey needs a lot of seasoning, the more the better.
Mine is in crock pot now.
Awesome Melissa, can’t wait to hear all about it!