Pavochon: Thanksgiving Turkey Puerto Rican Style

The star of my Puerto Rican Thanksgiving dinner table has always been, and will always be pavochon, a whole turkey that’s seasoned and cooked like Puerto Rican roast pork!

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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.

Pavochon: Thanksgiving Turkey Puerto Rican Style

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!

Pavochon: Thanksgiving Turkey Puerto Rican Style

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.

Pavochon: Thanksgiving Turkey Puerto Rican Style

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:

Appetizers

Main Dishes & Sides

Desserts

Have a wonderful holiday season, mi gente! Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Facebook for even more delicious recipes!

5 from 10 votes
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Pavochon: Thanksgiving Turkey Puerto Rican Style

Thanksgiving Turkey, Puerto Rican Style

Course Main Course
Prep Time 2 hours 40 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 40 minutes
Total Time 5 hours 20 minutes
Servings 10
Author Delish D’Lites

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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).
  4. Cover the turkey and marinate for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
  5. 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.

  6. 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.

Pavochon: Thanksgiving Turkey Puerto Rican Style

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46 Responses

  1. 5 stars
    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.

  2. 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.

    1. 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.

  3. 5 stars
    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!!!!

  4. 5 stars
    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

    1. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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?

  7. 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.

  8. 5 stars
    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!

  9. 5 stars
    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.

  10. 5 stars
    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.

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  12. Sooo We are making ours on a turkey roaster… to crisp the skin… After removing from turkey roaster? What do you suggest?

      1. Hey! Making an 18 lb turkey. Instead of doubling the ingredients can i add the Goya mojo? Or should i just double?

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Hola

I’m Jannese, Founder of Delish D’lites

I’m a Puerto Rican girl living in paradise (Florida), and the creative mind behind Delish D’Lites. I love sharing my family recipes and travel inspired cuisine! My favorite things include collecting passport stamps, twerking to Latin music, and kissing puppies. Follow along on social.