Pavochón (Puerto Rican Roasted Turkey)

Pavochón (Puerto Rican Roasted Turkey)

The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 3 hrs
Marinate and Rest: 2 hrs 30 mins
Total: 5 hrs 50 mins
Servings: 8 to 10 servings
Yield: 1 whole turkey
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
1236 Calories
50g Fat
2g Carbs
182g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8 to 10
Amount per serving
Calories 1236
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 50g 64%
Saturated Fat 14g 70%
Cholesterol 692mg 231%
Sodium 782mg 34%
Total Carbohydrate 2g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 182g
Vitamin C 1mg 5%
Calcium 98mg 8%
Iron 7mg 40%
Potassium 1559mg 33%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The word pavochón is a combination of the Spanish word for turkey, pavo, and the word lechón, which means suckling pig. Roasting a turkey for Thanksgiving in the manner of lechón has been a tradition in Puerto Rico since the island became an American commonwealth and adopted the holiday.

On the Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands, the meat of choice for the holidays is roasted suckling pork. So it only makes sense to combine the tradition of the islands with an American classic and serve turkey that is reminiscent of roasted pork for Thanksgiving. This flavorful recipe is a nice change of pace from the typical bird and will match well with both American and Latin Caribbean side dishes such as mofongo stuffing.

"The turkey was delicious with the adobo mixture and loads of garlic, and it was an easy preparation. I ended up with about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of drippings and fat, so I used them—along with a bit of flour—to make a great-tasting turkey gravy." —Diana Rattray

puerto rican roasted turkey tester image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

  • 3 tablespoons adobo

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

  • 1 (14-pound) turkey

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Pavochón (Puerto Rican Roasted Turkey)

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  2. Mash the garlic cloves and salt into a paste using a pilòn (mortar and pestle).

    Garlic and salt mashed together using a mortar and pestle

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Add the peppercorns and adobo and crush the ingredients into the paste.

    Peppercorns and adobo mashed with garlic in a mortar and pestle

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  4. Stir in the olive oil and apple cider vinegar.

    Olive oil and apple cider vinegar added to the spice mixture in the mortar and pestle

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  5. Rub the mixture under the turkey’s skin and inside the cavities, then rub the rest of the mixture on top of the skin. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine. Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan. Let sit for 2 hours uncovered at room temperature.

    Whole turkey coated in the spice mixture, in a roasting pan,

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  6. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Roast the turkey for about 3 hours, until the breast meat reaches 165 F and the thigh is 175 F. Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes, uncovered, and then carve.

    Pavochón (Puerto Rican Roasted Turkey) in a roasting pan

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

Turkey Roasting Tips

Whether this is your first Thanksgiving bird or you just want to brush up on technique, following a few tips will assure your holiday centerpiece will be a success.

  • Choose the right size: Estimate 1 1/2 pounds of uncooked turkey per person. This factors in a range of appetites as well as leftovers.
  • Thaw a frozen turkey: It may surprise you how long it takes to defrost a turkey—calculate 24 hours in the refrigerator per 4 to 5 pounds. The fridge is the recommended method.
  • Roast 15 minutes per pound: No matter what size turkey you buy, calculate 15 minutes per pound in a 325 F oven.
  • Cook the stuffing on the side: Although a stuffed bird is traditional, placing the stuffing inside the turkey cavity can create safety issues; it is challenging to bring both the turkey meat and the stuffing up to the proper temperature without over or undercooking either.
  • Use a meat thermometer: It is best not to rely on the pop-up timers that come with some turkeys; instead use an instant-read thermometer for more accuracy.
  • Make sure to rest the bird: Letting the turkey sit after it comes out of the oven allows the juices to redistribute, making for moist and juicy meat.

Tips

  • Make sure not to leave the turkey at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.
  • For a more intense flavor, place the seasoned turkey in the refrigerator, uncovered, for several hours or up to two days. If you leave the bird uncovered, the skin will crisp up nicely in the oven.
  • If you've refrigerated the turkey, bring it to room temperature before roasting.

Recipe Variation

If desired, just before the turkey goes into the oven, stuff the cavity with a few sprigs of thyme and cilantro along with a few wedges of lemon or lime, a quartered onion, and 1 or 2 sliced oranges.

How to Store Leftover Turkey

  • Refrigerate leftover turkey in zip-close bags or covered shallow containers within 2 hours and eat within 4 days.
  • To freeze cooled cooked turkey, cut it into slices or bite-size pieces, depending on how you plan to use the leftovers. Place the turkey in zip-close freezer bags—label with the name and date and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Freeze leftover turkey bones and carcass in zip-close freezer bag for up to 6 months.


Can I use a food processor instead of the mortar and pestle?

A mortar and pestle require a little more work, but they bring out more flavor than a food processor. If you don't have a mortar and pestle, feel free to use a grinder or food processor. Or use a rolling pin to crush the garlic and peppercorns and then mix with the remaining ingredients.