Steamed turkey in Mexican achiote sauce: Pavo al vapor en recado colorado

articles Food & Cuisine Recipes

Karen Hursh Graber

Achiote paste, a characteristic seasoning of the Yucatan, where it is known as recado rojo, has been discussed before in this column. Made from the seed of the annatto tree ground with cumin, cloves and peppercorns, it is found in the Hispanic food section of supermarkets north of the border, or can be ordered through an online catalogue featuring world-wide delivery. It is particularly complimentary to fish and fowl, especially when they are wrapped and steamed in the typical Yucatecan manner. Steaming the bird means completely carefree cooking- no basting, no turning, no worry about dried-out meat or burnt skin. This dish makes a great presentation at a buffet, where it can be served with a selection of salsas and baskets of warm tortillas, so that guests can make their own tacos.


  • 1 large turkey, 16-18 lbs.
  • 2 packages achiote paste (this will be about 8 oz. total)
  • 6 cups bitter orange juice (or 4 1/2 cups sweet orange juice and 1 1/2 cups fresh lime juice)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup softened butter or lard
  • 6 banana leaves or enough fresh corn husks to line the roaster and cover the turkey
  • 2 11-oz. bottles of beer

Place the turkey in a large roasting pan.

Mix the achiote paste, juice, honey, cumin and oregano.

Carefully lift the skin of the turkey and rub the softened butter or lard under the skin.

Spread the achiote mixture evenly over the turkey and marinate for 3-4 hours.

Line a large steamer or roaster with half the banana leaves or corn husks; place the turkey on a rack, making sure to use all the marinade.

Pour the beer into the steamer or roaster, cover the turkey with remaining leaves, and cover with the steamer or roaster lid, or with foil.

Steam over high heat for 3 1/2- 4 hours or until the turkey is done. team over high heat for 3 1/2- 4 hours or until the turkey is done.

Check the liquid level from time to time and add more beer or water as necessary.

The steaming may also be done in a pre-heated 350º oven, until a thermometer inserted into the inner thigh muscle reads 180º-185º.

Place the cooked turkey on a platter and garnish with sliced purple onions and sliced avocados.

Serves 16.

Link to source articles
Mexican wines: Perfect pairings with holiday dishes
The bird is the word: Pavo, guajolote, totole

Published or Updated on: November 1, 1999 by Karen Hursh Graber © 1999
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