“Pavochon, both the word and the dish, is one of Puerto Rico’s many Spanglish creations,” says writer illyanna Maisonet. “A mash-up of pavo for turkey and chon for lechón, it’s become the centerpiece of a Puerto Rican Thanksgiving. Come November, supermarket shelves across Puerto Rico hold all the classic components: cranberry sauce, stuffing, dinner rolls. The diaspora became accustomed to these items Stateside and brought them back to the island—which could be how pavochon was born.” Serve it with Maisonet’s Cornbread and Salami Dressing. Note: Achiote paste is essential for getting a deep burnished color and extra rich flavor all over the turkey.


  • 1 12–14-lb. whole turkey, neck and giblets removed, patted dry

  • 1 lemon, halved

  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 3 Tbsp. achiote (annatto) paste

  • 2 Tbsp. dried oregano

  • 2 Tbsp. granulated garlic

  • 2 tsp. ground cumin

  • 1 large onion, halved

  • 5 garlic cloves

  • 2 celery stalks

Recipe Preparation

  • Using your fingers, gently separate skin from breast meat starting at neck. Rub outside of turkey all over with cut sides of lemon; set lemon aside. Season inside and out all over with salt and pepper (be generous with the salt). Rub butter over breast meat underneath skin.

  • Mash oil, achiote paste, oregano, granulated garlic, and cumin in a small bowl to a smooth paste. Rub an even layer all over outside of turkey. Tie legs together with kitchen twine. 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.

  • If chilled, let turkey sit at room temperature 1 hour before roasting.

  • Place a rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 450°. Place onion, garlic, celery, and reserved lemon inside turkey cavity. Place turkey in a large roasting pan on top of a flat or V-shaped wire rack. Pour 1½ cups water into pan. Roast turkey, rotating once if it is browning unevenly, until skin is browned all over and beginning to crisp, 25–30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° and continue to roast turkey, basting with pan juices every 30 minutes, adding more water by ½-cupfuls if completely evaporated, and rotating pan if browning unevenly, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of breasts registers 150°–155° and thickest part of thighs registers 165°–170°, about 1½ hours longer. Transfer turkey to a cutting board; let rest 30–60 minutes before carving. (If making gravy, deglaze pan and use drippings.)

Recipe by illyanna Maisonet

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