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Pavo Pibil – Smoked Turkey in Achiote

Lemons & Time recipe for Pavo Pibil Smoked Achiote Turkey

Pavo Pibil - Smoked Turkey in Achiote

Pasture-raised turkey, marinated in achiote and smoked, looks ferociously orange but is not spicy, getting all that pigment from anatto seed, not chile. You can imagine this Mesoamerican preparation being served the same way with a traditional green crema and warm tortillas for hundreds of years. Would not change a thing!
Prep Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Total Time 7 hours 30 minutes
Course grilling, instagram, Main Course


  • 1 pasture-raised turkey

Achiote Marinade

  • 265 g Achiote Paste
  • 220 g citrus juice
  • 100 g apple cider vinegar
  • 85 g garlic cloves
  • 16 g sugar
  • 12 g salt
  • 7.5 g black pepper
  • 5 g dry oregano
  • 1 g ground cinnamon

Green Sauce

  • 45 g roasted green chile
  • 45 g fresh green chile
  • 45 g fresh cilantro
  • 115 g lime juice
  • 210 g yogurt
  • 110 g mayonnaise


  • Chef Phillip Dell has ranked #1 in chicken on the National Barbecue Circuit (KCBS). This is his Texas-style offset pellet smoker loaded with natural fruitwood including cherry and apple. It has zones of different heat, but the average is about 240 F.
    Chef Phillip Dell is a KCBS Pitmaster. This is his Texas-style offest pellet smoker.
  • Achiote paste is not the same as powder. It is a perishable, artisan product that should be sourced accordingly. It is made from annatto, the same natural spice that gives cheddar cheese a yellow color, seasoned with other traditional herbs and spices. It should be dissolved in an acidic liquid. I like citrus juice mixed with vinegar.
    Achiote paste is not the same as powder
  • Simply combine all the marinade ingredients in a blender.
    Achiote marinade in a blender
  • Spatchcocking a pasture-raised turkey or any bird allows smoke to penetrate from the inside and it will cook more evenly. Watch our video to learn this simple knife skill from a professional chef.
    Spatchcocking a pasture-raised turkey
  • Loosen the skin from the meat over the breasts, under the thighs, and down to the drums with your fingers. Pour achiote marinade under the turkey skin and massage it over the entire bird.
    Pouring thePouring achiote marinade beneath the turkey skin. marinade beneath the skin.
  • This isn't impossible for one person, but it helps to have a friend to hold the skin open. Try not to be holding a camera at the same time.
    Pour marinade over the turkey thighs under the skin.
  • Flip your bird and get marinade all over the inside.
    Achiote marinade on pasture raised turkey
  • Paint with the remaining achiote.
    Smoked turkey with achiote.
  • Smoke in the low 200s for several hours. Use a probe thermometer on the thickest part of the breast. When it reaches exactly 155 F remove from heat and let rest at least 15 minutes. Enjoy in pleasurable company with green sauce and warm tortillas.
    Smoked Pavo Pibil
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