Mayan-Yucatan Turkey Recipe

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Turkeys were domesticated by Native Americans, and the varieties “discovered” by Columbus were developed by the Maya in what is now Mexico and adjoining regions.

If you go to to tourist destinations in the region now, you might find the occasional Mayan restaurant. Rest assured, most of the meals you are eating out in the Maya Riviera are made by Maya people, as the working class, even if the restaurant is owned by Mexicans from elsewhere in the country, Europeans, or Americans. But actual Mayan restaurants with actual Mayan food do exist, or at least I’ve seen one or two. If you eat at one, do try the turkey.

Here is a rough recipe for Mayan shredded turkey, modify as needed:

Main ingredients:

  • Turkey drumsticks and whatever innards you have
  • Salt
  • Vegetable oil
  • Citrus juice
  • achiote in some form

For the sauce:

  • Garlic
  • onion
  • tomatoes
  • oregano
  • peppers of your choice (ie. chipolte)
  • achiote verde powered or paste


  1. Brine the turkey.
  2. Marinate the post-brined turkey and turkey parts in the oil, citrus juice, achiote, and some salt.
  3. Later that day, char the vegetables and the post marinated turkey
  4. Saute the vegetables and macerate in a food processor or blender, add oregano, achiote, other spices as you like.
  5. Cook/simmer the turkey in a covered pot with the sauce (add water if needed to cover the turkey). Simmmer enough to make the turkey very soft. This could be anywhere from 45 minutes to a couple of hours depending on the turkey. There is probably a great Instant Pot version of this.
  6. Add thickening to the sauce if needed.
  7. Carefully put the turkey out on the plate. It will shred away from the bone as it is served. Or separate it and serve the shredded turkey with the sauce.

From this you get the basic idea and should be able to develop your own version.



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