Spice Up the Holidays: Mexican Turkey Recipes

They say variety is the spice of life, which is why you probably don’t order the same thing from the same restaurant again and again. It is also why you try new products, buy new ingredients, and use new recipes. Why should it be any different with your Thanksgiving meal? It’s time to take a step away from the traditional and make some new memories with some new twists on old favorites. Below you will find some great recipes around which to build a Mexican-inspired Thanksgiving dinner, one with both a little bit of heat and a lot of heart.

Achiote Butter-Basted Turkey with Ancho Chili GravyMexican Turkey Recipes, Acapulcos Mexican Family Restaurant and Cantina, MA, CT

Achiote paste, or recado rojo, is a blend of Mayan spices usually containing annatto, Mexican oregano, cumin, clove, cinnamon, allspice, garlic, black pepper, and salt. This recipe from Epicurious will give your turkey a savory and earthy taste, with the annatto giving the bird a festive red color. The ancho chili gravy provides the entire meal with a rich heat from freshly roasted and ground poblano and ancho peppers.


  • 2 fresh poblano chilies
  • 3 dried ancho chilies, stemmed, halved, seeded
  • 1 22- to 24-pound turkey, giblets discarded
  • 1 large white onion, quartered
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons achiote paste
  • 3 1/2 cups (about) canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup Masa Harina (corn tortilla mix)


  1. Char poblano chilies over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Enclose chilies in paper bag. Let stand 10 minutes to steam. Peel and seed chilies.
  2. Toast ancho chilies in heavy large skillet over high heat until color darkens slightly and chilies are fragrant, about 30 seconds per side. Transfer ancho chilies to medium bowl. Add enough hot water to bowl to cover chilies. Let stand until chilies soften, about 20 minutes.
  3. Puree 4 ancho chili halves with 1/2 cup soaking liquid in blender. Add roasted poblano chilies; puree. Season with salt and pepper. Drain remaining 2 chili halves; chill. (Puree and soaked chilies can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately and chill.)
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Rinse turkey inside and out. Pat turkey dry. Sprinkle turkey with salt and pepper. Cut remaining 2 ancho chili halves into strips. Place chili strips and onion in turkey cavity.
  5. Mix butter and achiote paste in small bowl to blend. Run fingers between turkey breast skin and meat to loosen. Rub half of achiote butter over turkey breast under skin. Rub butter over outside of turkey. Place turkey in large roasting pan. Tuck wings under turkey. Tie legs together to hold shape. Pour 1 1/2 cups broth into pan.
  6. Roast turkey 45 minutes. Tent turkey loosely with foil. Continue roasting until meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 180°F, basting every 30 minutes with pan juices, about 3 1/2 hours. Transfer to platter. Tent with foil.
  7. Pour turkey pan juices into measuring cup. Spoon off fat from pan juices, reserving 1/4 cup fat. Add enough remaining broth to pan juices to measure 3 cups. Return 1/4 cup fat to roasting pan. Place pan over 2 burners set at medium heat. Add Masa Harina; whisk until mixture resembles paste, scraping up any browned bits, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in pan juices. Add chili puree; simmer 5 minutes to blend flavors. Season gravy with salt and pepper. Serve turkey with gravy.

Guajillo Spiced Scalloped Potatoes

Scalloped potatoes are a great variation on mashed potatoes: rich and creamy with milk, butter, and cheese. Guajillo chiles are surprisingly sweet with only a little heat and smoky and fruity undertones. This recipe from Nibbles and Feasts follows a fairly traditional potatoes recipe, so feel free to make any other additions or alternations you like, including using different kinds of queso.


  • Cooking spray
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 pounds Melissa’s Produce Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon powdered guajillo chile
  • Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 7×11-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Heat milk, butter, guajillo chile powder and garlic in small saucepan and heat over medium heat until butter melts. Do not boil. Remove from heat.
  3. Arrange a layer of potatoes over the entire bottom of baking dish. Pour a third of the milk mixture over the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle a 1/3 cup of shredded cheese.
  4. Repeat with 2 more layers.
  5. Bake until potatoes are tender and cheese is golden brown, about 45 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven, top with a few dashes of guajillo chile powder and serve warm.

Turkey Pumpkin Enchiladas

This recipe is great as a follow up to the big day, or as an alternative to having a whole turkey. This recipe uses pumpkin puree, so if you’ve saved your pumpkins from the garden or doorstep, you can put them to good use; alternatively you can buy canned puree. While this recipe from calls for taco seasoning, you can use the achiote and ancho seasonings in their place.


  • Cooking spray
  • 4 cups chopped cooked turkey
  • 1 (15 ounce) can refried beans
  • 1 (29 ounce) can pure pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup taco seasoning mix
  • 1 (29 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules
  • 8 (10 inch) whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 (8 ounce) package shredded Cheddar cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Mix the cooked turkey, refried beans, pumpkin puree, and taco seasoning in a bowl. Pour tomato sauce into a blender, and add chipotle pepper and chicken bouillon granules; blend until smooth, about 30 seconds.
  3. Lay a tortilla out onto a work surface, and generously spoon turkey filling in a line down the middle of the tortilla. Fold a top and bottom flap of the tortilla towards the middle, and fold the sides inward to enclose the filling. Lay the enchilada, seam side down, into the baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling. Pour the sauce over the filled tortillas, and sprinkle with Cheddar cheese.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbling, 35 to 45 minutes.

We hope that these recipes have helped you rethink your Thanksgiving dinner, to surprise your guests with a hot meal with a little heat. If you want to be inspired for more recipes by authentic Mexican cuisine, or if you need some relief from cooking on the holidays, bring the family down to Acapulcos Mexican Family Restaurant and Cantina. You’ll be thankful you did.

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