Roasted Peruvian Turkey

A Peruvian-inspired marinade/rub flavors this Roasted Peruvian Turkey. With ají amarillo and ají panca pastes, ground cumin, Mexican oregano, citrus juices, and more, this succulent roast turkey recipe will be the star of your holiday table!

A roasted Peruvian turkey in a metal platter with wood handles, and a cloth napkin.

👩🏻‍🍳 Tamara Talks – Is Peruvian Turkey a Thing?

What do Peruvians eat for Christmas? After seeing turkeys wandering in the yards of villagers in the Sacred Valley, I became curious as to whether or not Peruvians eat whole roasted turkey. Given that Thanksgiving is an American tradition based on United States history, most Peruvians do not celebrate Thanksgiving (ex-pats may).

However, roast turkey is a popular dish served during holiday feasts and family gatherings. Many Peruvian families choose to include turkey as the centerpiece of their Christmas dinner or New Year’s Eve celebration. The specific time for enjoying a roast turkey during the holiday season varies from one household to another. Some may have it on Christmas Eve after midnight mass, but that’s a lot of food in the middle of the night. Others reserve it for Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve.

While this Peruvian turkey may look quite similar to an American turkey, it does require two Peruvian chile pastes – ají amarillo and ají panca. We cannot, to my knowledge, get the “ugly oranges” we love in Peru, but I have found that a combination of orange and lime juice gets close enough for most recipes. Other than that, the ingredients may already be in your pantry! The turkey is slathered with a citrus, cumin, oregano, pepper paste, and the cavity is filled with fresh cilantro, apple, and red onion. This is not your “regular” turkey!

Peruvians are likely to enjoy their turkey with side dishes like salsa criolla, Peruvian fusion Arabic-style rice, mashed sweet potatoes (no marshmallows!), potatoes, and maybe this solterito salad. Let’s get this turkey adventure started!

📋 Ingredients Notes

Ingredients for the marinade for the Peruvian turkey.
  • turkey – As empty-nesters, I’m mostly cooking for 2. When I’m cooking a turkey for recipe/photos, I look for the smallest turkey available. This turkey was exactly 12 pounds.
  • spices – Ground cumin, Mexican or Mediterranean oregano, and smoked paprika are specified.
  • citrus – We love the sour oranges found in Cuzco and the Sacred Valley, but I’ve never seen them in the US. We refer to them as “ugly oranges,” but their juice makes the best thirst-quenching refreshment after a challenging hike at high elevation. I have found that a combination of orange and lime juice gets close enough to the flavor I’m looking for, and that is what we’re using in this turkey marinade. You’ll want about 1/3-1/2 cup of fresh juice.
  • ground cumin
  • oregano leaves – Either Mexican or Mediterranean oregano leaves will be fine.
  • smoked paprika
  • olive oil
  • ají amarillo paste – I submit that there is no substitution for Peruvian chile pastes.
  • ají panca paste – As with the ají amarillo paste above, there is no substitution for Peruvian chile pastes. However, if you have one and not the other, just double it. Panca is not spicy, and amarillo is mild-medium.
  • soy sauce – Yes, soy sauce is a thing in Peru due to the Asian influence. You can use regular or tamari soy sauce.
  • dijon mustard
  • garlic – Minced garlic is a great time saver, and is fine in this marinade.
  • butter
  • for the cavity – Fresh cilantro, onion, apples or citrus are great options.
  • chicken broth
  • white wine – You will add a cup of white wine (or broth), and a cup of broth to the pan before putting the turkey in the oven.

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A Quechua lady squeezing orange juice at the foot of the trail to the Pisac Ruins.
A Quechua lady squeezing orange juice at the foot of the trail to the Pisac Ruins. This
dear lady has squeezed orange juice for us all 5 years! Check out the “ugly oranges.”

🔪 Instructions

  • Bring your turkey to room temperature before roasting. Remove from the refrigerator 1 hour (no longer!) before roasting. Preheat oven to 450°.
The ingredients for the turkey marinade in the blender.
  • Make the marinade – While the turkey comes to temperature, make the marinade. Simply add the ingredients to a blender, and purée until smooth.
Prepare the turkey - A glass pitcher with the citrus and pepper marinade, and a cutting board with cilantro, apple wedges, and onion wedges to stuff the turkey with.
  • Prepare the turkey – Pat the turkey dry. This is important! Cut apple and onion in wedges. NOTE: Quantity depends on the size of your turkey cavity. My 12 pound turkey could only hold 1 apple, 1 onion, and 1 bunch of cilantro.
The Peruvian turkey prepared to go in the oven in a roasting pan on a rack with marinade and butter.
  • Prepare the turkey – Gently lift the skin as you can, and smear the marinade both below and above the skin… all over the turkey. Place bits of butter on the turkey (especially breast). Fill the cavity with apple, onion, and herbs. Tuck the wings under the breast, and tie the drums together if needed. My turkey had a sort of clasp. Add a cup of white wine, and a cup of broth to the roasting pan.
A roasting pan and rack with the roasted Peruvian turkey before it is carved.
  • Roast the turkey – Cover the turkey with foil for the first hour, then remove. Roast at 325° until the breast reaches 160°, and the thighs reach 170°. NOTE: Baste periodically once the foil is removed.
  • Rest the turkey – Cover the turkey with foil, and rest 15-30 minutes before carving. NOTE: This can be the same foil used at the beginning of roasting!


How long do I need to thaw my frozen turkey in the refrigerator?

Allow 1 full day per 4 pounds of turkey.

💭 Tips

Your turkey will cook more evenly and faster if you start it out at room temperature so remove the turkey from the refrigerator 1 hour before roasting. NOTE: It should not be out of the refrigerator longer than 1 hour!

Allow about 1 full day per 4 pounds of turkey to thaw in the refrigerator. It must thaw in the refrigerator.

Plan on 13-15 minutes per pound to roast your turkey. My 12 pounder was done in just under 3 hours.

The best way to monitor the progress of your turkey is with an instant read thermometer. I recommend 160° for the breast, and 170° for the thigh.

🍗 How to Use Leftover Turkey

I can only take leftover turkey once or twice, and I’m DONE! I set out to create a healthy Mexican recipe that uses leftover turkey. It was a home run!

When we ran out of turkey, I bought a rotisseries chicken so we could have it again… Is the suspense killing you? Haha. Check out my Healthy Mole Verde Bowls. You won’t regret it!

Another excellent option for using your turkey leftovers is in Hatch green chile enchiladas. While my recipe is vegetarian, dicing the turkey and layering with the cheese, scallions, and green chile sauce is one of my favorite ways to spruce up leftover turkey!

If a main dish salad is on your mind, I have a wonderful Yucatan-inspired citrus and chicken spinach salad. Simply sub the turkey for the cooked chicken… Given that south Texas has year ’round summer, I’ll eat it just about any time.

If it’s soup season in your neck of the woods, this Peruvian sopa de quinoa is a healthy and delicious way to use leftovers. It’s loaded with veggies and quinoa, and Peruvan ají amarillo paste and cumin provide Peruvian flavor!

Keep in mind that turkey (pavo Peruano) is a Christmas recipe. Peruvians – other than immigrants – do not celebrate American Thanksgiving!

Signature in red and green with chiles and limes. Healthyish Latin cuisine.

A metal tray with roasted Peruvian Christmas turkey, herb and citrus garnish, and a print napkin.

Roasted Peruvian Turkey

A moist and flavorful roasted turkey with citrus, herbs, and Peruvian chile pastes… You'll love this Peruvian spin on roasted turkey!
5 from 3 votes

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Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Resting Time 15 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 45 minutes
Course Main Dishes
Cuisine American, Peruvian
Servings 12 servings
Calories 240 kcal


  • 1 whole turkey - 12-16 pounds (see Ingredients Notes in post)
  • ¼ cup ají amarillo paste
  • ¼ cup ají panca paste
  • ¼ cup ground cumin
  • 3 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 3 tablespoons Mexican oregano
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 oranges - juiced*
  • 2 limes - juiced*
  • 6 cloves garlic - cut in a few pieces
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard - smooth not grainy
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 apple - cut in wedges
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 red onion - cut in wedges
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup white wine


  • IMPORTANT NOTE: Start with your turkey at close to room temperature and completely thawed. Remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before roasting.
  • Preheat oven to 450°. You will reduce it to 325° when the turkey goes in the oven. Pat the turkey dry if it's been in plastic. Add ají amarillo paste through salt and pepper to a food processor or blender. Blend/process until smooth. The mixture should be quite thick.
  • Gently lift the skin as you can, and smear the marinade both below and above the skin… all over the turkey. Place bits of butter on the turkey (especially breast). See photo in post for reference.
  • Fill the cavity with herbs, onion wedges, and apple wedges. Add 1 cup of broth, and 1 cup of white wine. Tuck the wings under, and cover with foil. Place on the rack.
  • Place the turkey in the oven, and reduce to 325°. Roast covered for 1 hour. Remove the foil, and baste.
  • Continue roasting until the breast reaches 160°, and the thigh reaches 170°. Avoid the bone when checking with an instant read thermometer. Tent with foil, and rest 15-30 minutes before carving.


* You will want 1/3 to 1/2 cup of citrus juice total.
Macros are impossible to determine. Google wants calories. I’m including 4 ounces of turkey with skin (because do we avoid it?).


Calories: 240kcal | Protein: 30g

NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

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  1. Turkey sandwiches are also a big thing in Peru. Leftovers from this recipe would probably make really tasty sandwiches.