International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Pavo Salvadoreño

Roast turkey

(Salvadoran roast turkey with sauce)

Average: 3.9 (60 votes)

Pavo, or turkey, is a popular Christmas meal in El Salvador. Salvadoran immigrants to the U.S. often serve it for Thanksgiving as well. The Salvadoran version of roast turkey has a variety of vegetables and spices that are roasted along with the turkey in the roasting pan. This tasty mixture is then pureed and served as a rich sauce to accompany the turkey.

Cold leftover slices of turkey with a little sauce are served in sandwiches called pavo con pan. Other words for turkey in Central America and Mexico are guajolote, chompipe and chumpe.

Enough for about 8 to 10 people


  • Whole turkey, with giblets -- 11 to 13 pounds
  • Dijon mustard -- 1/2 cup
  • Worcestershire sauce -- 1/2 cup
  • Tomatoes, cored -- 10
  • Onions, chopped -- 6
  • Green peppers, chopped -- 6
  • Carrots, peeled and chopped - 4
  • Prunes, pitted -- 1 cup
  • Green olives, pitted -- 1/2 cup
  • Capers -- 1/4 cup
  • Garlic -- 10 cloves
  • White wine or water -- 1 cup
  • Water or stock -- 3 cups
  • Salt and pepper -- to season


  1. The day before roasting the turkey, remove and reserve the giblets and wash the turkey well with cold water. Pat it dry with paper towels and tuck the wings under the body to keep them from burning. Season the inside and outside of the bird with salt and pepper. Mix the mustard and Worcestershire sauce together in a bowl, and spread the mixture liberally all over the outside of the turkey. Refrigerate uncovered overnight. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator about 45 minutes before you put it in the oven to let it come to room temperature.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Set the turkey, breast side down, on a rack in a roasting pan. If you don't have a V-shaped rack, you may have to tuck balls of scrunched up aluminum foil around the body to keep it upright. Place the roasting pan in the lowest rack of the oven and roast the turkey for about 1 hour.
  3. Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Carefully turn the turkey over so it is breast side up. Add the tomatoes, onions, peppers, carrots, prunes, olives, capers, garlic, and the wine or water to the roasting pan around the turkey. Return the pan to the oven and roast for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours, basting the turkey periodically with any juices that form in the pan. The turkey is done when the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh measures between 165°F and 175°F (use a meat thermometer). If the breast begins to brown too much, cover it loosely with foil.
  4. Remove the turkey to a cutting board or baking sheet. Tent with foil and let it rest while you finish the sauce.
  5. Sauce: Remove any excess fat from the roasting pan. Add the turkey giblets (except for the liver; save this for another use) and the ingredients and juices from the roasting pan to a blender or food processor and puree. Add the puree to a large saucepan along with the 3 cups of water or stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until lightly thickened. Strain through a sieve, discarding any solids. Return the strained sauce to the saucepan, reheat and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  6. Once the turkey has cooled somewhat, slice and serve with the warm sauce.

Pavo Salavadoreño Variations

  • Relajo Spice Mixture: Many Salvadoran cooks add a mixture of spices, peppers and seeds called a relajo to their sauce. Not only does it add authentic Salvadoran flavor, but the peanuts and pumpkin and sesame seeds help thicken the sauce as well. If you use a relajo, you can omit the giblets from the sauce.
    • 1/3 cup sesame seeds
    • 1/4 cup unsalted peanuts
    • 1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
    • 1 chile guaque or other dried chile, destemmed and deseeded
    • 10 bay leaves
    • 2 teaspoons dred thyme, or 1 sprig fresh

    Add the spice mixture when you add the vegetables to the roasting pan. Puree and strain the sauce as directed above.

  • Pan con Pavo: Serve the cold sliced turkey in sandwich rolls (bollitos) topped with some of the sauce, lettuce, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers.


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