Smoked Achiote Turkey recipe

I had the pleasure of teaming up with Lemons and Time food blogger, Kent Dagnall recently, for a day of smoke, spice and creation. In this cook we were blessed to have an impeccable pasture-raised turkey from our friends at White Oak Pastures. Just as with these amazing birds, we wanted the flavors to be the same-Amazing! So, we decided to honor its prowess and give it some spice! It is ferociously orange but not spicy, getting all that pigment from annatto seed, not chile. We are two technologically sophisticated barbecuers from the United States, but 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!

Smoked Achiote Turkey

Tired of the same old turkey? Try smoking an incredible pasture-raised turkey marinated in achiote and served with green crema.
Prep Time3 hrs
Cook Time5 hrs
Total Time8 hrs
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: smoked turkey
Servings: 18


  • Smoker
  • Blender


  • 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
  • 16 g salt
  • 8 g black pepper
  • 5 g dry oregano
  • 1 g cinnamon

Green Sauce

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


  • We begin by firing up the smoker. For this cook, we are using my Yoder Smokers YS1500 pellet grill using a mixture of oak and cherry (the cherry wood help give a beautiful color to the meat) The idea is to maintain temps between 235-275 degrees.
    Yoder Smokers YS1500 pellet grill
  • Next, it’s time to make the marinade! Place all of the marinade ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth. Set mixture aside. 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. A word of caution: You may want to wear gloves when handling annatto as it often used as a dye to color clothes and could stain your hands for a couple of days.
    Make the achiote marinade
  • To spatchcock the turkey, run a sharp knife down one side of the spine, on the backside of the turkey. Spatchcocking a pasture-raised turkey or any bird allows smoke to penetrate from the inside and it will cook more evenly.
    How to spatchcock a 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.
    Marinade turkey under 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.
  • Flip your bird and get marinade all over the inside.
    Achiote marinade on turkey
  • Just before placing the bird into the smoker, using a pastry brush, paint the remaining marinade all over the turkey
    Smoked Achiote Turkey from White Oak Pastures
  • Smoke the turkey for several hours between 235-275 degrees. 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 (The final temperature to consume the turkey should be 165 degrees). Enjoy in pleasurable company with green sauce and warm tortillas.
    Smoked Achiote Turkey recipe