This recipe for relleno de pavo or holiday turkey stuffing is inspired by the traditional turkey stuffing prepared for Nochebuena or Christmas Eve dinner in Ecuador. Not only in Ecuador, but throughout Spain and Latin America it is a tradition to have turkey for Christmas Eve dinner. The dinner usually takes place late at night, after la Misa del Gallo or midnight mass. The turkey stuffing is a delicious mix of sweet and savory and creates a tasty contrast of flavors. Each family has their own version of turkey stuffing but most include a few different meats, fruit – both fresh and dried, olives, nuts, spices, bread or rice, herbs.
Relleno de pavo or turkey stuffing
- 6 tbsp. butter ~ 3 oz
- 1 white onion diced – about 2 cups
- 4 garlic cloves crushed
- 1 tsp. ground achiote
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 10 oz. chorizo
- 6 oz. bacon diced
- 1 apple peeled, cored and diced
- 1 cup raisins or chopped assortment of dried fruit cherries, prunes, apricots, etc
- 1 cup sliced olives
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- 3-4 fresh herb sprigs thyme, oregano, parsley, etc
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 cup sweet wine – can use moscatel gewürztraminer, port
- 2 cups bread crumbs plus additional for topping
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- 2 cups white wine or chicken broth
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the butter over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the diced onions, crushed garlic, achiote, cumin and salt. Cook until the onions are soft, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add the ground beef, chorizo and bacon. Stir well and cook for about 10-12 minutes.
- Add the raisins, diced apple, walnuts, olives, cinnamon, nutmeg, herbs, and sweet wine. Cook for about 10 minutes. Remove the herb sprigs from the mix.
- Mix in the bread crumbs and eggs, stir and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Add the white wine or chicken broth and mix well.
- Put the stuffing in a baking pan, sprinkle with bread crumbs, and bake in a pre-heated oven at 350F for about 30 minutes.
- You can also use the stuffing to fill the turkey; you will likely have a good amount leftover that can be baked in a separate pan as indicated above.
The best way to approach the preparation of stuffing is to make sure you have some of the essentials: ground or shredded meat, bacon or ham and fruit. The rest you can adjust based on what you have in the pantry, ie if you don’t have walnuts then used crushed pecans or sliced almonds. If you’re out of raisins then you can use prunes or dried figs, or if you love dried cherries then add some of those as well. I use sweet wine to sweeten the stuffing, but you can also add a few tablespoon of panela or brown sugar if you like on the sweet side. The stuffing can be cooked on the stovetop until fully cooked; it can also be baked or used to stuff the turkey. I like to use some to stuff the turkey, but there isn’t enough in the turkey to serve everyone, so I also bake some to make sure that everyone gets their fair share. This stuffing can also be used as a filling for roasted chicken.
Step by step preparation photos for Latin style relleno de pavo or turkey stuffing