Wild turkey leg tamales

As we sat under the dinning tarp in the middle of the Campeche jungle of Mexico, we watched our camp chef set down a platter of fresh wild turkey. The turkey was a bright red from its marinade, the red came from a annatto seed paste called Achiote. After one bite I was hooked on this sweet and sour flavor that came from the achiote paste. It reminded me of chorizo and red tamales. We all loved it so much we brought a couple packs of it home. 

With that being said I knew the first thing I wanted to make when I got home. I pulled out some wild turkey thighs and legs and added them to the crockpot along with garlic, onions, orange juice, and of course the achiote paste. After 8 hours on low the meat was fork tender and I paid it with some homemade masa. That’s right, i’m making turkey leg tamales. Now I know what you’re saying, “Jeremiah, I don’t have any Achiote paste, or can I get the annatto seeds for it. Good news you can replicate it with a good homemade chorizo seasoning. Or better yet go buy a box achiote on Amazon. 

Chorizo Seasoning: 

  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tsp. red chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3 tsp apple cider vinegar

Mix all ingredients, store in airtight container in fridge. Will keep longer if you don’t add vinegar until ready to use. 

Now that you have the Seasonings, let's talk about how to make the Masa and Turkey Meat for the inside. 


  • two turkey legs and thighs 
  • 1 cup turkey or chicken broth 
  • 4 tbs chorizo seasoning 
  • 1 whole onion diced 
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 habanero, seeded and chopped. (can use a milder pepper is wanted)   
  • 1/2 cup orange juice 
  • 2 bay leaves 
  • 1 can tomato paste 

In a slow cooker all are ingredients and place on low temp for 8 hours or high for 6 hours. Once meat is fork tender remove all bones and tendons. Shred meat and use for tamales. This recipe should make a dozen or so tamales. 


  • 2 cups masa flour
  • 1 (10.5 ounce) can beef broth or turkey broth 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup lard
  • 1 cup sour cream

Mix all dry ingredients, followed by wet ingredients. 

Once mixed take a spoon full of mixture and add to a wetted corn husk, add a spoonful of turkey mixture and fold.

— Jeremiah Doughty

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