Panes con Pavo (Salvadoran Turkey Sandwiches)

This year we’ll be having Thanksgiving with my (Anglo) family, so I won’t be making Panes con Pavo, (Salvadoran Turkey Sandwiches), which I like to do sometimes. That’s okay though because this special meal is typically made for Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve in El Salvador – We will have to wait a little longer and have it then.

Here’s the recipe so you can make it whenever you’d like.

Note: This recipe was adapted from “Pavo Salvadoreño” at Over the years I have simplified my method to the recipe below. If you want a recipe that is closer to authentic, (but uses many more ingredients), go check it out.

Panes Con Pavo/Panes Con Chumpe (Salvadoran Turkey Sandwiches)

First you need to cook the chumpe or chompipe! (Those are Salvadoran words for “turkey”.) Note: You can use a chicken, but if you do, you will need to halve the other ingredients in this recipe as well as the cooking time, or else use two chickens.


1 medium-sized turkey defrosted (giblets discarded)
1/2 cup yellow mustard
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce (“Salsa Perrins”)
52 ounces (two 26 ounce jars) of your favorite mild chunky salsa
1/2 cup white cooking wine
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup “Relajo” Salvadoran spice mixture (difficult to find but necessary for the recipe)
1 to 2 tablespoons achiote

Note: If you’re unable to find packets of Salvadoran “relajo” at your local Latino or International market, you can make your own using this recipe: Salvadoran Relajo Spice Mixture


1. Wash the turkey with cold water. Pat dry. Season the inside and outside of the turkey with salt and pepper.

2. Mix mustard and Worcestershire sauce together in a bowl, then rub the mixture all over the outside of the turkey. Refrigerate uncovered for about 12 hours.

3. Put the turkey, (breast side down), in a roasting pan on the lowest rack of the oven. Cook for 1 hour at 350°F.

4. Flip the turkey breast side up. Add the salsa, white wine and relajo spice mixture including achiote molido (ground annatto) to the roasting pan, on and around the turkey. Cook for approximately 2 more hours until cooked through. (Make sure you spoon some of the salsa and liquid over the turkey every 20 minutes or so to keep it moist. You can also cover the turkey with foil to keep it from browning too much.)

5. Remove the turkey to cool.

6. Make the sauce: Add the liquid and salsa from the roasting pan to a blender and puree. Pour salsa into a saucepan. (If too thick, you can add water to thin – but I have never needed to do this.) Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer until slightly thickened. Strain through a sieve if your blender didn’t catch everything. Season with salt and pepper if needed. When sufficiently cooled and easy enough to handle, you can pour into a cleaned ketchup or salad dressing bottle for easy use.

7. The turkey, when sufficiently cooled, can be sliced and then served as sandwiches. This is how we eat it. Use “bolillo” bread rolls or French bread, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato slices, onion, cucumber, radishes, the sauce you made, or any other combination that appeals to you.

(update) Note: Apparently (see comments) having watercress, also known as “berro” in Spanish, on the sandwich, makes it much more authentic!

2019 tips: I’ve only just recently learned that some people also like to include beets on their sandwich. In parts of El Salvador it is sometimes served with a hard boiled egg in it, or the type of escabeche found on other Salvadoran sandwiches and hot dogs. (I’ll try to post a recipe for that in the future and link it here.) I also got an excellent tip to include a little mustard with the mayonnaise on the sandwich — it really kicks the flavor up a notch. Highly recommended!

(update) 1/2/2013 – This recipe has been slightly edited and better photos added. Enjoy!

(update) 11/28/2013 – This recipe has been slightly edited and better photos added yet again.

(update) 11/27/2019 – You guessed it, this post has been slightly edited and better photos have been added.


  1. Watercress is a traditional dressing/ingredient on the sandwich itself. Don’t ask me why because I find it bitter. :)

  2. Is that how you say berro in english..watercress?!?!?

    Definitely a staple! Not panes con pavo if no berro!

    My mom makes the salsa de tomate herself with tomatoes and lots of yummy spices!

    For our family panes con pavo is our Christmas dinner!

  3. I have to agree with Angel… watercress is as important as the pavo/chumpe/chompipe (ok, not really). My family’s recipe called for beer and a coke. What is a must is the relajo, thank God I can find it here in the USA.
    In San Miguel I used to have Panes con Chumpe that had inside a whole egg (boiled) The Pan was HUGE, I could hardly hold it. It also had cucumber, lettuce, tomato, and curtido. If you wanted, you could order one with the “chunchucuyo” or with the “molleja” ($$). So good!!!!

    • Good luck – and as the Salvadorans are reminding me here in comments – don’t forget the watercress for your sandwiches. LOL.

      • I’ve always thought it was parsley and I remember my grandma adding beer to the turkey I will definitely give this recipe a try glad I came across your page !!

  4. Bitterness in watercress helps play down the turkey or chicken deep after taste since the seasoning is not so strong as mexican cuisine. If you were to use strong peppers or spices, the turkey would lose its distinctive flavor and it would become just another chicken. Cheers.

    • Good question, amiga! We always eat just that without any sides since it’s a complete meal in one. You’ve got your protein (pavo or pollo), the sandwich bread, then you pile on salsa and a bunch of veggies. When we have this no one wants to waste their appetite on anything else jajajaja

      I’m not sure what other Salvadoran families do. If I had to take a wild guess some possibilities would be frijoles molidos, platanos fritos, arroz, yuca frita, escabeche, ensalada rusa – those are all common Salvadoran sides.

  5. This recipe is similar to what my mother makes however she makes her own salsa and does not use white wine. Looks yummy tho. I personally never eat my panes with watercress but my parents do but I definitely put lots and lots of curtido.

  6. This is no where near my mothers recipe. Watercress? We are Salvadorean. We are also cheap. Just use mayonaise on the bread. It makes the turkey juice sweet. Who the hell wants a bitter sandwich?

    • Hi there. I encourage you to take a look around the internet at recipes. Do a search for “pan con chumpe” on Google Images, watch YouTube videos of native Salvadorans making panes con pollo or panes con pavo. You will see that many people include watercress (“berro”) on their sandwich.

      If you prefer the way your mother prepares it, then that’s great. Every family recipe is a little different. No need to say one way is right and another way is wrong. Variety is the spice of life.


  7. thank you very much for sharing your recipe I will definitely incorporate your technique into my next meal I make for my family. appreciate it.

  8. Yes, watercress is a must as are radishes, cucumber, curtido, cebolla, tomate, lechuga romania, jalapeno.
    In the cooking you left out the toasted pumpkin seeds & sesame seeds fircthe salsa, this gives it (along with the relajo) that authentic flavor!

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