Guatemalan Turkey Soup (Kak-Ik)

  • Serves

    serves 6

  • Cook

    2 hours 50 minutes


By SAVEUR Editors

Published on May 17, 2017

This rustic turkey soup—often served when christening a new home in Guatemala—has a sweet-sour broth made from puréed tomatoes, tomatillos, and lots of garlic. Classically, the vegetables are toasted on a comal or griddle over fire, then crushed into a purée using a grinding stone, but a cast-iron pan and blender work just as well. Serve kak-ik like the locals do: with a small bowl of chile paste on the side to customize your own spice level.

On the wood-fired griddles, Maya home cooks keep ancient traditions alive with recipes even their neighbors wouldn't recognize

Guatemala is the Land of Unknown Ancient Food Traditions


  • 4 12 lb. dark-meat turkey pieces, such as small legs and thighs
  • 1 tbsp. plus 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 12 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut lengthwise into 8 wedges
  • 3 medium heads garlic, cloves peeled
  • 14 small tomatillos (about 8 oz.), husked and rinsed
  • 4 medium vine-ripe tomatoes (about 1 1/2 lb.)
  • 12 cup minced green onions
  • 12 cup cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 tsp. ground achiote (annatto seed)
  • 14 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 3 large bay leaves
  • Hot sauce or chile paste, for serving (optional)


Step 1

In a large (6-quart) pot, add the turkey pieces, salt, pepper, and 8 cups water; bring to a simmer, then adjust the heat to maintain a low simmer.

Step 2

Meanwhile, heat a large cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion pieces and garlic cloves in a single layer; cook, turning as needed, until charred all over and softened slightly, about 10 minutes total. Remove and transfer to a large bowl. Add the tomatillos and tomatoes to the skillet and cook, rotating occasionally, until well charred on all sides, 15–20 minutes; transfer to the bowl.

Step 3

Transfer half of the onion, garlic, tomatillos, and tomatoes to a blender; purée until smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour this into the pot with the turkey, then repeat with the remaining vegetables.

Step 4

To the pot with the turkey, add the green onions, cilantro, achiote, cinnamon, and bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a low simmer and cook uncovered, rotating the turkey pieces occasionally, until the meat is falling-apart tender, about 2 hours more. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Step 5

Ladle the turkey pieces and broth into individual bowls, and serve with hot sauce or chile paste if desired.

Continue to Next Story

Want more SAVEUR?

Get our favorite recipes, stories, and more delivered to your inbox.