Post-Thanksgiving Turkey Sandwich: Pan con Chumpe

Pan con pavo FINAL

Happy Black Friday and day-after Thanksgiving! If your Thanksgiving was as gluttonous (read: successful) as mine, you’re probably still suffering from a post-Thanksgiving food hangover and have enough leftovers to last you through next week. I find that Thanksgiving leftovers can be both a blessing and a curse. Your mother’s famous bacon-wrapped turkey might have tasted delicious on Thursday, but try eating it for five days straight- not fun. You can only eat so much turkey soup or turkey casserole before you’ve had enough.

This year I urge you to try something different, something like this Salvadoran-inspired turkey sandwich, also known as pan con chumpe. Pan con chumpe is a holiday dish typically made on Christmas or New Year’s Eve in El Salvador. The turkey is marinated overnight, roasted in a rich sauce of tomatoes and olives, then shredded and made into a sandwich of turkey, watercress, cucumbers, and radishes. I assume that your turkey was brined or buttered, as most Thanksgiving turkeys usually are, so this recipe isn’t the most authentic. At the risk of offending Salvadoran grandmas everywhere, I developed this shortcut recipe that can make use of your turkey leftovers, but still utilize the savory flavors of pan con chumpe. For this recipe, I cooked the sauce on my stovetop, concocted a homemade blend of relajo (a Salvadoran spice mixture), then simmered the turkey in the sauce and relajo. The turkey sandwich was flavorful, moist, and pretty healthy, too. Forget your gravy and cranberry sauce, and make this pan con chumpe instead!

Pan con Chumpe (Yield: 6 sandwiches)

For sandwich:
4 cups turkey meat, cooked and shredded
1 large onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
5 tomatoes, chopped
¼ cup olives
½ cup prunes
1/8 cup capers
½ cup white wine
½  cup chicken stock
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Cucumber, sliced
Radishes, sliced
Onion, cut into rings
6 bolillo bread rolls
½- 1 cup relajo (recipe below)

For relajo: (Yields 1 cup)
* You may end up with more relajo than you need, but you can reserve it for later, or add to the sauce if you think it needs more seasoning
2 teaspoons achiote
1 clove garlic, minced
3 bay leaves, crushed
1 chile guajillo, toasted
1 tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon whole cloves
2 ½ tablespoons pumpkin seeds, toasted
2 ½ tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
2 ½ tablespoons peanuts, toasted
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
½ teaspoon cumin


  1. Add a tablespoon of oil to a large saucepan and saute the onions and garlic on medium-heat until the onions become translucent.
  2. Add the tomatoes, olives, prunes, capers, wine, chicken stock, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 7 minutes, then remove from heat.
  3. While sauce is cooling, prepare the relajo. In a smaller pan, toast the guajillo chile until it browns on both sides, then remove from pan and crush into smaller pieces. Toast the pumpkin seeds in the same pan, remembering to mix them as they toast so that they don’t burn. Repeat with the sesame seeds and the peanuts (It’s better to toast them separately because they cook at different rates and may burn if toasted all together).
  4. Add the achiote, garlic, bay leaves, guajillo chile, oregano, thyme, cloves, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, peanuts, peppercorns, and cumin to a blender and blend until they form a powder. Set aside.
  5. Add the sauce to a blender and puree. Pour it back into the large saucepan, along with ½ cup of relajo. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes (At this point, test the sauce for flavor and add more relajo if it needs more).
  6. Add the turkey to the sauce and simmer for an additional 15 minutes on low heat.
  7. Prepare the bread and fixings for the sandwich. Add the turkey first, then top with cucumber, radish, onions, and watercress. Serve immediately.

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