Kak'Ik Turkey Soup Recipe - Guatemalan Turkey Soup (2024)

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4.93 from 14 votes

By Hank Shaw

November 25, 2019 | Updated June 15, 2020


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Kak'Ik Turkey Soup Recipe - Guatemalan Turkey Soup (2)

This Guatemalan turkey soup is another of those dishes where everyone’s version is slightly different, and arguments arise from minor differences. Think gumbo, chili, goulash or spaghetti sauce and you get the idea.

It’s called kak’ik in Mayan, which basically means “red and spicy.” It is indeed very red, but it’s not terribly spicy, unless you want it to be. Kak’ik is arguably the national dish of Guatemala, and versions of it have been made long before the Spaniards showed up.

What makes this turkey soup distinctive are a few set ingredients:

  • Turkey, for one. Use a wild turkey or a heritage breed if you can, because the Guatemalan birds are very different from a typical supermarket turkey in the United States. That said, regular store-bought will be OK.
  • Garlic and onions, and lots of them. Use white onions if you can.
  • Tomatoes and tomatillos. Always more tomatoes than tomatillos by volume; the tomatillos are there primarily to add tartness.
  • Chiles of some sort. I’ve seen recipes in Spanish with no chiles, with a few, and with lots. My take is to use a few to help with flavor and color, but don’t overdo it.
  • Achiote or annatto. Essential. You don’t need much, and the Maya grind pure annatto, and if you can get that use it. Otherwise use a little achiote paste from a Latin market.
  • Herbs, almost always mint and, if you want to go real-deal, culantro. Culantro is native to the Americas and tastes like cilantro — this is why you see cilantro so often in Latin cuisine; it’s like the native culantro, only easier to grow. Obviously cilantro is fine.

Beyond that, you absolutely want to char a lot of your vegetables, either under a broiler or on a comal (or dry cast iron pan). Like the Mexican stew chocolomo, one of my favorites, char is a key flavor here.

And, you want things to simmer a long time. This is an easy soup, but not a quick one.

In Guatemala, kak’ik is served with either white rice or small tamales made with white corn. Just simple tamales, masa only, no filling. Basically it’s the starch that goes with the soup. Interestingly, the Maya, historically, were never too keen on tortillas — that’s an Aztec thing — but they still make a dizzying array of tamales.

Kak'Ik Turkey Soup Recipe - Guatemalan Turkey Soup (3)

I’d make these tamalitos, as small tamales are called, but I reckon why bother when rice is as good and takes a third of the time to cook, let alone prep? Some eat their turkey soup alongside tortillas, too.

Oh, and you want a little bowl of fiery dried or fresh little chiles, too. I suggest chiltepin or chile pequin, which are easy to find. But hot sauce will work just fine.

4.93 from 14 votes

Kak Ik, Guatemalan Turkey Soup

This is my version of the famous Guatemalan dish kak'ik, which means "red and spicy" in Mayan. I use wild turkey legs here, but store-bought are fine, too.

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Course: Soup

Cuisine: Guatemalan

Servings: 8 people

Author: Hank Shaw

Prep Time: 20 minutes minutes

Cook Time: 4 hours hours



  • 2 turkey legs, thighs and drumsticks
  • 1 quart turkey or chicken broth
  • Salt


  • 6 plum tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 6 large tomatillos, husked and sliced in half
  • 2 dried guajillo chiles
  • 1 white onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 heads garlic, cloves separated but unpeeled
  • 2 tablespoons achiote paste


  • 1/2 cup minced fresh mint
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh culantro or cilantro
  • masa to thicken soup (optional)


  • Simmer the turkey. Put the turkey legs in a large pot with the broth, and add enough water to cover everything by 2 inches. Bring to a simmer and cook, partially covered, until the turkey is tender, anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours depending on the age of the bird.

  • Meanwhile, make the sauce for the soup. Put the halved tomatoes, quartered onion, garlic cloves and tomatillos, cut side up, on a baking sheet and broil until partially blackened, about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on them so they don't completely incinerate.

  • Open the dried chiles and remove the seeds and stems. Pour boiling water over them in a small bowl to rehydrate while the other vegetables are charring.

  • When the vegetables are nicely charred, remove the baking sheet from the oven and, when it's cool enough to handle, peel all the garlic; keeping the skins on in this process prevents the cloves for carbonizing. Put all the sauce ingredients into a blender and puree.

  • Pick all the meat off the turkey legs and reserve. Strain the broth; I do this by setting a fine-meshed sieve over a big bowl. No need to clarify it in this soup. Wipe out your soup bowl and add back the shredded turkey, the strained broth and the contents of the blender bowl. Tip: save back some broth to rinse out every bit of goodness from within the blender bowl. Bring all this to a simmer and let it cook 15 minutes.

  • When you are ready to serve, stir in the minced herbs and add masa to thicken if you want. Don't add more than a tablespoon at a time, and stir it in well. Serve with rice, little masa dumplings or tortillas.


NOTE: You can find achiote paste in Latin markets, and in the "ethnic" section of large supermarkets. If not, look for annatto, which is the main ingredient in achiote paste.


Calories: 285kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 120mg | Sodium: 564mg | Potassium: 805mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 635IU | Vitamin C: 22mg | Calcium: 65mg | Iron: 3.7mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

Categorized as:
Featured, Mexican, Pheasant, Grouse, Quail, Recipe, Spanish, Wild Game

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

Read More About Me

Kak'Ik Turkey Soup Recipe - Guatemalan Turkey Soup (2024)


What are the ingredients in Kak Ik? ›

Ingredients for kak'ik turkey soup include turkey, tomato, tomatillos, broth, Cobánero chile, garlic, mint, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, tomato, onion, red peppers, chiles guaque, chile pasa and achiote.

What is the origin of Kak Ik? ›

Kak'ik is a soup made from a type of turkey called "chompipe" and is typical of Guatemalan cuisine. It is a food of pre-Hispanic origin. The name is of Mayan origin: it derives from the Q'eqchi' words kak (red) and ik (hot or very spicy). In 2007, it was declared part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Nation.

What is the difference between Kak Ik and Pepian? ›

Chicken Pepian: Chicken in spicy sauce with pumpkin seeds and sesame. ... Kak'ik: A traditional Mayan turkey soup with spices like coriander, achiote, and chile peppers.

What is the word kak mean? ›

faeces, excrement, stool, muck.

What is Kak in American slang? ›

(slang) faeces (feces); nonsense or rubbish: "what a load of cack" could equally be used to describe someone talking nonsense or as a criticism of something of poor quality. Also spelt "kak" as used in Afrikaans and Dutch.

What does the name Kak mean? ›

Kak is a last name commonly found in Singapore among its Chinese community. It is the transliteration of a Chinese surname meaning: suddenly.

Why is my turkey soup so bland? ›

Not Adding Acid

If a soup is tasting bland in the bowl, consider adding acid rather than salt. A squeeze of lemon or lime, or a dash of yogurt or sour cream can add brightness to the bowl.

Why is my turkey soup foaming? ›

When soups and stocks are about to boil, proteins start to congeal and create foams that rise to the surface. It's usually whitish or brownish and you need to remove the form as quickly as possible before it boils and mixes up the scum with the soup/stock.

Why does my turkey soup taste sour? ›

A lot of types of bacteria (and sometimes other microbes) produce waste products that can taste "sour." And soup/stock is a good growth medium for microbes, which is why most food safety organizations recommend only keeping soup for 3-4 days in the fridge.

What do they drink in Guatemala? ›

The national beer of Guatemala is Gallo, however, other common beer brands include Dorada, Sol and Victoria. Guaro liquor is another popular alcoholic beverage. Limonada con soda is a refreshing drink made from freshly squeezed lemonade and soda water.

What are some fun facts about Guatemala? ›

Interesting Facts About Guatemala
  • The original name of Guatemala was Quauhtlemallan, which means 'place of many trees' in the Mexican language Nahuatl. ...
  • Guatemala hosts the largest city in Central America. ...
  • Almost half of the population in Guatemala is indigenous descendant from the Maya civilization.

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