36 Terrific Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes
Roast turkey, deep-fried turkey, even turkey sliders! Whether you’re a T-Day newbie or a seasoned pro, these turkey recipe ideas just might start a new holiday tradition.
The Pilgrims may or may not have actually served turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, though venison was on the menu for sure. I point out this fun fact to say that if you’re in the mood to mess with tradition a little and try a new turkey recipe, historical accuracy shouldn’t hold you back. (Though Grandma, expecting to eat her infamous seven-hour roasted turkey? That’s on you.)
Consider the options, turkey lovers. You can go for roasted, grilled, smoked, or deep-fried; turkey cooked sous vide, in a Crock-Pot, or an Instant Pot. You can cook the bird whole, butterflied, or rolled. Just the breast? Sure. Even ground turkey can be festive, given the right recipe. Then there are the seasonings, from brines to rubs, glazes, and gravies. It’s a big, flavorful turkey world out there.
So let’s explore some of the best Thanksgiving turkey recipes. If you need pointers on how long to cook the bird, what to do with the giblets, and where the heck to place the meat thermometer, our Turkey 101 guide is your friend for all those burning (but not burned!) questions.
Being a lean meat, turkey can dry out if overcooked. Brining gives you a wider margin for error, holding in the moisture using salt, sometimes sugar, and the magic of osmosis. But there’s no need to mess with a sloshy wet brine. With this dry brine you rub the whole bird with salt and seasonings and let it rest in the fridge for the mixture to be absorbed. The original Yummly Guided Video Recipe shows you just how easy this is to do with the classic Thanksgiving turkey recipe. For added succulence and flavor (no basting needed!), the herb-roasted turkey also gets a seasoned butter before it goes in the roasting pan.
Note: This recipe is only available to Yummly Pro subscribers. Learn more here.
For our paid subscription service, Yummly Pro, we teamed up with Ali Rosen of Potluck with Ali for an ultra-easy, foolproof take on holiday recipes, including her spin on the dry-brined turkey. She includes baking powder to keep the skin crisp, and she starts the bird at 500°F. Bonus: She walks you through turkey carving, too!
The category of roasting-pan turkey recipes has lots more great choices. Serena Bakes Simply From Scratch drapes her bird in cheesecloth with loads of butter to guarantee it stays moist. MyRecipes takes a two-step approach for a heritage bird, roasting the breast but braising the tougher legs. If you’re exploring seasonings, consider fresh rosemary, Italian fennel-spice seasoning often used for porchetta (more on that below), a pomegranate or bourbon glaze, or a turkey gravy made with cider or cranberries. Last-minute cooks can butterfly the bird and roast it in a hurry.
Grilled and Smoked Turkeys
A turkey that’s grilled or smoked comes out crisp and deeply browned all over, with the flavor and fragrance of the fire. Taking the bird outside frees up space in the over-subscribed Thanksgiving Day oven, too. In this first recipe, Serious Eats injects the turkey with a spicy butter and beer mixture instead of a brine or baste to keep it juicy during smoking.
Some cooks may want to try wet brining, and the Chile and Spice Grilled Turkey takes that approach, adding a flavorful Mexican-style seasoning rub as well, before grilling. More ideas to consider: smoking with wine-infused wood chips, and smoking a butterflied, spice-rubbed bird using larger wood chunks.
Rolled and Stuffed Turkeys
If the idea of turkey as craft project appeals, then you may want to create a boned and seasoned porchetta or stuffed roulade. You'll have the ultimate easy-carve turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, and the beautiful slices will look like a mosaic. The trick for either type of recipe is to get a butcher to do the de-boning, which takes some expertise. That way, you get the fun part: In the Martha Stewart Italian porchetta, you lay a whole boned turkey flat; generously season it with fennel, garlic, and herbs; roll it up with pancetta around the outside; and cook it in a sheet pan or roasting pan.
Epicurious makes their porchetta with similar classic Italian seasonings, but using a turkey breast, with bacon as the self-basting wrapper. Roulades are typically boned and stuffed; Jamie Geller’s recipe features cornbread stuffing, while the Foxes Love Lemons recipe calls for an herb stuffing with apples, kale, and blue cheese.
Sous Vide Turkeys
Are you a high-tech cook who’s looking for an ultra-juicy and tender turkey? Consider sous vide cooking, where you immerse food in a vacuum-sealed bag in a circulated water bath while precisely controlling the temperature. Because the meat doesn’t brown in the sous vide circulator, Serious Eats and the next two bloggers add a finishing step to deep-fry or shallow-fry the turkey for a crispy exterior.
Set it and (almost) forget it: That’s the promise of a slow-cooker, and it’s a welcome idea on Thanksgiving when you may be up to your elbows in pies or side dishes — which may also be hogging the oven. The steamy environment of the Crock-Pot helps keep the meat juicy, but if you want crisp skin, plan to pass the turkey under the broiler, as in this Cafe Delights whole turkey recipe.
If your crowd goes for turkey breast meat, The Kitchn coats it with a smoked paprika dry rub, slow-cooks the meat on top of sweet potatoes with a favorite barbecue sauce, and finishes it under the broiler for crispy skin. The next two recipes pair turkey breast with more traditional herb and garlic seasonings. The last, from Countryside Cravings, adds a simple gravy recipe.
Instant Pot Turkeys
Smear a turkey breast with butter and fresh herbs, give it a quick sear, and then set your Instant Pot for 30 minutes. Seriously. That’s all the cooking time Oh, Sweet Basil’s recipe needs! Add 10-15 minutes for venting the Instant Pot, and a quick pass under the broiler to crisp the skin, and you’re done. Unless of course you’re in the mood for gravy — a fast and tasty option.
Maybe you’re looking for an ultra-easy recipe; the Yummly original one below delivers an herbed turkey in 50 minutes, start to finish. MomNoms adds a little complexity with white wine and cream in the cooking liquid, the basis for a delicious gravy.
Is this your year for a backyard turkey adventure? To make a deep-fried turkey, you’ll need to rent an outdoor deep fryer if you don’t own one. The reward is one of the most juicy, tender turkeys you’ll try, with the crispest skin — and the typical cooking time is only 45 minutes. Cooking with Paula Deen opts for traditional herb seasonings in her deep-fried turkey, and includes a buttery wine and shallot gravy.
Leite’s Culinaria weaves in lots of safety tips in their recipe (for example, pat the turkey completely dry with paper towels so you don't get spatters, and don't use more than a twelve pound turkey); and then there's an optional 2 tablespoons of cayenne for seasoning! The next two recipes skew toward the spicy side as well, in keeping with the adventure theme.
Maybe you’re a casual, Friendsgiving kind of Thanksgiving host, and if that’s the case, turkey burgers may be right up your alley. We’re not talking leftovers, though. The petite sliders from MyRecipes feature ground turkey with fresh herbs; you grill the patties, then set out sauteed mushrooms and onions and cranberry mustard for guests to build their own sandwiches. The recipe makes 16 sliders and serves eight.
Rachael Ray’s and Buns in My Oven’s pan-seared recipes each serve four diners; they’re a great option for an intimate Thanksgiving celebration.