This is the turkey you want at your holiday table. Full of flavor, perfectly tender meat, and truly crispy skin. The best part? I’m sharing a foolproof method to making this Tandoori Turkey – it’s so easy you’ll never cook turkey another way.
A Stunning and Flavorful Tandoori Turkey
If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, then you know – we’re all about flavor here. Forget a boring, bland turkey – we’re using all the right spices to create a wonderfully fragrant and well-seasoned turkey.
To me, the ease of making a recipe is equally important to flavor. Because if you can’t execute a dish, what’s the point, right? That’s why I’m sharing a turkey cooking method that is truly foolproof. There’s no messing around with oven temperatures, or opening oven doors. Forget about using a basting brush or making foil tents. You don’t need to fret about the turkey breast overcooking, because it won’t. Follow my directions and your turkey will turn out perfectly cooked.
I first shared this method in my Masala Turkey post, which gets rave reviews. The recipes are essentially the same – I’ve just changed the spices to create a Tandoori-spiced bird.
Tandoori Turkey Ingredients
- Coarse Kosher Salt: I use Morton’s Kosher Salt – the size of salt granules can vary by brand so get this brand if possible.
- Brown Sugar: I use dark brown sugar for color, but any kind will do.
- Spices: Coriander Powder, Paprika, Garlic Powder, Roasted Cumin Powder, Black Pepper, Garam Masala, Onion Powder, Turmeric, Cayenne, Fennel Powder, Cardamom, Ginger.
- Ciabatta Bread: 1 pound loaf. You can also use a gluten-free bread instead if you’d like.
- Lemon: serving with wedges is a must! Lemon wedges really complement the flavor of the turkey, so be sure to include these when serving.
How to Make Tandoori Turkey:
Mix spices together and spread them all over the turkey – get the spices under the skin and all over the outside too.
Truss the Turkey. Tie one piece of string around the wings to keep the wings close to the body and then tie another piece of string around the legs to keep them together. This helps with the presentation of the bird once it’s done.
Cut a loaf of ciabatta bread in half (level if needed) and spread butter on both sides. Place the bread in a dry, clean roasting pan, then place the turkey on the buttered bread so that the turkey is breast-side down. The breast should be facing the bread. Get any spices remaining in the other pan, scoop them up, and place them on the bird.
Roast the turkey – see the recipe card below for exactly how long. Once it’s done, remove the turkey from the oven and carefully, using clean oven mitts, turn the turkey over so that it is breast side up. This step can be messy, so make sure to protect your hands from the hot bird. Cut and remove the strings around the bird. Then put the bird back in and broil until the skin browns to your liking.
Let it Rest. Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest for 40 minutes before carving to allow time for the juices to redistribute within the meat. This way they won’t run out as soon as you slice into it.
Decorate Platter & Carve Turkey. Put the turkey on a platter and arrange fresh bunches of cilantro and mint and lemon wedges.
Should I Use Yogurt in the Marinade?
No. I know that nearly all tandoori recipes call for yogurt, but if you’re looking for crispy skin then stick to using spices without the yogurt. Trust me, I’ve tried it both ways, and only using spices is the way to go.
How Long to Cook Turkey in the Oven
I suggest 15 minutes per pound of turkey.
- 10-pound turkey = 150 minutes = 2.5 hours
- 12-pound turkey = 180 minutes = 3 hours
- 14-pound turkey = 210 minutes = 3.5 hours
- 16-pound turkey = 240 minutes = 4 hours
The turkey is done when it registers 165°F for the thighs and 160°F for the breasts. I highly recommend getting a digital probe thermometer (this is the one I have) that goes inside the oven – it’ll alert you when the turkey reaches the correct temperature. I also use a digital instant-read thermometer to take the temperature again, after taking the turkey out of the oven.
Having a thermometer is really nice – it’s reassuring. I know you may only use it a few times a year, but it’s worth having, even if only to quiet the nerves that come with preparing a high-stakes holiday meal.
How Big of a Turkey Should I Buy?
When trying to decide how big of a turkey to buy, I think it depends on how many other items you plan to have on the table. To be sure there’s enough meat, you can go for 1 to 1.5 pounds per person. If you have 10 people coming to dinner, you can get a 10 to 15-pound turkey.
If you have leftover turkey, you can always make my Festive Holiday Turkey Biryani!
Should I Stuff the Turkey?
No. Stuffing the bird can affect the cook time and can also prevent proper air circulation within the bird.
Can I Use the Drippings?
The bread in this recipe will absorb most of the drippings, so there won’t be much left to use. Also, the drippings here are going to be very salty, so I don’t think you’ll want to use them anyway.
A Tandoori Turkey Thanksgiving Menu:
Here are some ideas on what to serve with your Tandoori Turkey!
I hope you and your family love this turkey – I can’t wait to hear what you think! Leave me a comment to let me know 🙂
- 1 12 to 15 pound Turkey
Dry Brine Spices:
- 3 tablespoons coarse kosher salt I use Morton’s Kosher Salt – the size of salt granules can vary by brand.
- 3 tablespoons paprika
- 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons coriander powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon roasted cumin powder
- 2 teaspoons black pepper freshly ground
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- 1 ½ teaspoon cayenne
- 1 teaspoon fennel powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon ginger powder
- 1 loaf of ciabatta bread 1 pound
- 1 stick butter room temperature
- 1-2 fresh bunches of cilantro
- 1-2 fresh bunches of mint
- Lemons slices or wedges
- Thaw the turkey, if frozen. Thaw the turkey in the refrigerator. For a 12- to 15-pound turkey, this will take about 3 days, estimating 5 hours of thaw time for each pound of turkey. (If you have a 12-pound turkey, it’s about 60 hours or around 2 ½ days, to defrost in the refrigerator).
1 Day Before Roasting – Prepare the Turkey:
- Remove the turkey from the packaging and remove any unnecessary parts. Remove the thawed turkey from the wrapping. Remove the giblets and neck from inside the turkey’s cavity.
- Mix the spices together. Add the ingredients listed under “dry brine spices” together in a bowl and mix well. Set aside for now.
- Pat the turkey dry, loosen the skin, and season the meat. Pat the outside of the turkey dry with paper towels, then using your hands, gently loosen the skin over the breast and separate it from the meat, making sure to break through the thin membrane between the skin and breast while leaving the skin itself intact. Loosen the skin over the meaty part of the legs. Rub the dry brine mixture under the skin of the breasts, on legs, and wings as well as inside of the cavity and all over the turkey. I know it seems like a lot of masala, but use all of it!
- Truss the Turkey. Tie one piece of string around the wings to keep the wings close to the body (do not tuck them behind the neck! We are going to roast breast-side down and if you tuck them, they will burn), and then tie another piece of string around the legs to keep them together. This helps with the presentation of the bird once it’s done.
- Refrigerate. Place the turkey breast-side up (it will dry out better breast-side up) in a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate uncovered for 24 hours. After this length of time, you will notice that the turkey skin will look taut and dry, which is good as it will ensure crispy skin once cooked.
Roast the Turkey:
- Allow the turkey to sit on the counter at room temperature for 2 hours before roasting. A room temperature turkey cooks more quickly and more evenly.
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Make sure the oven rack is set in the lower-third of the oven.
- Cut a loaf of ciabatta bread in half (level if needed) and spread butter on both sides. Place the bread in a dry, clean roasting pan, then place the turkey on the buttered bread so that the turkey is breast-side down. The breast should be facing the bread. Get any spices remaining in the other pan, scoop them up, and place them on the bird.
- Roast the turkey. Roast for 15 minutes per pound of meat, so if you have a 12-pound turkey, that’s 3 hours. The larger the turkey, the longer it will take to cook, so adjust the time accordingly. You don’t need to remove the turkey from the oven or open the oven door during this time. A digital probe thermometer is extremely helpful here. The turkey is ready when it registers 165°F for the thighs and 160°F for the breasts. (I also use a digital instant read thermometer to take the temperature again, after taking the turkey out of the oven. Remember, the meat will rise about an additional 10º as it rests).
- Remove the turkey from the oven and carefully, using clean oven mitts, turn the turkey over so that it is breast side up. This step can be messy, so make sure to protect your hands from the hot bird. Cut and remove the strings around the bird.
- Broil. Put the bird back into the oven with the breast side up and broil for 2 to 3 minutes or until the skin on the breast browns a bit. All broilers are different, so you will need to keep a very close eye on the turkey during this part! This is the only time you have to pay attention to the bird in the oven. I suggest keeping the oven light on and opening the oven door every minute to peek.
- Let it Rest. Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest for 40 minutes before carving to allow time for the juices to redistribute within the meat. This way they won’t run out as soon as you slice into it.
- Decorate Platter & Carve Turkey. Put the turkey on a platter and arrange fresh bunches of cilantro and mint, and lemon wedges.