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Masala Turkey

masala turkey

Masala Turkey

5 from 11 reviews
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Cuisine Indian


  • 1 12 to 15-pound turkey (cook time is 15 mins per pound)

Dry Brine Spices:

For Roasting:

  • 1 loaf of ciabatta bread 1 pound OR 6 gluten-free Udi's buns
  • 1 stick butter room temperature

For Serving (optional):

  • 1-2 fresh bunches of cilantro
  • 1-2 fresh bunches of mint
  • 1-2 pomegranates cut into wedges
  • 2-3 lemons cut into wedges.


Defrost Turkey:

  • 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. If you are gluten-free, Udi’s hamburger buns work well - place them on the bottom of the pan.
  • 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, pomegranate arils, and lemon wedges.



  • If the idea of flipping the bird makes you nervous, you can always skip the final broil. Since the bird is well-coated in masala, the breast will already be a bit brown and there's already plenty of crispy golden meat elsewhere on the bird. The turkey will still taste amazing.
  • The bread is mainly to be used as a trivet and to protect the skin. I wouldn't make plans to serve the bread as a side dish - it'll be soaked with drippings and while some parts might be quite tasty, other parts of the bread might be too salty.
  • 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.
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