Tandoori Turkey is a scrumptious spin on traditional turkey. It has an especially scrumptious gravy. And while the crispy, spiced skin is a sure departure from a classic Thanksgiving roast, the soul of the meal is the same. I’d insist that the new flavours add to the dish, rather than changing it in the dramatic sense that turkey purists would use as an argument against it.
Make the tandoori turkey marinade.
The marinade includes yogurt, lots of lemon juice, and spices typically found in a well-stocked North-American pantry. Nothing that’ll have you trotting off to special grocery stores.
Tandoori turkey benefits from a spicy rub-down, but it’s not necessary to let it hang out in its yogurt bath overnight. An hour at room temperature is plenty. This has the double benefit of allowing the turkey to come to room temperature before roasting. A cold turkey will cook too quickly on the outside before it gets hot enough on the outside.
Roast the turkey.
A low and slow method is the one I chose for this recipe, to give the marinade extra time to work its way in while the turkey cooks. A meat thermometer is your biggest ally. Avoid basting or opening the oven for any reason other than to tent the turkey with foil if the skin is getting too dark. Make sure you get the thickest part up to 160ºF and then let it rest for as long as you can before carving. An hour is ideal to let the juices redistribute within the meat, so they don’t all run out as soon as you slice.
Make the gravy.
The gravy makes use of the turkey juices as well as flour, chicken broth and a lump of butter to make it thick and flavourful. The spice in the gravy is subtle and delicious. It isn’t like butter chicken sauce. It’s like regular turkey gravy with notes of warm spices. Trust me.
What to pair it with.
Tandoori turkey is delicious with Samosa Potatoes but is just as good with plain mashed potatoes. Simple root veggies roasted on a sheet pan at the same time as the turkey makes an easy side. I served mine with thick wedges of slow-roasted acorn squash. (Just drizzle with oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper!)
How big a turkey do I need to buy and how does the cooking time change?
I developed this recipe in partnership with Butterball on Instagram, but it was so yummy I had to share it here, too! I used their turkey calculator to decide how big a turkey to pick up based on the number of servings I wanted. It will also tell you how long you need to cook a different-sized bird.
But I want a normal turkey!
I respect that. Here’s my easy-peasy, no-drama, no-fail recipe and method for roasting a traditional turkey with moist breast meat and perfectly-cooked legs.
- 1 cup plain full-fat yogurt
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 3 tbsp oil
- 8 cloves garlic
- 1 2- oz piece fresh ginger
- 3 tbsp sweet not hot paprika
- 2 tbsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp ground cayenne
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1 9 kg/20 lb fresh whole turkey (thawed, if using frozen)
- Freshly-ground black pepper
- 1 medium onion
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour or more, as needed
- 1 litre unsalted chicken broth cold or room temperature
- 3 tbsp butter
- Combine the first 12 ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth.
- Remove fresh turkey from bag. Remove neck from body cavity and giblets from neck cavity. Place turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a shallow (3" deep) roasting pan. Slather the yogurt-spice rub all over the turkey, sprinkle with black pepper, and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Chop the onion in half and place it in the cavity.
- Preheat oven to 325ºF. Position turkey on centre oven rack and roast until meat thermometer reads 180°F (82°C) in the thigh, about 4 hours. About half-way through cooking time, tent the turkey with foil if the skin is getting dark. Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and allow it to rest for 20 minutes before carving.
- Meanwhile, make the gravy. Place the roasting pan with all of the turkey bits and juices on the stove over medium heat. Place the flour in a bowl. Slowly drizzle one cup of the cold chicken broth into the flour, whisking constantly to make a smooth mixture without any lumps. Gradually whisk this flour mixture into the stove-top simmering juices, followed by the remaining broth and the butter. Allow the gravy to come to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer until thickened. Taste and add salt as needed. Strain into a serving bowl.