★★★★★

Easy Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

This Easy Thanksgiving Turkey recipe takes the guess work out of cooking your holiday bird. Seasoned with a simple herb butter, this turkey roasts to golden brown flavorful perfection–no basting required!

Make your Thanksgiving dinner complete with side dishes like Homemade Cranberry Sauce and Green Bean Casserole Recipe. And don’t forget the Pumpkin Pie !

Oven roasted turkey on a platter with oranges, pomegranates, and herbs.

Why this Recipe is Best

Hosting the holidays this year and need the PERFECT turkey recipe? I’ve got you!

  • Juicy turkey with no basting!
  • Rubbed with herbed butter for amazing flavor.
  • Stuffed with lemon, orange and herbs.
  • A turkey recipe easy enough for even novice cooks to make.

By eliminating the need for basting, this recipe creates juicy turkey with less effort and time than traditional recipes.

How much turkey do I need

To figure out how much turkey you need, consider both the total number of guests at your meal and how many leftovers you want.

If you want enough leftover turkey to make dishes like Turkey Noodle Soup or Turkey Tetrazzini over the weekend, cook 1.5 pounds of turkey per person.

Not interested in leftovers? One pound of turkey per dinner guest should be plenty.

How to make herb butter for turkey

Step by step photos showing how to prepare a whole turkey.

Here’s what I use to make the herb butter in this Thanksgiving turkey recipe:

  • softened butter
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • minced garlic
  • dried rosemary
  • dried thyme
  • dried tarragon
  • rubbed sage

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Then, rub the herb butter under the turkey skin. This locks in moisture as the bird cooks and makes the skin beautifully browned.

Instead of needing to constantly open the oven door to add juices to the bird (basting), you can focus on preparing your side dishes and desserts. Or just relaxing with your guests!

Carved turkey on a platter.

Tips and Tricks

  • This recipe uses dried spices–not ground. If you only have ground herbs and spices, use half the amount listed in the recipe. If using FRESH herbs, use twice the amount!
  • Make sure the turkey is completely thawed before cooking.
  • Store leftover cooked turkey in the refrigerator. Use within 3-4 days.
  • For longer storage, you can freeze cooked turkey tightly wrapped for 3 to 4 months.
  • The herb butter, fruits and vegetable amounts in this Thanksgiving turkey recipe are enough for a 12 -20 pound turkey. Adjust the amounts as needed for the size of your bird.
  • SAVE THE DRIPPINGS. Use our fool proof turkey gravy recipe with the drippings from this recipe. All those herbs and fruit make for the best flavor!
  • Use the leftovers to make turkey hand pies!
Turkey served on a plate with thanksgiving food.

Recipe FAQs

What’s the best way to thaw a turkey?

The best way is to loosen the wrapping and place the frozen turkey breast side up on a large rimmed baking sheet. Place in the refrigerator to thaw. Keep in mind that a a frozen turkey needs 24 hours thawing time for every four pounds of turkey. Plan ahead of time to ensure your bird is thawed completely by Thanksgiving day!

Do you put stuffing in this turkey before cooking?

There is no stuffing in this recipe. Stuffing your turkey with stuffing lengthens the cooking time makes the turkey dry. Instead, we fill the cavity with citrus and fresh herbs, which help flavor our turkey gravy too!

How do you know when turkey is done?

Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh meat. It should register 180 degrees F when fully cooked. Many turkeys come with a built in thermometer to make checking the temperature easy.

What do I do if my turkey is browning too quickly?

If your turkey skin is turning brown long before the insides are cooked, create a foil tent to cover about 2/3 of the turkey for the remaining cooking time.

Why does turkey need to rest after cooking? And how long does it need to rest?

Resting the turkey for 30 – 45 minutes before carving allows the juices to redistribute. This makes the turkey juicier and more tender when carved. While the turkey is resting you can make your gravy or prep your side dishes.

How do you reheat cooked turkey?

To reheat leftover turkey, place it in a baking dish and cover with a small amount of broth. Reheat in a 325 F oven until the turkey reaches 165 F. Don’t let any of that delicious bird go to waste! Save some of these ideas for recipes to make with leftover turkey to enjoy your homemade roast turkey for days!

More Thanksgiving Dinner Sides

Yield: 15 servings

Easy Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 45 minutes
Additional Time 45 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 50 minutes

This Easy Thanksgiving Turkey recipe takes the guess work out of cooking your holiday bird. Seasoned with a simple herb butter, this turkey roasts to golden brown flavorful perfection--no basting required!

Ingredients

  • 15 pound turkey**
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • 1 apple, quartered
  • 1 orange, cut into wedges

For the Herb Butter

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened, divided
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (plus additional for seasoning the outside of the turkey)
  • ½ teaspoon pepper (plus additional for seasoning the outside of the turkey)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon dried parsley
  • ½ Tablespoon dried rosemary
  • ½ Tablespoon dried thyme
  • ½ Tablespoon dried tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon dried/rubbed sage

Instructions

    1. Thaw turkey according to the package. Remove neck and giblets from inside the turkey (we dispose of this, but feel free to keep and use as you like). Dry the inside and outside of the turkey.
    2. Preheat oven to 350℉. Place turkey, breast side up, on a roasting rack, in a 2” deep open roasting pan.
    3. Stuff turkey with onion, lemon, orange, apple and fresh herbs, if desired. Tuck wings by extending them and putting them under the turkey.
    4. Loosen the skin from the turkey breast and legs by sliding your fingers under the skin, starting by the neck, being careful not to tear it.  
    5. In a small bowl, combine 5 Tablespoons of softened butter and salt, pepper, garlic, parsley, rosemary, thyme, tarragon, and sage.  Lift the skin and rub the herb butter under the skin, covering the breast and legs.
    6. Spread the remaining 3 Tablespoons of softened butter over the skin of the turkey.  Season the outside of the turkey with salt and pepper.
    7. Bake for 13-15 minutes per pound or until a meat thermometer reads 180℉ in the thickest part of the leg.

Notes

  • What size turkey do you need to buy? Plan on approximately 1- 1.5 pounds of turkey per per person. This allows plenty for dinner, and leftovers!
  • The herb butter and fruit and vegetables are enough for a 12-20 pound bird. Adjust as needed.
  • These spices are DRIED not GROUND. There is a difference. However, if you only have ground on hand instead, the equivalent is roughly half of the amount.
  • Turkey Thawing: Be sure to let your turkey completely thaw before cooking. The best way is to loosen the wrapping and place the turkey, BREAST SIDE UP, on a baking sheet with sides, then thaw in the refrigerator. A frozen turkey needs 24 hours thawing time for every four pounds of turkey.
  • No basting required in this recipe - The herb butter rub eliminates the need to continuously open the oven door and cover the turkey with juices. The advantage of the no-basting method is that the oven temp remains consistent so that the turkey cooks faster and you are less likely to have a dry turkey because of extended cooking time. 
  • Don’t stuff the turkey with stuffing. The stuffing needs to register a temperature of atleast 165℉, which can result in an overdone turkey. Save the inside of the turkey for citrus wedges, onion and fresh herbs to help season the drippings for the gravy.  The stuffing will be much better made in a casserole dish.
  • How do you know if it’s done? The turkey will register a temperature of 180℉  in the thickest part of the thigh.  Butterball recommends a breast  temperature of 170℉.
  • If your turkey is browning too quickly, you can create a foil tent and cover the turkey for the remaining cooking time. For the turkey used in this recipe, we covered it with a foil tent about ⅔rds of the way through cooking time.
  • Why do you rest the turkey and how long should it rest? Rest the turkey for 30- 45 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in a juicier turkey when carved. Move the turkey to a carving board and tent with foil. This also allows time for making gravy or heating side dishes. However, once the turkey temp drops below 140℉, there is a risk for food-borne illness. It’s best to serve your turkey in under 2 hours from removing it from the oven.
  • Leftover Storage: Cooked turkey that is properly refrigerated should be used within 3 or 4 days. If this is not possible, the leftover turkey may be tightly wrapped in freezer paper or aluminum foil and placed in the freezer where it may be kept for 3 to 4 months.
  • Reheating: Place turkey in a single layer in a baking dish or pan. Cover with chicken or vegetable broth.  Reheat in a 325℉ oven until turkey temperature reaches 165℉.  Serve immediately.
  • Save the pan drippings- the drippings make the best turkey gravy, flavored from all the herbs and fruit!

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

15

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 930Total Fat: 40gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 24gCholesterol: 511mgSodium: 554mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 130g

*Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate. Please see a registered dietitian for special diet advice.

Did you make this recipe?

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The easiest Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe you’ll ever make! Impress your dinner guests with beautiful, juicy turkey–made from scratch with love.

About Aimee

Aimee is a dessert lover (specifically rice krispie treats), workout enthusiast, self-taught foodie, and recipe creator.

Learn more about Aimee.

Affiliate Disclosure:**There may be affiliate links in this post! By clicking on them, or purchasing recommended items I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love! Thank you for supporting Shugary Sweets! See my disclosure policy for more info**

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Posted on November 11, 2021

Comments & Reviews

  1. Good Lord…. this is just awesome!….. Aimee, your continued contributions to our ‘wish’ world are amazing!. Thank you!

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