Skip to Content

Tandoori Turkey

Tandoori turkey is a twist on the traditional Thanksgiving meal with warm Indian spices. The turkey pairs perfectly with long-grained basmati rice and turmeric-roasted cauliflower. I know it’s hard to depart from a traditional turkey recipe for the holidays, but rest assured, you can test it out by making a baked tandoori chicken.

Tandoori turkey on a platter with roasted potatoes.

What is Tandoori Turkey?

Like karahi gosht, tandoori-style cooking gets its name from the equipment used, a tandoor. Tandoors are cylinder clay pots heated by open flame – resulting in robust chargrilled meat, bread, or vegetables packed full of flavor from the masala and marinating process.

Since a tandoor is something few people have in their kitchens, this crispy skin tandoori turkey recipe delivers the same flavor to your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner table.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Tools Used to Make this Recipe

All you need to roast turkey in the oven is a food processor, an oven bag, a rimmed baking sheet, a sheet pan, or a roasting pan with a roasting rack.

How to Make Tandoori Turkey

The full recipe with measurements is in the recipe card below.

Step 1: Combine all the marinade ingredients in a food processor or medium bowl, except the lemon and red onion, and blend until smooth. Set it aside.

Tandoori masala ingredients in a food processor.

Step 2: Remove the neck and giblets and set them aside. Place the turkey onto a rimmed baking sheet and separate the skin from the breast and create 3-4 deep cuts in the turkey.

A uncooked turkey slathered in tandoori masala.

Step 3: Then, rub the masala evenly over the whole bird and under the skin. Cover the baking sheet with plastic and marinate in the fridge for 6-24 hours.

Step 4: Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°F) for one hour.

Meanwhile, add flour, sliced onion, and lemon wedges to an oven bag, followed by the turkey (leaving any excess marinade behind).

Add flour, lemon, and onions to the bottom of a turkey bag.

Step 5: Secure the bag according to the package and cut several slits in the bag to create steam holes.

The turkey added to a turkey bag.

Step 6: Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position. Place a wire rack into a rimmed baking sheet; set the turkey in a roasting bag onto it, careful to tuck the ends of the bag underneath the turkey.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F (148°C) and roast until the thickest part of the turkey breast reads 165°F (73°C) and the outside of the turkey is crispy golden brown, for about 3-4 hours for a 15 pound turkey.

The turkey stuffed into a turkey bag on a baking rack.

Step 7: Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest for 15-30 minutes before carving. Carve the turkey and garnish with cilantro, red onion, and lemon wedges. Serve with raita or serrano crema.

A roasted tandoori turkey resting on a wire rack.

How to Carve a Turkey

Begin by removing the wings, thighs, and breast meat. Now you can separate the thighs and legs and slice the turkey breasts. I don’t think I can cover this any better than Serious Eats. Kenji Lopez-Alt does an incredible job of breaking down the steps for how to carve a turkey.

Expert Tips

  • Cooking turkey in a turkey bag in the oven can help keep the meat moist and flavorful while also speeding up the cooking process. Add flour to the bottom of the bag to keep it from bursting. The flour also prevents fat from accumulating at the bottom of the turkey.
  • Tuck the roasting bag underneath the turkey to keep it from touching the rimmed baking sheet or the oven and melting.
  • Many factors cause a turkey to cook too quickly or require more time. I recommend checking the internal temperature halfway through the cooking process to gauge the cooking time.
  • Once the turkey has reached the desired temperature, take it out of the oven. Let it rest in the bag for 15-30 minutes to redistribute the juices and retain the moisture. 
  • Don’t go cold turkey! While the turkey rests, warm the serving platter in the oven (120℉ | 49℃) for most plates) to ensure the meat stays nice and warm.

If you enjoy this meal, pair it with one of these holiday side dishes!

Tandoori turkey on a platter with roasted potatoes.

Serving Suggestions

What to do with the Leftovers

  • Refrigerate: Store leftovers in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
  • Freeze: Let the meat cool, and transfer it to a freezer-safe container or bag. Turkey will freeze for 2-3 months.
  • Reheat: Warm leftovers in the oven or microwave.
  • Repurpose: If you’re interested in Indian cuisine, I recommend using turkey to make biryani or pulao. The leftovers also make a tasty filling for enchiladas or leftover turkey white chili.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long to thaw a turkey?

A frozen turkey requires 24 hours of thawing time for every 5 pounds of turkey. Once you’ve fully thawed the turkey, cook it within 1-2 days.

What’s the best way to thaw a turkey

Give yourself plenty of time to defrost the turkey. You can thaw the turkey in the microwave, water, or the refrigerator. Thawing the turkey in the refrigerator is the safest method because it defrosts consistently.

How do I know when my turkey is done?

Whatever size turkey you choose to make, don’t rely on a timetable to be your guide. The best way to know when a turkey has finished cooking is to check the internal temperature using a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast and adjust the cooking time accordingly. The safe cooking temperature is 165°F (73°C). 

Should I let the turkey rest before carving it?

Yes, just like whole roasted chicken and other meat, resting allows the turkey to rehydrate as it sits. Allow 15-30 minutes before carving, just enough time to set the table.

More Tandoori Recipes:

Your Feedback is Valuable

Did you try this recipe? Consider leaving a ⭐️ rating and comment below. And for more healthy international recipes for everyday cooking, sign up to have recipes emailed right to you.

Tandoori turkey on a platter with roasted potatoes.

Tandoori Turkey

Tressa Jamil
Our fragrant and well-seasoned tandoori turkey is a delicious twist on the traditional Thanksgiving dish that pairs perfectly with basmati rice and tender-roasted vegetables.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Marinating Time 1 day
Total Time 1 day 3 hours 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Indian, Pakistani
Servings 16 Servings
Calories 442 kcal
Ingredients
  
Instructions
 
  • Combine all the marinade ingredients in a food processor or medium bowl, except the lemon and red onion, and blend until smooth. Set it aside.
  • Remove the neck and giblets and set them aside. Place the turkey onto a rimmed baking sheet, separate the skin from the breast, and create 3-4 deep cuts in different parts of the turkey. Then, rub the masala evenly over the bird and under the skin. Cover the baking sheet with plastic and marinate in the fridge for 6-24 hours.
  • Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°F) for one hour. Meanwhile, add flour, sliced onion, and lemon wedges to an oven bag, followed by the turkey (leaving any excess marinade behind).
  • Secure the bag according to the package and cut several slits in the bag to create steam holes.
  • Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position. Place a wire rack into a rimmed baking sheet; set the turkey in a roasting bag onto it, careful to tuck the ends of the bag underneath the turkey.
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F (148°C) and roast until the thickest part of the turkey breast reads 165°F (73°C) and the outside of the turkey is crispy golden brown, for about 3-4 hours for a 15-pound turkey.
  • Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest for 15-30 minutes before carving. Carve the turkey and garnish with cilantro, red onion, and lemon wedges. Serve with raita or serrano crema.
Notes
Expert Tips
  • Cooking turkey in a turkey bag in the oven can help keep the meat moist and flavorful while also speeding up the cooking process. Add flour to the bottom of the bag to keep it from bursting. The flour also prevents fat from accumulating at the bottom of the turkey.
  • Tuck the roasting bag underneath the turkey to keep it from touching the rimmed baking sheet or the oven and melting.
  • Many factors cause a turkey to cook too quickly or require more time. I recommend checking the internal temperature halfway through the cooking process to gauge the cooking time.
  • Once the turkey has reached the desired temperature, take it out of the oven. Let it rest in the bag for 15-30 minutes to redistribute the juices and retain the moisture. 
  • Don’t go cold turkey! While the turkey rests, warm the serving platter in the oven (120℉ | 49℃) for most plates) to ensure the meat stays nice and warm.
Nutrition Disclosure:
  • The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.
Nutrition
Serving: 1 Serving | Calories: 442 kcal | Carbohydrates: 2 g | Protein: 66 g | Fat: 18 g | Saturated Fat: 5 g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4 g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6 g | Cholesterol: 219 mg | Sodium: 496 mg | Potassium: 726 mg | Sugar: 1 g | Vitamin A: 372 IU | Vitamin C: 1 mg | Calcium: 55 mg | Iron: 3 mg
Did you make this recipe? Let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and follow @thejamilghar or tag #thejamilghar on Instagram!
5 from 2 votes (2 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating