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Tandoori Turkey

A toasted blend of more than a dozen spices are ground into a fresh tandoori blend, then mixed with yogurt, ginger, and garlic to create a marinade for our Indian-inspired Thanksgiving turkey. The turkey is stuffed with lemon, garlic, cilantro, and bay leaves for even more flavor, basted with tandoori ghee for a gorgeous exterior, and served with tandoori-spiced gravy and all of your favorite traditional tandoori side dishes!

Tasty Team
November 08, 2021
Total Time

18 hr

18 hr

Prep Time

30 minutes

30 min

Cook Time

2 hr 30 min

2 hr 30 min

Tandoori Turkey
Total Time

18 hr

18 hr

Prep Time

30 minutes

30 min

Cook Time

2 hr 30 min

2 hr 30 min

Ingredients

for 12 servings

Tandoori Spice Blend

  • 4 cinnamon sticks, broekn into 1in (2.54 cm) pieces
  • ¼ cup whole coriander (10 g)
  • 3 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
  • 3 whole mace blades
  • 1 ½ tablespoons whole fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tablespoon whole black cardamom pod
  • 1 tablespoon whole green cardamom pods
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorn
  • 1 tablespoon whole clove
  • 3 tablespoons kashmiri chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg

Yogurt Marinade

  • 32 oz plain full-fat greek yogurt (955 g)
  • ¼ cup lemon juice (60 mL)
  • ¼ cup kosher salt (30 g)
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon grated garlic

Turkey

  • 1 turkey, thawed

Tandoori Ghee

  • 1 ½ cups ghee (325 g), clarified butter
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

For Roasting

  • 2 lemons, quartered
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
  • 4 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 piece fresh ginger, sliced into 1/2 in thick rounds
  • ½ bunch fresh cilantro
  • 3 cups chicken stock (720 mL)

Gravy

  • ¼ cup all purpose flour (25 g), plus 2 tablespoons
  • 3 cups reserved turkey drippings (720 mL), fat separated and discarded, warmed, or chicken stock

For Serving

  • fresh cilantro, chopped
  • lime, quartered
  • Traditional Tandoori side dish, such as rice pulao, raita, aaan, kachumber, and/or aloo bhaji

Nutrition Info

  • Calories 507
  • Fat 38g
  • Carbs 34g
  • Fiber 3g
  • Sugar 11g
  • Protein 7g

Estimated values based on one serving size.

Preparation

  1. ​​Make the tandoori spice blend: Set a medium skillet over medium-low heat and let the pan warm for a few minutes. Working one spice group at a time, toast the cinnamon sticks, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mace blades (if using), fenugreek seeds, black and green cardamom pods, black peppercorns, and cloves in the warm skillet until each spice is fragrant and lightly browned, a few minutes per spice. Transfer the toasted spices to a plate or small tray while you toast the remaining spices. Let cool to room temperature.
  2. Set a mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Once all of the whole spices have cooled, transfer to a high-powered blender or spice grinder (working in batches, if needed) and grind the spices into a fine powder. Pour the ground spices into the strainer and sift into the bowl below. Return any larger pieces to the blender and re-grind and sift into the bowl.
  3. Add the Kashmiri chile powder, ground ginger, garlic powder, and nutmeg to the bowl with the ground spices and mix well to combine (if using ground mace, add here). Transfer the mixture to an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place until ready to use. The spice mixture will keep for up to 2 weeks.
  4. Make the yogurt marinade: In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, ¾ cup of the tandoori spice blend, the lemon juice, salt, ginger, and garlic until smooth.
  5. Remove the innards from the turkey and discard (or save for another use). Pat the turkey dry all over with paper towels. Place the turkey in a bowl large enough to fit the bird, then pour the yogurt marinade all over the turkey. Use your fingers to gently loosen the turkey skin, starting from the top of the cavity and working your way toward the breasts and down toward the legs, being careful not to tear the skin. Use your hands to work the marinade underneath the skin and all over the entire bird. Once well-coated, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
  6. While the turkey is marinating, make the tandoori ghee: Add the ghee to a small saucepan and cook over medium heat for 2–3 minutes, until hot. Add 2 tablespoons of the tandoori spice blend (it should sizzle lightly once it touches the ghee), then stir to incorporate and remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the salt. Transfer ¼ cup of the ghee to a small bowl and set aside to use for the gravy. Carefully pour the remaining 1¼ cups of ghee into a heat-proof container.
  7. After marinating, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 2–3 hours before cooking.
  8. Arrange a rack in the lower-middle section of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Set a V-shaped rack inside a roasting pan.
  9. Once ready to cook, remove the turkey from the yogurt marinade and wipe off as much as possible. Squeeze out as much marinade as possible from underneath the turkey skin as well.
  10. Grab the turkey by the legs and carefully transfer to the prepared roasting pan with the breast side up. With your hands, rub about a third of the tandoori ghee over the bird, then rub another third underneath the skin. Reserve the remaining ghee for basting the turkey.
  11. Stuff the cavity with the lemons, garlic, ginger, and cilantro. Tuck the wings underneath the turkey, then tie the legs together with kitchen twine, wrapping around the bird to secure. Pour 3 cups of chicken stock into the bottom of the roasting pan.
  12. Roast the turkey for 30 minutes, rotating halfway, until the skin is mostly golden brown. While the turkey roasts, melt the remaining third of tandoori ghee in a small saucepan over low heat, or in a small bowl in the microwave.
  13. After roasting for 30 minutes, baste the turkey with the melted ghee. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F (150°C). If the bottom of the pan looks dry, pour in 1–2 more cups of stock. Continue roasting, basting and rotating the turkey every 30 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the leg reaches 165°F (75°C), 120–150 minutes more. The skin should be shiny, crisp, and golden brown–if the skin begins to get too dark, lightly tend the bird with aluminum foil. Remove the turkey from the oven and baste once more. Let rest for 30–60 minutes. Reserve the drippings, discarding the fat, for making the gravy.
  14. Make the tandoori gravy: Add the reserved ¼ cup tandoori ghee to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking frequently, for 3–5 minutes, until the roux is darker in color and smells fragrant and toasted. Add 1 tablespoon of the tandoori spice blend and whisk to combine, letting toast for another minute, until fragrant. Gradually whisk in the turkey drippings (adding chicken stock as needed for a total of 3 cups). Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10–15 minutes, until thickened slightly. Remove the gravy from heat.
  15. To serve, set the whole turkey in the center of a large platter for a classic presentation, or carve the bird and arrange the cut pieces on the platter and garnish with cilantro and quartered limes. Serve immediately with the hot gravy alongside, as well as any traditional tandoori sides of choice.
  16. Enjoy!

Ingredients

for 12 servings

Tandoori Spice Blend

  • 4 cinnamon sticks, broekn into 1in (2.54 cm) pieces
  • ¼ cup whole coriander (10 g)
  • 3 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
  • 3 whole mace blades
  • 1 ½ tablespoons whole fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tablespoon whole black cardamom pod
  • 1 tablespoon whole green cardamom pods
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorn
  • 1 tablespoon whole clove
  • 3 tablespoons kashmiri chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg

Yogurt Marinade

  • 32 oz plain full-fat greek yogurt (955 g)
  • ¼ cup lemon juice (60 mL)
  • ¼ cup kosher salt (30 g)
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon grated garlic

Turkey

  • 1 turkey, thawed

Tandoori Ghee

  • 1 ½ cups ghee (325 g), clarified butter
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

For Roasting

  • 2 lemons, quartered
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
  • 4 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 piece fresh ginger, sliced into 1/2 in thick rounds
  • ½ bunch fresh cilantro
  • 3 cups chicken stock (720 mL)

Gravy

  • ¼ cup all purpose flour (25 g), plus 2 tablespoons
  • 3 cups reserved turkey drippings (720 mL), fat separated and discarded, warmed, or chicken stock

For Serving

  • fresh cilantro, chopped
  • lime, quartered
  • Traditional Tandoori side dish, such as rice pulao, raita, aaan, kachumber, and/or aloo bhaji

Nutrition Info

  • Calories 507
  • Fat 38g
  • Carbs 34g
  • Fiber 3g
  • Sugar 11g
  • Protein 7g

Estimated values based on one serving size.

Preparation

  1. ​​Make the tandoori spice blend: Set a medium skillet over medium-low heat and let the pan warm for a few minutes. Working one spice group at a time, toast the cinnamon sticks, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mace blades (if using), fenugreek seeds, black and green cardamom pods, black peppercorns, and cloves in the warm skillet until each spice is fragrant and lightly browned, a few minutes per spice. Transfer the toasted spices to a plate or small tray while you toast the remaining spices. Let cool to room temperature.
  2. Set a mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Once all of the whole spices have cooled, transfer to a high-powered blender or spice grinder (working in batches, if needed) and grind the spices into a fine powder. Pour the ground spices into the strainer and sift into the bowl below. Return any larger pieces to the blender and re-grind and sift into the bowl.
  3. Add the Kashmiri chile powder, ground ginger, garlic powder, and nutmeg to the bowl with the ground spices and mix well to combine (if using ground mace, add here). Transfer the mixture to an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place until ready to use. The spice mixture will keep for up to 2 weeks.
  4. Make the yogurt marinade: In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, ¾ cup of the tandoori spice blend, the lemon juice, salt, ginger, and garlic until smooth.
  5. Remove the innards from the turkey and discard (or save for another use). Pat the turkey dry all over with paper towels. Place the turkey in a bowl large enough to fit the bird, then pour the yogurt marinade all over the turkey. Use your fingers to gently loosen the turkey skin, starting from the top of the cavity and working your way toward the breasts and down toward the legs, being careful not to tear the skin. Use your hands to work the marinade underneath the skin and all over the entire bird. Once well-coated, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
  6. While the turkey is marinating, make the tandoori ghee: Add the ghee to a small saucepan and cook over medium heat for 2–3 minutes, until hot. Add 2 tablespoons of the tandoori spice blend (it should sizzle lightly once it touches the ghee), then stir to incorporate and remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the salt. Transfer ¼ cup of the ghee to a small bowl and set aside to use for the gravy. Carefully pour the remaining 1¼ cups of ghee into a heat-proof container.
  7. After marinating, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 2–3 hours before cooking.
  8. Arrange a rack in the lower-middle section of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Set a V-shaped rack inside a roasting pan.
  9. Once ready to cook, remove the turkey from the yogurt marinade and wipe off as much as possible. Squeeze out as much marinade as possible from underneath the turkey skin as well.
  10. Grab the turkey by the legs and carefully transfer to the prepared roasting pan with the breast side up. With your hands, rub about a third of the tandoori ghee over the bird, then rub another third underneath the skin. Reserve the remaining ghee for basting the turkey.
  11. Stuff the cavity with the lemons, garlic, ginger, and cilantro. Tuck the wings underneath the turkey, then tie the legs together with kitchen twine, wrapping around the bird to secure. Pour 3 cups of chicken stock into the bottom of the roasting pan.
  12. Roast the turkey for 30 minutes, rotating halfway, until the skin is mostly golden brown. While the turkey roasts, melt the remaining third of tandoori ghee in a small saucepan over low heat, or in a small bowl in the microwave.
  13. After roasting for 30 minutes, baste the turkey with the melted ghee. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F (150°C). If the bottom of the pan looks dry, pour in 1–2 more cups of stock. Continue roasting, basting and rotating the turkey every 30 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the leg reaches 165°F (75°C), 120–150 minutes more. The skin should be shiny, crisp, and golden brown–if the skin begins to get too dark, lightly tend the bird with aluminum foil. Remove the turkey from the oven and baste once more. Let rest for 30–60 minutes. Reserve the drippings, discarding the fat, for making the gravy.
  14. Make the tandoori gravy: Add the reserved ¼ cup tandoori ghee to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking frequently, for 3–5 minutes, until the roux is darker in color and smells fragrant and toasted. Add 1 tablespoon of the tandoori spice blend and whisk to combine, letting toast for another minute, until fragrant. Gradually whisk in the turkey drippings (adding chicken stock as needed for a total of 3 cups). Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10–15 minutes, until thickened slightly. Remove the gravy from heat.
  15. To serve, set the whole turkey in the center of a large platter for a classic presentation, or carve the bird and arrange the cut pieces on the platter and garnish with cilantro and quartered limes. Serve immediately with the hot gravy alongside, as well as any traditional tandoori sides of choice.
  16. Enjoy!
Tandoori Turkey

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