The only Thanksgiving turkey recipe you’ll ever need! This turkey comes out perfectly juicy and tender every time, even a first time cook can present a beautiful bird on Thanksgiving day.

Thanksgiving is all about the food, and nothing is more important than the turkey. Serve this classic turkey with some delectable sides such as homemade cranberry sauce, sausage stuffing, scalloped corn casserole, make ahead mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole with marshmallows and bacon green bean bundles, then watch the rave reviews pour in. Don’t forget the Thanksgiving punch to drink!

A whole roasted Thanksgiving turkey on a platter that's decorated with grapes and herbs.

The best Thanksgiving turkey recipe is an integral part of a holiday meal, but the idea of turning out a perfect, golden brown bird can be daunting. This turkey recipe comes out delicious every time; the meat is infused with flavor and never dry. Add some fresh herbs and fruit such as grapes, apple, orange or lemon to your serving dish as a garnish, and your turkey will look like it came off the cover of a magazine. Need more Thanksgiving recipe inspiration? Check out of list of amazing Thanksgiving appetizer recipes!

How To Prep A Turkey

To prepare a turkey for the oven, you’ll need to do the following steps:

  • Remove the neck from the turkey cavity.
  • Tie the legs together with kitchen twine.
  • Fold the ends of the turkey wings under your bird.
  • Remove the giblets which is usually found inside the turkey cavity near the neck hole.

Thanksgiving Turkey Ingredients

To make this recipe, you will need turkey brine, a turkey, butter, garlic, sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley, salt and black pepper.

A turkey in a pot of brine.

How Do You Make Thanksgiving Turkey?

To make a really juicy and tender bird the secret is to wet brine the turkey. Make a flavorful turkey brine recipe. Be sure thaw your turkey before you brine it. After the turkey absorbs the brine, remove it from the liquid and pat it dry with paper towels. Let it rest for a few minutes on the counter. Prepare the turkey for roasting by tying the drumsticks together and tucking the wings. The next step is to coat the turkey in butter, herbs and spices.

When the turkey is ready to roast, put it in a roasting pan on a roasting rack. Roast it for a half an hour at high heat. Let the turkey finish roasting at a lower heat, basting every half hour while the turkey cooks. When the turkey is done and golden brown, let it rest for a few minutes, serve and enjoy.

Butter, garlic herbs and seasonings in a food processor.

Tips For The Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

  • If the turkey starts to get dark on top but the meat is not done yet, place foil on top while it finishes cooking.
  • When figuring out what size turkey you need, make sure you have a pound of turkey per person.
  • For extra flavor, you can put some large chopped pieces of onions, carrots and celery in the turkey’s cavity. Discard the veggies before you serve the bird.
  • Place your meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh or the base of the turkey breast meat near where the turkey breast meets the thigh.
  • When basting your turkey, if there are any parts of the turkey that are not browning as quickly, coat those areas with the melted butter and pan drippings.

Quick Tip

Save your pan drippings to make homemade turkey gravy!

A turkey coated in herb butter.

Recipe FAQs

How long do you cook a turkey?

Generally speaking, a turkey needs to cook for 15 minutes per pound of bird. This assumes that you’re starting with a fresh or fully thawed turkey. The only way to know for sure that your turkey is cooked through is to use a thermometer.

How do you know when a turkey is done?

You want to cook a turkey until the bird is golden brown and the internal temperature of the meat has reached 165 degrees F. Make sure to insert the thermometer in the base of the breast meat or the thickest part of the thigh. Your thermometer should not be touching any turkey bones.

Do you need to brine a turkey?

You can make a good turkey without brining it. However, I highly recommenced brining the turkey as it helps keep the meat moist and adds a lot of herb and savory flavors to the meat. The difference between a brined turkey and a regular turkey is night and day, so if you have the time, brine that bird.


Sliced Thanksgiving turkey on a serving platter with fresh herbs.

Flavor Variations

This recipe is delicious as-is, but you can easily customize the flavors to your tastes.

  • Meat: You can make this recipe with a whole chicken or a turkey breast, just adjust the cooking time accordingly. A chicken or turkey breast will also need to brine for just 12 hours and it will retain plenty of moisture in that time.
  • Seasonings: Feel free to swap out the herbs in the butter mixture for other spices such as garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, turkey rub, or even Cajun seasoning.

The perfect turkey for Thanksgiving is one that is easy and cooks up delicious every time. Whether you are roasting a turkey for the first time or you are just looking for some new ideas, this recipe will help you cook that perfect turkey to will impress your family.

More Great Thanksgiving Recipes

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Please leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 rating in the recipe card below & a review in the comments section further down the page.

5 from 43 votes

Thanksgiving Turkey

AuthorSara Welch
A whole roasted Thanksgiving turkey on a platter that's decorated with grapes and herbs.
The only Thanksgiving turkey recipe you'll ever need! This turkey comes out perfectly juicy and tender every time, even a first time cook can present a beautiful bird on Thanksgiving day.
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time4 hours
Brining Time1 day
Total Time1 day 4 hours 20 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine American
Serves 15


  • 1 recipe turkey brine
  • 15 lb turkey
  • 10 tablespoons butter softened
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Fresh herbs and fruit for garnish optional


  • Prepare the brine according to recipe directions. Brine the turkey for 18-24 hours before cooking.
  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  • Remove the turkey from the brine; rinse and pat dry. Let the turkey stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Tuck the turkey wings under the body. Tie the turkey legs together with kitchen twine.
  • Place the butter, garlic, sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley and salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until smooth.
  • Rub the herb butter all over the outside of the turkey and under the skin of the breast.
  • Place the turkey in a roasting pan and bake for 30 minutes.
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue roasting, basting the turkey every 30 minutes with pan drippings, until the turkey is done. This will take approximately 3 1/2 hours and you'll know that the turkey is done when a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the turkey thigh registers 165 degrees F.
  • If the turkey seems like it’s getting overly browned during the cooking process, cover it with foil.
  • Remove the turkey from the oven and tent loosely with foil. Let the turkey rest for 20 minutes. Slice, then serve.


  1. You can make this recipe with a turkey larger than 15 lbs, simply add 15 minutes more to the cooking time per pound.
  2. It’s best to cook your turkey on a rack or on a bed of vegetables to help keep it from sitting in all the juices in the bottom of the pan.


Calories: 382kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 66g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 236mg | Sodium: 414mg | Potassium: 733mg | Vitamin A: 390IU | Vitamin C: 4.1mg | Calcium: 40mg | Iron: 2.7mg

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Recipe Rating


    1. A stuffed bird typically takes longer to cook since there’s no air circulation in the cavity if it’s full of stuffing. It’s totally fine to stuff it, you just want to make sure you test both the turkey and the stuffing to make sure the temperature is correct.

  1. Can this recipe work also on a Turkey Breast instead of a tradition Turkey as I prefer Turkey Breast? I hope so, because it looks absolutely delicious.

  2. 5 stars
    I’ve always stayed away from cooking a turkey because it always seemed too difficult. Your recipe was super easy to follow and it turned out perfectly! Thanks!