Spice things up this holiday with this Cajun turkey recipe. Homemade Cajun turkey rub adds just the right amount of flavor without being overwhelmingly hot. Gravy recipe included!

A large dark oval platter with a Cajun turkey that has been roasted and cut up arranged on it, garnished with fresh orange slices, cranberries and herb sprigs.

In the past, I’ve talked a little bit about firm Thanksgiving traditions (my husband’s grandmother’s old fashioned Thanksgiving dressing recipe) and things I’m cool with experimenting with (roasted acorn squash slices instead of sweet potatoes and even pumpkin creme brulee or cranberry curd tart instead of pie).

But when it comes to the turkey, all bets are off. Some years, we’ll roast it the old-fashioned way with all the traditional herbs and spices. Sometimes I’ll brush it with a maple bourbon turkey glaze. Sometimes we’ll make a big ol’ mess and brine it.

Today, I’m sharing my Cajun turkey recipe. It’s as simple as rubbing your bird with a homemade (or even store-bought) spice blend, roasting it, and making an easy gravy for drizzling.

A roasted turkey rubbed with Cajun turkey rub, roasted and garnished with herbs, on a roasting rack inside a roasting pan.

About my Cajun turkey rub:

Friends, this Cajun turkey recipe is just absolutely delicious. It is SUPER juicy, and has just the right amount of spice. The first time I made it, I was a little worried when it came to “Cajun,” since spicy food isn’t for everyone.

But my mom and my best friend, who are both a little wary when it comes to spicy food, both really loved this turkey.

The Cajun seasonings add just the right amount of flavor without being overwhelmingly hot. The subtle heat pairs wonderfully with the sweetness in my Thanksgiving rice.

In the recipe card below, you’ll find my tried-and-true recipe for enough Cajun turkey rub for a 14- to 16-pound bird.

It includes kosher salt, garlic powder, smoked paprika (but Hungarian paprika would be fine, too), ground oregano, onion powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper and dried thyme.

All told, it makes a heaping 2/3rds cup of rub. If you wanted to substitute an equivalent amount of store-bought Cajun seasoning to save yourself some time, go right ahead!

A Thanksgiving feast arranged on a dynamic blue surface, including roasted poultry, mashed potatoes, green beans with tomatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing and  pumpkin pie.

How to roast a perfect Cajun turkey:

My all-time favorite method for roasting a turkey hews very closely to Alton Brown’s Good Eats Roast Turkey, without the brining part, and with the addition of my Cajun turkey rub.

To roast a turkey, you’ll need a big roasting pan. If you don’t already own a roasting pan, invest in one, because it’s useful for root beer ribs and ham with pineapple sauce, too!

The signature move of the Alton Brown turkey method (and I use this for the meat for lamb sliders, too!) is to start roasting the turkey at a very high oven temperature of 500 degrees F for 30 minutes (enjoy a rosemary gin cocktail while you wait).

This 30 minutes goes a long way towards getting a deeply golden brown roasted turkey with crispy skin. After the first 30 minutes, you’ll turn the temperature down to 350 degrees, carefully add the Cajun turkey rub to the bird, and finish roasting it.

The reason we don’t put the Cajun turkey rub on the outside of the bird at the beginning is that the first cook at 500 degrees might scorch the spices and make them bitter, which we don’t want.

So, we add some of the rub to the inside of the cavity (where it won’t scorch) at the beginning, and then we add the rest of the rub to the outside of the turkey after the blast at 500 degrees.

One thing to be aware of is that this method is FAST!

While Alton’s recipe says that a 14 to 16 pound turkey should take at total of 2 to 2-1/2 hours to roast using this method, there’s been some years where my turkey has been done even before 2 full hours!

It’s something to be aware of because you’ll want to have your side dishes like maple glazed Brussels sprouts and Greek yogurt mashed potatoes in process basically as soon as the turkey goes into the oven.

A large dark oval platter with a Cajun turkey that has been roasted and cut up arranged on it, garnished with fresh orange slices, cranberries and herb sprigs.

Make Cajun turkey gravy while the bird rests!

After the turkey comes out of the oven, it’s time to make Cajun turkey gravy!

We’ll be using the same roux technique from my homemade gravy recipe, but using the juices from the roasting pan and also adding some unique flavors that pair well with this Cajun turkey recipe.

First, you’ll want to use a fat separator to quickly separate the fat from the non-fatty juices in the pan drippings.

You’ll need 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) fat total for this gravy, so if you don’t have that much fat that has dripped off your turkey, add butter to make up the rest of the amount.

You’ll cook the butter along with an equal amount of flour in a large skillet to make a roux (the thickening agent for the gravy).

Then, you’ll add 2 cups of liquid. This can be the non-fatty drippings from your bird, turkey or chicken stock or broth, or a combination.

Whisk the liquid in and bring the gravy to a boil until it thickens. Then, you’ll be seasoning the Cajun turkey gravy with orange juice, orange zest and chopped fresh oregano.

Also taste it and see if it needs more salt, but it might not, since the drippings will contain a lot of the Cajun turkey rub we made (with lots of salt!) earlier.

A large platter arranged with Thanksgiving food in rows, like apple bacon stuffing, roasted poultry, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and green beans with tomatoes, with captions labeling each item, and "Epic Thanksgiving" and the Foxes Love Lemons logo at the top.

How to put together a turkey serving platter like a pro:

My food stylist tendencies never let up, even on a holiday where I’m just hosting family. I love a beautiful turkey platter, but to be honest, I never have too detailed of a plan for it.

When I’m at the store shopping for my Cajun turkey recipe and other Thanksgiving ingredients, I simply grab whatever looks prettiest. When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with lots of fresh herbs and fruit.

Oranges are great platter fillers (and can do double duty in Thanksgiving fruit salad and Christmas salad). I also love fresh cranberries because they’re seasonal and beautiful.

Fresh herbs like parsley, oregano, rosemary and thyme will give you a nice pop of green to go with all of that brown. Leftover fresh herbs can also be added to old fashioned ham and bean soup, if you’ve also made a ham for Thanksgiving and have leftovers.

You really can’t make a mistake here. Look around at the store when you’re shopping for ingredients for Thanksgiving salad and Christmas fruit salad, and whatever looks beautiful – take it home and use it to garnish your Cajun turkey masterpiece!

This Cajun turkey recipe is part of my Epic Thanksgiving menu.

My Epic Thanksgiving menu is simply a collection of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes, all in one place. Along with my leftover mashed potato recipe, these are the dishes I make again and again each year.

I hope they also become staples of your holiday, too! Along with this Cajun turkey recipe, there’s also:

Thank you!

I’m so thankful for each and every person that stops by this blog, whether it’s once in awhile or every day. This little corner of the internet has allowed me to change my life and create a career path for myself that brings me so much joy.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

Recipes to use up leftover turkey:

I have a small family, but love roasting a whole turkey, so I need lots of options to get creative with the leftover turkey meat!

A large dark oval platter with a Cajun turkey that has been roasted and cut up arranged on it, garnished with fresh orange slices, cranberries and herb sprigs.

Cajun Turkey with Orange-Oregano Gravy

Yield: 12 servings
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 15 minutes

Spice things up this holiday with this Cajun turkey recipe. Homemade Cajun turkey rub adds just the right amount of flavor without being overwhelmingly hot. Gravy recipe included!

Ingredients

For the Cajun Turkey Rub:

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground oregano
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

For the Cajun Turkey:

  • 1 (14 to 16 pound) turkey, thawed if frozen
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 3 sprigs oregano
  • 1/2 large white onion, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil

For the Orange-Oregano Gravy:

  • Drippings from turkey roasting pan, separated with a fat separator
  • Up to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, as needed
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Up to 2 cups broth or stock, as needed, plus additional if needed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves

For Serving:

  • Orange slices, fresh herbs and cranberries, to garnish platter (optional)
  • Finely chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Make the Cajun Turkey rub: In small bowl, stir together salt, garlic powder, paprika, oregano, onion powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper and thyme until well combined.
  2. Make the Cajun Turkey: Preheat oven to 500 degrees F with a rack set at the lowest level. Pat turkey completely dry with paper towels, and place turkey on rack inside roasting pan.
  3. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of Cajun Turkey Rub into turkey's cavity. Place thyme, oregano and onion in cavity. Tuck turkey wings underneath the turkey. Liberally brush oil all over turkey.
  4. Transfer turkey to oven and cook 30 minutes. Remove turkey from oven and carefully sprinkle with all of the remaining Cajun Turkey Rub, using a wooden spoon or basting brush to press the rub onto the skin if needed.
  5. Transfer turkey back to oven, reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue roasting about 2 to 2-1/2 hours (although it could be a little less!), until a probe thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast reaches 161 degrees F.
  6. When turkey is finished cooking, remove from oven, Transfer turkey to large cutting board and loosely tent with foil. Let rest 30 minutes.
  7. While turkey is resting, make the Orange-Oregano Gravy: Use a fat separator to separate the fat from the non-fatty drippings from the roasting pan. You will need 4 tablespoons fat total for this gravy. If you don't have 4 tablespoons of turkey fat, add unsalted butter until you get to 4 tablespoons. You will also need 2 cups of non-fatty drippings. Add chicken or turkey broth or stock until you get to 2 cups.
  8. In large skillet, place turkey fat and/or butter over medium heat. Add flour and cook 4 to 6 minutes or until mixture becomes light to medium golden brown, whisking constantly.
  9. While whisking, slowly add turkey drippings and/or broth or stock until all liquid is incorporated. Heat to boiling over medium-high heat and cook 1 to 2 minutes or until gravy is thickened.
  10. If gravy is too thick, whisk in a bit more broth or water. If gravy is too thin, cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until desired consistency is achieved.
  11. Reduce heat to low. Add orange juice, orange zest and oregano and whisk until well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt as necessary.
  12. Carve turkey and arrange on a large platter with garnishes like orange slices, herbs and cranberries, if desired. Sprinkle turkey with fresh parsley, if desired. Serve with Orange-Oregano Gravy.

Notes

Turkey recipe adapted from Alton Brown.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 484Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 247mgSodium: 1496mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 66g

This website provides estimated nutrition information as a courtesy only. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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