Learn how to cook a turkey with this Easy Thanksgiving Turkey recipe! It’s the best roasted turkey recipe with herb butter, plus tips for baking a turkey.
We love an easy no fuss traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Cooking an entire turkey doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s as easy as stuffing the bird with a few seasonings, rubbing it with butter and then roasting it in the oven. Juicy Thanksgiving turkey should be moist and packed with flavor.
This recipe is quick and easy to prep. You don’t need any fancy tools or ingredients, just a few fresh flavors, a turkey and a roasting pan. No brining required.
Are you making a turkey for the first time? Make sure to read our turkey tips towards the bottom of this page!
Ingredients You Need
- Fresh Whole Turkey: You will need one 12 to 15 pound turkey.
- Fresh Herbs: You will need thyme, rosemary, sage and parsley. The herbs are split between the turkey and herb butter.
- Lemon: Fresh citrus is a must for fresh flavor. If you don’t have a lemon, you can substitute with an orange.
- Onion & Garlic: Both add more flavor to the turkey.
- Butter: Unsalted butter is best, but you can use salted, if needed.
- Salt and Pepper: To season the turkey.
How to Cook a Thanksgiving Turkey
- Remove the turkey from the packaging and place it on a roasting pan. Remove the giblets from the inside of the turkey and pat the turkey dry with a paper towel.
- Next, season the inside of the turkey with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity of the turkey with herbs, lemon, onion and garlic.
- Rub the outside of the turkey with herb butter (see recipe and instructions for herb butter below). Use kitchen twine to tie the legs together and tuck the wing tips under the body of the turkey.
- Roast until the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant read thermometer.
- Transfer the juicy turkey to a cutting board and tent with aluminum foil. Allow the turkey to rest for 20 minutes, then slice and serve.
Herb Butter for Turkey
The best Thanksgiving turkey recipe includes herb butter. Coat turkey in an herb butter for the best texture and flavor. Simply spread the butter over the entire turkey. To make the butter, mix together the butter, thyme, parsley, sage and rosemary. Use fresh herbs, if possible, but you can also substitute dried herbs.
You can save the turkey drippings that remain in the pan after roasting to make homemade turkey gravy.
For a whole fresh turkey, roast for 10 to 15 minutes per pound at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. For a defrosted turkey, plan for 20 minutes per pound in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven. If you cook your turkey at higher or lower temperatures, you will need to adjust your cooking time.
Use a meat thermometer to ensure your turkey reaches the safe internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the temperature in at least three places. We recommend checking the (1) innermost part of the thigh, (2) thickest part of the breast and (3) the innermost part of the wing.
Raw fresh turkey can last in the fridge for 1-2 days. Cooked turkey can last in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. Store your roasted turkey leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
- Allow 1 pound of turkey per person, when selecting a turkey. For bigger eaters (or more leftovers), allow for 1 1/2 pounds – 2 pounds per person.
- DO NOT rinse your turkey! Rising leads to the spread of bacteria in your kitchen.
- Wash your hands after handling raw turkey. Disinfect any surfaces or containers that you may have touched along the way.
- Cook your stuffing or dressing separate from the turkey. If you absolutely must stuff the turkey, make sure the stuffing reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit as well.
- Basting a turkey is optional. To baste a turkey, periodically spoon the pan juices over the turkey while cooking. For this recipe, basting isn’t really necessary to yield a juicy turkey.
- Let the turkey stand for 20 minutes after removing from the oven before carving to allow the juices to set.
Thaw or Defrost a Turkey – Two Ways!
- Refrigerator – Thaw a turkey by placing it into a container on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator. Allow 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of bird weight when thawing in the refrigerator.
- Cold water – Place a turkey in a leak proof bag. Submerge it into cold water and change the water every 30 minutes.
Refrigerator the leftover turkey within two hours. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze the turkey for use over the next several weeks.
Take the stress out of preparing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner by making this easy recipe. It’s the best turkey recipe and everyone loves it. Serve the turkey dinner with some of our other favorite Thanksgiving recipes.
If you’re looking for thanksgiving turkey recipes that serve a smaller crowd, try this easy turkey tenderloin cooked with carrots, peppers and onions. You can roast turkey breast instead of a whole turkey for a dinner that serves 2 to 4 people.
Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas
- Savory Mashed Sweet Potatoes
- Fresh Green Bean Casserole
- Roasted Pears
- Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole
- Dinner Rolls
Did you make this Thanksgiving Turkey recipe? Leave a recipe rating and review below!
Easy Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe
- 1 fresh turkey, 12-15 pounds
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large bunch fresh thyme, rosemary and sage, (bouquet garni)
- 1 whole lemon, halved
- 1 yellow onion, quartered
- 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh sage, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Remove the turkey from its packaging and place it on a large roasting pan. Clean the inside of the turkey, remove the giblets and then pay the bird dry with paper towels.
- Generously seasoning the inside of the turkey with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with the herb bunch, lemon halves, onion and garlic.
For the herb butter:
- In a small mixing bowl, mix together the softened butter and herbs until well combined.
- Rub the outside of the turkey all over with the herb butter, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Truss the legs together with kitchen twine and tuck the wing tips under the body of the turkey.
- Roast the turkey at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F and continue cooking for 2 to 2 1/2 hours (depending on the size), or until the juices run clear and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
- Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and tent with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes. Slice turkey and serve.
- You can substitute all of the fresh herbs for 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning.
Before you cook the bird, check out more turkey recipes and cooking tips at ServeTurkey.org! Follow @ServeTurkey on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest for more recipes and tips.
This post was originally sponsored by the National Turkey Federation. As always, opinions are my own. It was updated with new tips in October 2021.