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Cajun Spiced Roasted Turkey

This Cajun Spiced Roasted Turkey uses a dry rub brine for crispy skin with a spicy kick! It’s also injected with butter and herbs to keep the bird tender, moist, and loaded with flavor.

cajun roasted turkey in a roasting pan

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FOR THE FULL LIST OF INGREDIENTS AND COMPREHENSIVE INSTRUCTIONS, PLEASE SEE THE RECIPE CARD AT THE END OF THIS POST. BEFORE YOU SCROLL, THERE’S IMPORTANT INFORMATION IN THIS BLOG POST.

Thanksgiving turkey gets a bad rep. To be honest, rightfully so! Sometimes I’ve shown up for the holiday meal and the turkey was bland and way too dry! Luckily there are methods to combat both of these. 

This one is served using a dry Cajun rub. If you aren’t a fan of spicy, try using a Creole seasoning or whatever you love to use to season poultry. 

How Big a Turkey Do You Need/How to Plan

The general rule of thumb is 1 pound of turkey per guest. If you have a small party you can even consider a turkey breast. This recipe breaks down the ingredient servings based on the size and weight of the turkey, 12 pounds in this case.

That will make it easy to scale down or scale up the servings you will need of each ingredient, by taking into account the weight of the turkey you are using.

raw turkey in a roasting pan

How to Thaw a Turkey

I recommend thawing in the refrigerator or in cold water.

If using the refrigerator, keep the turkey in it’s original packaging and place a sheet pan underneath to catch any juices that may leak out.

Here is the safety chart for thawing in the fridge according to the USDA:
4-12 pounds: 1 to 3 days
12-16 pounds: 3 to 4 days
16-20 pounds 4 to 5 days
20-24 pounds 5 to 6 days

Here is the safety chart for thawing in cold water according to the USDA:

4-12 pounds: 2 to 6 hours
12-16 pounds: 6 to 8 hours
16-20 pounds 8 to 10 hours
20-24 pounds 10 to 12 hours

Once thawed, it can stay in the fridge, safely, up to 2 days.

chicken broth, olive oil, Tony Chachere's injection marinade, and spices in a bowl on a flat surface

What Does Cajun Turkey Taste Like

Cajun seasoning is often spicy with an emphasis on peppers, white pepper, black peppers, cayenne pepper, and bell peppers. It also has hints of paprika and garlic.

If you are looking for an option that’s less spicy Creole Seasoning may work better for you than Cajun.

Creole Seasoning has more emphasis on herbs such as basil, oregano and thyme. It is milder than Cajun Seasoning. If you want to substitute Creole Seasoning, and you still want the added heat, add in a teaspoon or more of red cayenne pepper.

raw turkey in a roasting pan with chicken broth poured into the pan

What’s the Best Way to Season It

You will need to remove the contents of the inner cavity. Giblets are typically inside. Giblets are the little bundle of parts and usually includes the neck, the gizzard, which is a muscle that grinds up food before it enters the digestive system, the heart, and the liver.

Some people save these and cook them up or make gravy. You can discard if you wish.

Dry the turkey with paper towels. I like the spritz the turkey with olive oil using this spray bottle from Amazon. This will allows the spices to adhere. You can also drizzle it on and rub it in.

If you are injecting the bird with butter, you don’t need a ton of olive oil, unless you want it! Getting the skin nice and moist with oil will help produce crispy skin on the turkey.

Then add your spices. I use the following:

Once you have your olive oil on the skin, combine your spices and rub them in all over the bird front and back.

Next, I inject the turkey. I like to use a combination of Tony Chachere’s Butter Injection Marinade and Tony Chachere’s Garlic and Herb Injection Marinade. I like to use both of them because I like the combination of the butter and herbs for flavor. The butter is necessary if you don’t want a dry turkey.

turkey injection marinade in a measuring cup

Their kit comes with an injector that you press right into the bird. Per the instructions, you should inject 1 ounce of the marinade per pound of turkey you have. This turkey was 12 pounds so I used 6 ounces of the butter and 6 ounces of the garlic and herb marinade. You don’t have to combine two. You can do whatever you wish.

To create your own injection, add 2 tablespoons of melted butter to broth. The amount of broth you will need is 1 ounce per pounds of turkey. From there, you can add whatever seasoning and spices you wish. You can use this injector from Amazon.

raw turkey injected with marinade in a roasting pan

How to Make Homemade Cajun Seasoning

You can make your own Cajun Seasoning using the following:

raw seasoned cajun turkey in a roasting pan

How to Get Crispy Skin

After the turkey is drizzled in oil and seasoned, place it in the oven on 425 degrees for 30 minutes. You will lower the heat afterward, but this gets the skin crisp.

What Type of Pan to Use

You will want to use a roaster, and be sure to check the size to ensure it will fit your turkey and the dimensions of your oven.

Here are great guidelines from Metro Kitchen:

Turkey SizeMinimum Roasting Pan Size
Up to 12 pounds14 x 10 x 2-3/4 inches
Up to 16 pounds15-3/4 x 12 x 3 inches
Up to 20 pounds16 x 13 x 3 inches

How Long to Cook it/How to Know When it’s Done

The total time to cook will vary based on the size of your turkey. This 12 pound bird took close to 3 hours. You will need to use a meat thermometer for accuracy. It will need to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees. A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

According to the USDA’s Food Safety Guidelines, here are example timetables for roasting. You will still need to use a meat thermometer to avoid slicing into a turkey that isn’t done.

8 -12 pounds 2½ to 3½ hours
12-14 pounds 3 to 3¾ hours
14-18 pounds 3¾ to 4¼ hours
18-20 pounds 4¼ to 4½ hours
20-24 pounds 4½ to 5 hours

How to Prevent it From Drying Out

A few things can lead to a dry turkey. One cause is constant basting. It sounds like that should help, right? If you’re constantly opening the oven door to baste the turkey, you are letting heat out the oven. This means you will need to cook it longer, which will dry it out.

If you inject the turkey with a marinade prepared with something like butter, this helps add moisture directly to the bird. Some people like to stuff butter directly under the skin of the turkey. If you use an injector, you don’t need to. You can read more about How to Put Butter Under Turkey Skin here.

Sometimes turkeys are dry because they are huge. It’s really difficult to cook a 20+ pound turkey evenly where the entire turkey cooks at the same speed. If you have a huge turkey, some parts may turn out drier than others.

Carving the turkey BEFORE you cook it is another solution to ensure the entire bird cooks at the same speed and temperature.

cajun roasted turkey in a roasting pan

Do You Have to Stuff it?

I say no. The stuffing will usually cook a lot faster and will end up overcooked before it’s said and done. If you add it after you have started the roasting process, you will probably end up with a dry turkey. I recommend pairing this with my dressing recipe noted below.

Let the Turkey Rest Before Slicing

Let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before carving to allow juices to set. The turkey will carve more easily. You will also wind up with dry turkey if you slice too soon.

Reheating

Reheat on 325 degrees in the oven until warm. You can also place it in broth to keep it juicy while it bakes.

More Thanksgiving Main Dishes

Air Fryer Turkey Breast
Instant Pot Turkey Breast
Air Fryer Baked Ham
Instant Pot Brisket
Air Fryer Ribs

Thanksgiving Side Dishes to Pair

Soul Food Baked Mac and Cheese
Southern Mustard Greens
Southern Cornbread Dressing
Southern Homemade Classic Cornbread
Instant Pot Collard Greens
Southern Peach Cobbler
Southern Sweet Potato Pie

Leftover Turkey Recipes

Leftover Turkey Rice Soup

Check out a full list of Soul Food Thanksgiving Recipes here.

cajun roasted turkey in a roasting pan
Print Pin
5 from 6 votes

Cajun Spiced Roasted Turkey

This Cajun Spiced Roasted Turkey uses a dry rub brine for crispy skin with a spicy kick! It's also injected with butter and herbs to keep the bird tender, moist, and loaded with flavor.
Course dinner, lunch
Cuisine American
Keyword cajun turkey, spicy turkey
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
resting 20 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 50 minutes
Servings 24 servings
Calories 326kcal

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Pat turkey dry. Remove all of the contents from the inner cavity.
  • Pour the broth into the bottom of a roasting pan and place the turkey on top.
  • Inject the turkey with the marinade. Focus on areas throughout the entire turkey, the breasts, legs, etc.
  • Drizzle the turkey with olive oil or I like to use this oil spray bottle that I load with olive oil. It makes it easier to coat the turkey by spraying it on and you will likely use less oil since it's also injected with butter.
  • Season the entire turkey and rub the spices into the skin.
  • Place the turkey in the oven for 30 minutes on 425 degrees. After 30 minutes adjust the temperature to 325 degrees. This will crisp the skin. If you don't want crispy skin you can start it at 325 degrees.
  • If you notice the turkey is starting to brown quickly (usually the legs for sure), place a piece of foil over the turkey to tent excess heat. You don't want to wrap it. Place it on top.
  • Turkey will take 2-5 hours (depending on size) to cook based on the size. You will need to use a meat thermometer to test. If you notice that the broth is low, top it off with more.
  • Check if the turkey has finished cooking by using a meat thermometer. You always want to test the thickest part of the turkey, which is typically between the thigh and leg. Ensure it reaches an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees. I usually test several areas of the turkey to be sure.
  • Allow the turkey to rest for a minimum of 20 minutes prior to slicing to allow the juicies to settle. If you slice too soon it will result in dry turkey.
  • Keep the turkey drippings if you plan to make gravy. I combine it with a tablespoon of butter and then start with a tablespoon of flour and add more if necessary to thicken.

Notes

I used 6oz of of Tony Chachere’s Butter Injection Marinade and 6oz Tony Chachere’s Garlic and Herb Injection Marinade. I like the combination of both of these, but this is optional! You can use whatever you like.
To create your own injection, add 2 tablespoons of melted butter to broth. The amount of broth you will need is 1 ounce per pounds of turkey. From there, you can add whatever seasoning and spices you wish. You can use this injector from Amazon.
Because this turkey is injected with flavor I do not brine it overnight. You can if you wish.
You can make your own Cajun Seasoning using the following:
The general rule of thumb is 1 pound of turkey per guest. If you have a small party you can even consider a turkey breast. This recipe breaks down the ingredient servings based on the size and weight of the turkey, 12 pounds in this case.
That will make it easy to scale down or scale up the servings you will need of each ingredient, by taking into account the weight of the turkey or turkey breast you are using. If you have a 6-pound turkey breast, divide the ingredients in half, etc.
Recipe Tools Used in this RecipeAs an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition (displayed with net carbs)

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 326kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 50g | Fat: 13g
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Recipe Rating




Kala

Wednesday 2nd of December 2020

I have always made a traditional brined turkey but decided to try something new this year, since it was just my husband and I, and it did not disappoint. I used this on a turkey breast since it was just two of us, but after tasting it, I wished I would have made an entire turkey! The rich flavors were amazing and the moisture was locked in, making for amazing leftovers. The seasoning does appear dark on the skin (my fault for not covering it sooner), but the inside was cooked to perfection. If you’re looking for a flavorful, delicious turkey, look no further. Thank you for the great recipe! This will be my go to turkey recipe from now on.

Ashley Wisnewski

Tuesday 1st of December 2020

My husband and I cooked our first turkey this year for Thanksgiving and decided on this recipe. It did not disappoint, the spices were perfect! And loved the step by step instructions. Thanks so much!

Lopa Desai

Sunday 29th of November 2020

This turkey was amazing! I followed the recipe exactly how it was written and it turned out super juicy and not dry at all. One of my family members said that this is the first time they actually liked the turkey more than the sides! I would highly recommend this recipe, you will not be disappointed! Thanks Brandi!

staysnatched

Tuesday 1st of December 2020

You're welcome! I'm glad the family enjoyed it!

Jessica Herrera

Sunday 29th of November 2020

This year I volunteered to cook the Turkey (my first time cooking turkey too) and thought I'd give Brandi's recipe a shot. It was the best move I made! The turkey came out juicy and tender. The recipe is easy to follow and the ingredients are simple as well. I do recomend to purchase the injectable marinades ahead of time because they do sell out quickly. Can't wait to make it again next year!

staysnatched

Sunday 29th of November 2020

That's a great tip! You are so right!

Linda

Thursday 26th of November 2020

Goodbye boring turkey! Hello Turkey with some flavor! I barely had any left overs

staysnatched

Friday 27th of November 2020

ha ha a good turkey will do that!