This Thai style roasted turkey (brined and marinated) brings mixed flavors of East and West together in one delicious dish full of bold and tasty flavors! If you love Thai food and want more Thai flavors in your Thanksgiving bird, this turkey recipe is for you!
For an amazing turkey meat dipping sauce, try my popular Nam Jim Jaeow recipe without sugar, using honey instead. Also, another delicious Thai sauce is the Thai sweet chili dipping sauce. They are perfect for this Thai turkey.
Thai style roasted turkey (brined and marinated) doubles in flavors from the brining solution infused with fresh herbs, lemongrass, garlic, and bay leaf. Then it gets marinated for more flavors with coconut milk, white pepper, and all the delicious Thai sauces.
The brining ensures the interior of the turkey meat is tender while the marinating season the exterior part and gives the skin the extra crispy taste that you can't stop eating!
I remember having my first turkey after coming to the United States at age 13. I didn't care for it much the first time around. I liked some parts of the turkey, like the dark meat area, but that's about it. This recipe blog post is inspired by my desire to make turkey as flavorful as possible by infusing it with Thai flavors.
Last year, I made this recipe for my family on Thanksgiving, and it was a hit, even with the kiddos! I have to say. I'm happy with the results! It seems like it's the only way for my family and me to enjoy turkey again after having a few so-so-regular turkeys in the past. (:
Why This Recipe Works
- The flavors come from your favorite Thai herbs, spices, and sauces, giving the turkey the extra flavors!
- Jazz up your Thanksgiving this year with an Asian flare and flavors with this recipe.
- The turkey is moist from the brine infused with herbs, then marinated for extra Thai flavors!
Ingredients for making Thai style roasted turkey
- Turkey. This recipe used a 12-pound frozen young turkey. A turkey weighing 11-14 pounds will work great for this recipe. If you have fresh turkey, even better!
- Lemongrass. Use the bottom of a knife to smash it to help release oil
- Garlic. Smash the whole garlic cloves before adding them to the brined, but do not crush them too much.
- Bay leaf. Use kaffir lime leaves if you have some. They add more Thai flavors. Skip this if you don't have any.
- Water. Use 20-22 cups of water or just enough to cover the turkey in the brine solution.
- Agave. Honey, white or brown sugar can be substituted.
- Oyster sauce. One of the main sauces for this recipe. Don't skip out if you can help it.
- Fish sauce. Fish sauce brands vary in saltiness. Adjust the sauce before marinating the turkey. You won't stay on the slightly saltier than expected because some of it will dissipate while roasting.
- Soy sauce. You can use tamari as a substitute if you have a gluten allergy.
- Sweet soy sauce. Molasses can be used as a substitute. Mix in a little bit of maple syrup for extra sweetness.
- Dark soy sauce. Optional but highly recommended for the golden color on the outside of the turkey
- Vegetable oil. To help keep the turkey from being too dry. Do not use olive oil, as it will change the flavors of the turkey.
- Ground white pepper. Ground white pepper tends to get spicy. Adjust to your level of heat preference. Black pepper is fine as a substitute.
- Shallot. Purple onion can be used as a substitute.
- Cilantro stems. Use the lowest parts of the stems where all the flavors are.
- Coconut oil. For rubbing on the skin before baking. Use unsalted butter as a substitute.
How To Make Thai Turkey
Brining the turkey
Step one. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. While waiting on the hot water to heat up, combine salt, smashed lemongrass stalks, garlic, and bay leaves in a large bowl. Set aside until the water is ready. Once the water is hot, turn the heat off and carefully add 4 cups to the aromatics in a large bowl or container that you'll use to brine the turkey in. Whisk until most of the salt is dissolved. Let cool while prepping the turkey next.
Step two. Prep the turkey according to the turkey packaging instructions. This usually means thawing out the turkey according to its weight. Mine is a 12 lb turkey, and it took me 3.5 days to thaw out the frozen turkey in the refrigerator.
Step three. Once thawed, remove the turkey packaging, the giblets, and the neck bone inside the turkey. Trim any hair, extra skin, fat, or parts you don't want. Rinse and wash the turkey thoroughly with cold water.
Step four. Add the remaining water to the bin and place the turkey in it. If possible, try to submerge the entire turkey with just a little more water, if necessary, up to 2 cups. A large container like an ice bin, a brining bag, a large stock pot, or a medium-sized cooler is great. See notes for tips if you don’t have a large enough bin to cover the entire turkey.
Step five. Cover and wrap the bin tightly with aluminum foil or Saran wrap. Place the turkey in the fridge or a cool place for up to 18-20 hours. If you have a cooler temperature where you live, you can leave your brined turkey outside. For food safety precautions, only leave the turkey at a temperature lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Now we wait! (:
Step one. Let's roll up our sleeves and get this Thai turkey going! Combine all the sauces, coconut milk, agave, and oil in a medium bowl, and whisk gently together. Set aside.
Step two. Add cilantro stems, garlic, shallot, and ground white pepper in a small food processor. Add ⅓ cup of the marinating sauce to the food processor to help turn the blades and blitz until smooth.
Step three. Combine the paste into the sauce bowl and whisk well. Get ready to marinate the turkey next!
Step four. Remove the turkey from the brine water. Easiest inside the sink, drain the brine water from the turkey, then wash it with cold water for a minute or two. Pat dry with paper towels. This part is optional but highly recommended-stuff all the leftover aromatics used in brinning the turkey inside the cavities for more flavors. Step five. Line a roasting pan with a heavy-duty baking sheet, then place the turkey on it. Pour the marinating sauce all over the turkey to marinate! Slather the sauce in all the parts and crevices inside the cavity and around the wings. Carefully turn the turkey over to get all the parts. Leave ¼ amount of the sauce for brushing on during roasting.
Step six. Place the bird breast down to marinate to let the sauce seeps into this dryer part of the turkey meat. Cover with foil and leave in the fridge to marinate for at least 5 hours to get a tasty and juicy turkey. Turn the turkey once or twice to let the sauce marinate evenly on the turkey.
Step one. Remove the turkey from the fridge and leave it at room temperature for up to one hour before roasting. Preheat the oven temperature to 325 degrees f.
Step two. Use a spoon or measuring cup to scoop the sauce at the bottom of the roasting pan one last time to get the marinating sauce all over the turkey. Move the turkey to a cutting board, then place the pan's roasting rack over the foiled lining to keep the turkey lifted from the bottom of the roasting pan.
Note * I used my roasting pan to double up as a platter for marinating and roasting the turkey. I removed the rack while marinating, then placed it back on, with the turkey on top, just before putting it in the oven.
Step three. Rub ¼ cup of coconut oil inside the turkey skin and all over the turkey. Be careful not to tear the skin. Tuck the wings under, then truss the turkey with butcher's twine the best you can to keep the turkey from splaying out when baking. Leave the turkey breast side down for baking to let all the fat drip into the drier breast parts to get the juiciest turkey!
Step four. Check the oven rack to ensure it’s on the right spot before popping the turkey in. Place turkey on the oven rack and roast for 3-4 hours or until cooked. The thickest part should read 175 degrees Fahrenheit on a meat thermometer. Larger turkeys will take more time. Please check your turkey’s roasting guide for the correct cooking time.
Step five. Check the turkey on the first hour. (set a timer on my phone is super handy for me!). Carefully move the turkey out of the oven onto a heat-safe spot. Be careful with the high heat! Brush the turkey with marinating sauce before turning the turkey breast side up next.
Step six. Carefully turn the turkey to have the breast side up now. Slater, this side with leftover marinating sauce, add ½ cup of water to the bottom, then back to roasting some more.
Step seven. Check every hour or so, brush with more marinating sauce and keep adding ½ cup water to the bottom of the pan if it gets dry. Add a foil to the top of the turkey, like a loose blanket, if the skin starts to burn too quickly.
Step eight. Once the timer goes off, use an instant-read thermometer to check for doneness. The internal temperature should read at least 165 degrees on the thickest part of the breast. Let the turkey rests for 20 minutes before carving. Gather as much pan drippings as possible, if any, and place in a small bowl for dipping sauce! Enjoy!
For a quick overview of how to make a Thai-flavored Thanksgiving turkey, check out my web stories here.
Helpful Kitchen Notes and Expert Tips
- Use a very large container for brinning. I used an ice holder for mine, but you can use anything available. A medium size cooler could work too.
- While roasting, keep a close eye on the bird and check every hour or so, without opening the oven, to see how it’s looking.
- If the skin starts to brown too soon, use regular aluminum foil to loosely cover the turkey.
- If the wings or any smaller parts of the turkey start to burn too quickly, wrap a small piece of foil around those parts to help them not get burned by the high temperature.
- Save the bones for making turkey broth.
- The best way to flip the hot turkey is to use kitchen mitts or a clean dish cloth, hold the drumsticks stick while supporting the base with the other hand, and carefully lay it back onto the baking pan rack. You might need an extra hand for a larger turkey.
Helpful Kitchen Tools for making turkey
- Meat thermometer
- Brine bags
- Ice bin
- A large pot for brining
- Roasting pan
- Heavy-duty aluminum foil
- Saran wrap
- Basting brush
- Oven mitts
What do Thai people eat for Thanksgiving?
For many Thais living in the US. Thanksgiving is celebrated with traditional Thanksgiving dinner, or we add a twist of Thai flavors in different dishes to combine both worlds. Each family has a different way of celebrating and doing Thanksgiving.
Do Thai people celebrate Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Thailand. Since turkeys are not common in Thailand, Thais don't typically cook with them.
What do Asians eat for Thanksgiving?
For mixed and interracial families like mine, we have a spread of American, Thai, and Asian dishes that we bring together, like a melting pot, to celebrate at big gatherings like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. This usually means having Turkey as the main course, then dipping sauces, rice, salads, egg roll, and spring rolls mixed with some traditional recipes with green beans, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and some desserts at the end of a meal.
What can I add to turkey for flavor?
There are many different ways of making turkey more flavorful. Brining, marinating, and dry rubs using different spices, herbs, and sauces will make turkey extra flavorful. You can also try different cooking methods, like smoking, grilling, or deep frying the turkey.
How do I spice up my Thanksgiving turkey?
Experiment with different spices! My favorite spices and herbs are chilis, lemongrass, galangal, ginger, shallot, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, star anise, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and so much more! Play around with different combinations.
This turkey with an Asian twist will be a great conversational piece during your thanksgiving dinner. Even better, you can prepare this turkey anytime, not just during the holiday season. It's a perfect meal to make ahead of time and eat for several meals after. Stay tuned for more leftover turkey recipes coming your way!
More Thai Recipes You’ll Love!
- Yakisoba noodles stir fry with leftover turkey
- Turkey Tom Yum Fried rice using turkey meat
- Nam Jim Jaeow recipe without sugar (using honey instead).
- Thai sweet chili dipping sauce.
- Thai Roasted Gai Yang chicken recipe
- 5-minute authentic Thai satay sauce
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