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What Herbs Go With Turkey? – The 5 Best Herbs For Turkey

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Turkey is a highly underrated poultry that is often reserved for major holidays or events, but its lean and easy-to-cook meat makes it a great addition to your meal planning.

It’s high in protein and is mild enough in flavor that it works well with lots of different flavor profiles and herb combinations.

We have likely all enjoyed a roast turkey at one point in our lives and it is truly a delicious way to enjoy this meat. But, if you want to get creative, you can use turkey as the base for soups, stews, burgers, sausages, and breakfast patties. 

So, what herbs go best with turkey? For roasting, you will want to try parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, nutmeg, basil, tarragon, savory, oregano, and/or bay leaf. You can also get creative with other mixes including cilantro, garlic, lime zest, lemongrass, paprika, chili flakes, and so many more.

Read on to discover the best herbs for roasting turkey, making turkey burgers, turkey sausages, roasted turkey thighs and drumsticks, or whipping up a delicious soup, stew, or chili. 

The Best Herbs To Use For A Roast Turkey

There’s nothing quite so homey as the smell of a turkey roasting away in the oven.

It brings to mind memories of holidays and delicious feasts, but if you want to take your turkey roasting to the next level you can try adding some herbs to your repertoire. 

Since turkey has such a mild flavor, it goes really well with lots of different herbs.

If you want to roast the perfect turkey this holiday season to get your family and friends raving about your cooking abilities try one or several of the following herbs. 

  • Sage
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Garlic (though this isn’t technically a herb, its flavor really complements all these different herbs to create a bright and delicious roast turkey)
  • Poultry Seasoning
  • Herbes de Provence

When I roast my turkey I use a ton of herbs, special liquids to baste it, and my secret ingredient: tons of butter! Follow these steps to roast your turkey like a pro. 

  1. Separate the skin of the turkey breast from the meat so that you create a little pocket. 
  2. Cut up some cubes of butter, flatten them, and slide them under the skin of the turkey so the breast meat is fully covered. You can also slide a few cloves of garlic under the skin with the butter.
  3. Liberally coat the turkey in olive oil and lots of salt. Then sprinkle it with one of several of the herbs from the list above. I will often use poultry seasoning and some parsley. 
  4. Preheat the oven to 400°F and set the rack on its lowest setting in the oven. 
  5. Once heated, place the turkey in the oven and roast for 1 hour to brown the skin. After that hour is up, baste your turkey with the juice of 1 lemon combined with 2 cups of apple cider (alcoholic or non-alcoholic based on your preference).
  6. After the first hour, turn the heat down to 300°F and slow roast until the internal temperature reaches 170°F for an unstuffed turkey and 180°F for a stuffed turkey. Continue basting at 30-minute intervals
  7. Remove from the oven, tent with tin foil and let it rest about 20 minutes before carving
  8. Enjoy the juiciest, most flavorful turkey of your life! 

The Best Herbs To Use In A Turkey Burger or Sausage

When you’re playing around with turkey to make a burger or a sausage you can get a little more creative depending on whether you want a spicy burger, an Italian-style sausage, a breakfast patty, or a traditional mild burger flavor. 

To make turkey burgers or sausages you will need ground turkey. I recommend using either all dark meat or a combination of white and dark meat.

If you use just white meat, then the patties and sausages may end up dry and unpleasant. 

You can also combine your ground turkey with chicken, beef, or pork for a more decadent treat. Just keep the base at least two-thirds turkey so it doesn’t get completely overwhelmed by the other flavors

To start getting creative with your turkey burgers and sausages, check out some of my favorite herbal combinations below. 

Basic Turkey Burger:

  • Garlic
  • Paprika
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Herb-Packed Turkey Burger:

  • Cilantro
  • Green Onion
  • Lime Zest
  • Chili Flakes
  • Lemongrass 

Turkey Breakfast Sausage:

  • Brown Sugar (or maple syrup)
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Onion Powder
  • Garlic Powder
  • Chili (or red pepper flakes)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Marjoram

Turkey Sausage Patties 

  • Ginger
  • Cayenne
  • Sage
  • White Pepper
  • Thyme

Turkey Italian-Style Sausage

  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Marjoram
  • Thyme
  • Savory
  • Cilantro
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Fennel Seeds
  • Parsley
  • Paprika
  • Garlic
  • Onion

The Best Herbs To Use In A Turkey Stew 

There’s nothing quite as comforting as a delicious stew on a cold day. It’s also a great way to use up your leftover turkey after a big holiday.

You can even use your turkey bones to make a rich and flavorful stock to use as the base for your stew. 

When it comes to using herbs in your turkey stew, there really is no limit to what you can use. You can get really creative and make a spicy turkey stew, a Mexican-inspired stew, or anything your heart desires.

But when it comes to the classics, here are a few herbs that really stand out: 

  • Bay Leaves
  • Thyme
  • Parsley
  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Marjoram
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Herbes de Provence 
  • Poultry Seasoning 
  • Tarragon 
  • Savory 
  • Star Anise 

The Best Herbs To Use In Turkey Chili

Many chili recipes call for ground beef or other red meats, but if you want to get creative you can always substitute these meats for ground turkey to create a lighter option.

Turkey meat soaks up tons of flavor, and when braised in chili it can develop a delightful richness. 

When I make chili, I tend to use a lot of spices for the chili itself, but the herbs really bring the whole thing together when it comes time to serve everything up. I’ll share my favorite chili mix below.

You can use it with ground turkey and beans for a hearty meal. 

  • 6 cloves of garlic 
  • 1 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 2-3 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. thyme
  • ¼ tsp. cumin
  • ¼ tsp. allspice
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup tomato paste

You can add fresh tomatoes, a pound of turkey, sweet potatoes, your favorite beans, and any other veggies you enjoy in your chili and let it simmer in the slow cooker or on the stove for several hours to really develop flavor. 

Once you are ready to serve your turkey chili you can top it with:

  • Fresh chopped cilantro
  • Chopped green onions 
  • Lime zest and juice 

The herbs in the chili will get cooked down to give a deep, rich flavor, while the fresh herbs added at the end will add a ton of brightness and freshness to your bowl of turkey chili. 

The Best Herbs For Roasting Turkey Thighs And Drumsticks 

Sometimes you just don’t want to roast an entire turkey. It can take a long time and often there is so much leftover you’re stuck eating turkey for a week, which can get very boring.

Luckily, many grocery stores will sell turkey thighs and drumsticks individually. 

These are a great choice since the dark meat is juicier and more tender than the white meat and it doesn’t take nearly as long to roast a turkey thigh and drumstick as it does to cook a whole turkey. 

Since turkey pairs well with sweet and savory flavors, you can get creative with your blends here.

You will want to mix the herbs together to make a little dry rub that you can coat the skin with for lots of flavor. I also like to drizzle it with a little honey or maple syrup while its cooking for a real treat.

You can use any of the herbs mentioned above to make a spice blend to coat your drumsticks and thighs. I like a simple blend of poultry seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper, with a squeeze of lemon over the top as it cooks. 

Final Thoughts 

As you can see there are lots of way that you can enjoy your turkey, so don’t feel like you have to be limited by simply roasting a whole bird.

You can create flavorful spice blends to make the most delicious sausage patties, turkey burgers, turkey chili, turkey stew, or roasted turkey thighs. 

Do you have a favorite herb you use to prepare your perfect turkey every time? Let us know in the comments. 

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