Cajun Turkey

This year, up your holiday game with a homemade Cajun Turkey. Rubbed with homemade Cajun herb butter, this beautiful bird is a delicious way to infuse Louisiana flavor to your holiday table. (No injection needed for this tasty turkey!) 

Broken down cooked Cajun Turkey on a silver platter with greens and apples

Cajun Turkey Recipe

There are lots of things to love about Louisiana, but the cuisine is one of my favorites. (Second only to my Louisiana-born husband!) 

I love bringing Cajun and Creole flavors to our table year-round, but the holidays are a great opportunity to get creative with them, right down to the turkey. 

While this is not a traditional turkey recipe, it sure makes for a delicious Thanksgiving turkey (or any-other-time holiday bird.)

Some Cajun turkey recipes involve injecting the bird with a Cajun marinade, but not this one. It also doesn’t require a turkey brine. 

This recipe is MUCH simpler.

Instead, I’ll show you how to make a Cajun herb butter that imparts tons of flavor and requires a lot less time, effort and specialty tools. 

Why I love this recipe:

This holiday season, why not try bringing the flavors of Louisiana to your menu? Here are a few reasons to love this turkey: 

  • Thanks to the Cajun butter rubbed all over the turkey, every bite of this bird is infused with Cajun flavor. 
  • You don’t need any special equipment like an injector to make a Cajun turkey. 
  • It’s a homemade and budget-friendly alternative to Popeye’s Cajun Turkey.

In the United States, turkey is the star of Thanksgiving, but it can be served year-round.

Try it at Christmas, Easter or even for Mardi Gras. I like to bring this recipe to our annual Friendsgiving so my friends can experience the Cajun flavors I adore.

These Thanksgiving recipes have a bit of Louisiana flair: Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole | Baguette Bacon Stuffing | Drunken Cranberry Sauce | Bourbon Pecan Pie | Praline Pumpkin Upside Down Cake

Homemade Popeye’s Cajun Turkey recipe:

Every October, the fast-food chain, Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen, comes out with a Cajun Turkey that customers can pre-order.

Though Popeye’s is best known for their chicken, their pre-cooked, frozen turkeys are a cult favorite. (Yes, it’s a thing!) 

According to The Food Network, the hard work is done for you with this spicy bird. The Popeye’s Cajun turkeys are rubbed with a blend of paprika, red pepper, garlic and onion and are then marinated in a Creole butter. Then, all customers have to do is defrost it and reheat it.

A Popeye’s Cajun turkey usually retails for about $40 or more, so making one yourself with a homemade herb butter is a budget-friendly alternative. 

My recipe is made similarly, though there are some differences in method and taste. 

A raw turkey on a roasting pan next to cajun butter

What you need to make this recipe:

The Speckled Palate participates in affiliate programs. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a commission from qualifying purchases. Please refer to my disclosure page for more information about these affiliate programs.

Some Cajun turkey recipes use an injector to add a marinade into the meat, but not this one. In fact, making this is so easy! You don’t need a ton of special equipment. 

Here are the tools you will need to make this recipe: 

Best meat thermometer for a whole turkey:

Meat thermometers are so handy for cooking anything from steak to chicken thighs.

There are all kinds of meat thermometers out there, and I recommend you get one if you don’t have one. Food safety is not worth messing around with. I promise you’ll use it again and again. 

Turkeys can be tricky to cook evenly, depending on their size and shape, so I recommend using a meat thermometer so you can double- and triple-check the doneness.

I really love my instant read thermometer because it can travel in my apron pocket from the oven to the grill. 

But I’ve also come to love this wireless meat thermometer. It uses sensors that you place in the meat to connect to your smartphone via bluetooth technology and alerts you when your bird has reached the right temperature. 

Ingredients

Let’s talk ingredients!

In addition to the tools above, you’re going to need some ingredients to make this recipe, too! Chances are, you might already have some of them in your fridge or pantry. Scroll down to the recipe card for the full measurements and instructions.

This Cajun Turkey recipe is SO simple. Turkey always seems like a big endeavor, so I applaud you for giving it a go!

Below is a list of what to pick up from the grocery store.

Make sure you shop in advance—the store is always a circus during holiday weeks, and since most turkeys are frozen, your bird needs time to defrost in the fridge.

Here’s what you need:

  • Unsalted butter—use real butter for your herb butter. Plant-based butter is made with oils and without milk fat. It just doesn’t work as nicely on turkeys. Salted butter is OK, but make sure to use a salt-free Cajun seasoning so your butter isn’t too salty.
  • Cajun seasoning—my favorite is Slap Ya Mama* (affiliate link), which you can find at most grocery stores or order online. It should have a blend of peppers, including black and cayenne pepper. Feel free to use your favorite! Most Cajun seasonings contain salt. If yours is salt-free, you should add some kosher salt to taste.
  • Fresh parsley—find fresh parsley in the produce section of the grocery store. It usually comes in plastic clamshells, but sometimes the stores sell bundles. If so, use that! You can use the extra to garnish your bird on its platter. 
  • Minced garlic—use a garlic press* (affiliate link) to crush fresh garlic.
  • Turkey—I made this recipe with a 14 lb. bird. I have instructions below for other sizes. You may use a previously frozen turkey or a fresh turkey. If you’re using a frozen bird, it needs to thaw in the fridge beforehand.
  • 1 apple—adding a cut apple to a turkey infuses it with both moisture and flavor. 
  • 1 onion—the onion works similarly to the apple. Your tastebuds will thank you! 

Creole seasoning vs. Cajun seasoning

Though they both originate from Louisiana, Cajun and Creole are not synonyms! 

These two cuisines have different histories that date back to different groups of people. 

Broadly speaking, Louisiana Creole people are the descendants of those who inhabited colonial Louisiana during both French and Spanish rules. Many spoke and speak French, Spanish and Louisiana Creole.

Cajuns are an ethnic group that lives in Southwest Louisiana. They are also known as Acadians and are known for their dialect of French, as well as their music, culture and cuisine.

The Acadians were expelled from what are now the Canadian Maritime provinces during the 1700s during the Great Expulsion. They came to Louisiana and settled in the Acadiana region, which is west of the Mississippi River.

In terms of food, Allrecipes offers a good rule of thumb: Cajun food is more rustic, while Creole food is more refined. That being said, Cajun food can be elevated and Creole food can be more rustic.

Cajun seasoning mixture—which we use to make this compound butter—includes heat from red pepper, plus salt, black pepper and garlic powder. Some might include onion powder, too.

Creole seasoning usually includes spicy red pepper and herbs like thyme, oregano, basil, and bay leaf. Feel free to use Creole seasoning, but make sure you call this a Creole Turkey instead!

Cajun Butter in a white bowl with a brown rim on marble next to a blue hatched towel and herbs

How to make Cajun Herb Butter

You are going to be obsessed with herb butter after you try this trick on your turkey!

I go into detail about it in my Homemade Cajun Butter post, but here’s the gist of it:

Soften the butter, then add the Cajun seasoning, parsley and minced garlic.

Whip the butter and other ingredients using a hand or a stand mixer.

Then all you do is use it right away… or store for later.

If you’re making the turkey later, transfer the butter to an airtight food-safe container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. It can also be frozen for up to 4 months if frozen before the “use by” date on the package. 

Let the butter mixture come to room temperature before rubbing onto the turkey.

You can also use this to make a Cajun Turkey Breast recipe, too!

Collage showing how to make and butter a Cajun Turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas

How to make a whole Cajun Turkey

Once again, I applaud you for taking on the turkey for your holiday meal! It’s no small feat, but I bet you’ll find it easier than you think. 

First, preheat your oven to 325°F. Get out a large roasting pan with a roasting rack.

Next is the “fun” part, depending on who you ask. *wink* 

Remove the raw, thawed turkey from its packaging. Thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Place in the prepared roasting pan with the breast side up.

Then grab your softened Cajun butter and smear it onto every possible surface of the turkey, including the outside of the turkey, as well as beneath the turkey skin and in every one of the cavities, too. When done with this, wash your hands vigorously beneath hot water. (Food safety, remember?!) 

Next, you can add some additional Cajun seasoning to the exterior of the turkey, if desired. Start conservatively with a teaspoon of the seasoning, sprinkle it on and see how it looks. Add more, if desired.

If you want to stuff the turkey, do that now. Alternatively, you can quarter both an onion and an apple and place those into the bird’s cavities.

You can also roast it without either of these, but I recommend doing at least the onion/apple combo because it infuses SO much flavor into your turkey. 

Then, cover the turkey loosely with aluminum foil and transfer the roasting pan into the preheated oven. 

Bake covered for the first hour and a half, then remove the foil for the last hour to hour and a half. If any parts of the turkey start getting too brown and you are worried that they might burn, make a foil tent to place loosely over them to prevent them from browning too much.

Please note that turkeys of different sizes will require different times to cook!

My turkey, which fell in the 14-18 lb. range, took about 2.5 hours when all was said and done. 

Please read the instructions included on your turkey to make sure you give your turkey enough time to bake. 

(Below, I have some estimated times to help you figure this out if your turkey didn’t come with instructions.)

When you believe your turkey is cooked through, use a digital kitchen thermometer and check the turkey’s temperature.

You want the turkey breast meat to reach 165°F. (The dark meat should reach 175°F for optimal flavor.) Also, it will continue cooking when you remove it from the oven, so it’s important to remove the turkey from the oven as soon as it hits temperature.

To take this, insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the breast and give it a moment to read the temperature.

When the turkey is done, remove from the oven. Let it hang out on the countertop uncovered–if you cover it with foil, you could run the risk of the skin getting soggy.

Let the turkey rest for 15-20 minutes so the juices can settle into the meat. Then transfer the turkey from the roasting pan to cutting board to carve.

Then, carve, baby, carve! This always used to be the scariest part to me. Here’s a great turkey carving tutorial that helps you do it perfectly every time. Everyone will be so impressed!

Transfer the carved turkey onto a serving platter, and serve!

A whole Cajun roasted turkey on a silver platter

How long do I need to cook a turkey?

Depending on the size of your turkey, it will cook for a different amount of time. You should ALWAYS take its internal temperature before removing it from the oven.

The general rule is 20 minutes per pound of turkey. This is dependent on how your oven works and whether it is stuffed—stuffed birds take longer to cook).

Set the timer for the time that makes sense, math-wise, for your turkey, and check your bird’s temperature before you remove it from the oven.

Here’s an estimate of how long you can expect an unstuffed turkey to roast:

  • 8 lb. turkey: 325°F for 2 hours 45 minutes
  • 10 lb. turkey: 325°F for 3 hours 15 minutes
  • 12 lb. turkey: 325°F for 4 hours
  • 14 lb. turkey: 325°F for 4 hours 45 minutes 

A good way to check if your oven is working properly and reading the correct oven temperature is to buy an oven thermometer* (affiliate link). Place it on the rack of your oven and see if your oven runs warmer or cooler than the expected temperature. 

Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips

This Cajun Turkey is perfect for Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinner, especially if you want to add Cajun spices or make something a little untraditional. I love bringing it to Friendsgiving, too! 

Here are a few tips for making a juicy turkey and impressing all your friends and family: 

  • Make your herb butter ahead of time. Then the night before you plan to make your turkey, put it on the counter to soften. It will be fine out of the fridge overnight. This will save you a little bit of time on a busy cooking day when every minute counts!
  • Let friends make a dish or two! You really don’t have to make everything, and I highly recommend that you don’t! (Been there, done that!) 
  • Watch a YouTube video about carving a turkey so you are prepared on the day of. 
Close up of sliced Cajun Turkey on a silver platter with greens and apples

Frequently Asked Questions

What does Cajun Turkey taste like?

Thanks to the Cajun seasoning and herb butter, Cajun turkey has a peppery, bold flavor with a slight earthiness. Because it is cooked partially under foil, the texture of the meat is oh-so-tender and the crispy skin is delicious. 

Is Cajun Turkey spicy? 

While spice-level is relative to each person, I personally don’t find this turkey spicy. The spiced herb butter used is SUPER flavorful, but it isn’t spicy hot. 

If you’d like it to be spicier, use a spicy Cajun seasoning. The Slap Ya Mama Hot Cajun Seasoning* (affiliate link) brings more heat. 

Quick tips and tricks to making the best Cajun Turkey

  • Make sure to rub the butter beneath the skin and in every one of the turkey’s cavities. (And then wash your hands well after!) 
  • Add an extra sprinkling Cajun seasoning to the exterior of the turkey for even more Cajun flavor. 
  • Stuff the turkey. Whether you make stuffing or you quarter an onion and an apple, it helps to bring extra flavor to the interior meat of the turkey. 
  • Use a digital kitchen thermometer* (affiliate link) and check the turkey’s temperature. No one wants raw turkey! 
  • Don’t forget to make a homemade turkey gravy with the drippings!
Sliced turkey on a platter with greens and apples with the text how to make Cajun Turkey

How to store turkey

Cooked turkey can be stored in an airtight, food-safe container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Make sure it has cooled completely before storing it. 

If you wish to freeze it, place it in a freezer-safe container and seal it well. Use it within 3 months. Thaw in the fridge before reheating.

If you want to use up all of your turkey, you can use the carcass to make homemade turkey broth. It’s a wonderful addition to soups and other dishes and can be used in lieu of chicken broth.

Recipes for leftover turkey

Got leftover Cajun turkey? You lucky duck! There are so many ways to use it.

More holiday turkey recipes:

Broken down cooked Cajun Turkey on a silver platter with greens and apples
Yield: 12 servings

Cajun Turkey

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Cooling Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours

This year, up your holiday game with a homemade Cajun Turkey. Rubbed with homemade Cajun herb butter, this beautiful bird is a delicious way to infuse Louisiana flavor to your holiday table. (No injection needed for this tasty turkey!)

Ingredients

Cajun Herb Butter

  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic

Cajun Turkey

  • 14 lb. turkey (thawed or fresh)
  • 16 tablespoons Cajun herb butter
  • 1 apple, quartered
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • Cajun seasoning, to taste (approximately 1 teaspoon)

Instructions

Make the Cajun Compound Butter

  1. Combine the two sticks of softened butter with the Cajun seasoning, parsley and minced garlic in a large bowl.
  2. Use a hand mixer or a stand mixer to whip the butter with the ingredients until incorporated.
  3. Transfer to a food storage container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
  4. Let come to room temperature before rubbing onto the turkey.


Make the Cajun Turkey

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Get out a large roasting pan with a roasting rack.
  2. Remove the raw, thawed turkey from its packaging. Thoroughly pat dry with a paper towel. Place in the prepared roasting pan with the breast side up.
  3. Smear the Cajun Herb Butter onto every surface of the turkey. Spread the butter beneath the skin and in the turkey’s cavities, too. When done with this, wash your hands vigorously beneath hot water.
  4. Add additional Cajun seasoning to the exterior of the turkey, if desired. This is going to be dependent on your tastebuds, but I suggest starting with 1 teaspoon and seeing how that looks then adding extra if it feels necessary.
  5. If you want to stuff the turkey, do that now. Alternatively, you can quarter an onion and an apple and place those into the bird's cavities. You can also roast it without either of these.
  6. Cover the turkey loosely with aluminum foil.
  7. Transfer the turkey into the preheated oven.
  8. Bake covered for the first hour and a half, then remove the foil for the last hour to hour and a half.
  9. Please note that turkeys of different sizes will require different times to cook. My turkey, which fell in the 14-18 lb. range, took about 2.5 hours when all was said and done. Please read the instructions included on your turkey to make sure you give your turkey enough time to bake.
  10. When you believe your turkey has cooked through, use a digital kitchen thermometer and check the turkey’s temperature. You want the turkey breast to reach 165°F before you remove it from the oven. (The dark meat should reach 175°F for optimal flavor.)
  11. When the turkey reaches the desired temperature, remove from the oven, and immediately cover loosely with aluminum foil.
  12. Transfer the turkey from the roasting pan to a cutting board, and let it rest for 15-20 minutes so the juices can settle into the meat.
  13. Transfer the sliced turkey to a serving platter, and enjoy!

Notes

The cook time is dependent on the size of your turkey and the oven temperature.

How to store turkey:

  • Cooked turkey can be stored in an airtight, food-safe container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Make sure it has cooled completely before storing it.
  • If you wish to freeze it, place it in a freezer-safe container and seal it well. Use it within 3 months. Thaw in the fridge before reheating.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1166Total Fat: 56gSaturated Fat: 22gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 30gCholesterol: 620mgSodium: 1494mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 152g

Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.

How much did you love this recipe?

Follow me on Instagram for more content, and share a photo of your creation with the hashtag #speckledpalate!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.