Learn how to make the best Thanksgiving turkey recipe with simple ingredients to take the stress out of the holiday! Using an oven bag, we show you how to achieve a tender, moist turkey with ease. 

Sliced turkey drizzled with gravy.

The Best Thanksgiving Recipe

Preparing a Thanksgiving turkey can be stressful for many. After all, it’s the star of the show on the holiday! 

However, we’ve discovered the best method to create a tender, juicy, flavorful baked turkey with ease. Our secret? 

An oven bag! Our mom taught us this method, and it’s virtually foolproof, resulting in a crowd-pleasing turkey that bakes in half the time of traditional methods. 

One bite of the beautifully browned bird, and you’ll add this recipe to your Thanksgiving lineup year after year. 

Marinated Turkey Ingredients

The key to creating the best Thanksgiving turkey recipe is to add lots of flavor to the poultry! 

Dry Rub

  • Yellow Onion – Use a large yellow or white onion. 
  • Garlic – Whole garlic cloves are best. Pre-minced garlic won’t yield quite as bold of a flavor. 
  • Seasonings – Smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, sea salt, black pepper, and cardamom powder enhance the savory flavor. 
  • Bay Leaves – These help enhance the flavor of the herbs and spices. 

Wet Rub

  • Butter – Unsalted butter is melted and used to combine the rest of the ingredients while locking in moisture and creating a rich flavor.
  • Seasonings – Salt, black pepper, paprika, fresh parsley, fresh thyme, lemon juice, lemon zest, and fresh garlic cloves.

Turkey Filling

  • Veggies – More yellow onions, celery stalks, and large carrots steam and infuse the bird with flavor as it cooks. 
  • Fresh Herbs – Fresh thyme, rosemary, and sage create a savory, herbaceous taste. 

What Size Turkey to Buy 

When it comes to determining what size turkey to buy, we recommend allowing for about one to one and a half pounds of meat per person. This ensures you have plenty to go around! 

  • Eight People = 10 to 12-pound turkey 
  • Twelve People = 14-18 pound turkey 
  • 16 People = 18-24 pound turkey 

* We don’t recommend buying less than a ten-pound turkey, even if you’re feeding less than eight people! At this point, you’ll end up with more bones than meat, and you can always freeze leftovers for later. 

Tools You’ll Need

Step-By-Step Guide to Make the Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

Follow the steps below to take the stress out of preparing your Thanksgiving turkey, and don’t forget to scroll down to the recipe card below for the complete instructions! 

  • Create a dry rub. Add the onion, garlic, and seasonings to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until a smooth consistency is formed. 
  • Prepare the turkey. Remove the neck and giblets from the cavity of the turkey. Pat the turkey dry. 
  • Season. Carefully, lift the skin of the breasts and legs, and rub the prepared marinade underneath the skin, around the cavity, and around the exterior. Slide pieces of butter under the skin, and sprinkle the entire turkey with salt and pepper. Drizzle the bird with olive oil. 
  • Brush. Whisk together the butter, salt, black pepper, paprika, parsley, thyme, lemon juice, lemon zest, and garlic, and brush the mixture all over the outside of the turkey. 
  • Stuff the turkey. Stuff the cavity of the turkey with onion, thyme, rosemary, sage, celery stalks, and carrots. 
  • Bag the turkey. Sprinkle flour inside of an oven bag, and place the turkey inside. Seal the bag, ensuring no air is inside, and slice six slits into the bag. 
  • Refrigerate. Allow the turkey to marinate in the fridge overnight. 
  • Bake. Preheat the oven, and bake until the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Baking Times 

The cooking time required will vary based on your oven and size of your turkey. However, the following times are a good general rule of thumb so you can plan accordingly on Thanksgiving day. 

  • 8 to 12 pounds: 1.5 to 2.5 hours
  • 12 to 16 pounds: 2 to 2.5 hours
  • 16 to 20 pounds: 2.5 to 3 hours
  • 20 to 24 pounds: 3 to 3.5 hours

Things To Avoid 

  • Forgetting to thaw the bird. You’ll want to allow plenty of time for your turkey to thaw in the fridge! Otherwise, the seasons won’t stick, and it is likely to turn out dry. 
  • Washing the turkey. This only contaminates your sink. The oven reaches a temperature hot enough to kill any bacteria. So, all you need to do is pat the turkey dry before you begin. 
  • Stuffing the turkey. We know some people like to cook their stuffing inside of the turkey. However, doing so makes it pretty impossible to cook the stuffing all the way through while keeping the turkey moist. Just make a separate batch of stuffing, and place it in the bird when they’re both done instead! 

Serving Suggestions

Serve this turkey recipe with all your favorite Thanksgiving recipes! Some of our favorites include: 

An oven baked turkey in an oven bag.

How to Store Leftovers 

  • Store: Transfer leftover turkey to an airtight container, and keep it stored in the fridge for up to three to four days. 
  • Freeze: If you plan on freezing your turkey, you’ll want to do so within one to three days. It will stay fresh in the freezer for up to six months! 
  • Serve: Thaw your turkey in the fridge overnight, and enjoy it cold. Or, warm it in the oven. 
Sliced turkey with gravy drizzled on top.

The Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

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Author: Food Dolls
Servings: 10 servings
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 2 hours 30 minutes
Marinating Time: 12 hours
Total: 14 hours 50 minutes
Learn how to make the best Thanksgiving turkey recipe with simple ingredients for a tender, juicy turkey every time you bake!


Dry Rub

  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 10 pound turkey

Wet Rub

  • 1/2 cup softened salted butter melted and slightly cooled
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh thyme
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 cloves grated garlic

To Stuff the Turkey

  • Unsalted butter to taste
  • Aromatics: quartered medium onion thyme, rosemary, sage, celery stalk cut into thirds, and large carrot cut into thirds.
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour


  • In a food processor, combine the yellow onion(s), smoked paprika, garlic, garlic powder, onion powder, sea salt, black pepper, cardamom powder, and bay leaves. Blend until a smooth consistency is achieved.
    1 large yellow onion, 4 cloves garlic, 2 teaspoons smoked paprika, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 2 teaspoons onion powder, 1 tablespoon sea salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper, 3/4 teaspoon cardamom powder, 3 bay leaves
    Dry brine for a turkey in a food processor.
  • Prepare the fresh turkey by removing the neck and giblets from the cavity. Pat it dry with clean paper towels.
    10 pound turkey
    A raw turkey being pat dry with clean paper towels.
  • Carefully lift the skin of the breasts and legs, and rub some of the marinade underneath, massaging it in thoroughly. Spread a bit of the marinade inside the turkey cavity and all around the exterior.
    Turkey brine being spread under the skin of a raw turkey.
  • In a bowl, whisk the melted butter, salt, black pepper, paprika, parsley, thyme, lemon juice, lemon zest, and garlic together. Brush the mixture all over the outside of the turkey.
    1/2 cup softened salted butter, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1/3 cup fresh parsley, 3 Tablespoons fresh thyme, Zest of 1 lemon, 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 3 cloves grated garlic
  • Cut a stick of cold butter into 1 tablespoon slices. Slide the butter pieces under the skin of the breasts and legs, distributing it evenly.
    Unsalted butter to taste
  • Stuff the turkey cavity with aromatic ingredients: a quartered medium onion, thyme, rosemary, sage, celery stalk cut into thirds, and large carrot cut into thirds.
    Aromatics: quartered medium onion
    A turkey cavity being stuffed with aromatics.
  • Take an oven bag and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour inside. Place the seasoned turkey into the oven bag and seal it, ensuring there’s no air trapped inside. Cut six slits in the bag.
    2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Refrigerate the prepared turkey overnight to allow the flavors to permeate and marinate the meat thoroughly.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the turkey in the oven and bake for approximately 1.5 to 2 hours, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahreneheit.
    Baked turkey in a turkey bag.


Note: Cooking times may vary depending on the size of the turkey. Ensure the turkey reaches a safe internal temperature before serving. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.
Baking times when cooking with an oven bag:
  • 8 to 12 pounds: 1.5 to 2.5 hours
  • 12 to 16 pounds: 2 to 2.5 hours
  • 16 to 20 pounds: 2.5 to 3 hours
  • 20 to 24 pounds: 3 to 3.5 hours


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 728kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 75g | Fat: 44g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 316mg | Sodium: 1358mg | Potassium: 1118mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 1063IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 94mg | Iron: 7mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Like this recipe?Please leave a comment!

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Meet Alia & Radwa

Welcome to Food Dolls! We’re so glad you found us. We are Alia and Radwa, sisters who want to share simple and easy recipes with you. We hope you find recipes here that you enjoy making as much as we do! Learn more about us!

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  1. I’ve never used a bag like this. Does the skin get crisp? Seems unlikely. I do like the sound of both those rubs and intend to use them next turkey.

    1. No, the skin doesn’t get crispy in the bag, but you could remove the bag for the last 15 minutes or so to get a crisp skin!

      Alia & Radwa

  2. Best Thanksgiving turkey recipe. In step 7, should plenty of air be left in bag so bag does not stick to turkey? Please reply.