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This recipe for roast turkey is a spicy spin on a holiday classic. A robust, garlic and chile spice rub seals in moisture and infuses the bird with layers of bold flavor, while a spicy brown gravy adds the finishing touches. Make this turkey for Thanksgiving or any festive occasion!
If you are wondering how to cook a turkey in the oven to be moist, tender, and exploding with flavor, you have come to the right place! My secret to success is a dynamite Oaxacan chile spice rub made by blending smoky chiles with garlic, peppercorns, honey, and orange zest.
Rubbed onto the turkey, this blend seals in tenderizing moisture as it permeates the meat with intense deliciousness. This roast turkey comes out tender and juicy with a perfectly crisped outer skin.
Table of Contents
For help with carving up your bird just right, check out my post on How to Carve a Turkey. While you’re at it, go ahead and check out a few other holiday favorites like Green Bean Casserole and this Sausage Apple Stuffing.
- Turkey – This recipe works best with a 12-15 pound turkey. It is fine to start with a frozen turkey, but be sure to allow enough time to safely thaw it in the refrigerator.
- Chiles – I went with both ancho and guajillo chiles for the spice rub, but you can substitute other chile peppers as desired.
- Garlic – Adds a bold, zesty sharpness to the rub.
- Honey – Adds a touch of natural, harmonizing sweetness.
- Orange – You’ll need fresh orange juice, orange zest, and orange quarters at different points in the recipe.
- Flour – Thickens the gravy. Use all-purpose flour or a gluten-free alternative if needed.
What is Oaxaca known for?
Oaxaca is a state in Mexico as well as a city widely known for it’s mezcal, chocolate, and notably mole! It’s also the birthplace of corn and squash. Pineapples, avocados, beans, cacao, chili peppers, tomatoes, pumpkin, zapotes all grew wild.
- Heat the Oven. Position an oven rack in the bottom ⅓ of the oven and preheat to 500 degrees F.
- Prepare the Peppers. Remove the seeds and stems from the dried chiles, breaking apart the more pliable peppers. If needed, toast any stubborn chiles for 2-3 minutes in a hot skillet to make them more pliable before processing.
- Soak the Chiles. Place the chiles in a large bowl and pour enough boiling water over them to fully submerge. Cover with a plate and allow to soften for about 20 minutes.
- Drain & Blend. Transfer drained chile peppers to a blender or food processor along with 1 cup of the soaking liquid, plus garlic, honey, orange juice, orange zest, peppercorns, and kosher salt. Purée until smooth.
- Prepare the Bird. Pat the turkey dry, then sprinkle it inside and out with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Line a roasting pan with a rack and transfer the turkey to it. Stuff the cavity of the bird with the remaining orange quarters and onion. Pour the pureed chili rub onto the turkey and rub to evenly coat all over.
- Roast & Baste. Roast the turkey in the oven for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees F. Periodically baste the bird with chicken stock, until an instant-read thermometer reads 160 degrees F when inserted into the thigh. Generally, you can expect a 12-pound turkey to take about 3 hours and a 15-pound turkey to take around 3.5 hours. It will continue to cook once removed to reach the desired 165 degrees F.
- Transfer & Rest. Transfer the turkey to a cutting board, tent with aluminum foil, and let it rest for at least 20 minutes before carving. In the meantime, start the gravy.
- Deglaze the Roasting Pan. Put the roasting pan on the stovetop over high heat. Scrape up all the browned bits and stir into the turkey fat and other drippings with flour. Cook the mixture for one minute, stirring to remove any clumps.
- Add Stock. Whisk in 2 cups of chicken stock and cook for another 2 minutes as the gravy thickens. Taste and season as desired.
- Strain & Serve. Use a sieve to strain the solids out of the gravy. Transfer to a measuring cup or gravy boat and serve with the roast turkey.
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A good rule of thumb is to aim for about 13 minutes per pound for an unstuffed bird, or about 15 minutes per pound if the turkey is stuffed.
This recipe is a great example of how to cook a turkey in the oven to be moist. Salting the inside and outside of the bird acts like a dry brine. Follow that by rubbing the entire turkey with a thick spice rub to lock in moisture while rendering the skin crispy and intensely flavorful.
Plus, periodically basting the bird as it roasts keeps it tender, juicy, and moist. A few simple steps go a deliciously long way!
The best way to thaw a frozen turkey is in the refrigerator. For each 4-5 pounds, you should allow for a full day. That means it will take a minimum of 3 days to thaw a 12-15 pound bird.
If you plan on making roast turkey tomorrow and your bird is still frozen solid, don’t panic. Use an extra large bowl to fully submerge the turkey in cold water. Let it soak, changing the water every 30 minutes. This method should take about 30 minutes for each pound of meat.
To keep your food and your family safe, never ever thaw your turkey on the countertop or in hot water.
Oaxacan Chile Rubbed Roast Turkey
- Preheat oven to 500°F. Place a rack in bottom third of oven.
- Remove stems and seeds from dried chiles and break into pieces if really fresh and pliable. If less pliable, lightly toast in hot skillet for 2-3 minutes first, then remove stems and seeds.
- Place dried chiles in a large bowl, cover with boiling water and cover with plate to keep submerged. Let stand until softened, 20 minutes.
- Drain chiles, reserving 1 cup soaking liquid. Transfer soaked chiles to blender or food processor and purée with soaking liquid, garlic, honey, both juice and zest from 1 orange, peppercorns and 1 tablespoon of kosher salt.
- Dry turkey off with paper towels and sprinkle 1 tablespoon kosher salt all over and inside of turkey. Transfer to a roasting pan lined with a rack and stuff body cavity with both onion and remaining orange quarters. Pour chili puree on turkey and rub all over.
- Roast for 30 minutes, drop temp down to 325°F and roast, basting occasionally with 2 cups chicken stock, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into a thigh (but not touching the bone) registers 160°F, about 3 hours total for a 12 pound turkey, 3 1/2 for 15 pounds (keep in mind that it will continue to cook once it comes out of the oven to reach 165°F).
- Remove from oven and transfer turkey to a cutting board, tented with foil, for at least 20 minutes prior to carving. Make gravy.
- Place roasting pan over high heat on stovetop. Scrape up any brown bits. Sprinkle the flour over the pan drippings (turkey fat should soak up flour) and cook for 1 minute, stirring with whisk to avoid lumps.
- Whisk in the remaining 2 cups chicken stock. Cook for another 2 minutes and gravy should thicken. Adjust seasoning to taste.
- Strain into a gravy boat or measuring cup and discard any solids. Serve with carved turkey. See my post on how to carve a turkey here.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.