Want to know the secret to a super juicy, flavorful turkey? Find the perfect Thanksgiving turkey injection recipe to take your main course to the next level.
I fell in love with cooking for Thanksgiving when I was in college. There was just something really special about a meal that brings everyone together in such a big way.
I taught myself how to cook a Thanksgiving turkey through trial and error (LOTS of errors), but eventually discovered the secret to making a turkey that is full of flavor and so, so good: injecting the flavor right into the meat!
An injector is basically a large syringe with a thick needle that allows you to inject small doses of marinade into meat. By injecting your Thanksgiving turkey with a delicious marinade, you’re helping to season it from the inside out, while also tenderizing the meat.
Another perk of a good Thanksgiving turkey injection recipe is that you can even skip the brining step that so many people swear by. Personally, I never have time for the extra step, as I’m usually also wrangling a few crazy toddlers.
In fact, our entire family gets in on injecting our Thanksgiving turkeys! In this article are a few of my three year old, proudly helping to inject and season a turkey that’s pretty much the same size as him.
Over the past 15 years I’ve created 3 different Thanksgiving turkey injection recipes that are easy to make at home, easy to inject, and delight our guests every single time. I’m sharing those with you today so that you never worry about dry or bland turkey again!
Note: Some links may be affiliate links. That means I may make a commission if you use my links to purchase, at no extra added cost to you! I only recommend products that I personally love and believe in. Full disclaimer here.
What do you inject in a turkey?
When it comes to picking the perfect ingredients, you want to choose ones that add moisture and flavor to your turkey. Luckily, there are many potential ingredients that compliment a turkey’s flavor, like citrus, spices, herbs and butter.
A turkey injection recipe can be as spicy or as mild you prefer. Anything can go into a turkey injection marinade, as long as it’s small enough to get through the needle.
What ingredients are used in a turkey injection recipe?
There are many potential ingredients to choose from when it comes to make a Thanksgiving turkey injection recipe blend, including:
- Cajun seasoning
- Chicken broth or chicken stock
If you’re using fresh herbs, be sure you thoroughly grind them before adding them to the marinade.
How long before cooking do you inject a turkey?
You want to inject your turkey BEFORE placing it in the oven. I recommend if possible, you inject your turkey several hours in advance.
Injecting the turkey and allowing it to set for at least a few hours gives the marinade more time to penetrate the meat. The earlier the meat is injected before roasting, the better the flavor will be when it’s cooked.
As most turkeys go in the oven in the morning on Thanksgiving, you can prep and injection your turkey the night before. Be sure you properly cover it before placing it back in your refrigerator until the next day.
How to Make a Thanksgiving Turkey Injection Recipe
Creating the perfect marinade to inject in your own Thanksgiving turkey is easier than you might think! Below I’ve laid out three easy recipes, each with their own unique flavors.
Just combine all of the ingredients, mixing any of the dry ingredients until they are well-combined with the wet ones. Be sure if the recipe calls for butter that you melt it first!
Then, pour the mixture into an injector, like this stainless steel injector kit. This is the one I personally use.
Make many injections into the whole turkey in several different places, including the wings, drumsticks and the “underneath” of the bird, too. Also inject from different angles.
Don’t forget to also season the outside of the turkey. I recommend after injecting to pour any remaining liquid over the turkey (or into the cavity of the turkey), and then rubbing the outside of the turkey with additional butter, herbs and spices. Transfer the injected turkey into a roasting pan and cover with aluminum foil before placing into the refrigerator to set.
For food safety reasons, don’t save any of the remaining turkey injection marinade. The injection needle has been in contact with raw poultry. Discard immediately after using and be sure to thoroughly clean the meat injector.
Other Thanksgiving posts you might enjoy:
The Best Thanksgiving Turkey Injection Recipes
Below find three of our family’s favorite Thanksgiving turkey injection recipes. These are all ones we have personally used and loved, and each simple recipe focuses on different flavors.
Keep in mind that depending on the size of your turkey, you might need more or less of the marinade. Typically, these recipes will work for turkeys 16-24 pounds. If you’re cooking a smaller or larger turkey, or just a turkey breast, you can adjust these recipes.
You can also easily tweak, subtract or add ingredients based on your own family’s palette. Feel free to adjust or alter the amounts of each ingredient as needed.
Our entire family gets in on injecting our Thanksgiving turkeys! Each photo with the recipes is my three year old, proudly helping to inject and season a turkey that’s pretty much the same size as him.
Don’t forget to leave time for your frozen turkey to defrost. Check out this guide from Butterball on how long you’ll need.
Ready for a juicy bird? Try one of these injectable marinades.
Traditional Butter Based Turkey Injection Recipe
This traditional Thanksgiving turkey injection recipe is a simple mixture of butter, broth and seasonings that is actually a great injection for any kind of poultry.
To make this traditional injection recipe, you’ll need:
1 ½ cups of chicken broth
1 stick of melted butter (unsalted butter is great)
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp ground sage
1 tsp kosher salt
In a medium bowl, mix the melted butter with the other ingredients, making sure everything is well combined before pouring into the injector.
After injecting evenly in all of the parts of the bird, rub the skin of the turkey with additional seasonings and cook according to the size of your turkey.
Cajun Turkey Injection Recipe
This is our family’s very favorite Thanksgiving turkey injection recipe! It’s perfect for creating a slightly spicy and full of flavor injection. This recipe is also fantastic if you choose to deep fry your turkey.
To make this Cajun turkey injection recipe, you’ll need:
1 ½ cups of chicken broth
½ stick of melted butter
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tbsp Cajun seasoning or Creole seasoning (we use Tony Chachere’s)
2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp onion powder
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Want a little fire? Add 1 tbsp Tabasco for a spicy bird.
In a medium bowl, mix the melted butter and chicken broth with the rest of the ingredients, making sure everything is well combined before pouring into the injector.
After injecting evenly in all of the parts of the bird, rub your turkey with additional Tony Chachere’s and cook according to the size of your turkey.
Savory Turkey Injection Recipe
Love gravy? You’ll love this savory injection recipe!
To make this savory Thanksgiving turkey injection recipe, you’ll need:
1 ½ cups of chicken broth
3 tbsp melted butter
1 packet of brown gravy mix
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp ground pepper
In a small bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. In a medium bowl, mix the melted butter with the broth, 1/2 of the packet of gravy mix and the remaining ingredients. Be sure everything is well combined before pouring into the injector.
After injecting evenly in all of the parts of the bird, rub the surface of the turkey with the remaining brown gravy mix and cook according to the size of your turkey.
- 1 ½ cups of chicken broth
- ½ stick of melted butter
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 tbsp Cajun seasoning or Creole seasoning (like Tony Chachere’s)
- 2 tbsp garlic powder
- 2 tbsp onion powder
- 2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- Optional: Want a little fire? Add 1 tbsp Tabasco for a spicy bird.
- In a medium bowl, mix the melted butter and chicken broth with the rest of the ingredients.
- After everything is well mixed, pour it into the injector.
- Evenly inject all parts of the bird, including underneath.
- After injecting evenly in all of the parts of the bird, rub your turkey with additional Tony Chachere’s.
- Cover the turkey with aluminum foil and place in the refrigerator to allow the injection to set for at least 2 hours (ideally at least 12).
- Cook according to the size of your turkey.
Turkey Injection Makes for the Best Holiday Meal
I hope one of these easy Thanksgiving turkey injection recipes helps you and your family make the best turkey yet. For best results, spend some time experimenting with flavors before the big day. Each of the above injection mixtures can be easily tweaked, but they’re all meant to create super flavorful meat.
If you’re using brined turkeys, be aware that you might want to avoid adding extra salt to the dry rub or injection solution.
All of the above recipes can also be great chicken injection recipes, too. Which one is your favorite?