This simple slow cooker turkey recipe is perfect if you don’t want to stress about roasting one in the oven. With just a little bit of prep, this delicious whole turkey cooks all day with no brining or basting. If you’re wondering how to cook a whole turkey in a crockpot, you’ve found the easiest and most delicious recipe!
I LOVE Thanksgiving. Between the food and family time, it’s one of my very favorite days of the year. In college I loved it so much that I actually started hosting a yearly “Friendsgiving” party, complete with a roasted turkey I made myself.
I will fully admit that the first year I ordered a pre-made turkey that just needed to be heated up because I was convinced it was going to be too complicated for a rookie chef like me. However, after that year I was committed to learning how to roast my own turkey from scratch after seeing just how much more expensive a pre-made turkey was!
It took a few years of trial and error, but I eventually learned how to cook a delicious, juicy and perfect oven roasted turkey. While I still love to do that (and it’s one of my absolutely favorite Thanksgiving recipes). an oven-roasted turkey from scratch also takes something I don’t have a lot of these days with two toddlers running around: time.
When you make a turkey in the oven, you’re talking hours of prep and paying close attention while your turkey roasts to make sure it comes out perfectly. And let’s be honest: who has time for that?! This delicious slow cooker whole turkey is ready in less time than you can imagine, giving you back plenty of time to focus on other parts of the holiday.
One of my biggest secrets to feeding our family of 4 for under $100 a week is buying what I like to call “clearance meat.” This is meat at the grocery store that has nothing wrong with it, but is clearance to sell as it’s the last day the grocery store can have it on their shelves.
That’s one of the ways I discovered how to cook a turkey in a crockpot this year: I found a 10.3 pound turkey for only $4 at the grocery store! Even though Thanksgiving was still months away, I knew I couldn’t turn down an amazing deal like this on a food my family likes. I bought 3 of them at that price, threw them into our deep freezer, and I’ve been using them to experiment with different ways of cooking.
Slow Cooker Turkey is Shockingly EASY
Just to be clear: this isn’t a recipe for boneless turkey breast: this recipe will show you how to cook a WHOLE turkey in a crockpot!
I love a good slow cooker recipe. There’s something so reassuring about being able to throw your ingredients in your crock pot and not stress about burning something when your kids start acting crazy.
Here are a favorite of my slow cooker recipes for you to check out if you love using one too!
Slow cooker recipes are usually goof proof, which is one of the BEST parts and why I love creating new ones so much. I’ll be honest though: I was really on the fence about cooking a turkey in one. I’ve cooked a whole chicken in an Instant Pot and it’s turned out amazing (check out the recipe for yourself here!), but a turkey is a lot bigger.
But hey, with a $4 turkey to experiment with I thought why not give it a try! And I’m SO glad that I did. This slow cooker whole turkey recipe is going to be a game changer for meal prep in our house!
This Slow Cooker Turkey recipe is so easy and turns out amazing: juicy, full of flavor and fall of the bone tender. It would be perfect for Thanksgiving dinner for a small group! Plus, you won’t need to use an extra oven space!
How to Prep Your Crockpot Turkey
There are a few things you will want to do in advance before getting ready to pop your turkey in your slow cooker.
First, be sure you give your turkey enough time to thaw. Just like roasting one in the oven, whole turkeys require time to thaw. The actual defrosting time depends on the size of the turkey you buy; for one that fits into a 6-quart slow cooker, you’ll most likely be looking at 2-3 days of thaw time. Here’s an easy chart for the time to thaw a turkey in the refrigerator based on pounds of turkey:
- 8 to 12 lbs. 2 to 3 Days
- 13 to 16 lbs. 3 to 4 Days
- 17 to 20 lbs. 4 to 5 Days
- 21 to 24 lbs. 5 to 6 Days
Remember it’s super important to give yourself this time. While other meats can be tossed into a slow cooker while still frozen (like chicken breasts), most store-bought turkeys come with packages inside with the gizzard, liver, heart and giblets. If your turkey is still frozen or mostly frozen, it’s pretty impossible to get these packages out.
Be sure to look both inside the turkey’s cavity as well as under the flap of loose skin at the top of the turkey for these items. Most turkeys at the store have packages in both of these spots, so be sure to check them both. I also recommend using paper towels to pat dry the entire turkey before seasoning it (including the inside of the turkey).
This easy crockpot turkey recipe calls for a simple garlic butter, which if you want you can whip up the day before and season your turkey. Just follow the directions for seasoning your turkey, place the entire thing in your crockpot and pop in the fridge overnight!
Be sure the size slow cooker you have can accommodate the turkey you purchased. While roasting pans for the oven are able to handle birds of all different sizes, with a crockpot you will want to aim to get a turkey around 10 pounds or smaller. The one I had for this recipe was 10.3 pounds and was a very tight fit in my 6-quart slow cooker.
Finally, it’s important that the turkey you serve is the right temperature when you serve it. The cook time on this recipe serves as a guide, but you’ll want to double check the temperature before you serve it. It should read 180 degrees F in the thigh and 170 degrees F in the breast.
Need some sides to go with this slow cooker turkey recipe? Be sure to also check out Easy, Kid Friendly Thanksgiving Side Dishes for Toddlers too!
Ingredients Needed to Cook a Crockpot Turkey Dinner
One of my personal favorite things about turkey is how easy it is to customize a recipe for your own personal preference. For this recipe, I recommend you use:
- room temperature unsalted butter
- crushed garlic cloves or garlic powder
- Creole seasoning (I like Tony Chachere’s)
- black pepper
- 8-10 lb whole turkey
- 1 brown gravy packet
You can also choose to inject your turkey instead for more flavor. To learn how to do that, check out Easy Thanksgiving Turkey Injection Recipes.
How to Cook a Whole Turkey in a Crockpot
Cooking a turkey in a slow cooker is surprisingly easy! In a small bowl mix together the butter, garlic, 1 tablespoon of creole seasoning, salt and pepper. Gently loosen the skin of the turkey with your fingers and spread the garlic butter under the skin and on top of the skin, too. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of creole seasoning on top of the turkey’s skin.
Don’t want to use butter on the skin? Instead, you can rub 2 tablespoons of olive oil on top before the final creole seasoning is added. If you’d like, you can also add half a tablespoon of onion powder to the seasoning mix too.
After seasoning your turkey, simply place it in the crockpot with ½ cup of water at the bottom of the slow cooker. I like to mix mine with brown gravy mix for a little extra seasoning. You can also use plain water, seasoned water or broth.
For an 8-10 pound turkey, you’ll want to let it cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8. Cooking times vary on the slow cooker used and size of the turkey. The best way to know if your turkey is cooked and safe to serve is to use a meat thermometer. Be sure it’s reached an internal temperature of 170 degrees F in the thickest part of the breast and 180 degrees F in the thigh.
One of the best part of cooking a turkey in a slow cooker is that it won’t dry out as easily as it can when oven roasting if you accidentally cook it a little too long. Also, keep in mind that when you cook a turkey in a crockpot, the skin won’t crisp up, which can be unappetizing. You can either remove the skin from the turkey after it’s fully cooked, or pop it under the broiler for a crispy skin.
You can either remove the inner stoneware section of the crockpot from the metal heating element and put that in the oven, or remove the turkey from the crockpot entirely and place in a casserole dish for this part.
Just brush a little extra butter on the turkey first and put it under the broiler on low for 5-10 minutes. Again, this is totally optional. Just be sure to keep an eye on it under the broiler as it can get very crispy quickly!
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 cloves crushed garlic (or substitute 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
- 2 tablespoons creole seasoning (I like Tony Chachere’s)
- 1/2 tablespoon black pepper
- ½ tablespoon salt
- 8-10 lb whole turkey
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 packet of brown gravy mix
- Mix together the butter, crushed garlic cloves (or garlic powder), 1 tablespoon of the creole seasoning, salt and black pepper to make the garlic butter.
- Gently loosen the skin of the turkey with your fingers. Spread the garlic butter under the skin and on top of the skin too. After spreading the garlic butter, sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of creole seasoning on top of the turkey’s skin.
- Add the water to the bottom of the crockpot and mix in the packet of brown gravy mix. Gently place your turkey into the crockpot and cover.
- Cook your turkey on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 7-8 hours, until the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 170 degrees F in the thickest part of the breast and 180 degrees F in the thigh.
- Optional: for crispy skin, broil your turkey in the oven on low for 5-10 minutes.
- Remove your turkey and place on a cutting board. Let the turkey rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving to help it stay juicy.
1 ½ pounds of turkey per person is a pretty good estimate for how much this slow cooker turkey recipe will serve. A 10 pound turkey will safely serve 5-7 adults.
The estimated nutritional information takes into account all of the butter and juices in the recipe, including what is left in the slow cooker after cooking.
The turkey skin will NOT be crispy after cooking in the crockpot. You can either remove the skin, or pop it under the broiler to crisp up the skin.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 7 Serving Size: 7
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 575
I hope this easy slow cooker turkey recipe showed you just how simple and easy it is to make a turkey in a crockpot! This recipe will be going into rotation at our house for sure. It makes meal prep so quick, easy and simple, and is the perfect easy Thanksgiving turkey too.
Cooking a small crockpot turkey for a smaller crowd also helps to solve the issue of too much turkey leftover. This is also a fantastic recipe for a simple weeknight dinner for a small family, too! With just a little work, this recipe gives you delicious, juicy turkeys every time, and is the easy way to roast one in just a couple of hours.
If you make this, be sure to let me know! I would love to hear how yours turns out.