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Orange Turkey

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This easy Orange Turkey recipe uses a fresh turkey roasted with lemon, lime, and, and oranges for a beautiful citrus flavor. The result is a bright and fresh piece of poultry that is great for sandwiches, or as the main meal on your holiday table!

There are so many ways to flavor a turkey. While fresh herbs are usually a traditional go-to during the holiday months, we like switching it up by adding some bright and fresh citrus flavor. 

Orange turkey is made with not just oranges, but also lemons and lime. A fresh turkey gets simply seasoned with butter, salt, and pepper while the chopped citrus fruits get added to the cavity while baking. The bright flavor infuses the turkey giving this savory protein a bright contrast that pairs perfectly.

This turkey is decadent enough to be served on a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner table, or it can be used during the week to make a stacked Turkey Avocado Club or a comforting Turkey Pot Pie with Puff Pastry!

Top down view of a whole orange turkey.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • It’s a bright and fresh take on roasted turkey that uses fresh sweet citrus flavors.
  • You can use a variety of citrus fruits or pick one to highlight the flavor of the turkey. 
  • The entire recipe uses just 4 ingredients that include the turkey making a simple way to prepare a turkey. 
  • The total prep time for the turkey takes just 15 minutes before adding it to the oven. 
  • You can make this orange turkey for a Thanksgiving or holiday dinner, or use it during the week to make sandwiches or other turkey meals. 

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Fresh Turkey – You’ll need a turkey that is around 8-10 pounds. The giblets and neck must be removed with the cavity cleaned, and turkey patted dry in order for the orange flavor to really shine through. 
  • Citrus Fruits – A mix of oranges, lemons, and limes are cut up and used to add a bright citrus flavor that is well balanced for this piece of poultry. 
  • Butter – This is used to help season the turkey and keep the meat moist. It also helps any seasonings stick to the turkey that is used. You’ll also need some butter to baste the turkey while it bakes. 
  • Salt & Pepper – A blend of simple salt and pepper is used to help bring out the natural turkey flavor and to highlight the different citrus flavors. 
Ingredients needed for citrus turkey.

How To Make An Orange Turkey

  1. Prepare for roasting: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a large roasting pan with aluminum foil to help catch any drippings. Then, add the rack the turkey will sit on. Set aside. 
  2. Season the turkey: Place the prepared and dried turkey on the roasting pan. Then loosen the skin around the breasts and under the legs and thighs. Slide slices of butter under the skin to help keep the meat tender. Sprinkle the surface layer of the turkey with salt and pepper. 
  3. Add the citrus: Add the quartered citrus fruits into the cavity of the turkey until the cavity is completely full. Then, tie the turkey legs together using twine to help keep the inside moist and to keep the citrus fruit inside. 
  4. Roast the turkey: Before adding to the oven, cover the turkey with aluminum foil to prevent the skin from burning. The turkey will roast for 20-25 minutes per pound which will take about 3-4 hours depending on the weight of the turkey you choose. 
  5. Baste the skin: During the last 30-45 minutes of roasting, remove the foil to allow the skin to crisp up. If it looks like it’s beginning to dry, baste the turkey with the remaining melted butter and repeat as needed.
  6. Cool and serve: The turkey is finished cooking with the thighs are 180°F and the breast is 170°F in the thickest part. Remove the turkey from the oven and add a loose layer of foil to seal in the juices. Let rest for 20 minutes, then carve and serve. 
Collage showing how to make orange turkey.

Orange Turkey Recipe Tips

  1. A layer of aluminum foil on the bottom of the roasting rack makes cleaning up easier as the juices and oil could stick to the bottom and be difficult to clean off. 
  2. When preparing the turkey, it’s important to make sure the skin is completely dry. This will help the seasonings stick and will create a nice crispy skin.
  3. Tying the legs together with twine is an important step as the inside could dry the turkey out from the inside as it loses moisture. 
  4. A kitchen thermometer is a crucial kitchen tool when making poultry as it’s important to make sure the thickest parts of the turkey are fully cooked. The thighs should be 180°F while the thickest part of the turkey breast should register at 170°F for safety. 
  5. After the turkey is cooked, it’s important to make sure you let it rest before carving. This allows the juices inside the meat to re-distribute evenly and not run out when carving. 
  6. Additional butter can be added under the skin if needed depending on the size of the turkey. More butter can be used for basting, too.

Variations

  • You can customize the type of orange flavor that spreads throughout the turkey by using just one fruit or a variety of citrus fruit. This turkey also tastes great with just oranges, lemons, or limes.
  • Salt and pepper are used to simply season the top of the turkey, but you can also use your favorite seasoning blend or a mix of poultry herbs such as sage and rosemary. 
  • If you need the turkey to cook a bit quicker, you can spatchcock the turkey and keep the citrus fruit underneath while roasting. 
  • This recipe is also great for if you don’t have a turkey and would like to use a whole chicken or duck instead. 
  • Fresh herbs can be added to the turkey for extra flavor. If they’re exposed to direct oven heat, they’ll burn, so make sure they’re inside the cavity with the citrus.
Close up of citrus turkey on a plate.

What flavors go best with roasted turkey?

Although classic herbs such as thyme, rosemary, parsley, sage, basil, paprika, pepper, garlic, onion, and oregano pair well with turkey, fresh citrus help enhance the flavor of turkey as well.

Is it better to roast a turkey covered or uncovered?

This depends on the size of the turkey. A smaller turkey may not need to be covered as the skin will evenly crisp up while it roasts. A larger turkey does benefit from being covered as the outside may dry out and the skin may burn if it is exposed to the heat too long.

Do you cook a turkey at 325°F or 350°F?

We always cook our turkeys at 325°F. It may take a little longer, but slower and lower heat keeps the turkey moist and flavorful.

Storing and Freezing

Storing: Leftover orange turkey can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days. For best results, reheat in a skillet over medium-low heat with a splash of stock to retain moisture. 

Freezing: If you’d like to freeze any leftover turkey, remove it fully from the bone first. Then add it to a freezer-safe bag. Add gravy to keep the moisture intact and remove as much air as possible. Lay flat until completely frozen for up to 4 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating and serving.

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Top down view of sliced turkey bread with sides.

Orange Turkey

Yield: About 8 Pounds
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 45 minutes

This easy Orange Turkey recipe uses a fresh turkey roasted with lemon, lime, and, and oranges for a beautiful citrus flavor. The result is a bright and fresh piece of poultry that is great for sandwiches, or as the main meal on your holiday table!

Ingredients

  • 8-10 pound turkey (giblets and neck removed, cavity cleaned, and turkey patted dry)
  • 3 - 4 pieces of citrus fruits, sliced or cut into quarters (variety of oranges, lemons, limes, etc.)
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, divided (2 tablespoons cut into small pieces, the rest melted for basting)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Instructions

  1. Line a large roasting pan with aluminum foil, then add the rack. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. Transfer the turkey to the prepared roasting pan, and loosen the skin around the turkey breasts. Carefully slide 2 tablespoons of butter pieces underneath the loosened skin.
  3. Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the top of the turkey in an even layer. Place the citrus pieces into the cavity of the turkey until the entire cavity is full.
  4. Tie the turkey legs together to ensure the citrus stays in place.
  5. Cover the turkey with foil, and bake for  20-25 minutes per pound, about 3 to 4 hours depending on the size of the turkey.
  6. During the last 30 to 45 minutes, remove the foil. If the skin looks like it’s beginning to dry, slowly pour melted butter over the turkey. Repeat as needed to keep the skin moist and flavorful.
  7. The turkey is done when an instant read thermometer inserted into the thigh registers 180°F and 170°F in the breast. Remove the turkey from the oven, and allow it to rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Notes

*The calories listed are an approximation based on the ingredients in the recipe card and a serving size of about 1 cup of turkey. Actual calories will vary based on white meat vs. dark meat.

*For more information, tips, and answers to frequently asked questions, please refer to the post.

*Photos courtesy of Karla Rae Photography.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 593Total Fat: 27gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 324mgSodium: 557mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 0gSugar: 1gProtein: 81g

*The calories are an estimate and are based on the ingredients and serving size listed. The calories can vary depending on the brand of product purchased.

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