Dry-Brined Turkey With Tangy Honey Glaze

Dry-Brined Turkey With Tangy Honey Glaze

ACTIVE TIME 20 minutes  TOTAL TIME 4 hours 45 minutes plus at least 12 hours brining

This foolproof Thanksgiving turkey recipe produces a holiday centerpiece that is excellent in every way other whole turkeys often fall short: It’s full of flavor and juicy as heck, thanks to an easy dry brine. And cooking the turkey on a rimmed baking sheet, not in a deep roasting pan, is great for all-over browning—just be extra careful as you remove it from the oven so that the drippings don’t slosh over the sides.

You’ll start by administering that dry brine, a simple mix of kosher salt and brown sugar, at least 12 hours before you plan to cook the turkey. If you can manage it, a full two days uncovered in the fridge will make your brined turkey even better. We swear by dry brining, which ensures a well-seasoned, tender, juicy turkey, over wet brining, because the latter can be messy and waterlog the bird.

After the turkey goes into the oven, you’ll whip together a quick glaze with vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, honey, and a few aromatics. The recipe calls for fresh rosemary, but if you have another hearty fresh herb on hand, like sage or thyme, feel free to use it instead. Brushing, rather than basting, will help ensure every inch of the broad turkey breast gets an even lacquer, which means more crispy skin to go around.

This roast turkey recipe demands patience, so plan accordingly. Once the bird hits the optimal internal temperature (highly recommend getting your hands on a meat thermometer if you don’t already own one), it must rest out of the oven for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour so that the turkey juices have time to redistribute. Don’t cover it in aluminum foil or anything else—doing so will cause all that hard-earned crackling skin to go limp. Trust us, it’s fine: the cooked turkey will not go cold. Use the time to put the finishing touches on your green beans, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and the other side dishes for your Thanksgiving dinner (or to consider all the things you’ll do with your leftover turkey in the days to come).

If you’re still not convinced that this is the perfect roast turkey for you, try your hand at our garlicky spatchcock turkey, or roast your turkey in parts for breast meat and turkey legs cooked to their particular optimal doneness.

 

Ingredients:

8–10 servings

½ cup Diamond Crystal or ¼ cup plus 1½ tsp. Morton kosher salt
1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
1 12–14-lb. turkey, neck reserved for gravy, giblets discarded, patted dry
12 Tbsp. (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
¼ cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. honey
4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 sprigs rosemary
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 2×1″ strips orange zest

 

Preparation:

Step 1

Place salt and brown sugar in a medium bowl and work together with your fingers until incorporated. Place turkey on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. (If you don’t have this setup, place your turkey on a V-shape rack set inside a large roasting pan.) Sprinkle dry brine all over outside and inside of turkey, patting to adhere and nudging some into crevices. You won’t need all of the dry brine, but it’s good to have extra since some of it will end up on the baking sheet as you season the turkey. Chill bird, uncovered, at least 12 hours and up to 2 days.

Step 2

Remove turkey from wire rack and rinse baking sheet and rack if needed (turkey will most likely release some liquid onto pan). Line baking sheet with 3 layers of foil and set rack back inside. Place turkey, breast side up, on rack and tuck wings underneath. Let turkey sit at room temperature 2–3 hours.

Step 3

Place an oven rack in middle of oven; preheat to 450°. Using your fingers, loosen skin on breast. Work 4 Tbsp. butter under skin, spreading evenly over both breasts. Smear outside of turkey with another 4 Tbsp. butter.

Step 4

Tie legs together with kitchen twine and pour 1 cup water into baking sheet.

Step 5

Roast turkey, rotating pan halfway through, until skin is mostly golden brown all over, about 30 minutes.

Step 6

Meanwhile, cook vinegar, honey, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, garlic, orange zest, and remaining 4 Tbsp. butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until bubbling and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to lowest setting and keep glaze warm.

Step 7

Reduce oven temperature to 300° and continue to roast turkey, brushing with glaze every 30 minutes and adding more water by ½-cupfuls as needed to maintain some liquid in baking sheet, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of breast near the neck registers 150° (don’t worry; the temperature will continue to climb while the bird rests), 65–85 minutes longer. Skin should be deep golden brown, shiny, and crisp. Transfer turkey to a cutting board and let rest at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour before carving.

A goldenbrown roast turkey on a carving board surrounded by a bottle of wine brussels spout leaves a towel and a carving...

Perfect Roast Turkey

Perfect Roast Turkey

Level: Intermediate

Total: 3 hr 20 min

Prep: 30 min

Inactive: 20 min

Cook: 2 hr 30 min

Yield: 8 servings

 

Ingredients:

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 fresh turkey (10 to 12 pounds)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 large bunch fresh thyme

1 whole lemon, halved

1 Spanish onion, quartered

1 head garlic, halved crosswise

 

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the zest and juice of the lemon and 1 teaspoon of thyme leaves to the butter mixture. Set aside.

3. Take the giblets out of the turkey and wash the turkey inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pinfeathers and pat the outside dry. Place the turkey in a large roasting pan. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the turkey cavity. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, halved lemon, quartered onion, and the garlic. Brush the outside of the turkey with the butter mixture and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the turkey.

4. Roast the turkey about 2 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh. Remove the turkey to a cutting board and cover with aluminum foil; let rest for 20 minutes.

5. Slice the turkey and serve.

 

Juicy Roast Turkey

Juicy Roast Turkey

Making turkey moist is easy if you season it with a rub beforehand. This is called dry-brining and can be done even when the turkey is frozen.

With a crispy, buttery exterior and fast cooking, your turkey will be extraordinary— it’ll be a Thanksgiving tradition for years to come!

What you need to know

10 years ago, dry brining was still relatively unknown but these days it’s a pretty broadly known fact that dry brining yields superior results to wet brining as well as being far more practical.

Because I want to arm you with everything you need to make the ultimate perfect roast turkey, this is a fairly long post, covering off on (hopefully!) all your questions. So starting off with a summary:

 

SUMMARY:

  • Brining is the path to moist turkey flesh
  • Dry brining is far more practical and easier than wet brining
  • Partially thawed turkey can be dry brined – handy! 
  • Brine time:
    • 1 (bare minimum)
    • 2 – 3 days (ideal)
    • 4 days (extra day adds nothing)
  • Works with turkey breast (2 days)
  • Start turkey roast upside down for extra juicy breast
  • Roast turkey cook time 12 minutes per 500g / 1 lb (brined turkey cooks faster)
  • 75°C / 165°F using a meat thermometer inserted between leg and thigh
  • 30 minutes resting essential!
  • Served with turkey gravy or Cranberry Sauce

 

Close up of slices of carved turkey

Platter of carved Juicy Roast Turkey, decorated platter ready for serving

 

Brining = JUICY Roast Turkey

I think we can all agree that there is nothing more devastating than labouring for hours over the Thanksgiving or Christmas table centrepiece only to find that it’s dry – especially the breast meat. Even drowning it in gravy can’t completely compensate.

And in this day and age, there’s pretty much full consensus amongst all the greatest food authorities of the world that brining is the path to Juicy Roast Turkey. It doesn’t matter how much butter you use, whether you roast upside down, spin it around, baste 50 times – if you don’t brine, your turkey won’t be as moist.

Full stop. End of story!!

Take a close look at the turkey slice below – look how juicy it is!!!

Genius Easy Juicy Roast Turkey (Dry Brined) - no bucket required, brine while turkey is defrosting AND the turkey is incredibly juicy! Far better than wet brining.

What is brining?

Brining is the method whereby meat (turkey, in this case) is soaked in a salty water mixed with aromatics like bay leaves, peppercorns and garlic for a couple of days. This has the effect of trapping moisture in the flesh while it roasts, yielding super juicy turkey.

The method of soaking turkey in a giant bucket of salty water is called wet brining. Dry brining has the same effect, but is done by rubbing the turkey with a seasoned salt then left to “marinate” for a couple of days before roasting.

Dry brining is easier, more effective and tastier than wet brining!

 

Wet versus dry turkey brine

Why dry brining is best

Wet Brining is more well known than Dry Brining. While both methods will yield a juicy roast turkey, there are a number of very important advantages of dry brining:

1. No mopping – I guarantee if you’re manhandling a bucket large enough for a 6 kg / 12 lb turkey AND bringing solution, there will be mopping involved at some stage…. Not to mention the question of whether your fridge has space for said bucket!! (Note: If you’re determined to wet brine, use your vegetable crisper! Genius idea from TheKitchn.)

2. The turkey tastes like turkey. Not water. One of the grievances of wet brining is that while the turkey is moist, the moisture tastes bland – not like turkey. Which makes sense, right? The turkey sucks in the brine and unless it is heavily flavoured with broth, the turkey is sucking in largely flavourless liquid. Whereas with dry brining, the turkey releases its own juices then sucks its own juices back in. Turkey on turkey flavour!

3. The roasting juices aren’t too salty to use for gravy. Another problem many people have with wet brined turkey is that the roasting juices can be too salty to use for gravy. You can compensate by plonking in raw potatoes into the gravy to suck out the salt, but….it’s just one more thing you can avoid by using dry brining!

4. You can start brining while the turkey is still partially frozen. It takes 3 days – yes, 3 WHOLE days – to defrost a 10 pound / 5kg turkey in the fridge. Whereas with this recipe I’m sharing, I accelerate the partial defrosting of the turkey in cold water then it finishes defrosting WHILE it is brining.

5. It roasts faster. It takes 1 hour 45 minutes to roast a 5.5 kg / 10 lb turkey. Compared to 2 1/2 hours for un-brined turkey.

 

Dry brined turkey

 

Before we roast, we brine. And before we brine, we must thaw!

Turkey THAWING

A frozen turkey is a formidable block of ice that takes days to thaw. So you must factor this into your turkey-feasting timeline!

  • Thaw in fridge (long thaw) – allow 24 hours for every 1.5 – 2 kg / 3 – 4 lb of turkey (my 5.5 kg/11 lb turkey took 3 days)
  • Fast thaw in water – 30 minutes per 500g / 1 lb. Turkey needs to be in a leak proof bag / wrapping. Submerge in large sink of water, keep it submerged. Change water every 30 minutes.

Partially frozen turkey can be brined!

DRY BRINE CAN BE APPLIED WITH PARTIALLY THAWED TURKEY. You just need the turkey skin to be thawed enough to rub the salt in. Then brining + thawing will occur at the same time.

 

Thawing frozen turkey

Cook times for turkey in the oven

How long to cook turkey in the oven:

  • 5kg / 10 lb: 1 hr 45 min – 2 hrs
  • 6 kg / 12 lb: 2 hrs 15 min
  • 7kg / 14 lb: 2 hrs 30 min
  • 8 kg / 16 lb: 2 hrs 45min

These are the cook times for a dry brined turkey (loosely stuffed with herbs and garlic) which cooks faster than un-brined turkey. Add an extra 15 – 20 minutes if your turkey is stuffed.

This is the total roasting time, including initial 30 minutes at high temperature. It works out at around 12 minutes per 500g / 1 lb.

 

Internal temperature of cooked turkey

Internal temperature of cooked turkey

75C / 165F using a meat thermometer inserted between the leg and the breast (see photo below for point to insert). This is the USDA recommended internal cooked temperature of turkey. 

How to take the internal temperature?

Take the temperature of the turkey straight out of the oven. Insert the thermometer between the leg and the breast. Insert straight down until you hit bone, then pull back a bit. Hold still until the temperature registers on your thermometer and stays at the internal temperatures specified above.

 

Internal temperature of cooked turkey

How to make juicy roast turkey

I promised you easy, and easy you shall have! Here’s a rundown on the recipe:

  • Rub with a simple seasoned salt mixture – salt, thyme, paprika, garlic powder and pepper;
  • Wrap like a mummy in cling wrap (holds in all those juices!) and refrigerate for 2 days;
  • Stuff with herbs, garlic and pour in a good slosh of butter;
  • Slather with butter then roast upside down for 30 minutes (get those juices pooling in the breast);
  • Roast right side up for 45 minutes;
  • Baste with Garlic Herb Butter then roast for a further 30 minutes. (I do this at this stage to avoid burnt garlic-herb bits on the turkey)

 

How to make juicy Roast Turkey

 

When the internal temperature is reached (see section above), the most important thing to do is to rest the turkey for 30 minutes. This gives the turkey a chance to relax the fibres (ie more tender meat) and even more importantly, the juices get sucked back into the flesh (equals even juicier meat!).

 

How to make juicy Roast Turkey

Styling the turkey platter

Even if the turkey is only on the platter for a fleeting moment before being whisked away to be carved, I still feel like it’s worth making a wee bit of an effort so the turkey can have it’s moment spotlight.

While many opt for herb garnishes, I have a thing about making everything on a platter edible. So I create a bed of green leafage – watercress in this case (cheap, right shape, nice to “fan out” around edges) – with pops of colour from orange wedges (also for those creatures who like fruit with meat) and cranberries (thawed frozen ones).

 

Juicy Roast Turkey decorated on platter

How to Carve Turkey

I had ambitions to include a video of how to carve turkey, but doing such a video by yourself proved to be somewhat of a challenge. Turkey juice squirting everywhere, greasy hands, the challenge of new cameras and most frustrating, the hot breath of a fur ball under the table panting with excitement at the mere experience of being so close to such a giant hunk of meat.

 

Platter of carved Juicy Roast Turkey, decorated platter ready for serving

Close up of slices of carved turkey

To Stuff or Not to Stuff?

This turkey is not stuffed with stuffing, just with garlic, herbs and a good slosh of melted butter (which does all sorts of good things to the breast when roasted upside down).

I do not stuff turkey because in order for the stuffing to be safe to eat, it needs to reach 75C / 165F – the same internal temperature of the turkey. The stuffing cooks last, so that means in order for the stuffing to be cooked enough to be safe enough to eat, the turkey is overcooked.

No thanks! Besides, stuffing baked separately SO much more delicious – here’s my all time favourite Stuffing recipe!

 

Close up of Sausage Stuffing recipe in a white baking dish, fresh out of the oven ready to be served

Easy Classic Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce or Gravy?

Why choose? Serve BOTH! Cranberry Sauce keeps for ages – make it well in advance.

As for gravy…. it’s not an option around these parts. My view is that it’s criminal to to waste those pan juices and NOT make a gravy!

 

Gravy being poured over Juicy Roast Turkey

 

So here’s my recipe for the Juicy Roast Turkey made by dry brining. It is based on this recipe from the LA Times which has a cult following – with good reason! I’ve added extra tips and tricks to help make this a breeze for you.

 

Ingredients

10 lb / 5kg whole turkey , thawed (plain not pre brined) (Note 1)

DRY BRINE RUB:

2.5 tbsp salt (Note 2)

2 tsp dried thyme , or other herb of choice

1 tsp paprika , sweet or ordinary

1 tsp garlic powder (optional)

1/2 tsp black pepper

FOR ROASTING:

150g / 10 tbsp unsalted butter , melted
1 tbsp (in total) sage, rosemary and thyme , finely chopped (Note 3)
3 garlic cloves , minced
2 heads of garlic , halved horizontally

1 onion , halved (brown, yellow, white)

2 small bunch mixed herbs , sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley (optional, Note 3)

1.5 cups / 375 ml dry white wine , or water (Note 4)
Salt & pepper

GRAVY (~ 4 CUPS/1L)

4 cups (1 litre) chicken broth / stock , low sodium
1.5 tbsp (60g) flour , plain / all purpose

Salt and pepper

Instructions:

  • Rub: Mix together the Rub.
  • Prep Turkey: Pat the turkey dry with paper towels., inside and out. Remove giblets or anything else inside the turkey. (Note 5)
  • Sprinkle: Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt inside and use you hand to spread it (roughly is fine). Turn the turkey upside down, then rub 1 teaspoon of the salt mixture on the underside.
  • Turn the turkey upright and rub the remaining salt on the turkey, using most on the breast – even some under the skin if you can.
  • Wrap turkey mummy-like in lots of cling wrap or place the turkey in a sealable plastic bag (Note 6).

BRINING (NOTE 7):

  • Place turkey upside down in baking pan. Refrigerate.
  • 24 hours later: Flip turkey so it’s right side up.
  • 24 (to 48 hours) later: unwrap turkey. The skin should be moist but not wet. If wet, pat dry. Leave out for 30 min before roasting.

PREPARE FOR ROASTING:

  • Preheat oven to 220C/425F (standard) or 200C/390F (fan).
  • Place the onions and garlic in a roasting pan. Place a roasting rack on top – if you have one (Note 8 for sub).
  • Stuff bunch of herbs + 2 garlic halves + 3 tbsp butter (45g) inside the turkey. Tie drumsticks together with kitchen twine (optional).
  • Place turkey UPSIDE DOWN on the rack. Twist the wings so they are on top – see video. Brush with a bit of melted butter. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt and pepper.
  • Pour wine in roasting pan.

ROASTING:

  • Roast for 30 minutes.
  • Use a tea towel to turn the turkey over. Brush with butter, sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt and pepper.
  • Turn oven down to 165C/325F (standard) or 150C/300F (fan). Roast turkey 45 minutes.
  • Mix remaining butter with garlic and herbs. Brush turkey generously with butter.
  • Roast turkey for a further 30 minutes or until a) the thermometer that comes with the turkey pops up (America) b) a thermometer inserted between the breast and leg reads 165F/75C. (Notes 9, 10). Cover loosely with foil if browning too much.
  • Remove turkey onto serving plate, cover loosely with foil and rest for 30 minutes before transferring to platter for presentation and carving (see in post for styling idea).
  • Serve turkey with gravy and/or Cranberry Sauce.

TURKEY GRAVY

  • Place roasting pan (with garlic, onion etc still in it) on the stove over medium high heat. Add flour and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add broth and use a potato masher to mash the onion and garlic into the mixture. Use a wooden spoon to scrap the bottom of the pan. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until thickened.
  • Strain into a bowl, pressing down to extract all the flavour out of the onion and garlic. Transfer to gravy boat.

Recipe Notes:

1. TURKEY needs to be thawed.

* Thaw in fridge (long thaw) – allow 24 hours for every 1.5 – 2 kg / 3 – 4 lb of turkey (my 5.5 kg/11 lb turkey took 3 days)
* Fast thaw in water – 30 minutes per 500g / 1 lb. Turkey needs to be in a leak proof bag / wrapping. Submerge in large sink of water, keep it submerged. Change water every 30 minutes.

Rub can be applied to partially thawed turkey as long as skin is pliable enough to rub salt in. Add 1 tsp extra salt. Expect lots of juices from the thaw/brining process – ensure turkey is patted dry before roasting. As it brines, liquid may be red from blood from the inside of the turkey thawing – do not worry. Won’t affect end result at all. Do not rinse, just pat dry with paper towels.

DO NOT:
* Use this recipe for “self basting” or pre marinated turkeys, will be too salty. Check ingredients or nutrition – if there’s salt or flavourings, the turkey has already been brined. Typically these include boxed and frozen turkeys at the supermarkets in Australia.

**See HOW TO COOK PRE-BRINED TURKEY box below recipe.**

2. SALT – Use 1 tbsp salt for every 2 kg / 4 lb turkey. Use kosher / cooking salt. If using fine grain table salt, reduce by 1/4 tsp PER 1 tbsp of salt called for in the recipe. Do not use salt flakes (too hard to measure equivalent).

3. HERBS – I used an equal mix of sage, rosemary and thyme to make up 1 tbsp in total for basting partway through cooking. Can also use dried herbs of choice – use 2 tsp. Doesn’t sound like much but we don’t want to put herbs on the skin until partway though cooking otherwise it just burns. So by the time we baste with the herb butter, there’s not much butter left. Just imparts a subtle fragrance more than anything, could even be skipped.

Need one bunch to stuff inside the turkey, the other for the pan.

4. WINE – I use sauvignon blanc, pinot gris (I get discount wine for cooking). Any white wine is fine as long as it’s not too sweet or woody / oaky.

5. Giblets are a parcel of turkey offcuts that are usually stuffed inside the turkey and are used to make the gravy. It usually comprises of: neck, heart and liver. Use the neck and heart for turkey gravy.

6. BAG  – you can get resealable bags in America that are big enough for turkey. But I’ve found that cling wrap is the most effective – keeps the brine right up against the turkey skin.

7. BRINE TIME: 48 hours (2 days) is my base recipe, 3 days also great (a bit more seasoned). Even overnight is better than not brining at all! I even did 4 days last year and it not any different to 3 days, from what I could tell.

8. RACK SUB: Need to keep turkey skin elevated out of liquid in pan. Get a long strip of foil, scrunch to make a thick “rope”. Loop to make a circle and secure. Place on top of onion, place turkey on top. Just need something to keep turkey a bit elevated off base of pan and the onion. If skin is in contact with onion when upside down, the skin will brown unevenly once you flip.

9. ROASTING TIME:

  • 5kg / 10 lb: 1 hr 45 min – 2 hrs
  • 6 kg / 12 lb: 2 hrs 15 min
  • 7kg / 14 lb: 2 hrs 30 min
  • 8 kg / 16 lb: 2 hrs 45min

Works out at 12 minutes per 500g / 1 lb.

10. INTERNAL TEMP: Insert thermometer between breast and leg. Push straight down, hit bone, then pull back slightly.

If you don’t have a thermometer (get one! Even a cheap one!), pierce the meat between the leg and breast and if the juices run clear, the turkey is cooked.

Remember, this turkey is brined so there is a bit of leeway with the cooking time even if you overcook it slightly, it will still be moist.

11. Got turkey leftovers? Use it up in White Turkey Enchilada Soup,  Garlic Bread Leftover Turkey Pot Pie or Muffulettas!

12. Source: Adapted from this recipe from the LA Times.

 

How to cook pre-brined turkey

If you went to use this recipe only to realise you have a pre-brined turkey (see Note 1 in recipe), do not use this recipe as the brining will make your turkey too salty. Instead, make this recipe as follows:

  • Add better flavour – Make the Herb Garlic Butter in this Roasted Turkey Breast but only use 1/4 of the salt.  Scale the recipe to your turkey weight – click on servings and slide until the turkey weight changes to the weight of your turkey. (Yeah, it’ll be a lot of butter! You can scale down if you want  ).  Watch the video to see how I loosen the skin, then slather about 2/3 of the butter under the skin.
  • Flip turkey then rub just a bit of butter on the underside sprinkle with salt and pepper,. Roast per this recipe for 30 minutes on higher temp.
  • Flip turkey right side up then slather skin with 1/2 of the remaining butter sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast per this recipe for 45 min, then slather with remaining butter. Roast to finish cooking per this recipe. ,Voila!

 

Chicken Pumpkins

Chicken Pumpkins

You won’t be able to take your hands off these creepy shortbread cookies – even dipping them in raspberry jam will make them look like a bunch of torn fingers!

Level: Intermediate          Total: 2 hr 50 min (includes chilling time)            Active: 40 min          Yield: 8 servings

 

Ingredients:

4 chicken breasts (about 2 pounds total)

3 cups buttermilk

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 mozzarella cheese sticks

Vegetable oil, for frying

2 celery stalks with leaves attached

One 14.2-ounce box Cheddar crackers, such as Cheez-It (about 5 cups)

Ranch sauce, for serving

 

Directions:

Special equipment: a deep-frying thermometer

1. Cut a series of deep slits crosswise into each chicken breast (do not cut through), about 3/4 inch apart from one another. Cut each chicken breast in half lengthwise.

2. Whisk together the buttermilk, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

3. Meanwhile, cut each cheese stick in half crosswise so you have into 8 pieces. Freeze until solid, about 2 hours.

4. Fill a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot with 3 to 4 inches of vegetable oil. Heat over medium heat until a deep-frying thermometer registers 350 degrees F. Set a rack on a baking sheet.

5. Meanwhile, trim the skinny tops from the celery stalks and remove any leaves. Cut eight 1-inch pieces from the skinny tops (these will be your pumpkin stems) and set aside.

6. Add the Cheddar crackers and 1 teaspoon salt to a food processor and process until finely ground. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

7. One at a time, remove the chicken pieces from the buttermilk mixture, letting the excess drip off. Transfer to the bowl of cracker crumbs and toss to thoroughly coat. Shake off any excess coating and transfer to a cutting board, cut-side down. Place a piece of cheese on one end of the chicken and roll up to enclose the cheese. Seal with a toothpick.

8. Working in batches of two, carefully lower the coated chicken into the oil using a slotted spoon. Fry the chicken until golden, cooked through and a thermometer inserted in the center of the meat registers 160 degrees F, about 4 minutes. Remove to the prepared rack to drain. Insert a celery stem in the center of each pumpkin so it sticks in the cheese. Serve hot with ranch sauce.

Greek Chicken Souvlaki Skewers

Greek Chicken Souvlaki Skewers

Bring out the grill because easy Greek chicken souvlaki skewers are on the menu tonight. These classic skewers are marinated in garlic, fresh parsley and dill, lemon and bay leaves to give that classic Mediterranean flavour. Marinate the chicken at least an hour in advance and spend less than 15 minutes grilling. It’s the best addition to your summer cookout or weeknight meal

WHAT IS IN CHICKEN SOUVLAKI?

  • chicken breast – cut into 1 to 2-inch cubes.
  • souvlaki marinade – made with a combination of water, garlic, parsley, dill, honey (or granulated sugar), salt, lemon, bay leaves.
  • salt and pepper – to season the skewers. You can also add some Italiano seasoning (optional).
  • olive oil – for grilling.

You will also need skewers, tongs for grilling, and an indoor grill pan (if you are not using an outdoor grill).

Easy Greek chicken souvlaki skewers marinated in garlic, fresh herbs, lemon and bay leaves for that classic Mediterranean flavour. Grill in under 15 minutes. | aheadofthyme.com

 

Easy Greek chicken souvlaki skewers marinated in garlic, fresh herbs, lemon and bay leaves for that classic Mediterranean flavour. Grill in under 15 minutes. | aheadofthyme.com

HOW TO MAKE THE BEST GREEK CHICKEN SOUVLAKI SKEWERS

  1. Prepare the marinade. Add all of the ingredients for the chicken marinade into a small pot. Stir and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool off for 1 hour. It should be cooled down completely.
  2. Marinate the chicken. Cut the chicken breasts into 1 to 2-inch thick cubes (I cut out 10 small cubes from each breast). Add the cubes into the marinade and let them soak in for 1 hour.
  3. Skewer the chicken. Drain the chicken pieces with a colander and remove excess marinade with paper towels. Thread the chicken onto skewers. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Grill the skewers. Lightly brush olive oil over grill pan. Preheat the grill over medium high heat for about 5 minutes, until sizzling hot. Cook the chicken skewers for 7 minutes on each side or until its internal temperature reaches 165 F (75 C).

 

Easy Greek chicken souvlaki skewers marinated in garlic, fresh herbs, lemon and bay leaves for that classic Mediterranean flavour. Grill in under 15 minutes. | aheadofthyme.com

 

TIPS FOR MAKING SOUVLAKI CHICKEN SKEWERS

  • Marinate the chicken. It is crucial to let the chicken marinate at least for an hour to allow the flavours to infuse and for it to get juicier. If you are able to let it marinate even longer, it will taste that much better. I prefer letting it marinate overnight, if you have the time.
  • Double up the recipe. This recipe that makes about 10 skewers. You can easily double or triple the recipe to feed a crowd.
  • How to serve. Serve these chicken souvlaki skewers with a side of pilaf rice, pita bread, lemon potatoes and Greek salad. Don’t forget to slather lots of tzatziki sauce on top. You can make your own homemade sauce in less than 5 minutes using Greek yogurt, cucumber, dill, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. The sauce also needs an hour to refrigerate to let the flavours infuse into the yogurt. So you can plan this while your chicken is marinating as well.
  • Make a Greek gyro. Wrap these juicy skewers inside a pita and top with Greek salad and a generous spoonful of homemade tzatziki sauce to make easy homemade Greek chicken gyros.
  • How to cook skewers in the oven instead. You can absolutely cook these skewers in the oven as well. This way you can cook them all year round. They just won’t have those charred grill marks, but will still taste delicious. To bake, place skewers on a baking tray and roast at 480 F for 12-13 minutes, or when the internal temperature reaches 165 F. You can add some charring by then placing under the broiler on high for 1 minute. Keep a close eye on them, because they can burn quickly.
  • How to store. Unthread the chicken souvlaki and store it in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
Easy Greek chicken souvlaki skewers marinated in garlic, fresh herbs, lemon and bay leaves for that classic Mediterranean flavour. Grill in under 15 minutes. | aheadofthyme.com

Easy Greek chicken souvlaki skewers marinated in garlic, fresh herbs, lemon and bay leaves for that classic Mediterranean flavour. Grill in under 15 minutes.

 

Chicken Marinade:

  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • ⅓ cup fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon honey (or granulated sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • half a lemon, sliced
  • 3 bay leaves

Chicken Skewers:

  • 2 lbs. chicken breast (approximately 5-6 chicken breasts), cut into 1 to 2-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ tablespoon Italiano seasoning (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • tzatziki yogurt cucumber dip (for serving)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Prepare the marinade. Add all of the ingredients for the chicken marinade into a small pot. Stir and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool off for 1 hour. It should be cooled down completely.
  2. Marinate the chicken. Cut the chicken breasts into 1 to 2-inch thick cubes (I cut out 10 small cubes from each breast). Add the cubes into the marinade and let them soak in for 1 hour.
  3. Skewer the chicken. Drain the chicken pieces with a colander and remove excess marinade with paper towels. Thread the chicken onto skewers. Season with salt and pepper, and Italiano seasoning (optional)
  4. Grill the skewers. Lightly brush olive oil over grill pan. Preheat the grill over medium high heat for about 5 minutes, until sizzling hot. Cook the chicken skewers for 7 minutes on each side or until its internal temperature reaches 165 F (75 C).
  5. Serve. Serve these chicken souvlaki skewers with a side of Greek rice, pita bread, lemon potatoes and Greek salad. Don’t forget to slather lots of tzatziki sauce on top.

NOTES:

  • Marinate the chicken. It is crucial to let the chicken marinate at least for an hour to allow the flavours to infuse and for it to get juicier. If you are able to let it marinate even longer, it will taste that much better. I prefer letting it marinate overnight, if you have the time.
  • Double up the recipe. This recipe that makes about 10 skewers. You can easily double or triple the recipe to feed a crowd.
  • How to cook skewers in the oven instead. You can absolutely cook these skewers in the oven as well. This way you can cook them all year round. They just won’t have those charred grill marks, but will still taste delicious. To bake, place skewers on a baking tray and roast at 480 F for 12-13 minutes, or when the internal temperature reaches 165 F. You can add some charring by then placing under the broiler on high for 1 minute. Keep a close eye on them, because they can burn quickly.
  • Make a Greek gyro. Wrap these juicy skewers inside a pita and top with Greek salad and a generous spoonful of homemade tzatziki sauce to make easy homemade Greek chicken gyros.
  • How to store. Unthread the chicken souvlaki and store it in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

 

Prep Time: 15 minutes (+2 hours wait time)  Cook Time: 14 minutes  Category: Chicken

Baked Chicken Tacos Recipe

Baked Chicken Tacos Recipe

Chicken Tacos are the perfect EASY weeknight dinner. These OVEN BAKED chicken tacos have lots of flavor and none of the stress. The ultimate recipe for serving a crowd. This is the most popular recipe on The Cookie Rookie, being pinned over 2 million times and viewed over 6 million times. Make the best tacos ever for dinner tonight!

Best Chicken Tacos You’ll Ever Have

This Spicy Baked Chicken Tacos Recipe is the ultimate easy recipe. Chicken Tacos are great for serving a crowd, taking to a potluck, chowing down on for a tailgating party, and of course, Cinco de Mayo!

Baked tacos can be made in any flavor combination! You can make these as Baked Breakfast Tacos, BBQ Chicken Tacos, and so much more! The possibilities are endless and I love that.

These are one of the easiest and tastiest dinners, plus they’re made in under 30 minutes. It’s one of our favorites to make at our house. Do you see all that melty cheese? What’s not to love!

If you’re not making these easy chicken tacos for Taco Tuesday, what are you doing with your life? Your family will thank you!

This is one of the most popular recipes on The Cookie Rookie! I’ve published a lot of posts on this site (over 1000 to be exact), but this Spicy Oven Baked Chicken Tacos recipe is the #1 recipe by a landslide. There’s something about this recipe that people just go crazy for!

close up on tacos
how to make chicken tacos step by step process shots

How to Make Chicken Tacos (Step by Step)

Be sure to see the recipe card below for full ingredients & instructions!

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium skillet.
  3. Add onion to skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent and fragrant.
  4. Stir in the chicken, taco seasoning, tomatoes (FULLY DRAINED), and green chiles (FULLY  DRAINED) *see note. Stir to combine fully. Reduce to simmer and allow to cook for 5-8 minutes.
  5. Place the taco shells in the baking dish, standing up. I was able to fit 10 taco shells in the dish by adding 2 on each side.
  6. Bake the taco shells for 5 minutes by themselves to allow them to crisp up. Remove from the oven.
  7. Spoon 1 tablespoon of beans into the bottom of each taco shell. Top with the chicken mixture, almost to the top of each shell.
  8. Sprinkle each shell generously with shredded cheese, the more the better!
  9. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until cheese is fully melted and the edges of the shells are browned.
  10. Remove from the oven and top with your favorite items such as jalapenos, sour cream, cilantro, and salsa.
tacos filled with cheese, chicken, and other toppings
picture of picking up taco in dish

Baked Tacos

I make these baked tacos so often at our house, and they’re one of the recipes Pat asks for the most. When he comes home and sees these babies are ready to go, he’s a happy camper. You can make them with so many different flavor combos. Be creative and enjoy!

Don’t forget to top these with a LOT of cheese! That’s the only way to make them. We aren’t playing around when it comes to melted cheese!

Chicken Taco Topping Ideas:

  • Sliced jalapenos
  • Sour cream
  • Salsa (pico de gallo, salsa verde, blender salsa)
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Guacamole
  • Cotija cheese
  • Red onions
  • Caramelized Onions
  • Taco Sauce
hand picking up taco from a baking dish

Serving Suggestions

You can serve these for so many different occasions, including weeknight dinners at home or big get-togethers.

These are the perfect easy appetizer or meal for New Years Eve, the Super Bowl, Cinco de Mayo, Summer BBQs, Taco Night and more. Why spend all your time in the kitchen when you can have these baked chicken tacos ready for a crowd in around 30 minutes?

And I can’t recommend these as a weeknight dinner recipe enough. The family NEVER gets tired of these tacos!

Side Dishes for Mexican Night

Almost every time we make these baked spicy chicken tacos, we serve them with my Easy Cheesy Tex Mex Rice and simple black beans with cotija cheese.

If we really want to indulge, we will make some White Queso and Tequila Lime Chicken Nachos! That’s for parties like the Super Bowl where calories have been shown to actually not count.

Pair this with:

  • Homemade Salsa
  • Best Guacamole Recipe
  • Grilled Corn
  • Skinny Mexican Street Corn
  • Healthy Queso
  • Bean and Cheese Taquitos
  • Layered Bean Dip
  • Foil Packet Nachos
tacos stuffed with toppings and ingredients

Tips for the Best Chicken Tacos (& Crispy Shells!)

When making baked tacos, one of the issues people seem to run into is soggy taco shells. Something nobody wants! I take good tacos seriously, so I’ve worked to troubleshoot this problem so you can have the crispiest shells when you make these tacos!

TIPS!

  • I always bake the shells for 5 minutes on their own before stuffing them with all the delicious toppings and cooking all the way. This way they have the chance to really crisp up on their own before you get started.
  • I also make sure refried beans are the bottom layer, creating a bit of a barrier between the chicken mixture and the shell. The shells are bound to be less crispy on the bottom than they are at the top, and that’s just part of what happens when you bake them, but they SHOULD NOT break or be soggy.
  • The other truly important step is FULLY DRAINING the tomatoes and green chiles before adding into the chicken mixture. I recommend first draining, then letting sit over a bowl in a strainer for about 5 minutes to make sure they drain all the way.
  • These tips will all help to keep the shells crispy, so important!

Cocktail Pairings

Oh okay, so you’re my people! My fave pairings are either a Classic Skinny Margarita or our Sparkling Strawberry Margarita Punch. You can also go with a great Mexican beer and be in business.

Every great chicken taco recipe needs a great drink, especially if you’re entertaining a crowd, but that doesn’t mean you have to make something fancy. Have fun with the cocktail pairings and you’ll be a star in no time!

Want more fun cocktails to chase down these Chicken Tacos? We’ve got you covered!

  • Best Margaritas
  • Peach Frozen Margaritas
  • Grapefruit Salty Dogs
  • Pink Summer Shandy
  • Tequila Sunrise
  • White Wine Margaritas

Margaritas and Tacos

There’s nothing better to pair with this easy chicken tacos than an amazing Margarita! We have compiled all our favorite Margarita Recipes in the ULTIMATE MARGARITA GUIDE. From classic to unique to flavored to frozen, we have you covered! Be sure to check it out today.

finished tacos garnished on a cutting board

This recipe for Baked Chicken Tacos is the MOST popular recipe on The Cookie Rookie and I hope you love it as much as we do! It’s a family favorite and a reader favorite, so what are you waiting for?

More Chicken Mexican Recipes we Love

  • Enchilada Stuffed Chicken
  • Mexican Chicken Salad
  • Cheesy Chicken Chowder
  • Tequila Lime Chicken Nachos
  • Creamy Chicken Enchiladas
  • Queso Smothered Chicken Fajitas
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup
  • Chicken Enchilada Dip
  • King Ranch Chicken Casserole
  • Chicken Quesadillas for a Crowd

If you make this recipe be sure to upload a photo in the comment section below or leave a rating. Enjoy!