This Homemade Turkey Rub recipe is so simple and delicious, you’ll want to make it to put on everything! Make a big batch and store it in the pantry.
Have you ever wondered who was the genius that invented the little plastic pieces that go on the end of tennis shoe laces? How much $$ that person must have made patented that brilliantly simple idea?
Or the person who had the bright idea for the plastic stoppers in carry-out coffee cups? Well, I also feel that way about the folks capitalizing on cajun turkey rubs and injections.
When did turkey get all cajun anyhow? I have nothing against it, but for me in Maryland, it seems more appropriate to cover my bird in Old Bay, LOL.
“This is the best turkey rub recipe! Tastes just like Cajun turkey from the store, but better!” -Rachel S.
The next bonus- it isn’t just limited to a whole bird. Use this custom spice blend on turkey breast, chicken, pork or even in burgers or on veggies.
Turkey Rub vs. Turkey Dry Brine
Basically a turkey rub is perfect for the person who forgot to brine (dry brine or wet brine). Or maybe forgot to buy the overpriced, premade stuff at the store. Or the person who is making a turkey for the first time….
Making a homemade turkey rub is super simple, takes only minutes and you probably already have the ingredients in your pantry. Another pro to making your own s that you can customize it. Smoky, salty, sweet or aromatic, you are catching a train to flavortown.
Asking yourself exactly what those turkey rub ingredients are that you have in the pantry, here ya go!
Turkey dry rub ingredients can run the gamut in variety and amount. Some of the most popular seasoning ingredients include:
- brown sugar
- black pepper
- Kosher salt
- garlic powder
- onion powder
Even with this recipe, it is forgiving, so you can measure exactly or eyeball it.
PRO TIP: The internal temperature for turkey, regardless of the cut, is 165 degrees. For best results, use a meat thermometer.
Low Sodium Turkey Rub
Someone in your family watching salt? Make a low-sodium turkey rub. I also highly recommend using Kosher salt due to its large grain size, it ends up tasting less salty and sticks better.
Do not, under any circumstances use table salt. Iodized salt will make your bird taste metallic. It will also make your bird more salty since the grains are smaller, you end up getting a lot more salt.
Spicy Turkey Rub
Like spice? Increase heat. You are getting the idea, right?
Spices for turkey can be cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper flakes or any chile powder. An ancho chile powder will give off a smoky flavor, while ghost pepper powder will make your nose run. It all depends on personal preference. My new favorite is aleppo pepper.
“Turkey rub for the win! I never think far enough in advance about brining a turkey, but I used this the past two years and everyone raves about how good it tastes!” -Katie P.
Use this simple seasoning mixture as a base and then come up with your own special blend. Sometimes I add lemon or orange zest, lemon zest, coriander, allspice, crushed bay leaves and even ginger. Be creative!
Making the Rub
So… STOP… and take 3 minutes (yes THREE MINUTES) to make your own and save your $5.99. You won’t regret it! And then think of all the magical things you can spend your six bucks on.
How to Rub a Turkey
Wondering how to rub a turkey? Well, the answer really lies in how you plan to cook your bird.
“I didn’t know if I should brine, rub or inject my turkey. This turkey rub was all I needed to so much flavor!” -Lee W.
If you are going to fry a turkey, you need to use a dry rub, which means no butter or olive oil. Just rub on the skin of the turkey that has been blotted dry with a paper towel.
Don’t worry, it will still stick to a dry turkey. In some cases, it actually holds on better. Think about rubbing a pork tenderloin or chicken, in those cases the meat is also blotted dry. You’d follow these same instructions for a smoked turkey.
If you plan to roast your bird, you’ll want a wet rub, which means using a fat like olive oil or butter mixed with the spice rub.
I use about 1/2 cup of butter for a 12 pound turkey. Measurements don’t have to be exact. Butter is delicious, use a lot of it, but also beware that it will just melt off into the juices, so you’ll likely need to baste your heart away while cooking to keep it nice and buttery and keep the spices from just melting off.
To prevent the spices and butter from melting off, you can also rub the turkey under the skin so it doesn’t get away. RUNAWAY FLAVOR is a no-no.
To do this, start with a piece of skin around an edge and gently massage the skin up using your fingers. It might seem stuck, but it will loosen, I promise!
PRO TIP: Use all those pan juices from the roasting pan and make a fabulous turkey gravy. No need to add extra salt and pepper since it is already in the seasoning!
- Dry the skin well with a paper towel.
- Loosen the skin with your fingers.
- Rub seasoning under the skin and on top.
- Apply rub up to 12 hours in advance.
Questions you might have about how to make turkey rub:
When do I apply my turkey rub? You can apply it up to 12 hours before you plan to roast, fry or smoke your turkey. Don’t put it on too early because it has a lot of salt and you don’t want a salty bird.
Can I put on my rub the night before? See my notes above, you totally can, but make sure it isn’t too far in advance, I would say 12ish hours.
Like brining, you can actually do too much will gives you a rubbery texture and salty flavor.
Where to buy turkey rub? Don’t buy it! It is overpriced! Just make this one in 3 minutes with ingredients you already have. However, if you are insistent that you need to buy a turkey rub, here is a good one.
What is beer can turkey rub? The same as this turkey rub, but with a can of beer up the turkey’s rear end. Feel free to add one for more flavor, but also make sure to use a flavorful beer.
Lite beers won’t cut it. I honestly don’t think it adds that much flavor or moisture. And certainly don’t put a beer can up the turkey’s butt if you plan to fry, this technique is for smoking and roasting only.
What is trash can turkey rub? It is just a term that means “a little bit of everything.” I guess technically speaking, this is a trash can turkey rub.
I don’t like to use the term trash in anything that has to do with my Thanksgiving turkey.
Can you rub turkey with olive oil? It sure doesn’t hurt, but the crispiest skin is dry skin. It is a matter of personal preference.
Can you dry rub a turkey? Yes! For the crispies skin, dry rubbing best. Just like chicken. Pat that bird dry and rub the turkey rub on and under the skin.
How to apply turkey seasoning? Just like you would to anything else. Wash your hands and get dirty.
You might need to work the skin away from the meat a little, but make sure you get on the skin and under the skin where the rub can’t get away if you plan to baste your turkey.
Can I rub my turkey with butter? Of course! Butter will help get a golden brown and crispy better than olive oil, but not as good as dry rubbed. It does add flavor.
Again, personal preference. If you want to add butter to this recipe, just let 1 cup (2 sticks) come to room temperture so it is easy to spread.
Other great recipes to serve with turkey!
Make sure you check out out our fabulous collection of LEFTOVER TURKEY RECIPES (if there are any)!
Homemade Turkey Rub Recipe