Citrus and Herb Butter Roast Turkey Recipe

The easiest turkey ever made.  This Citrus and Herb Butter Roast Turkey Recipe is moist, tender and juicy.  So simple to make and will definitely steal the show at your Thanksgiving dinner.  

Citrus and Herb Butter Roasted Turkey | The Suburban Soapbox #thanksgiving #turkey

Originally published November 2015 and updated November 2019.

This is the lazy person’s Roast Turkey recipe.  I say this because brining a turkey is such a mess and you MUST plan ahead AND you have to be sure the turkey is kept at the right temperature so it doesn’t contract any nasty organisms.  With all the other details you need to worry about on Thanksgiving….sometimes it’s best to keep it simple. No Turkey Brine necessary.

Simple being….mixing up a citrus and herb butter concoction in a cereal bowl and smearing it all over the turkey…over AND under the skin. (Under the skin is very important!)  This is no time to be squeamish.

This is the turkey of the future, or the present….my days of brining a 20 pound turkey are over for now.  I agree, sometimes the brining process does give you an incredibly flavorful and moist turkey meat but so does not overcooking it!

So, if you want to take the easy route this year…try this “technique” and everyone will be thankful.  Especially you. I will stress the importance of not overcooking the turkey….as tempting as it is.  If you don’t own a meat thermometer go buy one now.  Seriously…stop reading, go to your favorite kitchen supply store and buy this.  It’s a life saver when roasting meats.

What is the best temperature to cook a turkey?

I like to sear the outside of my turkey at a raging 500 degrees to seal everything up. Kinda like a blanket to keep all those juices inside. So, while you’re prepping everything…preheat your oven to 500 degrees.

After 30 minutes, I turn the heat down to 350 degrees to finish the roasting process. At this point, you insert the meat thermometer to ensure you don’t over cook your turkey.

I use the same process for my roast chicken and it works like a charm every single time. 

Citrus and Herb Butter Roasted Turkey | The Suburban Soapbox #thanksgiving #turkey

How long do you cook a turkey?

To roast your turkey, timing is everything if you want tender, moist turkey meat. Your cooking time is totally dependent upon the weight of your turkey and if you have decided to stuff it. Cooking times are generally 15 minutes per pound….give or take….stuffing or not.

I do NOT stuff my turkey, instead I cook the stuffing in a separate casserole dish to avoid any contamination. Remember, your turkey is safe for eating when it’s reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees….that’s when the probe thermometer is inserted into the thickest part of the thigh.

Here’s a guide to proper turkey cooking times according to the USDA:

For an unstuffed turkey:

  • 4-8 pounds  1 1/2 – 2 1/2 hours
  • 8-12 pounds 2 1/2 – 3 hours
  • 12-14 pounds 3 – 3 1/2 hours
  • 14-18 pounds 3 1/2 – 4 hours
  • 18-20 pounds 4 -4 1/2 hours

For a stuffed turkey:

  • 6-8 pounds 2 1/2 – 3 hours
  • 8-12 pounds 3 – 3 1/2 hours
  • 12-14 pounds 3 1/2 – 4 hours
  • 14-18 pounds 4 – 4 1/2 hours
  • 18-20 pounds 4 1/2 – 5 hours

These times are all based on an oven temperature of 325 degrees so keep in mind we’re roasting our Citrus Herb Butter Roast turkey at a slightly higher temperature of 350 degrees. I, usually, find that my turkey is done about 1/2 hour less than the approximated times above.

Citrus and Herb Butter Roasted Turkey | The Suburban Soapbox #thanksgiving #turkey


Chances are….the turkey you purchase will be hard as a boulder unless you get your hands on a fresh turkey. Thawing your turkey safely is super important because you don’t want your guests to end up with bad turkey. So, follow these tips for the safe way to thaw your frozen turkey.

  • Refrigerator – Thawing your turkey in the refrigerator is the safest way but it is also the longest. Simply place the turkey in a pan and allow it to thaw for a few days. Generally, your turkey will take approximately 24 hours for every five pounds. To be safe, tack on an extra 24 hours just to be sure your turkey is completely thawed.
  • Quick Thaw Method – If you forgot to thaw the turkey and still have time to spare, you can thaw a frozen turkey still wrapped in it’s packaging in cold water. Submerge your turkey in cold water (either a bucket or open cooler will work) changing out the water every 30 minutes. This method will take approximately 30 minutes per pound of turkey. If you thaw your turkey using the Quick Thaw Method, you must roast the turkey immediately after thawing.
  • Cooking From Frozen – If you forgot to take the turkey out of the freezer completely… worries!  You CAN roast a turkey from frozen BUT it will take up to 50% more time than what the chart calls for. Just rely on your trusty probe thermometer once the meat thaws enough in the oven to stick it into the thigh.  And you’ll want to skip the 500 degree sear since you’ll be roasting to thaw before the actual cooking begins.

Overhead shot of Sage Pesto Roasted Turkey.

How do you roast a turkey in the oven?

Now that we have the oven temperature and oven times down….let’s get to the fun stuff! I like to fuss as little as possible with my turkey so I make a simple Citrus Herb compound butter to rub under and over the turkey. It’s easy, quick and adds so much flavor while keeping your turkey moist.

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the citrus herb butter.
  3. Carefully, loosen the skin over the breast meat and legs but pushing your hand under the skin being careful not to puncture a hole in it.
  4. Using your hands, spread the butter under the skin, inside the cavity of the turkey and then over the skin to coat.
  5. Stuff the cavity of the turkey with garlic, oranges and herbs.
  6. Truss the turkey by tying the legs together with kitchen twine.
  7. Arrange the turkey in a roasting pan and transfer to the oven.
  8. Roast the turkey for 30 minutes at 500 degrees and then turn the oven to 350 to finish roasting according the chart above.
  9. Remove the turkey from the oven and rest for 20 minutes covered with foil.
  10. Carve and serve.

Your turkey is done cooking when the internal temperature reaches 165˚F on an instant read thermometer.  Stick the probe into the thickest part of the leg for an accurate temperature and be sure it’s not touching the bone. 

Make sure your thermometer is working properly by testing it out prior to roasting your turkey using this method here.

Do you cover a turkey in the oven?

To ensure even cooking and prevent the breast skin from browning too quickly, I cover the turkey breast with a piece of foil that’s been shaped like a triangle. Brush the bottom side with oil to prevent sticking and place the foil on the breast when you lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

What sides do you serve with Roast Turkey?

Our favorite sides are those that are classics with a twist!

Here are a few of our favorites that make the Thanksgiving table every year:

Easy Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce Recipe |

What to do with leftover turkey?

There are so many things you can make with leftover turkey but I’m a purist and love a good turkey sandwich. But even those get tiresome so…..

Here are our FAVORITE Leftover turkey recipes:

The One with Ross's Sandwich....this is THE Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Sandwich you MUST make...complete with the Moist Maker! |

And just a few more tips for your turkey day….be sure your oven is really CLEAN because the high temperatures set my smoke detector off all the time when I’ve been lazy and didn’t clean.

Got more questions?  Send me a Facebook message and I’ll get back to you within 24 hours.  Or message me on Instagram where I’ll be sharing MY behind the scenes turkey day antics.

Citrus and Herb Butter Roasted Turkey

The BEST turkey recipe ever. Citrus and Herb Butter Roasted Turkey is the most fool-proof recipe for tender, moist turkey your whole family will love.
4 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs
Total Time 3 hrs 10 mins
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 12
Calories 550 kcal


  • For the citrus and herb butter:
  • 1 large navel orange juiced and zested
  • 1 large lemon juiced and zested
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter room temperature
  • For the turkey:
  • 14-16 pound turkey thawed if frozen)
  • 1/2 large orange cut in two wedges
  • 1 lemon cut in quarters
  • 1/2 large granny smith apple cut in two wedges
  • 1 garlic head cut in half
  • 5 sprigs of sage
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 5 sprigs of thyme
  • Kosher Salt and fresh ground pepper


  • For the butter:
  • In a small bowl, combine all ingredients and stir together thoroughly. Set aside.
  • For the turkey:
  • Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  • Rinse the turkey inside and out. Pat the skin dry and place in a roasting rack inside a large roasting pan. Stuff the cavity of the bird with the orange, lemon, apple, garlic and herbs.
  • Tuck the wing tips under the turkey.
  • Carefully loosen the skin by running your hand between the skin and the breast meat working your way down to the leg. Take 1/4 of the butter mixture and rub it, thoroughly, under the skin over the breast and leg meat being sure to coat as much of the turkey as possible. Repeat on the opposite side and then coat the remaining butter mixture over the skin being sure to cover the entire turkey.
  • Sprinkle the breast and legs of the turkey with salt and pepper and tie the legs of the turkey together with kitchen twine.
  • Roast the turkey on the lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees in the oven for 30 minutes and then turn the oven temperature down to 35o degrees and insert a probe thermometer into the thickest part of the breast. Set the alarm on the thermometer to 161 degrees. A 14-16 pound turkey takes approximately 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting time total. (You can also use an instant read thermometer, just remember to check the turkey before the 2 hour mark to avoid overcooking.)
  • Remove from the oven and cover with foil. Let the turkey rest for approximately 30 minutes before carving.


Serving: 0gCalories: 550kcalCarbohydrates: 5gProtein: 81gFat: 21gSaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 270mgSodium: 421mgPotassium: 907mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 395IUVitamin C: 17.6mgCalcium: 76mgIron: 4mg
Keyword Roasted Turkey
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40 comments on “Citrus and Herb Butter Roast Turkey Recipe”

  1. I will have to share this recipe with the hubs because this holiday, I will be taking a back seat in the kitchen to get my snuggles on with my little man. He loves to brine a turkey, but I am going to vote for this one this year!

  2. This looks beautiful. Thanks for inspiring me to practice my turkey recipe before Thanksgiving!

  3. What a gorgeous looking turkey! I can’t believe Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away!

  4. I love the additional herbs and citrus flavors you’ve added, I can only hope that my turkey looks and tastes as good as yours!

  5. This turkey is gorgeous! You are getting me excited for Thanksgiving!

  6. Could that bird possibly look any prettier?? Gorgeous – this belongs in a magazine!

  7. What a gorgeous turkey! I can’t wait for Thanksgiving!

  8. Now I can’t wait for Thanksgiving!!

  9. I have given up on brining too and, let me tell you, we don’t miss it at all. You can get great flavor from a well-roasted turkey. And yours – absolutely gorgeous!

  10. Do you have to put some foil so the turkey doesn’t dry out/Burn ?

  11. This recipe looks amazing. Looking to change up my turkey this year. Do you use the drippings to make gravy? Just wondering how the citrus would translate into a gravy. Thank you.

  12. If I buy a pre-brine turkey, can I still follow this method?

    • Yes! Absolutely! Sometimes that’s what I do and it just enhances the flavor. I just would recommend not using the drippings for gravy because the brine could make it a tad saltier than most people like.

  13. I’m planning to make this for Thanksgiving this year, but I’m nervous about the herbs under the skin and in the rub burning during the 30 minutes at 500 degrees. Have you ever had this problem?

    This is my first year making a turkey on my own so I’m a little nervous!! Any tips would be greatly appreciated 🙂

    • I’m so sorry I’m just seeing your message now. I hope you had turkey success but for the future, I’ve never had a problem with the herbs burning during the first blast of heat. 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving!

  14. Making this as the first turkey I’ve ever made. So nervous but seems fool proof. Wish me luck!

    • I hope it turned out great for you! Happy Thanksgiving!

      • Hi Kellie! I’m making my turkey tomorrow (we’re doing the late Thanksgiving thing:). My roasting rack says it shouldn’t cook in over 400°, do you have a suggestion for keeping this under 400°?
        Also, can I prep the turkey the day before and just refridgerate?
        Thanks! 😉

  15. When I start the turkey at 500′ for 30 minutes is that when I start the timer on the chart. My turkey is almost 20 lbs. So from the start do I cook it 4 hrs total. And do I have to use a rack to cook the turkey on..

  16. I’m having trouble with the juice of them lemon and orange separating from the rest of the compound butter and making the turkey quite wet. Suggestions?

  17. Hi! Just curious. This is without a roasting bag but could I use one if I wanted? I wanna do that heat blast part but I’m not sure I can with the bag any suggestions? 

    • Hmmmm, I would check the bag instructions to see if it can withstand that temperature. Really, I would probably just skip the bag so you get that golden, crispy skin.

  18. Not sure if the recipe is supposed to say 35 degrees but I’m thinking it should say 350????

  19. Did you get a lot of gravy from this or make a separate one?

  20. Can I spread butter herb moisture on the night before, have you ever done this?

  21. My biggest concern with this recipe is that it says to us the juice of the lemon and orange for the butter. I highly recommend just using the zest of both. It is nearly impossible to spread the butter mixture evenly over the dry bird with the butter mixture. I am praying it browns evenly and the butter bakes in. Will update when complete. 

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