Smoked Paprika-Fennel Roast Turkey

Smoked Paprika-Fennel Roast Turkey

Be sure to use a flameproof roasting pan so it can go directly over the burner when it’s time to make the gravy. You can find pimentón, Spanish smoked paprika, in specialty stores or from online vendors.–Tom Douglas

LC Turkey As You've Never Had Before Note

This roast turkey recipe, basted with butter that’s infused with paprika and fennel, is unlike any you’ve ever had before. Promise.

Smoked Paprika-Fennel Roast Turkey

  • Quick Glance
  • 1 H
  • 3 H, 30 M
  • Serves 10 to 12
Print RecipeBuy the How to Cook a Turkey and All the Other Trimmings cookbook

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  • For the fennel salt
  • 3 tablespoons kosher or sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, toasted in a small dry skillet over medium heat until very fragrant, then ground
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • For the smoked paprika and fennel seed butter
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, toasted in a small dry skillet over medium heat until very fragrant, then ground
  • 1 tablespoon sweet pimentón (buy it)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (save the stems for the turkey cavity)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • For the turkey
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • One 11-to-12-pound turkey, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 recipe Fennel Salt
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Zest of 1 lemon, removed in long strips with a vegetable peeler
  • 4 large sprigs thyme, plus the stems from the chopped thyme above
  • For the onion gravy
  • 7 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 1/2 to 5 cups homemade chicken stock or low-sodium canned chicken broth, hot


  • Make the fennel salt
  • 1. Combine the salt, fennel, and pepper in a small bowl. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the mixture for sprinkling on the turkey and transfer the rest to a couple of small, shallow dishes for passing at the table.
  • Make the smoked paprika and fennel seed butter
  • 2. Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl until well blended. Set aside at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for up to several days.
  • Make the turkey
  • 3. Position a rack in the lowest part of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Brush a large flameproof roasting pan lightly with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Make a bed of the onions in the center of the pan.
  • 4. Trim the wingtips of the turkey at the first joint and, if already loose, trim the tail from the turkey. Remove the giblets (discard the liver) and neck and set them aside with the wingtips and tail for making the broth. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Set the turkey on a work surface and loosen the skin over the breasts by sliding your hands under the skin.
  • 5. Rub all he paprika-fennel butter under the skin, smearing it over the breast. Brush the turkey skin all over with the remaining 3 tablespoons melted butter. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons fennel salt all over the skin of the turkey (sprinkle a little inside the cavity, too). Place the garlic cloves, lemon zest, and thyme sprigs inside the cavity. If you like, tuck the legs into the tail flap (or tie them together loosely, if there is no flap).
  • 6. Set the turkey, breast side up, on top of the onions in the roasting pan (there’s no need for a rack). Roast for 1 hour, and then baste the turkey with the drippings that have collected in the pan and rotate the pan. Continue to roast, basting every 20 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of both thighs, away from the bone, reads 170°F (77°C), another 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (If the turkey is browning too much, tent it with foil.) Set the turkey on a large platter to rest, tented with foil, for about 20 minutes while you make the gravy.
  • Make the onion gravy
  • 7. Set the roasting pan with the sliced onion and juices over medium-high heat. (It may need to straddle two burners, depending on your stove). With a wooden spoon, stir up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan and continue stirring for a few minutes, allowing the onions to brown a little more.
  • 8. Sprinkle the flour evenly over the sliced onion and juices and stir until the flour is well combined, 1 to 2 minutes. Start adding the hot broth, 1 ladleful at a time, whisking out the lumps before you add more broth. Continue to add broth gradually, whisking each time until smooth, until you’ve added about 4 1/2 cups of broth. Add any juices that have collected on the platter around the turkey.
  • 9. Lower the heat to medium or medium low and gently simmer the gravy, whisking occasionally, until it’s full-flavored and thickened, 3 to 10 minutes. If it seems too thick, add the remaining 1/2 cup broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm until ready to serve and then transfer to a gravy boat.
  • 10. Carve the turkey. Pass the gravy boat and the remaining Fennel Salt at the table.


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Recipe Testers Reviews

This was the first test recipe in my new oven. And what a way to begin a new adventure. This turkey recipe is the one to use if you want a beautiful bird that will steal the show. It’s moist and flavorful with a comfortable blend of fennel seed and smoked paprika. And the paprika almost guarantees a crunchy, almost spicy, smoky bite and the perfect skin tone (or maybe my new oven has a tanning button?). The gravy was a discovery for me. I had never really followed a recipe for gravy—now I know to do that! The onion bed that comforts the turkey during roasting turns into the most delicious base for the gravy. All in all, it was smoky, paprika-y, crunchy, oniony, garlic-y, ummmm, FANTASTIC. Next time I might up the fennel ante to get more of that flavor in there, but I do like fennel. The amount in the recipe is probably perfect for everyone else. I used a 14-pound bird and it only took about 2 1/2 hours.

WINNER! This is great recipe that was easy to execute and the result was very, very good. The fennel salt was easy, as was the paprika and fennel seed butter. There was a lot of butter and I stuffed most of it under the skin. The turkey was moist with an earthy, paprika, and fennel flavor. It was hard to detect the lemon but I could taste the garlic and thyme. I didn’t use the whole two tablespoons fennel salt as it just felt like too much. I used about 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon. I roasted the bird as directed for 3 hours, took it out, and tented until we were ready to eat, which was about an hour later. The onion gravy was the BEST. So rich and flavorful. It really made the whole dish. The onions were nicely caramelized and the browned bits in the pan added great depth. I didn’t have to add any more salt to the gravy, so I feel like my decision to not add all of the salt on the turkey was correct. Oh, and it really dressed up the mashed potatoes! But this is what I found confusing. The header mentions smoked paprika but in the ingredient list it calls for sweet pimenton. So I looked it up and found several definitions for pimenton, some smoked, some sweet, some smoked sweet. I ended up using plain old paprika, which I bought fresh at a farmer’s market, and left it at that. I looked for sweet but didn’t find any and it worked out just fine. It wasn’t overpowering like some smoked paprika I’ve used in the past and I was happy about that. I wouldn’t change anything about this and would continue to use paprika, not smoked paprika.

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