November 17, 2012

Thanksgiving Dinner: Pepper-Stuffed Turkey

Thanksgiving Dinner: Pepper-Stuffed Turkey

Tired of the same old baked turkey?

Turkey. It’s the same every year. Only some years it comes out drier than others. 😉

I don’t know about you, but I am not a fan of dried out turkey.

If you want to kick your Thanksgiving turkey up a notch and ensure a juicy turkey this Thanksgiving, then try this recipe for Pepper-Stuffed Turkey.

Louisiana Real & Rustic: Kick It Up a Notch!

This Pepper-Stuffed Turkey comes from my friend Marcelle Bienvenu. Actually, it comes from Marcelle’s Aunt Git. It appears in Louisiana Real & Rustic, a cookbook she co-authored with Emeril Lagasse. We tried this recipe for the first time in 2008, and it has become our go-to recipe for turkey. I have never seen a turkey come out of the oven juicier than the turkeys we have roasted according to this recipe.

I have tweaked the recipe a bit, according to our tastes, and I have experimented the last four years with different sized turkeys. I roasted a 20 pound turkey one year. For that particular bird, I just doubled the recipe below.

You Ain’t Scared, Are You?

Don’t let the heat scare you. Yes, it is stuffed with peppers. Yes, some of the peppers we use are Sport peppers or Tabasco peppers. But they’re pickled. And they are not as hot as you might imagine when they cook in the turkey.

However, I would definitely encourage you to wear gloves while stuffing the turkey. The oils from the peppers can soak into your skin.

Try out this Pepper-Stuffed Turkey this Thanksgiving and let me know what you think. It might just become your new go-to turkey recipe too.

Let me know in the comments below.


  • 1 turkey (about 12 pounds)
  • 2 sticks of butter, cut into 1/4 inch slices, then cut in half
  • 8 teaspoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons cayenne
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 8 to 10 Sport peppers or Tabasco peppers (pickled in jar)
  • 5 to 6 ounces of Banana peppers, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons pickle juice from the Sport pepper jar (or, for a little less heat, the Banana pepper jar)


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Put the butter slices in a glass mixing bowl and add 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of cayenne.


It’s better to work with very cold butter. You want to try to season all the butter slices without them melting together. I put the butter in the freezer for about 20 minutes before slicing and seasoning it. After it is seasoned, it should go back into the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

  • In a small glass bowl combine 4 teaspoons of salt and 2 teaspoons of cayenne. In a larger bowl combine the onion, bell pepper, garlic, sport peppers and banana peppers. Add 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of cayenne to the veggies, along with the pickle juice from the peppers.
  • Remove any innards that came stuffed in the turkey, and rinse the turkey in cold water. Pat dry with paper towels.


Working with the turkey can be tricky. You need to prepare a work surface that will prevent the turkey from sliding around. you might want to use a large pan. I prefer to place the turkey on a large kitchen towel laying directly on the kitchen counter. My method necessitates a thorough cleaning of the counter afterward, but I don’t mind. Turkeys are slippery, and once my hands are into butter, peppers and cayenne, I don’t want to have to chase that turkey around the kitchen. I want it to stay put. You will too.

  • Lay the turkey breast-side up with the cavity facing you. Lift the skin flap and make 2 or 3 slits on either side of the breastboneon the inside of the cavity. Be careful not to slice all the way through the turkey and pierce the skin.


I found the original wording for this step (and the next step) in Louisiana Real & Rustic a bit confusing. But that was only because I had never done it before. After making this turkey a few times, I have come to the conclusion that you just have to make the slits the best way you can. Do what works. The whole point is that you will be stuffing the slits with the seasoned butter and the pepper mixture. Keep that in mind as you read the following directions.

  • Insert 2 or 3 slices of the frozen seasoned butter into each slit. Then spoon about 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and cayenne mixture into the slits. Then insert 1 teaspoon or more of the veggie mixture into the slits. Push it all in with your finger.
  • For the drumsticks, pull each leg out gently to expose the inner thigh. Carefully pull the skin back enough to make a slit following the bone line of each leg. Follow the same method above to stuff those slits with seasoned butter, salt and cayenne, and the veggie mixture. You can also add some of the salt and cayenne to the inner thigh where the skin was pulled back. This is also a good place to put any extra veggie mixture you might have after stuffing the rest of the turkey.
  • For the wings, turn the turkey around so that the neck is facing you. Follow the same sort of process you did with the drumsticks. You want to make the slit in the wings following the bone line from shoulder to “elbow.” Repeat the stuffing process on both wings.
  • Season the outside of the turkey with any remaining salt and cayenne. All leftover seasoned butter and veggies can be placed inside the cavity of the turkey (and between thigh and leg).
  • Secure the wings and legs as you would any turkey: fold the wings back behind the “neck,” and secure the legs with kitchen twine.
  • Place the turkey in a deep roasting pan (you’re going to have LOTS of juice!) and slide into the oven. Roast the turkey at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes to get the browning process started. Then lower the temperature to 350, and cover the turkey with a lid or with foil. Bake for 3 to 3 1/2 hours.
  • Once it is done, remove it from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes before carving.

Bon appetit!

And Happy Thanksgiving!