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Herbs and spices to use with turkey

Updated April 17, 2017

Low-fat and protein-rich, turkey is a healthy and easily adaptable food. It's also a good source of zinc, iron, potassium and B vitamins. Along with the healthy nutritional properties of turkey, there's the mood-enhancing effect of the tryptophan present in turkey meat, accounting for the post-Christmas Day meal drowsiness.

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Because the flavour of this lean meat is not strong, it makes a versatile choice as a starter, as many different herb and spice combinations enhance turkey's mild flavour considerably.

Traditional turkey dinners

The classic combination of turkey, herbs and spices usually involves ground pepper, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, bay leaf, summer savoury and oregano. This traditional combination is sometimes expanded to include sage, tarragon, basil and lemon balm. Although dried herbs work fine for cooking turkey, using freshly diced herbs will make a substantial difference to the finished product.

Brenda Hyde, writer for Old Fashioned Living, offers a basic turkey herb and spice recipe using 1 tablespoon of dried thyme, 1 tablespoon dried marjoram, 2 tsp dried rosemary and 1 tsp dried sage. A nice variation on this recipe could be to include a teaspoon of lemon verbena or lemon basil.

Ethnic turkey meals

Turkey-based dinners don't need to be the traditionally roasted, marinated whole turkey, served with stuffing and vegetables on the side. It lends itself well to a number of different dishes with exotic herb and spice configurations.

Turkey can be used to great effect in Mexican meals such as turkey mole, in which hot chillies are paired with a combination of herbs and spices which commonly include coriander, cloves, peppercorns, sesame seeds and dark chocolate. For Indonesian food lovers, a peanut-sauce based turkey satay would most likely include a mixture of garlic and ginger (and, occasionally, lemon grass), along with chilli pepper and curry powder.

A curried turkey kofta is a wonderful example of turkey-based Indian fare. The turkey kofta or "meatballs" are generally spiced with cayenne pepper, garam masala, ginger and garlic. The curried sauce served with the kofta also includes garlic, ginger, cayenne and garam masala, but also includes cumin and coriander.

Using Herb And Spice Rubs

A meat or poultry rub is a dry herb and spice combination which is used to coat and flavour meat before cooking.

Applying a rub mixture to turkey can be mildly problematic, as turkey has a tendency to be moist, often causing more of the dry herb and spice mixture to stick to your hands than the turkey itself. Two alternative options to rubbing the herb and spice mixture into the turkey by hand are sprinkling an even amount of the rub all over the turkey before letting it marinate in the refrigerator, or placing the turkey in a large, strong plastic bag with the spices and shaking to coat it.

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About the Author

Juan Ramirez has been a writer for over 14 years and worked for two years as an assistant editor with an internationally circulated journal. Ramirez holds a Bachelor of Arts in English writing from Potsdam State University and a Master of Arts in individualized study from New York University.

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