Bay-Spiced Roast Turkey

In this healthy roast turkey recipe, brining keeps the turkey moist and a homemade bay-spice mix gives the turkey amazing flavor. Diced celery root or parsnip adds flavor and texture to the gravy. A heritage, natural or organic turkey, without added sodium solution (found in most conventional turkeys), tastes best in this recipe. If you have a conventional bird, just skip the brining (Step 1). The recipe that's included for Bay Spice Blend makes 1 cup; if you want to skip the step of making the spice blend, you can substitute Old Bay Seasoning.

Cook Time:
1 hrs 15 mins
Additional Time:
1 hrs 30 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 45 mins
12 servings turkey (plus leftovers) & 4 cups gravy


Bay Spice Blend

  • ¼ cup dry mustard

  • 8 whole bay leaves, finely crushed

  • 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper

  • 2 tablespoons celery seed

  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger

  • 1 ½ tablespoons dried thyme

  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika

  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 tablespoon ground mace or nutmeg

  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper

  • 2 teaspoons onion powder

Brine & Turkey

  • 1 gallon water

  • 1 cup kosher salt

  • ¾ cup sugar

  • 2 medium onions, sliced

  • 1 head celery, cut into 3-inch lengths

  • ½ cup of the Bay Spice Blend

  • 8 cups ice-cold water

  • 4 cups ice cubes

  • 1 12- to 14- pound turkey, preferably natural, organic or heritage (see Tips)

Turkey Rub

  • cup of the Bay Spice Blend

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 2 lemons, zested then halved, divided

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

  • 4 shallots, halved

Celery Root Pan Gravy

  • ½ cup finely diced onion

  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 cup dry white wine

  • 2 cups low-sodium turkey or chicken broth or stock

  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch

  • 2 cups water

  • 1 ½ cups finely diced peeled celery root (see Tips) or parsnips

  • ¼ cup snipped fresh chives

  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper, or to taste


  1. To brine turkey: At least 8 hours (and no more than 16 hours) before you plan to serve your turkey, make the brine. To prepare Bay Spice Blend (if desired), combine dry mustard, bay leaves, crushed red pepper, celery seed, ginger, thyme, paprika, cinnamon, mace (or nutmeg), pepper and onion powder in a medium bowl. To prepare the brine, combine water, 1 cup salt, sugar, onions, celery and 1/2 cup of the spice blend in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Let cool to room temperature. Then stir in ice-cold water and ice. Remove neck and giblets from turkey and discard. Add the turkey to the brine; weight it with a plate, if necessary, so it stays submerged. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and no longer than 16 hours. (If you do not have enough space in your refrigerator, you can add enough sealed, clean ice packs to the pot to keep the turkey at 40 degrees F or colder.)

  2. To rub & roast turkey: About 3 1/2 to 4 hours before you want to serve the turkey, remove it from the brine and thoroughly rinse with cool water. (Discard the brine.) Pat dry with paper towels.

  3. Combine 1/3 cup spice blend, 1 teaspoon salt and lemon zest in a small bowl. (There should be enough spice blend left for the stuffing.) Rub the mixture under the skin on the turkey breast, thighs and legs and inside the cavity as evenly as possible without tearing the skin. Rub the outside of the turkey with oil. Stuff the cavity with shallots and the zested lemon halves.

  4. Coat a rack with cooking spray and place it in a roasting pan. Place the turkey on the rack, breast-side down, and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

  5. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

  6. Roast the turkey for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees , add 2 cups hot water to the pan to prevent the drippings from burning and roast for 30 minutes more.

  7. Remove the turkey from the oven and very carefully turn it breast-side up. Then continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh without touching bone registers 165 degrees F, 30 minutes to 1 hour more. (If the turkey is larger than 14 pounds, add 3 to 6 minutes more roasting time for each additional pound.)

  8. Transfer the turkey to a clean cutting board, leaving the drippings in the pan. Tent the turkey with foil to keep warm and let rest while you prepare the gravy.

  9. To prepare gravy: Set the roasting pan over two burners on medium-high heat; add diced onion, thyme sprigs and bay leaf and cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits, until the onion is soft, about 4 minutes. Add wine, bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until reduced by about half, 6 to 8 minutes. Carefully strain the liquid though a fine sieve and return the strained liquid to the roasting pan over medium-high heat. Combine broth and cornstarch in a measuring cup and slowly whisk into the liquid in the pan. Add 2 cups water and celery root (or parsnips) and cook, whisking constantly, until the vegetables are tender and the gravy is thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in chives and white pepper.

  10. Carve the turkey and serve with gravy.


Make Ahead Tip: Brine turkey (Step 1) for up to 16 hours. Store spice blend airtight at room temperature for up to 3 months.

For your holiday turkey, we recommend using a natural, organic or heritage turkey, because it will not contain any sodium solution that is added to most conventional turkeys and will have a better taste and texture. If you can only find a conventional turkey, you can still use a recipe that calls for a natural turkey, just skip any brining instructions. The added brine would make the -turkey--and gravy--too salty.

Find celery root, a celery-flavored- root vegetable with a texture similar to potatoes when cooked, in the refrigerated produce section near other root vegetables. To peel it, trim off the root and stem end, then remove the thick skin with a knife or use a vegetable peeler and peel around the root several times to remove the fibrous skin.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

178 Calories
4g Fat
6g Carbs
26g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 12
Calories 178
% Daily Value *
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 2g
Added Sugars 1g 2%
Protein 26g 51%
Total Fat 4g 5%
Saturated Fat 1g 6%
Cholesterol 89mg 30%
Vitamin A 180IU 4%
Vitamin C 4mg 4%
Folate 19mcg 5%
Sodium 441mg 19%
Calcium 31mg 2%
Iron 2mg 8%
Magnesium 35mg 8%
Potassium 307mg 7%

Nutrition information is calculated by a registered dietitian using an ingredient database but should be considered an estimate.

* Daily Values (DVs) are the recommended amounts of nutrients to consume each day. Percent Daily Value (%DV) found on nutrition labels tells you how much a serving of a particular food or recipe contributes to each of those total recommended amounts. Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the daily value is based on a standard 2,000 calorie diet. Depending on your calorie needs or if you have a health condition, you may need more or less of particular nutrients. (For example, it’s recommended that people following a heart-healthy diet eat less sodium on a daily basis compared to those following a standard diet.)

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a special diet for medical reasons, be sure to consult with your primary care provider or a registered dietitian to better understand your personal nutrition needs.

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