South Asian Inspired Turkey Dinner for the Holiday Season

Untitled design (8)

This post is sponsored by Canadian Turkey but as always opinions are my own.

With the holidays around the corner, turkey dinners make their grand appearance once again. Since whole turkey is so readily available in stores this time of year, many South Asian families take this opportunity to share turkey with their families. Growing up, we didn’t have turkey, mostly because my mom wasn’t sure how to flavour the turkey to suit our South Asian taste buds. What she didn’t know was that turkey is such a versatile protein that it can be flavoured in many ways, even making it spicy enough for a South Asian dinner! Serving a whole turkey is also a very economical way to feed a large group of people, making hosting your large family much easier.

I love bringing together South Asian flavours with more western ingredients to give life to an exciting new menu. This South Asian inspired dinner will have your elders and youngsters asking for seconds!

If you have never made a turkey before, Canadian Turkey provides easy to follow tips and videos on how to cook a whole turkey from start to finish.

5 Tips for a successful South Asian inspired turkey dinner:

  • Serve both naan and basmati rice as a familiar companion to turkey.
  • Cut up naan into smaller triangles so guests can fill their plates with turkey and other sides.
  • Adjust spice level for turkey marinade to your family’s liking by adding more or less green chilies.
  • Prep ingredients beforehand to reduce prep time on the day of the dinner. Wash, cut, and store vegetables in storage bags up to 3 days beforehand.
  • Use a good quality meat thermometer to ensure your turkey is cooked to perfect doneness without overcooking.


I developed this menu with classic South Asian flavours in mind using ingredients like green chilies, ground spices (coriander and cumin), and tandoori masala.

The star of the show is the Harra Masala Turkey. Harra Masala is a blend of green spices. In this butter based marinade, I used green chilies and cilantro. The butter helps make the turkey skin beautifully brown and crispy. The bonus is that this marinade also gives the gravy a bit of a kick! You get harra masala turkey AND gravy.  I’ve paired the turkey with a Spicy Butternut Squash Soup and Roasted Tandoori Cauliflower to keep up with the spice profile.

Of course, no South Asian menu is complete without naan and basmati rice. I added a bit more flavour to the rice through whole spices and vegetable broth.

Sample South Asian Turkey Dinner for this Holiday Season:

  • Star of the Show: Harra Masala Turkey
  • Gravy: Made with drippings from turkey
  • Veggie side: Roasted Tandoori Cauliflower
  • Soup: Spicy Butternut Squash Soup
  • Bread side: naan
  • Rice side: fragrant basmati rice

This menu highlights South Asian flavours and ingredients such as green chilies, ground spices, and tandoori masala.

As you wrap up your turkey dinner this holiday season, don’t forget to try one of these recipes to use up your turkey leftovers! These recipes are also South Asian inspired, using familiar flavours and spices your whole family will enjoy.

Harra Masala Turkey Recipe

“Harra masala” means green spice blend.


  • 1 whole turkey (12-14lb)
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 3-5 green chilies
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp ground coriander
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature.

For placing in turkey cavity:

  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 1 full garlic, extra skin removed and top cut off
  • 1 onion, cut into 4 pieces
  • 5 green chilies


  1. Preheat oven to 350o
  2. In a food processor, add green chilies, cilantro, garlic cloves, and spices. Blend until finely chopped. Add butter and pulse until smooth and well blended.
  3. Place turkey breast-up in a roasting pan. Pat dry with paper towel. Loosen turkey skin by sliding fingers under skin, being careful not to tear skin. Take spoonfuls of marinade (use about 1/3 of marinade), and rub butter marinade under skin. Rub remaining marinade on turkey.
  4. Place lemon, garlic, onion, green chilies in cavity of turkey.
  5. Tuck wings under turkey and tie legs with twine. Pour 2 cups of water into pan.
  6. Tent pan with foil. Place in oven. Cook for 2 hours. Then baste with sauces every 30 minutes until turkey is fully cooked. Turkey is cooked when thermometer reads 180oF



  • Pan drippings
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup water


  1. In a small bowl, mix together flour and water.
  2. Remove all drippings from roasting pan. Add to a pot over medium heat. Stir in flour and water mixture.
  3. Cook gravy until thickened, stirring often.

Roasted Tandoori Cauliflower


  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp tandoori masala


In a large bowl, mix together cauliflower, olive oil, and tandoori masala. On a baking sheet, spread out cauliflower in an even layer. Bake for 30 minutes. (Can add to oven in last 30 minutes of turkey cooking).



Spicy Butternut Squash Soup


  • 1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled and cubed

    Photo credit: Nazima Qureshi

  • 5 garlic cloves, whole
  • 1/2 onion, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup 2% milk
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder


  1. Preheat oven to 350oF. On a baking tray lined with parchment paper, place butternut squash pieces and drizzle with olive oil and sea salt. Mix thoroughly with hands and spread into even layer. Add garlic cloves and onion to the baking tray, making sure garlic and onion is not directly touching the bottom of tray (to prevent burning). Garlic and onion pieces should be placed on top of butternut squash pieces.
  2.  Bake for 45 minutes, until squash softens. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.
  3.  In a blender, add cooked squash, garlic, and onions. Add milk and 1 cup of vegetable broth. Pulse until a smooth puree forms. Alternatively, you can puree in a pot with a hand blender.
  4. Pour squash puree into a large pot and turn heat to medium-high. Add in remaining vegetable broth and spices. Cook for 5 minutes or until soup starts to boil. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Remove from heat and serve.

Fragrant Basmati Rice 

Swap your biryani for a simple rice side dish to pair with turkey.

In the water of your basmati rice, add:

  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 10 whole black pepper
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 black cardamom
  • pinch of salt


Optional: replace half of your water with vegetable broth.



(Visited 402 times, 1 visits today)

There are no comments

Add yours

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.