These turkey drumsticks are seared and then braised in a deliciously aromatic sauce flavored with orange juice, soy sauce, cinnamon, rosemary and thyme! Tender and falling off the bone, this turkey makes a perfectly cozy Thanksgiving dinner for two!
Thanksgiving dinners are going to look quite different this year with a lot of us celebrating away from family and friends. But gathering in much smaller numbers also means we can forgo the whole roasted turkey — something I’ve never been too fond of eating! So when I saw that our local market was selling turkey drumsticks, I jumped on the opportunity to try out a smaller batch recipe fit for Thanksgiving: spiced braised turkey legs!
braising turkey legs
Rather than roasting the turkey legs, I decided to braise them, which just means briefly searing the meat and then simmering it with a bit of liquid. This technique is ideal for cooking turkey legs, which can be rather tough and need quite a bit of time until they’re tender and falling off the bone. It also helps to infuse the meat with the flavor of the braising liquid so you can say goodbye to the dry, flavorless turkey of Thanksgivings past!
While you can braise turkey legs in the oven, I like to braise them on the stovetop. It leaves the oven open for other Thanksgiving necessities such as stuffing, sweet potatoes and, of course, pumpkin pie!
turkey braising liquid
While braising can be done with almost any liquid or even just a bit of broth, I chose a combination of autumn-inspired ingredients to infuse these turkey legs with festive flavor!
To add even more flavor and depth to the braising liquid, first saute an assortment of your favorite aromatics and veggies. For this recipe, I used onion, garlic, carrots, rosemary and thyme. Other great additions include leeks, celery and your favorite herbs. Next, just deglaze the pan with a bit of orange juice and then add the rest of the braising liquid, which consists of chicken broth, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar and a spoonful of brown sugar! Toss in a cinnamon stick for a bit of autumny spice and you’re ready to simmer your turkey legs to perfection!
And don’t throw that braising liquid away when you’re finished! I like to strain it through a fine mesh sieve and serve it like gravy on the side. While the sauce is a bit more heavily spiced than traditional gravy, we still enjoyed it served over mashed potatoes!
what to serve with spiced braised turkey legs
For a traditional Thanksgiving side with a twist, I highly recommend whipping up a batch of this apple cranberry chutney with rosemary to serve alongside your turkey legs! It also makes a great appetizer served with crackers and cheese!
While we enjoyed this turkey recipe with mashed potatoes, I think sweet potatoes or potato pancakes would also be great options. And the braising liquid turned gravy would be a great addition to both of those sides!
- turkey legs 3 drumsticks
- salt and pepper to taste
- vegetable oil 1 tbsp
- diced onion 1 large
- chopped carrots 2 large
- minced garlic 4 cloves
- rosemary 3 sprigs
- thyme 4 sprigs
- orange juice ½ c (120 ml)
- chicken broth 1 c (240 ml)
- apple cider vinegar 2 tbsp
- soy sauce ¼ c (60 ml)
- brown sugar 2 tbsp
- cinnamon 1 stick
- Generously season the turkey legs with salt and pepper.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet with deep sides over medium-high heat. Sear the turkey legs until brown on both sides (about five minutes per side) and set aside.
- Reduce heat to medium and add the onions and carrots to the pan. Cook for five minutes.
- Add the garlic, rosemary and thyme to the pan. Cook an additional minute.
- Pour in the orange juice and scrape up any brown bits stuck on the bottom of the pan.
- Return the turkey legs to the pan.
- In a small bowl, mix together the chicken broth, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce and brown sugar. Pour over the turkey legs. Add the cinnamon stick.
- Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 2.5 to 3 hours. Check every hour or so and add more chicken broth or water if needed.
- When the turkey is tender and falling off the bone, remove to a plate and strain the braising liquid through a fine mesh sieve. Serve the turkey legs with the braising liquid on the side.
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