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Brined Cilantro Pesto Turkey

As stated on my Mexican Thanksgiving blog post, this recipe is really just a variation of my favorite Holiday Turkey recipe. I mean, if you’ve got a good thing... tweak it! ?

Realistically, you could take the original Turkey Magic and infuse just about any flavor with it. Imagine this recipe with a Caribbean Jerk flavoring. It would be fantastic! Or, take some the aromatics out of the brine and go simple, with just a salt water brine. Then, use a Thai curry paste for an INCREDIBLE taste sensation for 10 people! Imagine taking something like a Harissa for a North African flair. Slather a thick layer of Harissa all over the outside of the roasts and roast ‘em up. Amazepucks! (Amazeballs has fallen out of vogue).

The point is, turkey is a large bird and is frequently the most affordable meat available. You can brine it to maintain a flavorful and juicy roast. The meat is quite neutral and can go in a variety of directions, for several meals or several people. It goes a long way!

In this case, because I was in Mexico over a Thanksgiving Holiday, I wanted to do something using some of the local flavors. I made a very basic pesto from fresh cilantro, sesame seeds, garlic, ground coriander seed, coconut oil, lime juice and salt. It was a bright green paste and made for an interestingly complex Turkey extravaganza. If I stretched my imagination, it was almost like a distant Turkey Mole. Wonderful!

¡Feliz día de acción de gracias!

Note: It is highly suggested you read through the bigger Brined Turkey Magic recipe for videos and tips.

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Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time45 mins
Servings: 16 Servings
Calories: 463.6925kcal
Author: DJ Foodie


  • 1/2 cup kosher salt (or 1/4 cup [60 mL] table salt)
  • 4 cups ice cubes
  • 2 bunches cilantro washed and dried
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 8 each garlic cloves crushed
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander seed
  • 2 each boneless turkey legs
  • 2 each boneless turkey breasts
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • butchers twine
  • salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste


  • The day before you plan to serve this turkey... Make sure you have a de-boned turkey, all set and ready to go. If you don’t, you’ll need a raw turkey. Remove its bones. See video in the Brined Magic Turkey recipe.
  • In a large pot (large enough for a gallon [3.75 L] of liquid), bring 3 cups (720 mL) of water to a boil.
  • Add the 1/2 cup (120 mL) kosher salt. Whisk the water, until the salt dissolves.
  • Add enough water to your ice to create 5 cups (1.2 L) of ice water. Add to the brine. Make sure the brine is cold.
  • Cut the tops of the cilantro off both bunches of cilantro and set aside. Place the stems into the brine.
  • Add the onions, half of the chopped garlic and half of the ground coriander to the brine. Stir.
  • I typically like to brine boneless turkey for about 8 hours. I put it in the brine as I head to bed, then remove it, wash it and dry it, first thing in the morning. Soooo... about bedtime, add the turkey breasts and leg meat to the brine. Make sure the turkey is completely submerged. If it's not, you can weigh the turkey down.
  • Place the turkey and brine into a refrigerator. Brine the turkey for between 2 and 10 hours. Any brining is good, even an hour. Longer is better, up to 12 hours. After 12 hours, the turkey meat starts to deteriorate, resulting in salty and somewhat mealy roast.
  • Just before pulling the turkey from the brine is a good time to make the pesto. Place the remaining cilantro, garlic and ground coriander into a food processor with the sesame seeds and coconut oil. Season with about 2 tsp (10 mL) salt and a bit of pepper. Puree until it makes a nice paste. Set aside.
  • When the turkey has been brined, remove it from the brine and wash thoroughly under cold water. Pat the turkey dry and set aside. Discard the brine. It cannot be re-used.
  • When ready to roast the turkey, preheat oven to 450F (232 C).
  • Lightly grease a roasting pan and set aside.
  • Coat the turkey with the pesto in a very large bowl. Be careful not to tear or remove the skin.
  • Roll the two turkey legs together, as tightly as possible, with the skin on the outside. Tie the two legs together into a nice roast with butchers’ twine (see the video in the Brined Magic Turkey recipe). Gently move the roll to the roasting pan. Be sure to leave enough room for the turkey breast roast.
  • Put one breast, skin side down, on a cookie tray. Now, place the other breast, skin side up, above the first breast. Make sure the breasts are reversed, to help create a more consistent width. Now, tie the roast with butchers’ twine. Place the roast in the roasting pan with the leg meat.
  • Place the roasting pan in the hot oven. After 15 minutes, turn the heat down to 350 F (177 C).
  • After 45 more minutes, check the internal temperature on the turkey. Assuming the legs were rolled side by side, it should be a far thinner roast, causing it to cook much faster. So, test the deepest part of the breasts. Unless your breast roast is tiny, it’ll likely need a bit longer. Test the temperature every 10 to 15 minutes from this point forward. Use this opportunity to baste the roasts with any fat or juices that had collected in the pan. The roast will likely take somewhere between 1 to 2 hours (for a huge roast). Once the roast’s internal temperature is 160 F (71 C), remove it from the oven. Place the roasts on a large platter under some foil, in a warm place. Allow them to rest for about 15 to 20 minutes, before slicing.
  • Slice and serve!


Serving: 16g | Calories: 463.6925kcal | Carbohydrates: 2.32875g | Protein: 51.76375g | Fat: 25.36125g | Fiber: 1.065g