The author digs deep into the Timber2Table recipe archives to find his all-time favorite turkey dishes
Yep, fried wild turkey is surely hard to beat for taste and ease of cooking. But there are other ways to prepare America’s greatest game bird. If you’re looking for new ideas, you’ve come to the right place. And yes – several recipes here still involve frying wild turkey, but we promise they’re tasty twists on the old favorite.
Michael Pendley is the main man behind Realtree’s Timber2Table, and he’s a fanatical hunter – for spring gobblers included. As Realtree's turkey guy, I keep an eye on what he's doing there. When a turkey hunting recipe comes on the radar, I check it out. And often make it. Even better for you, there’s something here for everybody. You can click on each one to print the recipe for free.
No. 1: Wild Turkey Cordon Bleu Roll
As Pendley says, Cordon Bleu is a classic in which a breaded meat is wrapped around a cheese stuffing and either fried or baked. For this take on it, he used wild turkey breast and a thinly sliced salt-cured country ham.
For those cool spring evenings or fall nights to come, Pendley considers this recipe a great way to clean out the fridge: “Nothing goes to waste in our kitchen. If you have leftover turkey, make this soup.”
In addition to being a heckuva cook, Pendley is also something of an historian. To introduce this great recipe, he writes:
In the 1920s, Louisville, Kentucky’s, Brown Hotel was a happening place. Nightly crowds of 1,000 or more people weren’t uncommon for their famous evening dances. After fox trotting into the wee hours of the morning, the guests were understandably hungry.
Chef Fred Schmidt soon grew tired of traditional bacon and egg orders and set out to invent a dish with a bit more flair. His creation? The Hot Brown sandwich, an open-faced turkey sandwich topped with crispy bacon slices, tomato, and a creamy Mornay sauce, was born.
“Crispy-fried wild turkey breast might be one of the greatest foods on earth,” Pendley says. “But preparing something the same way over and over can make even wild turkey greatness get old." To mix things up a bit, and to stretch one side of a turkey breast to feed a crowd, make this wild turkey parmesan and serve it over spaghetti noodles.
No. 5: Apricot and Cream Cheese-Stuffed Wild Turkey Poppers
Realtree’s Timber2Table main man says that everyone loves a good grilled popper, and he’s right. Wild turkey breast stuffed with savory, herbed cream cheese and a sweet, dried apricot might be the Pendley family’s favorite.
“Crispy-fried wild turkey breast might be one of the greatest foods on earth,” Pendley says. “But preparing something the same way over and over can make even wild turkey greatness get old.
No. 6: Crispy Bourbon Fried Wild Turkey
“The combination of crispy fried chicken, sweet bourbon sauce and the kick of heat from chili flakes is just good eats,” Pendley says. He recreates this recipe at home using, of course, wild turkey breast. To do this, he stir-fries the corn-starch-coated turkey bites in a wok. He cooks outside on a camp burner to cut down on smoke and to get the high heat necessary for this meal.
No. 8: Cajun Turkey with Fried Biscuits and Chili Honey Drizzle
“This is an easy camp take on the hot chicken and waffles craze,” Pendley says, who makes a version with spicy fried turkey strips served over fresh waffles and drizzled with honey or syrup. “You can get that same flavor combination at deer or turkey camp without the hassle of making homemade waffles by using deep-fried biscuit dough,” he says. “Feel free to mix up your favorite homemade biscuit recipe for this, but even canned biscuits from the store work well.”
“It hurts my heart when people say they only take the breast meat from their wild turkeys, because they're leaving more than half of the bird behind,” says Pendley. “Those legs and thighs? They taste even better than the breast meat. They just need a little more time when it comes to cooking.”
Paired with green chilies and cream cheese, your gobbler's legs and thighs make a tasty addition to this hearty Mexican dish. And this recipe will make a believer out of you.
“Realtree’s Phillip Culpepper knows turkeys,” writes Pendley. “So when he says this recipe for pickle-brined, ranch-fried wild turkey is one of his favorite ways to cook up a spring bird, I listen. Give it a try. It might become one of your favorites as well.”
Realtree turkey hunting editor Steve Hickoff has chased gobblers all over the United States and Mexico. He was born and raised in northcentral Pennsylvania, and now makes his home in Maine. Hickoff was named the NWTF Tom Kelly Communicator of the Year for 2019, a prestigious award reflecting his longtime work promoting hunting and conservation as a turkey hunting writer, editor and book author.