15 Seasonings For Upgrading Ground Turkey

different seasonings for ground turkey
different seasonings for ground turkey - Static Media / Shutterstock / Getty

Ground turkey is a terrific protein to keep in your fridge or freezer. There are plenty of flavorsome seasonings for upgrading ground turkey, many of which you probably already have in your spice drawer. The meat itself doesn't have a lot of flavor going for it, which makes it a blank canvas that you can dress up however you like, or based on the dish you're making. While the leanness can vary, you'll often find 93% lean turkey, 90% lean, and 85% lean options at the grocery store. It's a lean meat that provides a decent amount of protein, no carbs, no sugar, and contains nutrients such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, choline, and more.

If you happen to find it on sale or buy bulk, you can store it in your freezer to use at a later date; easily thaw in the refrigerator the night before to use for your next meal. This meat has a lot of flexibility, allowing you to break it up into crumbles to make bolognese or form it into meatballs or burger patties. Thaw out that pound of frozen turkey and get ready to pack on the flavor with anything from cumin to Worcestershire sauce.

Read more: The 20 Best Olive Oils For Cooking

Salt And Pepper

bowls of salt, black pepper
bowls of salt, black pepper - Rapideye/Getty Images

While we can't speak in absolutes, most people likely have salt and pepper in their homes. It's on the table at diners, and you'll see it at grandma and grandpa's house. It's a widely used and available seasoning that people use for almost anything. Salt and pepper can be the foundation of how you add flavor to your ground turkey, whether you use fresh cracked pepper, pre-ground pepper, sea salt, Celtic salt, or flavored salt. Any of these options can provide a delicious boost and fundamental change in the flavor of the turkey.

Garlic salt or truffle can provide some additional nuanced flavor. You can leave it at salt and pepper or add other seasonings in something like turkey tomato bolognese. Salt and pepper are a standard baseline as far as seasonings go for many types of meats. This simple addition provides a noticeable difference in your turkey, no matter how lean it is. Use this popular seasoning to make meatballs, turkey chili, or turkey tacos.

Stock Or Broth

fresh bone broth
fresh bone broth - Beats3/Getty Images

If you're making chili, soup, goulash, stewing meat for turkey cottage pie, or simmering sauces, a broth can give the turkey a rich flavor while also helping with the moisture. You can use beef, chicken, or vegetable broth or stock to enhance the flavor as it cooks. Boxed broth or stock from the store is a perfectly delicious way to go if that's what you have. You can even purchase a low-sodium version if you're trying to watch your salt intake or if you know you're going to salt the dish yourself. It still has the richness but without the high sodium levels.

Easily make a broth at home with veggies or meat scraps. It's not too difficult to make, but it does require a good chunk of time since you have to let it simmer for a few hours. Homemade broth is delicious and packed with the flavors of the vegetables and meat, whether that's chicken bones, beef, pork, or any herbs that you include. Don't feel weird about using beef or chicken stock with ground turkey, it will still season it and make it taste that much better.

Garlic Or Garlic Powder

dry garlic powder
dry garlic powder - Nadezhda K/Shutterstock

Garlic is easily one of the top seasonings for upgrading ground turkey. Garlic powder is simple and easy to use since you just sprinkle it over your meat as you're heating it. You probably have this in your spice cabinet whether you just have a little jar or you buy in bulk from the grocery store. Garlic powder has an even texture so you don't have to think about garlic chunks in your food, which is particularly nice if you want the flavor without the bits and bobs.

If you enjoy evenness but want fresh garlic, roasted garlic has a deep flavor and a soft texture that you can easily mash up to mix with the ground turkey. This method seamlessly integrates the garlic into your turkey without any noticeable pieces. Choose fresh garlic when you want a nice bite to the turkey. It's best to cook the garlic and turkey separately because garlic tends to burn when cooked too long and turkey can often have a lot of water content. Cook your turkey first, then mince fresh garlic and fry it separately for a couple of minutes until slightly softened, then combine for something like turkey and butternut squash chili.


fresh thyme sprigs
fresh thyme sprigs - Olivia /Getty Images

The taste of thyme can be a blend of sweet and savory, but this aromatic herb could also be spicy, earthy, or minty, since it is part of the Lamiaceae family, along with savory and lavender. While people often use the thyme leaves only, you can easily place a sprig of thyme, stem and all, in your pan as you're cooking ground turkey. This works well when you're cooking and breaking up ground turkey to add to something like chili. This way the flavor of the thyme gets fully incorporated throughout all of the turkey pieces.

When using the full stem, remove it once you're done cooking. It's mess-free, and you still get the hint of time without the visible pieces. If you were doing something like turkey patties, the whole spring might not be fully infused since it's not reaching the inside of the patty. To combat this, use fresh or dried thyme and incorporate it throughout the meat. It works just as effectively. You can use fresh or dried to mix into soups, pasta, or Thanksgiving-style turkey meatballs.


ground cumin and cumin seeds
ground cumin and cumin seeds - asmiphotoshop/Shutterstock

Add a world of flavor to ground turkey meatballs by sprinkling in cumin. This popular spice is used in meat dishes to give them a distinct strong, savory flavor. It can be a little nutty, smoky, or pungent, depending on how fresh the spice is. It's commonly added in meat dishes, such as turkey taquitos or turkey-stuffed peppers. Southwest turkey-stuffed baked peppers are a delicious way to eat a veggie meal that's chock full of color and a range of seasonings. It makes a hearty meal thanks to rice, corn, black beans, and turkey.

Use ground cumin or cumin seeds, based on what you have on hand. If you happen to have the full seeds, you might want to level up the flavor by toasting the seeds briefly on a pan. This gives it a complexity that's subtle but tasty. Get an incredible range of flavors from turkey taquitos with cranberry chipotle sauce, which mixes jalapeño, garlic, cumin, and, the surprisingly sweet but tart cranberry chipotle, salsa.

Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire sauce in bowl
Worcestershire sauce in bowl - Goskova Tatiana/Shutterstock

Worcestershire sauce might be slightly unexpected as far as seasonings for upgrading ground turkey go, but it should not be. You will see Worcestershire sauce and plenty of meat dishes and sauces, from steak marinade to chicken stroganoff to gravy. Worcestershire sauce might be one seasoning, but it does have multiple ingredients to easily assist in flavoring your dishes. It will usually have some mixture of white vinegar, molasses, sugar, onions, garlic, anchovy, tamarind extract, cloves, chili pepper extract, and potentially other ingredients.

This range of contents in this sauce makes for a complex umami addition to meats, meals, and even in drinks like a Bloody Mary. Easily integrate this to make nice and juicy turkey burger patties along with breadcrumbs and mayonnaise to keep it moist. This liquid seasoning can be used in turkey meatloaf, meatballs, turkey casserole, and many more dishes that need savory flavor improvement.

Chili Powder

spoon of chili powder
spoon of chili powder - Ajaykampani/Getty Images

When it comes to chili powder, there isn't one magical chili variety used, nor is it solely just chiles. Some store-bought brands contain chili powder, cumin, oregano, coriander, garlic, allspice, cloves, or other ingredients. Chili powder gives both taste and depth to ground turkey, especially since you can mix chilies of different heat levels to give it a full flavor upgrade. Combine ancho chili powder with cayenne to create a potent mixture that ups the spice level and creates an interesting flavor.

There are a few tips you need when cooking with ground turkey, one of them being that you might have to be pretty liberal with spicing up. This particular meat tends to need heavier seasoning in comparison to something like beef. The fat content factors into this, so if you find this ground poultry to be tasteless, pour your seasonings on with a heavier hand. Chili powder can be the base of a white turkey chili, which strays from your often-seen red or tomato chili. Other ground chilies like habanero or aleppo pepper have a higher heat level that can give the turkey much-needed excitement.


types of mustard
types of mustard - Ollo/Getty Images

Mustard with hotdogs? Sure. But mustard with ground turkey? If this combination has you scratching your head, it's not about solely mixing mustard into the ground turkey itself. It's one of many components that can give flavor and potential texture to a meal such as a turkey meatloaf. This meatloaf calls for a combination of maple syrup and Dijon mustard that is then mixed into a ketchup glaze, which has a sweet and savory component. The sugary maple syrup and sharp Dijon work wonderfully to complement the profile.

When you're making turkey burgers, the addition of mustard not only makes sense but is a classic burger condiment. You don't necessarily have to mix the mustard itself with the cooked or raw ground turkey. It may be added on top or used in conjunction with other ingredients, like a sandwich, to beef up the flavor. Eat a turkey burger with spicy brown mustard for a nice punch or pile on wholegrain mustard for a textural element.

Garam Masala

garam masala in a spoon
garam masala in a spoon - Ajaykampani/Getty Images

Homemade garam masala can transform your average ground turkey into a rich dish. The homemade version is more dynamic because you're using whole seeds, toasting them, and then grinding them up yourself. It usually has cardamom seeds, black peppercorns, cloves, anise pods, cumin seeds, cinnamon, coriander, and nutmeg. However, if you don't have all the spices to make it, you could purchase it from the store or your local international market.

Every family will have their own version of the recipe, and even if you buy it at the store, the quantities of each spice may vary, so there's not a one-size-fits-all garam masala. The taste ranges between sweet, earthy, and floral with different tasting notes like the warmth of cinnamon or the slight spice of black pepper. Use garam masala for a ground turkey flatbread with cranberry chutney as a fantastic way to give the ground turkey a lot of flavor. Cook the turkey in a pan and mix in the seasoning to allow the spices to work their way into the meat.


dried oregano, leaves
dried oregano, leaves - Anzhela Shvab/Shutterstock

When you're considering seasonings for upgrading ground turkey, oregano has a lot to offer. It's a fragrance and pungent herb that has a herby spiciness to enhance your meat. Dried oregano is easy to use and doesn't require any chopping. You can quickly sprinkle it into a turkey enchilada skillet to make a delicious weeknight meal to feed the family. It only takes a few minutes to prepare and then you allow it to cook in the skillet. It mixes a lot of tasty elements like beans, tortillas, and corn to create a satisfying meal.

Try something different with sweet and savory turkey meatloaf muffins which use dried oregano and other seasonings to create a unique dish that doesn't come in your average loaf. Mix the ingredients and put them in a muffin tin for a fun spin on meatloaf. This satisfying dish is loaded with flavor, like tart cranberry sauce instead of ketchup, but adds a convenient element since you can simply take one out of the muffins to eat or store leftovers in the fridge or freezer. It's topped with cranberry sauce. You can use fresh oregano, but it is more potent and fragrant, which could be a better choice for turkey that you're going to add to pizza or meatballs.

Red Chili Pepper Flakes

red chili pepper flakes
red chili pepper flakes - boommaval/Shutterstock

Crushed red chili pepper flakes bring a visual and textural component to ground turkey, in addition to the flavor. Something like chili powder seamlessly blends in, and you don't notice it unless you have a keen palette. However, red pepper flakes are noticeable with their seeds and pieces of pepper that you can see with your eye and feel on your tongue as you take a bite. This adds a nuanced component to dishes like chili where you're getting bites of other textures, whether that's beans or corn.

But it can be used to add a sprinkle of spice to ground turkey stuffed eggplant, which is both filling and nutritious thanks to the eggplant, ground turkey, tomatoes, and other ingredients. This is a more vegetable-centric way to use your ground turkey, in a similar way that you use stuffed peppers. You'll often see red pepper flakes paired with tomatoes, tomato, sauce, onions, and cheese. Make a pizza and sprinkle it with cooked ground turkey seasoned with red pepper flakes, parsley, fennel, salt, and pepper to mimic the seasoning you'd often find in an Italian sausage.

Liquid Smoke

mesquite flavored liquid seasoning
mesquite flavored liquid seasoning - BW Folsom/Shutterstock

Liquid smoke is a top choice when it comes to seasonings for upgrading ground turkey. It provides a smokiness that you could compare to grilling your meat. There are also different types of liquid smoke to provide additional nuanced flavor, such as mesquite, hickory, or applewood. These are meant to mimic the smoky taste you would get if you smoked your food on a particular type of wood. Not everyone has a grill or a smoker to do so, making this a convenient store-bought method to give a unique addition without having to physically smoke your food.

This is an ideal option for wintertime or rainy days when you don't want to go outside to put on the grill. Make turkey burger lettuce wraps with liquid smoke, breadcrumbs, eggs, as well as some other seasonings. Rather than grilling the burgers, you'll bake them in the oven until they're brown. The liquid smoke provides an intensity it wouldn't otherwise have, no grill is required. Top your burger with mustard, mayo, ketchup, or whatever you like on your burger. It can be a potent seasoning, so start small. Test it out by making a small patty on a pan to get a taste of it if you're unsure if you're going to enjoy liquid smoke.

Paprika Or Smoked Paprika

red smoked paprika
red smoked paprika - Bhofack2/Getty Images

The difference between regular and smoked paprika boils down to its flavor profile. The standard paprika you'll find is a bit more subtle since it's usually made with red bell peppers. It is not spicy, so it offers more color than a deep flavor. It's used in many dishes, including deviled eggs, hummus, and sauces. Smoked paprika usually involves the peppers getting smoked on wood, which gives it the smoky flavor that becomes its namesake. This is a fantastic choice to add to a dish when you want a smokiness without the spice of something like a chipotle pepper.

Both paprika and smoked paprika can enhance the look and taste of ground turkey by giving it a slight pop in color, which you could use in anything from turkey, bean, and cheese burritos to a turkey skillet with veggies. Use smoked paprika in smoky turkey chili for a rich dinner that will leave you feeling happy and full. Overall, these can be added to dishes to give them a sweet but peppery taste but opt for the smoked version if you want that smoky warmth.

Italian Seasoning

Italian seasoning in a bowl
Italian seasoning in a bowl - Drong/Getty Images

Get a delightful range of tasting notes when using Italian seasoning for ground turkey. It has multiple ingredients, such as oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram. Whether you make this yourself or buy it at the store, it will vary a bit based on how much of each ingredient is included in the seasoning. But no matter the ratio, this seasoning blends multiple herbs to create a well-rounded and versatile addition to ground turkey. It gives a pleasant flavor with a simple shake of the bottle.

Whether you're making a baked cheesy spaghetti squash and ground turkey or you're making a turkey lasagna layered with pasta, cheese, and sauce, Italian seasoning can give it a lot of zest. Dried or fresh seasoning works perfectly fine. Dried seasoning is simpler since you don't have to wash any leaves or do any chopping, but you might opt for fresh herbs to bring fresh color to something like meatballs. From frying ground turkey on the stove or rolling the turkey into meatballs to pair with your favorite pasta, add this herb seasoning to the meat as it cooks.


bright green sage leaves
bright green sage leaves - Stieglitz/Getty Images

You'll often find sage used to season poultry, so it makes sense to sprinkle it in your turkey dishes. If you buy fresh sage leaves from the store, instead of chopping them up right away, try a different method to give them an interesting enhancement. Air fry sage leaves to give a flavor boost and crunch to your next ground turkey meal. This herb can be earthy, peppery, or even a bit minty to add oomph to the meat. When you want to buy fresh sage, you can usually find it among the other fresh herbs at a grocery store alongside dill, cilantro, and parsley.

You can also use the dried variety, which is an easy way to sprinkle into your ground turkey. Fresh will be noticeable whereas ground sage becomes invisible once mixed into the poultry. Make easy breakfast turkey sausage using fresh sage, but you could swap it for dried sage by cutting the amount in half. Use 1 tablespoon of the dried variety rather than two tablespoons of fresh. These are a delicious way to start your day and you can store them in the freezer to use at your leisure.

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