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When you don’t want to cook a whole Thanksgiving turkey, this roasted turkey legs recipe is the perfect answer — and it’s packed with flavor. If you have multiple family members who love dark meat, you don’t have to fight over it anymore! Learning how to cook turkey legs is incredibly easy, as baked turkey drumsticks are very similar to baked chicken legs. It’s an easy main for smaller Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings.
Why You’ll Love This Roasted Turkey Legs Recipe
- Flavorful, juicy meat with crispy skin
- Simple herbs and spices
- Less fuss compared to a whole turkey
- No roasting pan needed
- Easy option for dark meat lovers
Ingredients & Substitutions
This section explains how to choose the best ingredients for this turkey leg recipe, what each one does in the recipe, and substitution options. For measurements, see the recipe card below.
- Turkey Legs – Choose bone-in, skin-on turkey drumsticks that weigh about 12 ounces each. Other sizes will work for roasted turkey legs, but you’ll need to adjust the baking time. If you have turkey leg quarters instead (which include both the turkey thighs and drumsticks attached to each other), you can cook those in a similar way, but they will take longer to cook through.
- Olive Oil – Oil helps to crisp up the skin. I used olive oil, but you can also use any neutral oil, such as avocado oil. Melted butter can work as well, but is more prone to burning, so you may need to tent the top with foil sooner during baking.
- Seasonings – Paprika, garlic powder, rosemary, sage, thyme, salt, and pepper.
VARIATION: Switch the seasonings!
Try Italian seasoning, lemon pepper seasoning, or Cajun seasoning instead of the herb and spice blend here. Poultry seasoning is also a classic choice that’s great for Thanksgiving!
How To Cook Turkey Legs
This section shows how to cook turkey legs, with step-by-step photos and details about the technique, to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.
- Prep. Pat turkey drumsticks dry with paper towels. Place them on an oven-safe rack fitted over a baking sheet. Brush the turkey with oil on all sides.
- Season. Sprinkle smoked paprika, garlic powder, rosemary, thyme, sage, salt, and pepper onto the turkey legs.
- Roast. Cook turkey legs in the oven, until crispy and juicy.
- Rest. Take roasted turkey legs out of the oven and allow to rest about 5-10 minutes before serving.
Tips For The Best Roasted Turkey Drumsticks
- Dry well. Patting the drumsticks dry before seasoning will help the skin get crispy.
- Use a rack. You can roast turkey legs on a regular sheet pan, but you’ll get cripier skin and more even cooking by using an oven-safe rack fitted over a baking sheet, which will allow for air circulation while baking.
- Cook to 170 degrees F. The safe internal temperature for poultry is 165 degrees F, but for the juiciest dark meat, cook until the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees F. At this temperature, the collagen starts to break down and the meat gets extra tender. (Use a meat thermometer to be sure, and make sure to insert it into the thickest part of the meat, without touching the bone, for an accurate reading.)
- Tent with foil if needed. If the skin gets dark enough before the inside reaches the right temperature, then the top loosely with foil and continue baking. The foil will prevent excess browning.
- Don’t skip the resting step. If you cut or bite into the turkey drumsticks right away, the juices will leak out and the meat may be dry. Resting allows the juices to settle, so they stay inside the meat.
- Store: Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 3 days.
- Reheat: Warm this dish gently in the microwave at 50% power so they don’t dry out, or in a 350 degree oven until heated through. Leftovers also taste great cold!
- Freeze: Allow the roasted turkey legs to cool to room temperature, then place onto a baking sheet in the freezer for 1 hour, until solid. Transfer to a zip lock bag and keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
What To Serve With Roasted Turkey Legs
So many traditional and delicious sides can pair with baked turkey legs!
- Holiday sauces – Gluten-free gravy and sugar-free cranberry sauce would pair perfectly with this turkey.
- Roasted vegetables – Try this roasted turkey leg recipe with roasted sweet potatoes, roasted green beans, or smashed brussels sprouts.
- Seasonal salads – Baked turkey legs taste great with a butternut squash salad, kale crunch salad, or French carrot salad.
More Holiday Turkey Recipes
Like more white meat with your whole turkey legs? Try more festive ways to cook turkey here:
- Baking Pan With Rack – Includes a rack for better air circulation to make meat crispy.
- Meat Thermometer – The best way to tell when baked turkey legs are ready.
Roasted Turkey Leg Recipe
Roasted Turkey Legs (Easy, Juicy, Crispy!)
This roasted turkey legs recipe makes juicy, tender meat and crispy skin every time — and these baked turkey drumsticks are so easy to make!
Tap underlined ingredients to see where to get them. Please turn Safari reader mode OFF to view ingredients.
Tap on the times in the instructions below to start a kitchen timer while you cook.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (218 degrees C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place an oven-safe rack on top. (You can also roast turkey legs directly on the baking sheet, but the rack setup has better air flow for more even cooking. This set comes with a rack that fits perfectly into the sheet pan.)
Pat the turkey drumsticks dry with paper towels, which will help them get crispy. Arrange them on the rack.
Brush the turkey with olive oil on all sides. Season all sides with smoked paprika, garlic powder, rosemary, thyme, sage, salt, and pepper.
Roast turkey legs in the oven for 45-50 minutes, checking on them at 30 and 40 minutes – if they get too dark, tent the top with foil and continue roasting. The final internal temperature measured with a meat thermometer should reach at least 170 degrees F (77 degrees C). (For juicier meat, aim for over 170 degrees F rather than 165, as this makes the collagen in dark meat break down for a more tender result, but anything over 165 degrees F is safe.) Roasting time is based on 12-ounce drumsticks, so may take more or less time if yours are much larger or smaller – a meat thermometer works best.
Remove from the oven (do not remove the foil) and let the turkey drumsticks rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
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Serving size: 1 drumstick (~1/2 pound of meat)
Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy. Have questions about calculations or why you got a different result? Please see our nutrition policy.
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We loved the addition of smoked paprika to the seasonings! These turkey legs were scrumptious!
These were juicy and full of flavor. I highly recommend this recipe.
What a fun idea. I used to get these turkey legs at the Renaissance fair. Making my own was even better with your recipe!
Journa Liz Ramirez0
One of my favorite turkey recipes! These turkey legs are easily roasted and they turned out to be so tender, crispy and tasty! I’ll surely make wonderful recipe again.