Stick it to the Naan: Tandoori-Spiced Turkey Skewers

My current obsession with grilling might be slightly out of control at the moment.  In fact, the way things are going, it’s a wonder I haven’t tried to bake a cake on the barbecue (though, in the spirit of full disclosure, I should admit that the thought has crossed my mind.)

Indian-Spiced Turkey Skewers

So when the Turkey Farmers of Canada asked me if I’d like to participate in their Great Grilling Turkey Trial and help spread the word about how easy it can be to prepare delicious turkey dishes any time of the year, I figured it was an offer I couldn’t refuse… particularly since they were nice enough to send me a BBQ prize kit to help inspire me. (Not that I needed much of a nudge, obviously.)

Indian-Spiced Turkey Skewers

To be honest, treating turkey like an everyday ingredient comes pretty naturally to me.  Unlike most of the kids I knew growing up, turkey wasn’t really a special occasion ingredient at my house.  Holiday meals for us usually meant roast goose, salt cod or a French-Canadian tourtiere, not a big roast turkey with all the trimmings.

To my ever-practical mother, a turkey was nothing more than an oversized chicken that could easily feed our household of five – particularly since utility turkeys could be bought for next to nothing on sale.  There was nothing unusual about coming home from school on a random Tuesday afternoon to find a turkey roasting away in the oven, filling the house with a comforting aroma that most people only associate with a holiday.

Indian-Spiced Turkey Skewers

The only reason I don’t cook turkey as much as my parents did is simple – as delicious as a roasted turkey can be, a whole bird is a bit much for our itty-bitty two-person household.  Thankfully, it’s easy to find prepackaged ground turkey and turkey parts like breasts, thighs, drumsticks and wings at the store nowadays, so I can get my turkey fix in much more conveniently-sized portions.

Indian-Spiced Turkey Skewers

My turkey of choice when I’m grilling is usually ground turkey, since it’s a great way to get my burger fix without worrying about my waistline, but this time around I decided to try something new – boneless turkey breast, to be specific.

For this recipe, I decided to draw my inspiration from tandoori chicken, an Indian dish which is normally made by marinating chicken legs with a blend of yogurt, lemon juice and spices, then baking in an extremely hot clay oven called a tandoor.  Boneless turkey breasts are a great substitute for the usual chicken legs – they’re lower in fat, and cook up much faster when cut into bite-sized cubes, which means that these flavourful skewers can easily be on the table in under 30 minutes if you marinate them in advance.

Temperature Check

My version of the marinade uses a blend of lime juice, paprika, fresh ginger, garam masala and cayenne pepper to flavour the turkey breast, while turmeric adds both flavour and a beautiful bright yellow colour. (Red food colouring is often added to the tandoori marinade to create the distinctive pinkish-red hue, but I opted to leave it out.)

Peppers and onions are a completely un-traditional addition, but like the bright colour and flavour they add to the finished dish.

Indian-Spiced Turkey Skewers

The most critical ingredient in the marinade is the yogurt – aside from helping the spices stick to the meat and adding a tangy flavour all its own, it also contains enzymes that break down the proteins in the turkey breast as it marinates, guaranteeing it’ll come off the grill tender and moist. (Which I’m sure we can all agree is a good thing where turkey breast is concerned, since I’m sure all of us have been visited by the Ghost of Overcooked Christmas Turkeys Past.)

All you need to make yourself a fabulous Indian-inspired meal is some plain basmati rice or warm naan, a simple cucumber salad, and a side of refreshing Mango Raita on the side.  Indian buffet?  Who needs it!

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Disclosure: I received a BBQ kit from the Turkey Farmers of Canada in exchange for writing this post.  All opinions are entirely my own.

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5.0 from 3 reviews
Tandoori-Spiced Turkey Skewers
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Turkey in the middle of summer? But of course! An Indian-inspired marinade and a hot grill turn boneless, skinless turkey breasts into an exotic dish that's perfect for a summertime meal in the backyard. Feel free to adjust the amount of cayenne to suit your tastes - this version of the recipe is only mildly spicy.
Ingredients
Tandoori Spice Marinade
  • 1 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 limes, zested and juiced
  • 2 tbsp grated ginger
  • 2 tbsp hot paprika
  • 2 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
Turkey Skewers
  • 2 lbs boneless skinless turkey breast
  • 10 bamboo skewers
  • 1 small red onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 green pepper, cut into chunks
Mango Raita
  • 1 small firm-ripe Ataulfo mango, finely diced
  • 1 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped mint
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Pinch cayenne
Instructions
Prepare the Marinade:
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the marinade ingredients until smooth.
Marinate the Turkey:
  1. Place the turkey cubes in a large zip-top plastic bag. Pour in the marinade, and seal up the bag. Shake until the turkey is evenly coated with marinade. Transfer to the refrigerator to marinate for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.
Assemble the Skewers:
  1. About an hour before you're ready to cook, soak the bamboo skewers in water to prevent them from burning.
  2. Thread the turkey pieces onto the prepared skewers, alternating with 2-3 chunks of onion and pepper per skewer.
  3. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill on high heat. Arrange the skewers on the preheated grill, and cook for 4-5 minutes per side or until turkey is cooked all the way through and a meat thermometer registers an internal temperature of 165F.
  4. Transfer the skewers to a serving platter and cover with foil while you quickly prepare the raita.
Prepare the Raita:
  1. Combine the raita ingredients in a small bowl and stir well. Spoon into four small serving bowls.
  2. Serve the turkey skewers with small bowls of raita for dipping, and warm naan or basmati rice alongside.

 

 

Comments

  1. says

    Unfortunately it is rare to get Halal turkey in the GTA so really I have never prepared it. If I did happen to get my hands on some I would love to use some in my Shish Taouk recipe or replace it for chicken in some kebobs!

  2. says

    A few minutes ago I had my mind made up to make chicken teriyaki on the grill……but then I read your post and now I MUST make Tandoori-Spiced Turkey Skewers!! I have NEVER done turkey on the grill before, can’t tell you why, we grill almost every night, thank you for this post, I can’t wait to try it!

  3. says

    Hi! That looks amazing! I am growing curry leaves in my garden right now so excited to try use them with the grill.

    Yesterday I made a garlic scape pesto and we smothered it on some turkey drumsticks and thighs and grilled them. Delicious! Wish I would have taken the time to photograph it for the blog but no doubt we will be doing it again.

    Thanks for the great recipe!!

  4. Michelle says

    My favorite way to grill turkey is turkey breast filets cut into bite size chunks sprinkled with sage & poultry seasoning on a skewer with potatoes and or sweet potatoes and cook over medium flame. Serve with homemade cranberry sauce. Tastes like a christmas dinner without heating up your kitchen!

  5. says

    I love that you grew up in a Portuguese family of 5, I grew up in a Lebanese/Scandinavian family of 5, and both of us grew up eating tourtiere at special holiday gatherings!! Aah, Canada :)

  6. Tracy S. says

    Honestly, I haven’t thought of doing BBQ turkey before. But next time I’m at the grocery store, I’ll be picking up some turkey breasts to try this.

  7. says

    I think that marinade would be great on all kinds of things. I’ll be trying it soon :)
    Let me know if you do bbq a cake. I’ve considered it before, but people always manage to talk me out of it.

  8. Colleen C says

    That recipe looks so yummy! We do teriyaki skewers, but because of the honey, you have to watch for burning…I am going to check out your recipe. PS: My meat thermometer just died, so fingers crossed on winning the kit!

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