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Pulled Turkey (Slow Cooked in the Oven)

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Fall-off-the-bone pulled turkey slow-cooked in a Dutch oven. Tender, flavorful, shredded turkey thigh served in a delicious sauce; this is a leaner version of a favorite dish.

shredding turkey meat with two forks.

Do you fancy some pulled pork but want to eat healthier? This amazing pulled turkey recipe is the answer. Just as delicious and comforting but a bit better for your health. This simple recipe is excellent for a less traditional, no-fuss Thanksgiving dinner.

But not only. I also make this pulled turkey recipe all through the year whenever my kids ask for it again. For more turkey thigh inspiration, learn How to Cook Turkey Legs (in the Oven) or check out the Oven-Roasted Turkey Thigh (with Potatoes). And if you want to make a whole turkey for Thanksgiving, check out the Dutch Oven Turkey or this beautiful Red Wine Turkey.

Recipe ingredients

listed ingredients for making pulled pork with ketchup and brown sugar.
  • Turkey thigh: Bone-in but skinless. If the skin is still on, you can easily pull it off. If you don’t want to waste the skin, learn How to Render Turkey Fat, it’s really easy.
  • Ingredients for the rub: Ground cumin, ground coriander, sweet paprika, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper (to taste), fine sea salt, and ground black pepper.
    • Alternatively, use your favorite poultry seasoning mix, about 1 to 2 tablespoons, enough to rub the meat generously.

Ingredients for the sauce: Ketchup, low sodium chicken broth or chicken stock (or turkey stock if you have it), light or dark brown sugar, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and apple cider vinegar.

How to make pulled turkey in the oven?

Preparations:

  • Preheat the oven.
  • Mix the spices in a small bowl.
  • Remove the skin from the turkey thigh.
  • Rub the meat with the seasoning mixture.
  • Chop the onion.
  • Mix the sauce ingredients in a separate bowl.

Assemble:

  • Distribute the onion in the pot (1).
  • Place the seasoned thigh on top of the onions (2).
collage of two pictures of chopped onions and turkey thigh in a dutch oven.
  • Pour the sauce on top of the piece (3).
  • Cover with the lid.
collage of two pictures of pulled turkey before and after cooking in dutch oven.

Slow-cook in the oven:

  • Place the pot in the preheated oven.
  • Cook for 3 ½ to 4 ½ hours; the cooking time depends on your oven; some run hotter than others (4).
  • Check the meat, it should be really tender, and you should be able to pull it off the bone with a fork. If it’s not there yet, give it another ½ hour and check again.
  • For a change, you will not need a meat thermometer to know if the meat is ready; it’s super easy to see.

Shred:

  • Shred the meat with two forks (5).
  • Return it to the pot with the sauce and stir to combine. Reheat shortly if necessary (6).
collage of two pictures of shredded turkey on a board and in a dutch oven.

Expert Tips

If you have the time, marinate the thigh for up to 24 hours; the flavors will penetrate the turkey meat better, and the end result will be even better. Rub it well with the spices, wrap in plastic and refrigerate it. Remove the thigh from the fridge and unwrap it one hour before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature.

Make in advance: Cook the dish. Let it cool completely and refrigerate it until ready to serve. Reheat on the stovetop, often stirring.

dutch oven full of shredded turkey meat, onions and sauce.

Recipe FAQ

What is pulled turkey?

The same as pulled pork, which is meat slowly cooked until falling apart.

Can I use breast meat?

Technically, yes. However, I don’t really recommend it. Dark meat is a bit fattier than white, and fat moistens the meat and enhances the flavor. You will remove the skin anyway, which is where most of the fat is; what’s left is enough to keep the thigh moist and make it super delicious.
If you want to cook lean meat, try this easy Boneless Skinless Turkey Breast recipe or make juicy Dutch Oven Turkey Breast.

Can I make pulled turkey in the slow cooker?

Definitely. Cook the thigh on low for 5-6 hours or until you can pull the meat off the bone with the forks.

How to store and reheat?

Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
Freeze in a freezer container for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator and reheat before serving.
Reheat in the sauce in the microwave or on the stovetop.
You can also refrigerate or freeze the leftover meat separated from the sauce. You can use these leftovers for making Turkey Pot Pie with Puff Pastry.

How to serve?

  • The most popular way of serving pulled turkey (or Pulled Pork) is to stuff it into hamburger buns or make sliders or sandwiches. Delicious and messy, but there are other ways of serving these tender meat bits.
  • My favorite way is to pile meat and sauce on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes – comfort food at its best.
  • Serve the meat with potatoes cooked in any way you like, with rice or creamy polenta. Mix the saucy meat with cooked pasta.
close up of shredded turkey meat in a pot with onions and gravy.

More Thanksgiving turkey dinner ideas

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shredding turkey meat with two forks.

Pulled Turkey (Slow Cooked in the Oven)

Fall-off-the-bone pulled turkey, slow-cooked in a Dutch oven in the oven. Tender, flavorful, shredded turkey thigh served in a delicious sauce; this is a leaner version of a favorite dish.
5 from 1 vote
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Course: Poultry
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Servings: 6
Calories: 654kcal
Author: Adina

Equipment

  • Dutch oven

Ingredients 

Turkey rub:

  • 4.5 lbs turkey thigh 2 kg
  • ½ teaspoon cumin Notes 1, 2
  • ½ teaspoon coriander
  • ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ – ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt or Kosher
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Sauce:

  • 1 medium onion
  • ½ cup ketchup 125 g
  • 1 cup chicken stock 250 ml
  • ½ cup brown sugar packed, 50 g
  • 1 ½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar + a little more if needed

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 280°F/ 140°C.
  • Rub turkey thigh: Mix all ingredients needed for the rub in a small bowl. Remove the skin from the turkey thigh. Rub the turkey thigh with the spice mixture (Note 2).
  • Sauce: Mix all the sauce ingredients in a bowl.
  • Assemble: Chop the onion roughly and distribute it evenly on the bottom of the Dutch oven. Place the turkey thigh on top. Pour the sauce over the thigh. Place the lid on top.
  • Cook in the preheated oven for 3 ½ to 4 ½ hours or until you can easily pull the meat off the bone with a fork. The turkey meat should be fall-off-the-bone tender.
  • Shred: Carefully remove the thigh from the Dutch oven and place it on a large cutting board. Pull the meat off the bone using two forks.
  • Combine: Return the meat to the Dutch oven, stir well and taste the sauce. Add about 1 teaspoon of cider vinegar if necessary. Serve immediately or reheat.

Notes

  1. Spices: You can use a store-bought spice mixture if you like.
  2. Marinating: If you have the time, you can marinate the meat for up to 24 hours. Rub it well with the spices, wrap in plastic and refrigerate it. Remove the thigh from the fridge and unwrap it one hour before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 654kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 66g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 212mg | Sodium: 2208mg | Potassium: 1015mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 24g | Vitamin A: 281IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 60mg | Iron: 6mg
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