A no-mess, no-stress way to cook a whole turkey—in the slow cooker! No basting or brining needed. This slow cooker whole turkey recipe will give you the most tender, juiciest turkey ever!
When I was younger, my mom always slow-cooked her Thanksgiving turkey. She would prepare the turkey the day before Thanksgiving and then slow-cook the whole turkey in the oven overnight. Yup, overnight. She’d actually wake up a couple of times to baste the turkey. I’m sorry, but I seriously ain’t got time to wake up to baste a turkey! Nope. Honey, I refuse. Heck, during the holidays, I already have to cook candied yams, stuffing, collard greens, sweet potato pie, and let’s not even get on the gumbo!
So, to make a long story short, I prefer to make my Thanksgiving (and Christmas… and Easter… and ANY holiday) turkey in the slow cooker. My turkey ALWAYS comes out super juicy. This slow cooker turkey recipe is foolproof!
Why You Need This Slow Cooker Turkey Recipe
Cooking a holiday meal is stressful, y’all. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of oven-cooked turkey recipes, so I am no rookie to cooking a turkey in the oven. But roasting a whole turkey occupies your oven ALL DAY. So forget all those delicious sides you want to make, and don’t even THINK about pies… You gotta keep your eye on that bird all day long.
Cooking a turkey in the slow cooker has got to be one of the easiest ways to cook a turkey. You save precious oven space, and you don’t need to constantly check or baste the turkey to ensure it stays moist and juicy—you just toss all the ingredients in the slow cooker and let it work its magic.
This is the way to do it if you want a perfect Thanksgiving turkey.
What You Need to Make a Slow Cooker Whole Turkey
To get started with my slow cooker whole turkey recipe, I gather up all my goodies. What do I use for my Crockpot turkey? Everything that I use for my roast turkey recipe! Here are the main ingredients I use for my Crockpot turkey recipe:
- Aromatics and vegetables: onions, celery, garlic, fresh herbs (sage, thyme, and rosemary), carrots, oranges, and apples.
- Seasonings: Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, and garlic powder.
I know someone will ask, “why the oranges and apples?!” So let me explain—oranges and apples flavor the turkey perfectly! No, they do not make the turkey taste sweet or come out tasting like someone spilled orange juice all over the turkey. Instead, it simply adds flavor along with the other ingredients used!
I like to keep my slow-cooked turkey simple and use the basics when it comes to seasonings and spices. However, y’all know I am the Queen of Seasoning–I have my own line of gourmet seasonings and spices called Rosamae Seasonings! We have everything from poultry seasoning to lemon pepper, garlic pepper, smoked sea salt, and even salt-free seasonings. If you want to up your seasoning game, Rosamae Seasonings will help you do just that. I’d recommend the poultry seasoning and garlic pepper for this slow cooker turkey!
Recommended Kitchen Tools
Wondering what kitchen tools you need to make a slow cooker turkey? What kind of slow cooker do you need? I got you covered, Cousins! Here are the essential equipment and tools you need for a perfect Crockpot turkey:
- Slow cooker: I usually make a 9 lb. turkey in my 6-qt. digital Crockpot. If you’re cooking a turkey larger than 9 lbs., I recommend a larger slow cooker.
- Meat thermometer: Making sure your turkey is cooked to the proper internal temperature is important, so make sure you have an accurate instant-read or digital meat thermometer on hand.
- Slow cooker liners: Using a liner is a lifesaver for easy clean-up, so I cannot recommend using these enough when you make slow cooker recipes.
How to Cook a Turkey in a Slow Cooker
Are you ready to see just how simple this slow cooker turkey recipe is? This recipe requires minimal prep to get started. I first line my Crockpot with a slow cooker liner, which also doubles as a turkey bag. If you have cooked a turkey in a bag, you know it comes out all juicy and tender!
Next, I empty the giblets from the turkey cavity, then stuff it with a bunch of goodies—all my aromatics (apples, oranges, herbs, and vegetables). Then I grab all the stuff that couldn’t fit into the cavity and toss it into the bottom of the slow cooker.
Now it’s time to season the turkey. All you need is some olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder—how easy, right?! Make sure to rub the olive oil and seasonings all over the entire turkey (front, bottom, in all the cracks and crevices!). Once the turkey is seasoned, place it in the slow cooker on top of the veggies. Place the lid on the slow cooker and set the slow cooker on low.
That’s it! That’s all you gotta do, y’all! It’s the simplest recipe for cooking a whole turkey, and it’s easily one of my favorites.
Tips, Tricks, and FAQs for a Perfect Slow Cooker Turkey Recipe
Since this recipe was almost too easy, I figured I would throw in some additional tips on how to slow-cook a turkey. My lovely readers ask me questions all the time, so I am here to give y’all the answers!
What size turkey fits into a slow cooker?
I typically make a 9 lb. turkey, which is plenty for my Thanksgiving dinners. A 9 lb. turkey fits snugly into my 6-qt. slow cooker. It takes a little work, but I can usually get it in there. If your turkey is slightly too large to fit into your slow cooker (and you don’t have a larger Crockpot), you can cover the slow cooker with aluminum foil. Don’t worry about trying to jam that lid on. Cover it with foil and call it a day—it works perfectly!
How long should you thaw a turkey before cooking it?
Remember that you need plenty of time to defrost the turkey. Defrosting time depends on the size of the turkey. You should always allow at least a few days to thaw a turkey in the refrigerator. Here is a helpful chart of the time it takes to thaw a turkey fully, depending on the size:
|Weight of Turkey:||Thaw For:|
|8 to 12 lbs.||2 to 3 Days|
|13 to 16 lbs.||3 to 4 Days|
|17 to 20 lbs.||4 to 5 Days|
|21 to 24 lbs.||5 to 6 Days|
How long does it take to slow-cook a turkey?
I’m sure everyone won’t be making the exact same size turkey as me, so I included a little cheat chart below. Keep in mind that some slow cookers run a little hotter or cooler than others, so cooking times may vary. The most important thing is that the turkey is cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. I also slow-cook my turkey on the LOW setting. If you choose to set your slow cooker to high, these cook times will also change.
|Weight of Turkey:||Cook Time:|
|8 to 10 lbs.||8 – 9 hours on LOW|
|12 to 14 lbs.||10-12 hours on LOW|
Is it safe to slow-cook a turkey?
Yes, it is perfectly safe! Food-borne illness has a “danger zone” where bacteria grow, between 41 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Your turkey should cook at above 135-140 degrees within 4 hours, so occasionally check the internal temperature of the turkey (in the thickest part of the breast) when cooking. If the temperature is too low, turn up the heat on your slow cooker.
Is it better to cook a turkey slow or fast?
Low and slow, baby! That’s how you achieve the most tender, juicy turkey. Plus, slow cooking a turkey cooks it in its own juices. Talk about flavor overload! Feel free to prep your turkey with herb and garlic butter (in addition to the olive oil and seasonings) for even more flavor.
How do I get crispy skin on a slow-cooked turkey?
If you’re worried about getting a nice, crispy skin on a slow cooker turkey, all you need to do is broil the turkey for a few minutes at the very end of its cooking time. Simply remove the turkey from the slow cooker (carefully, cause this baby is so tender, it could fall apart), transfer it to a roasting pan or baking sheet, and put it under the broiler for 3-5 minutes until the skin is crisp enough to your liking.
Can I make gravy for my turkey in the slow cooker?
Absolutely! You’ll have all of those delicious juices and drippings at the bottom of your slow cooker—I encourage you NOT to let that goldmine of flavor go to waste. I make a delicious homemade gravy in my slow cooker smothered turkey wings recipe, or I have another turkey gravy recipe here that’s just as easy.
Slow Cooker Whole Turkey Recipe Card & Video Tutorial (+ More Delicious Holiday Recipes!)
Okay, y’all, now that we’ve covered all the important stuff, it’s time to get cookin’! I want you all to have a fantastic festive dinner, complete with the perfect holiday turkey. No matter what meal you make this slow cooker turkey recipe for, it is a crowd-pleaser.
If you want more turkey recipes, check these out next:
Make sure to watch my step-by-step video tutorial below to see how I make this super simple slow-cooked turkey recipe and save the recipe on Pinterest! Don’t forget to tag and follow me on Facebook and Instagram, subscribe to I Heart Recipes on YouTube, and check out all my cookbooks! I just released a brand new cookbook, Super Soul Food with Cousin Rosie, with many recipes you can’t find anywhere else.
Slow Cooker Whole Turkey
- 8-10 lb whole turkey cleaned & cavity emptied
- 3 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 medium sized orange using only half
- 2 medium apples any baking apples will do
- 2 medium onion yellow, white, or red, chopped
- 2 stalks of celery cut
- 2 large carrots peeled & cut
- 5 sage leaves
- 3 sprigs of thyme
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- Stuff the turkey cavity with apple slices, half of a orange, celery, carrots, garlic, onions, and the fresh herbs.
- There will be leftover vegetables, herbs, and apples. Set them to the side.
- Drizzle the turkey with 2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil.
- Sprinkle the salt, pepper, and garlic powder all over the turkey.
- Rub the turkey down to make sure the oil and seasonings coat the entire turkey.
- Now take the remaining vegetables and aromatics and toss them in the slow cooker.
- Drizzle the vegetables with 1 tbsp of olive oil.
- Now place the turkey in the slow cooker.
- Set the slow cooker on low and cover with the lid.
- Now cook on LOW for 8 to 8 1/2 hours.
- Serve & enjoy the juiciest turkey ever!
- If your turkey is a bit too large, cover the top of the slow cooker and the turkey with aluminum foil.
- I use slow cooker liners to line my slow cooker for easy cleanup.
- If you want crispier skin, broil the turkey in the oven for 3-5 minutes at the very end of the cooking time.
Make this slow cooker whole turkey a complete meal with these popular holiday side dishes!
Baked Candied Yams- Soul Food Style
I can’t wait to try this. We usually do one in the oven and one fried turkey but this year I need simple! This will work perfectly I love cooking in the crockpot.
Yeah, this is the EASIEST turkey recipe with the best results. You just put it in the slow cooker, and when it’s done- OMG!! So juicy!!
Please do give us more Holiday recipes for the slow cooker. Thanks. I will try this one for Thanksgiving, along with the sides.
I will share more. Thanks for coming by Margaret! 😀
When you do use the apples and oranges in your turkey dish, does it give the natural juices and even the meat a citrus flavor?
I know you don’t use a ton of the apple and orange, but just curious!
It does add a light citrus flavor.
Thank you…love to see more slow cooker recipes..
More to come 😀
LaTanya Larkin says
I do this every year with either a turkey breast or a large turkey. If mine doesn’t fit, I just jam it in there and cover it with foil instead of trying to get the lid on, and it works every time!
Great tip on using foil!! I gotta keep that in mind! XOXO
Oh heck yeah!! I’m cooking my turkey in a crockpot this year (for the 1st time) & I tasked my Mom with getting the turkey….and she got a 12lb bird…My crockpot is 8 qts….Ive been wracking my brain like how in the world am I gonna get this big A bird in this pot?? And now I know…I jam it in there & wrap the top in foil….Hot dang! I LOVE the internet!!!!!
Happy Thanksgiving yall…be safe & be blessed!!
Love your recipes
Will differly try this one. You should do more crockpot meals. Can’t wait to see what you come up with next
Hi Wanda! I will try to upload more CrockPot meals 🙂
Marta Lynn Freeman-Steele says
Definitely going to use this for my turkey this year. Now that I’m handicapped and in a wheelchair I can cook Thanksgiving dinner this year. Yes I would like a couple more Crockpot recipes for Thanksgiving, especially if it’s a Seafood recipe!!! Crockpot cooking is the best. Thank you.
Hi Marta!! Yes, I love this recipe! This is my all time favorite turkey recipe. More slow cooker recipes to come 🙂
Toiya Aston says
I would love more holiday recipes
More to come 😀
Hi Rosie! Now, I love a ton of your recipes and was wondering if you can put your stuffing in the turkey instead of the vegies? I’d love to try this turkey recipe as well but am havin a few folks over from out of town for Thanksgiving and don’t want to mess this year’s up. My mom like yours cooked in the oven but she always stuffed with stuffing. How would that work?
Hi there. The vegetables, and herbs inside the turkey actually season it. 🙂
Jill Bryant says
These would be the same instructions for a turkey breast as well?
The turkey breast would probably take less time.
Curious – I’m looking to buy a slow cooker and checking cooking times for turkey in slow cooker and it’s only a couple of hours according to slow cooker directions. . Why the need to cook so long, 8hrs?. Is there a difference in outcome for the standard cooking time using a slow roaster vs the 8 hrs. Pls advise. Does the longer cooking time produce a juicier turkey Thx.
Carolyn, who LOVES your recipes!!! Where have you been all my cooking life
Hi Carolyn. I can’t speak for others, but this is how I make my turkey. It comes out amazing. I can’t tell you why they cook theirs for less time. 🙁 . There are so many different recipes, we all have different ways of cooking things 🙂
Hi Rosie! Any suggestion on how to make gravy with your slow cooker whole turkey recipe? I made your recipe for baked turkey wings last year and they were GREAT!!!— Thanks, Stefanie
Hi Stefanie. You can check out my slow cooker smothered turkey wings. I made a gravy with that one.
I checked the size of my Turkey and it is 16.5 pound. What are the Measurement will I have to use when it comes to the ingredients?
Hi Angie! You can double the other ingredients 🙂
This is just what I needed, Thank You so much for posting this recipe. My boyfriend was supposed to smoke a turkey for us this year, but he has been busy at work and forgot Thanksgiving was this week. So now I have to find a thawed bird and start cooking for tomorrow. LOL I will be sure to post how my turkey comes out.
So glad that you found my recipe!
Tried it for Thanksgiving, it was a hit!!!
Hi Rosie! I just wanted to thank u for sharing this recipe! I tried it today -happy Thanksgiving BTW!- and it came out perfect! I gotta thank Latanya as well, my turkey was 11 lbs and my slow cooker is 6 qtrs, so I had to use the aluminum foil instead of the lid, I just used an extra liner to cover the turkey from top to bottom and covered it with the foil.
Keep up the good work! Hugs – Paula from Florida
Thanks so much for trying my recipe Paula! XOXO
Dorothy Dove says
I made this turkey for Thanksgiving and it was delicious. I did have a few issues with it though. I could not find a turkey under 10 lbs. The smallest I could find was a little over 10 lbs. The lid would not fit on my 7 quart slow cooker, so I had to cover it with foil. I got up to check on it after about 7 hrs. and the broth had spilled over on the kitchen counter. Luckily I caught it before it ran down on the floor. I dipped out some of the juices and saved it to make the gravy. After about 8-8.5 hours, I turned it off. When I went to take it out of the cooker to put on a platter, it fell all to pieces, but it was so good! My daughter wants to cook one this way for Christmas and she doesn’t even like turkey. I will definitely cook turkey this way again! Thanks for sharing.
Hello. I was just wondering if you could or should use brooth or water for your Crock-Pot turkey? .. I have not tried your recipe yet but I’m super excited about it and plan to try try it sooner then the holidays!
Thank you kindly!! 🙂
Hi Michelle! For best results, follow the recipe listed 🙂
Thanks for your phenomenal blog. I have been learning new recipes and thank you for posting easy instructions and quality videos that are easy to follow. You have given me the confidence I need to host Thanksgiving this year maybe. Everything you make looks so delicious packed with flavor. Heres to your continued success. Be blessed.
Hello from a new subscriber! That is one beautifully rendered bird! Amazing! My mother used to cook chickens to that point: skin shrinking away from the bones and the meat falling apart. Truly the best flavored turkeys and chickens ever!
I actually found you looking for macaroni & cheese “hacks”. A woman who has dozens of macaroni and cheese recipes is a woman after my own heart. I know everyone has their own tastes, but would you rank your top 3?
Hey Rosie girl! Long time! Just wanted to say that I saw your holiday video preview…AWESOME! You like a celebrity chef! 🙂 I hardly come on the website anymore since I follow you on social media now…but congrats, you’re doing some amazing things! If you see a post or comment under “Noel” that is me!
Can’t wait for the holidays! Have a great day!
I’m trying this recipe this weekend (Canadian Thanksgiving). Just wondering if you cooked on high or low?
Hi Tina. The setting was on low.
Vanessa Vasquez says
I am so excited to try this! With all the children, work, school, and trying to cook, this recipe will make Thanksgiving a success.
Thank you so much!!!!
Thank you for all of the fabulous delicious recipes Rosie… I have tried almost all of them! Your ingredients, instructions and videos are always on point and easy to follow! Keep up the great work!
Hi Rosie! I can’t wait to try this recipe in the crockpot, every year I’ve always roasted my turkey, this year I wanted to do something different. Instead of using olive oil could I use your blended herb butter you used for your roasted turkey? Thank you so much for all you do!!
You sure can 🙂
How long would you suggest to do 5-6 pound turkery in a slow cooker on low
How long do you suggest doing a 5-6 pound turkey breast in a slow cooker on low
Hi Lisa. Try 6 hours or so.
Hi Rosie! I really enjoyed watching all of your turkey videos. Grateful, I won’t have to bribe this year! Are you still able to use the turkey butter in this slow cooker recipe?
Yes, you can still use the turkey butter if you make it in the slow cooker. 🙂
What kind of apples do you suggest would be best? I’m trying this recipe for Thanksgiving.
Granny Smiths work great.
Thank you so much for sharing. I’ve tried some of your other recipes and i have enjoyed them so i am excited to try this one. My question is, If i use the roaster oven what temperature should i use and for how long should i let it cook for? Should i still follow the time frame you posted for the slow cooker?
Hi Natalie. If you’re not using a slow cooker, please feel free to use this recipe, but take a lot at my Roast Turkey recipe for directions.
Aloha I have been cooking 2 turkeys every for about 6 years I have tried almost every possible way accept in a crock pot I have looked al over the web and most recipes are for just the breast your recipe is for a 9 lb turkey in 6 quart crock a have a 8 quart crock and a 12-13lb turkey can I do it?
You may need a bigger slow cooker 🙂
Shiloh Carlson says
Hi Rosie! This looks yummy! Think I’m going to give it a go for this Thanksgiving 🙂 Wanted to ask if you are left with enough juices to make gravy, or should I leave the carrots out so they don’t absorb too much of it??
There should be plenty to make gravy :-).
I just found your crock pot whole turkey recipe.I was wondering if you could use a different stuffing . I’m allergic to oranges so could I use a box stuffing . I really want to try this recipe. I’m allergic to all citrus.
Sure, you can do that.
Hi Rosie. What if I wanted to use slow cooker for an already precooked and smoked turkey. Same amount of time to cook???
No, if it’s already cooked it wouldn’t need much time. You pretty much are just reheating it.
Do you leave the skin (rind) on the orange when you stuff it in the bird? Do you put the other half of the orange in the slow cooker with the apples and if so do you leave the rind on there as well? I have this all set up to do tomorrow for Thanksgiving with our 7 lbs Turkey breast!
Yes, leave the peel on the orange. I just use enough to stuff the turkey.
Just wondering if you’ve tried cooking at High and how much less hours that would take if you even recommend it.
We happened to have a second turkey (brined) as a gift and need to cook it before it goes bad and severely pressed for time.
The turkey is 11.5 lbs.
I’ve never done it. You can give it a try
I googled “turkey slow cooker recipes” and your was one that I found. After viewing hoot video and reading the blog, I decided this was the one to go with. Long story short, out turned out perfect!!! I love using my slow cookers, but had never thought I could cook a turkey in it; until I had to do it. Thanks to your recipe, it turned out perfect! Thanks again!
Punam - Indian Recipes says
Turkey is generally not available popularly in India. Thus I tried your recipe with chicken. It was equally delicous.
Hi there! I know this is an older post, but hoping someone will see my questions. 🙂
If I cook a larger turkey covered with foil instead of the slow cooker lid, can the bag cover the top of the turkey in order to avoid juices dripping out?
I’m also wondering how the skin of the bird comes out… is it soggy?
Hi Julie. You can use a turkey bag. If the skin isn’t crispy enough for you, you can crisp it in the oven on broil. Happy Holidays!
I don’t use slow cooker liner bags. Should I add a little broth or gravy in that case? Also, if I need to broil it to get crispy skin after using this method, how long am I broiling it for? Thanks!
Nothing is needed to replace the liner. The liner makes cleaning easier. If anything you can spray the slow cooker with nonstick spray. You can broil the turkey to crisp the skin, but you’ll need to keep an eye on it. Your oven may run hotter or cooler than mine, but it should only be a few minutes tops.
When I realized my super small oven (more like a glorified microwave) couldn’t fit a whole turkey, I thought my Thanksgiving would be doomed. I’m SO GLAD I came across this recipe! It turned out one of the tastiest turkeys my husband and I have ever had. This may be our new go-to recipe, even when we have a full-sized oven! My turkey was almost 10 lbs, and I did the bag/aluminum foil method others have mentioned with 0 issues in my 6 qt slow cooker. I was amazed when I could just pull away sparkling-clean bones. The turkey basically cut itself! When we sat down to eat, I didn’t even notice/care that the skin wasn’t beautifully golden and crispy like after roasting. Thanks for sharing this great recipe!
Michelle M. says
I can’t wait to try out ur recipes for Thanksgiving!!