Smoked Turkey or Chicken Marinade

Smoked Turkey on a platter with orange wedges

The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 20 mins
Servings: 12 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
249 Calories
19g Fat
21g Carbs
3g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 249
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 19g 24%
Saturated Fat 3g 13%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 650mg 28%
Total Carbohydrate 21g 8%
Dietary Fiber 4g 15%
Total Sugars 13g
Protein 3g
Vitamin C 73mg 365%
Calcium 76mg 6%
Iron 1mg 8%
Potassium 361mg 8%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Use this basic poultry marinade prior to smoking and your turkey or chicken will always be moist and tender. Use half of the recipe for chicken or the full recipe for a turkey of any size.

The basic ingredients of a marinade are an acid (lemon juice), oil (olive oil), spices, and seasonings. This makes enough to coat a turkey. If you prefer to have your turkey fully immersed in the marinade, you can double or triple the recipe.

The bird will be marinating for 24 hours before you begin smoking it, so you will need to build that into your timetable. If you are going to use a frozen turkey, it will need to be completely thawed, which will add another couple of days to the timeline.

You can marinate the turkey (covered or in a brining bag) in a non-reactive pan in the refrigerator. But if you lack space, place the turkey in a brining bag and into a clean ice cooler filled with ice. Be sure to check on the level of ice throughout the marinating time so they turkey stays cold.


  • 1 cup olive oil

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce

  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 1/4 cup mustard

  • 1/4 cup minced fresh chives

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh sage

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh oregano

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh thyme

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 1 tablespoon paprika

  • 1 medium apple, coarsely chopped

  • 1 medium orange, peeled and coarsely chopped

  • 1 medium sweet onions, peeled and coarsely chopped

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Smoked Turkey ingredients

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, and mustard.

    Olive oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, and mustard mixture in a bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  3. Stir in the chives, sage, oregano, parsley, thyme, garlic, and paprika. Cover the bowl and refrigerate it for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Reserve half of the marinade to baste the chicken or turkey while it is smoking.

    Turkey marinade in a bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  4. Place the turkey or chicken in the container that you'll marinate it in and pour on half of the mixture, ensuring it coats all parts of the turkey. Seal the bag or cover the container and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. You can marinate for as little as 8 to 12 hours. After 24 hours, there won't be any more flavor imparted.

    Turkey and marinade in a plastic bag, and marinade in a bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  5. When ready to smoke, fill the cavity of the bird with chopped apples, oranges, and sweet onions.

    Marinaded turkey with fruits on a wooden cutting board

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

    How to Smoke Chicken and Turkey

    • Put the marinaded chicken or turkey in a pan on the grates. Smoke at 250 to 300 F until the internal temperature reaches 180 F. The time will depend on the size of your turkey or chicken.
    • Baste the bird with the reserved marinade each hour during smoking.


    • If you prefer a shorter smoking time, cook the turkey in an oven bag in the oven for 1 1/2 hours before smoking it.
    • To prevent salmonella food poisoning, be sure that your turkey is kept below 40 F while it is marinating, whether in the refrigerator or a cooler. Any leftover marinade that has had contact with the turkey or a brush that has been used to baste a turkey should be discarded.