Seasoned with bold flavors, spices, and aromatics, this easy turkey tenderloin recipe is extra tender and succulent. Oven baked to perfection, it makes a healthy and quick dinner option (air fryer option included).
Think turkey breasts and tenders were reserved for the holidays? Think again! This juicy turkey tenderloin recipe proves that it can and should be part of your dinnertime rotation.
Because turkey tenderloin is a boneless, lean cut of meat from the turkey breast, it is known for being extra tender. We often have them in our regular dinner rotation as a fun alternative to chicken breasts or pork steak.
Table of Contents
Why this recipe works
Cooking turkey tenders may sound intimidating but trust me, cooking it up is virtually foolproof.
- Perfect texture and flavor. The meat is perfectly juicy and moist in the middle. It’s subtly spicy, a tiny bit sweet, and oh-so flavorful!
- It is so healthy! Besides being a lean protein source, turkey contains minerals and B vitamins. Also, I have used minimal oil and just a touch of sugar, making it a healthy meal option.
- Quick and easy. From prep to plate, this dish cooks in under 30 minutes!
This turkey breast tenderloin is so easy, and besides the meat itself and some seasonings, there isn’t much else that is needed. Here is what you’ll need:
- Turkey tenderloins. Buy fresh, light pink turkey loins for this recipe. Note that they are significantly larger than chicken tenderloins.
- Salt and black pepper. For seasoning.
Turkey tenderloin marinade
- Garlic and onion powder. It gives a nutty fragrance and flavor to the tenderloin.
- Paprika and chili flakes. I have used a blend of two peppers to get a lovely heat. Add a teaspoon of cayenne to the mix to amp it up!
- Oregano. I didn’t want an overpowering Italian herby flavor, so I restricted myself to only dried oregano. You can get creative and use different herbs per your preference.
- Cumin and coriander powder. It works really well in this marinade.
- Brown sugar. It adds sweetness and helps get a perfect caramelization.
- Olive oil. To pan-fry the turkey.
How to cook turkey tenderloin
Turkey tenderloins are simple to cook: the only thing to remember is to use a good quality skillet to sear the meat and then to oven-bake it.
Prep the spice mix marinade: Mix spices in a small bowl.
Marinate the turkey: Dry the turkey tenderloins, coat them with spice, press them into the meat, and marinate them in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes or up to 2 hours.
Cook in the skillet: Place the turkey in a smoking hot iron skillet with oil. Cook on medium-high on all sides.
Finish in the oven: Once golden, transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the internal temp reaches 155°F.
Rest, slice, and serve: Rest the turkey for 15 minutes, cut, and serve with sides and a yummy sauce.
How to make air fryer turkey tenderloin
Did you know you can cook these turkey tenderloins in the air fryer? Here is the process to do so:
- Prep the turkey as instructed.
- Place the meat in a greased air fryer basket.
- Air fry at 200C/400f for 20-25 minutes. Flip halfway through.
If your air fryer basket cannot comfortably fit both tenderloins, cook them one at a time.
Tips to make the best recipe
- Make it the night before: Get a headstart on your cook by marinating the turkey tenderloin a day in advance.
- Let the turkey rest: Do you know the secret to a juicy turkey? It is the resting time! The juices reorganize during this time and make the turkey super succulent!
- Avoid overcooking the turkey: You must monitor the cooking time because it is a lean meat cut. Depending on the thickness of the cut, adjust the baking times so that the turkey is cooked to perfection. Trust me; you don’t want stringy dried turkey!
- Save the turkey drippings: Don’t throw away the brown bits from the skillet. Deglaze the pan and make gravy with it!
Make an Asian sauce: Coat your turkey tenderloin in savory ginger, soy, and honey sauce and marinate overnight. When ready to cook, reserve the excess marinade to drizzle over the top.
Make a garlic fresh herb marinade: Make a fresh, herby marinade with olive oil, salt, red chili pepper, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme, lemon juice, and minced garlic.
Honey mustard: I like making one with Dijon and freshly ground mustard. OOH the zing is cravable! And then balance it with honey, orange juice, cinnamon stick, and some juniper berries!
To store. Keep the leftover turkey tenderloin in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
To freeze. Allow the turkey to cook thoroughly, then freeze it in a ziplock bag for up to three months.
To reheat. Reheat in the microwave or a preheated oven for 10-15 minutes. Remember to cover the tenderloin with foil before reheating in the oven.
More delicious ways to enjoy turkey
- Turkey wings
- Turkey drumsticks
- Air fryer turkey meatballs
- Air fryer turkey burgers
- Turkey sausage
- Spatchcock turkey
Frequently asked questions
Yes! If you want less work the day of cooking the tenderloin, you can prep and marinade the turkey the night before. All you’d need to do is sear the meat and bake it before serving. This will yield a juicier and more tender turkey.
Covering the turkey as it bakes is unnecessary, as it has been seared beforehand and will cook more evenly and quickly without it. Also, check its internal temperature using a meat thermometer. Cooked turkey tenderloin should have an internal temperature of 165F.
BEST Turkey Tenderloin Recipe
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
- Combine the spices in a small bowl. Pat dry the turkey with a paper towel.
- Sprinkle the spices on the turkey breasts and press them well into the meat, ensuring all sides are covered. Let it marinate for at least 10 minutes or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator.
- Heat the olive oil in an iron skillet on medium-high heat until smoking hot. Cook the turkey, turning occasionally until golden crust forms on all sides.
- Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook for 25 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 155F.
- Leave the turkey tenderloin to rest for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
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