This smoked turkey rub contains the perfect blend of herbs and spices to help you cook up a moist, delicious turkey with a beautiful color.

When developing this turkey rub recipe, I created a balanced blend that accentuates the natural deliciousness of smoked turkey without creating a dominate flavor profile.

This way, after your turkey is smoked, you have the freedom to season the cooked meat with other seasonings or sauces without conflicting with the original rub. It’s great on whole turkey, turkey breast and even chicken.

spoonful of turkey rub with lemon, garlic, thyme

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The Girls Can Grill Turkey Rub includes kosher salt, lemon pepper, granulated garlic, smoked paprika and dried thyme.

I use lemon pepper instead of plain black pepper, because I love the citrus notes and how well they go with turkey. The Spiceology Lemon Pepper also includes a bit of turmeric, which helps create a golden color when combined with the paprika. 

row of spice bottles with spoonful of turkey rub
  • Kosher Salt: It’s important to use kosher salt instead of table salt, because table salt is too fine.
  • Lemon Pepper: I love the lemon pepper blend from Spiceology, because it has pink peppercorns. If you use another brand, check the salt content. If it’s super salty, you may want to reduce the amount of salt you add to the rub.
  • Granulated Garlic: This is not the same as garlic powder. Garlic powder is more fine; whereas granulated garlic and a more coarse texture.
  • Smoked Paprika: this will help add beautiful color to your smoked turkey
  • Dried Thyme

For my spice blend, I always pull from my pantry of Spiceology blends. Their periodic table of flavor includes herbs and spices that are fresh because they’re ground in small batches. 

How to blend spices

All you need is a small bowl and a fork or spoon. Combine all of the ingredients and mix them around.

You can also place them in a small mason jar, add the lid and give it a good shake.

That’s all there is to it. Once you make your rub, you’re ready to make a Thanksgiving turkey that will blow everyone away.

How to Apply Turkey Seasoning

Before applying turkey rub, be sure your frozen turkey is fully thawed; and for really juicy turkey, brine it in a simple salt sugar water solution. You can find my thawing tips and turkey brine recipe on this site.

After those steps, place turkey on a large pan and pat the turkey dry with paper towels. This will help reduce moisture in the skin of the turkey, so it will be crispier. 

Then, use a binder to help the the rub stick. Some people like to use melted butter or olive oil, but I prefer yellow mustard. I find the problem with melted butter is that once it touches the cold turkey, it starts to harden, making it hard to spread. 

If cooking a whole bird, try to rub the mustard all over the breast side, legs and wings, working your way into the joints. You don’t have to worry as much about the underside. There is very little meat down there, and it will absorb plenty of flavor when it cooks. 

Next, generously sprinkle on your turkey rub, trying to cover the mustard. A 20-pound turkey will take about 1/4 cup of turkey rub. 

You can smoke your turkey right away, or you can refrigerate it and allow it to dry brine for 4-8 hours. This is a great technique for juicier breast meat.

Why You Should Grill Thanksgiving Dinner

Make extra rub and store it

This recipe makes 1/2 cup of rub, which is enough to rub two 20-pound turkeys. 

I like to make 2-3 batches and store it in airtight jars. It will last in your pantry for a good six months.

To label it, I just cut a circle out of a paper bag and place it under the lid rim. Then, I write the rub name on it. So simple. Add a ribbon around it, and voilà, you’ve got a perfect gift.

smoked turkey on pan on grill

The picture above is from my smoked pulled turkey recipe. You can see the beautiful color and crispy skin. That’s thanks to the lemon pepper and paprika.

The little morsels of thyme combined with the garlic and salt make every bite so savory and mouthwatering. 

Other foods that taste great seasoned with Turkey Rub

Although this rub is for turkey, it goes great on all poultry. It’s also delicious on vegetables like grilled yellow squash and on grilled fish, like halibut and sea bass. 

GCG Pro Pitmaster Tips

  • Use spices that are less than 6 months old for best results
  • Apply mustard to your turkey as a binder before adding the rub
  • Store your prepared rub for up to 6 months

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best way to season a turkey?

Be sure you pat your turkey dry with paper towels. If there is water moisture, the rub will not spread evenly. I like rubbing my turkey with mustard as a binder and then sprinkling on the rub. You can also use olive oil. I prefer not to use butter, because it will harden and create odd clumps when applied to a cold turkey.

How to smoke a turkey on a charcoal grill?

You can start by soaking your turkey in a wet brine or applying this rub and dry brining it. Then, you’re ready to grill it. Follow my easy step-by-step recipe for grilling a turkey on a charcoal grill.

Is this turkey rub spicy?

No. This is a very balanced rub with amazing flavor. If you want to add heat, you can add 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. If you want to make a Cajun turkey rub, add 1 teaspoon of your favorite Cajun seasoning.

What can I do with leftover turkey?

This rub makes delicious smoked turkeys, and one of the great things about turkey is the leftovers. There are several recipes you can make with leftover turkey like Smoked Pulled Turkey Sandwiches, Chopped Turkey Salad with Honey Mustard and Pulled Turkey Tacos.

Thanksgiving Recipes

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4.41 from 10 votes

Smoked Turkey Rub

This smoked turkey rub contains the perfect blend of herbs and spices to help you cook up a moist, delicious turkey with a beautiful color.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 24 tsp


  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp lemon pepper
  • 2 tbsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp dried thyme


  • Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl. Store in an air-tight container for up to 6 months.


This recipe makes 1/2 cup of rub.


Calories: 5kcalCarbohydrates: 1gProtein: 0.2gFat: 0.1gSaturated Fat: 0.02gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.03gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.01gSodium: 582mgPotassium: 22mgFiber: 0.3gSugar: 0.1gVitamin A: 150IUVitamin C: 0.1mgCalcium: 5mgIron: 0.3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Rub
Cuisine: American
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Hey BBQ Family

I’m Christie, the head cook and award-winning competitive pitmaster for Team Girls Can Grill. I have won multiple grand championships and top 10 category finishes. I’m an expert grill reviewer for BBQ Guys, and I have appeared on the Food Network and Ninja Woodfire Grill infomercials. I established this website in 2015 to share my BBQ tips and recipes.

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Recipe Rating


  1. Directions state mustard may be placed on turkey so spice rub will bind. Is this prepared mustard? Dijon or yellow? Also cam this rub be used to bake tails in the oven?

    1. Honestly, any type of mustard will work. Sometimes I use yellow mustard and sometimes I use Dijon. And yes. You can use this rub in the oven, too.