Kalua Turkey

Kalua turkey

Kalua Turkey

Quite possibly the juiciest turkey I have ever had anywhere.
Prep Time 5 hours
Cook Time 3 hours
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 8


  • 15 lb turkey
  • 1/4 cup Hawaiian Alaea Sea Salt see note
  • 2 tablespoons mesquite liquid smoke
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3-4 large banana leaves I used frozen and defrosted them the night before


  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Place the turkey breast side up in a large roasting pan.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and liquid smoke. Rub the mixture over the turkey. Rub in the salt.
  • Wrap  in banana leaves and then a layer of foil.
  • Roast the turkey for about 2 hrs.  Turn heat up to 400. Remove and discard the leaves and continue cooking to crisp the skin and allow the turkey to be fully cooked.
  • Allow to sit 5 minutes before carving.


I used this salt, it is what you also use in Kalua pork. I’ve used the same bag for a long time, it has a distinctive flavor and texture that I really think makes a difference in the final product. I’ve also bought it at World Market but we don’t have one locally so I can’t vouch that they currently sell it. 

I was trying to think of something fun to do with the turkey to fit my regional America theme and I came across some mentions of people in Hawaiian making kaula style turkey. I have made versions of kaula pork a couple times (instant pot and on the grill) so I actually had the crucial salt (easily found online or if you are lucky enough to have a World Market, they often have it) so trying it for turkey seemed perfect. I saw a few different methods but this one worked best both for flavor and crispiness of the skin. The banana leave gives it some flavor and helps keep it moist. It’s not pit in the backyard (which I really think my husband would happily do) but its something we can actually achieve at home. I did classic  stuffing balls around it because I wanted to and we were already having kielbasa in the sauerkraut  but Spam stuffing balls we did for our tropical/Hawaiian/kitsch themed Thanksgiving in 2011(!) would be really fun too. If you want to go all out, make the pineapple cranberry sauce too.


I am not lying when I say this was the juiciest most tender, perfectly cooked turkey we’ve ever made. We have made a lot of very good turkey over the years but every bite of this was juicy, it sliced really well and was so flavorful. Do not skip the banana leaves! They make all the difference. I know they might sound hard to find but every simple major supermarket here sells them in the freezer section right next to frozen empanada wrappers. It keeps the turkey moist and adds flavor.

Kalua turkey wrapped in banana leaves
Kalua turkey wrapped in banana leaves


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