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The History of the Cajun Deep-Fried Turkey

11:00 November 23, 2020
By: Brhea Washington

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, many kitchens will soon start prepping for their holiday dinners. Everyone knows that turkey is Thanksgiving's most common and best-known dish around the dinner table. The day isn't called "Turkey Day" for nothing. In fact, according to, over 46 million turkeys are eaten across America on Thanksgiving Day. While many take the usual approach of oven roasting their turkey, a tradition near and dear to some Louisianans is deep-frying their holiday bird. Fun fact: The tradition of frying turkeys originated right here in Louisiana—a tradition that has now led to the deep-frying of turkeys in homes and backyards throughout the world.

What kick-started the deep-fried turkey craze was the creation of portable propane cookers in the 1970s. According to, it was then that propane cookers were developed that featured large gas burners sturdy enough to hold heavy aluminum pots. At the time, these portable cookers were used by Cajuns to cook another Louisiana staple: boiled crawfish. As the portable cookers utilized sizable pots, they were ideal for boiling water filled with tasty seafood or for cooking delicious meals. People later branched out from boiled water and began filling the cookers with other liquids, such as oil to deep-fry delectable foods, starting with chicken and fish.

In 1982, according to United Press International Reporter Gary Taylor, a small town in Louisiana developed a new method of using the cooker to deep-fry the Thanksgiving favorite turkey. The Louisiana cooks created a liquid base of Italian dressing that they proceeded to load with salt, pepper, cayenne, and various Cajun seasonings in order to inject the turkey with mouthwatering flavor. From there, the Cajun deep-fried turkey was born! This Cajun delicacy was the bird heard round the world. The new cooking method for turkey sparked a flame among Louisianans that led to published articles, recipes, and television programs showcasing deep-fried Cajun turkey. By the 1990s, fried turkey had become a food phenomenon and a certified specialty of the South, specifically Cajun Louisiana, where the cooking style was developed.

Cajun Louisiana is to thank for the culinary tradition of deep-frying turkey, with it becoming a Southern standard by enhancing the bird with full-flavored Cajun spices and seasonings. Deep-frying turkey has also become a go-to method to cook turkey on Thanksgiving for many throughout the United States and is still done in its original fashion of injecting or seasoning with Cajun zest before deep frying. The frying method has become well known for creating a crunchy exterior with a tender and juicy interior, which turkey-lovers are sure to enjoy.

The deep-fried bird has become a holiday favorite used yearly with all the same Cajun flair. Whether you deep-fry turkey every Thanksgiving or are just trying a hand at it for the first time this year, make sure that all turkeys are seasoned to perfection with all the Cajun fixings, but also cooked carefully and safely!

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