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Timber 2 Table - Turkey Leg and Sausage Cajun Gumbo

What to do with your wild turkey legs and thighs this spring? Try gumbo

Turkey Leg and Sausage Cajun Gumbo

30 Min

Prep Time

120 Min

Cook Time





Approximately 2.5 million turkey hunters will head afield in the U.S. this spring with the ultimate goal of bringing home at least one turkey for dinner. Everyone loves turkey breast, but not all of these hunters will make use of other edible parts of the bird, namely the legs and thighs. Turkeys are hard-earned trophies. We owe it to the birds to consume as much of the usable meat as possible.

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This Cajun classic is a great way to use more of your wild turkey this spring.

Why don’t more hunters keep the dark meat from their birds? Namely because turkeys spend much of their daylight hours working those leg and thigh muscles pretty hard. The result is a lot of connective tissue, and meat that can be pretty chewy if you try to cook it hot and fast like you can the breast meat. Thing is, all that exercise means the meat from the legs and thighs of a wild turkey is also packed with flavor.

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Slowly simmering the legs and thighs will tenderize the meat.

The answer is low and slow cooking methods like braising and simmering to break down those connective tissues. This classic Cajun gumbo is one of my favorite recipes. It starts by simmering the legs and thighs from a turkey until they are tender, about an hour, then pulling the meat from the bone and adding it to your gumbo.

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After simmering, pull the meat from the bones.

Besides making the turkey tender, the simmering process can also be used to add flavor to the meat with the addition of salt and a few bay leaves. Skim the foam that rises to the top of the simmering pot and reserve the cooking liquid for your gumbo. Alternatively, you can go with chicken stock.

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Reserve the cooking stock from the legs and thighs.

Every good gumbo starts with a roux. This one uses 1 stick of butter and ½ cup of flour. To make the roux, melt the butter over medium-high heat in a large pot or Dutch oven, then add the flour and stir.

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Melt the butter to start the roux.

Once the flour starts to brown, turn the heat down to just below medium and stir continuously. Don’t stop. I mean it. When you stop stirring, the roux will burn and you will need to start over. A burnt roux can’t be saved. Once your roux has reached the color of dark peanut butter, you are ready to make your gumbo. This one took about 20 minutes to reach that point.

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Don’t walk away or stop stirring because your roux will burn.

The vegetable portion of this gumbo is the Cajun trinity of bell pepper, onion, and celery, plus some sliced okra. The okra both adds flavor and helps to thicken the gumbo. Along with the vegetables and turkey meat, this version uses smoked sausage. I like to render the smoked sausage in the same pot that I will cook the gumbo in before making the roux. The sausage fat adds extra flavor.

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Rendering the sausage adds flavor to the roux.

Simmer the turkey legs and thighs in water in a large pot covered with a lid. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and 2-3 bay leaves to the cooking water. When the turkey is tender, turn off the heat and remove the meat from the water. Skim any foam that has floated to the surface and reserve the cooking water.

In a large pot, brown the sliced sausage. Remove the sausage from the pan and reserve, leaving any rendered fat in the pan. Add the butter and flour and stir until the roux is deep brown. Turn the heat to low and add the onions, peppers, celery, and okra. Cook for 10-15 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

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Cook and season the vegetables in the roux.

Return the boneless turkey meat and sausage to the pot. Add the Cajun seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce. Pour in 8 cups of either reserved cooking liquid from the turkey simmer or chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a light boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.

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Simmer the gumbo to bring the flavors together.

Cook the gumbo for 60-90 minutes. Serve with cooked white rice.


Meat from 2 turkey leg-and-thigh combinations

2-3 bay leaves


1 pound smoked sausage, sliced

1 stick butter

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 large onion, chopped

2 bell peppers, seeded and chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 cup okra, sliced

2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning

¼ cup Worcestershire sauce

½ cup Crystal hot sauce

8 cups of either turkey or chicken stock

Cooked white rice for serving

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