Turducken: A Brief History of the Most Complicated Thanksgiving Recipe

Updated: May 16, 2022

Learn what turducken is and how it came to be.

Carved turducken on a cutting board for people to grab slices ofPhoto: atbbq via Instagram

Combining a turkey, a duck and a chicken into one dish has to be an extraordinary addition to the best Thanksgiving dinner ever. Whether you think it’s an intimidating project or an exciting culinary challenge, there’s no denying that turducken is a spectacular creation.

What is turducken?

Pronounced tur-duhk-uhn, a turducken is a deboned chicken stuffed inside a deboned duck stuffed inside a mostly deboned turkey (its wings and legs are left intact). There’s usually stuffing inside the chicken and between each bird. It’s the ultimate poultry dish and, for obvious reasons, is a popular Thanksgiving dinner.

From the outside, turducken looks like a regular turkey. It’s easy to shape into its original form because the legs and wings are still attached. And carving is super easy since there are no bones to deal with!

But how does it taste? Earlier recipes tended to be dry and underwhelming. But over the years, people have managed to add more flavor and moisture, making it just as delicious as our friends over at The Sauce make it look here. Using three different types of stuffing instead of just one also adds more depth of flavor.

Who invented turducken?

Turducken’s true origin is unknown, but it’s widely believed that Louisiana chef Paul Prudhomme invented this extravagant dish in the 1970s or 1980s. He trademarked the name in 1986 and served it at his southern restaurant, K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen. There’s a very thorough recipe in his cookbook, Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Always Cooking!

The idea of a turducken didn’t come out of thin air. Engastration, the practice of cooking an animal inside of another animal, has been around since the Middle Ages. In fact, the English have their own version called a gooducken, which is a chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a goose.

How did turducken become popular?

While Paul Prudhomme put turducken on the map, some might say John Madden made it famous. It was love at first bite at a New Orleans Saints game one Thanksgiving. He mentioned turducken at all the Thanksgiving Day games after that and even gave some away to winning players. Many football fans can’t think of turducken without thinking of John Madden carving one up on air.

If you’re brave enough to tackle making a turducken in your own kitchen, try this recipe. Good luck and happy eating!