Can we all agree that no Thanksgiving is complete without the addition of a really, really good turkey? Well, my favorite recipe is here: the absolute best Thanksgiving turkey you’ll ever make!
It’s infused with a sweet maple butter that’s speckled with fresh herbs and garlic and roasted to golden brown, crispy skin perfection. Tender, moist (I said it) and absolutely amazing! Do you need this maple roasted turkey on your Thanksgiving table? The answer is an obvious YES! And with this simple guide, you’ll learn exactly how to make a whole roasted turkey plus all of my tips & tricks for success.
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Ingredients in this herb butter maple roasted turkey
You’ll only need a handful of super simple ingredients to make an incredible maple roasted Thanksgiving turkey recipe:
- Turkey: I got a medium whole turkey for this recipe that was about 12-14 pounds but any size will work. See below for tips on figuring out how big of a turkey you should buy!
- For the maple herb butter: we’re covering the whole turkey in a homemade maple herb butter, which has maple syrup, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, sage and lemon zest. So simple yet SO good!
- For the cavity: I like to place lemon wedges inside of the turkey cavity, but you can also add fresh herbs, half of an onion, or even apple wedges.
Tools you’ll need to roast a whole turkey
There are a few tools that will be SO helpful when cooking this whole Thanksgiving turkey. Here are the essentials:
Get all of our favorite kitchen essentials here!
How big of a turkey should I buy?
Whole turkeys come in tons of sizes, which can be confusing. A good rule of thumb is to buy about 1.5lbs of turkey for each person. So if you’re feeding 8 people, you’ll want a 12-14 pound turkey.
How to thaw a whole turkey
Many turkeys come frozen, so you’ll need to prepare ahead of time to ensure that it’s ready to cook before your Thanksgiving dinner.
- Once your turkey arrives, place it fully wrapped on a large baking sheet to catch any liquid that might come off as it thaws.
- For every 5lbs of turkey, you’ll want to thaw it in the fridge for 24 hours, plus a little extra to be safe. For example, I thawed my 12-pound turkey in the fridge 3 days ahead of time.
Prep your turkey for cooking
There are a few key steps you need before you can get your turkey in the oven:
- Let it come to room temp. After your turkey is thawed, let it come to room temperature on the counter for 1-2 hours. This is to ensure proper, even cooking, and make it easier to coat the turkey in your herb maple butter.
- Remove the insides & dry. Remove the turkey from its packaging, and remove the neck and bag of giblets from the large cavity of the turkey if it’s there. Next, pat the turkey well with paper towels until dry so that the butter sticks well and the skin gets nice and golden. Place it in your roasting pan.
- Fill the cavity. Place a few lemon wedges inside the small cavity of the turkey, plus any other items you’d like such as fresh herbs, onion or an apple.
- Tie the legs. Carefully tie the legs together with kitchen twine. This will make the turkey much easier to handle as you take it out and place it back in the oven multiple times throughout the cooking process.
- Add butter under the skin. Carefully lift the skin above the turkey breast and massage in some of the herb maple butter. This will ensure that the whole turkey is juicy and flavorful, not just the skin on top!
- Coat the rest. Add the herb maple butter to the rest of the turkey. That’s it! Then you’re ready to get roasting!
How long does it take to cook a whole turkey?
I know it may seem tricky to figure out how long you’ll actually need to roast a whole turkey, but you can simply use this rule: for every pound of turkey, you’ll roast it for 15-20 minutes, plus a little more depending on your oven. I ended up roasting my 12-14 lb turkey for a little over 3 hours.
Tip: It’s very important to take the cook time into account when planning your timeline a few days before and on the day of Thanksgiving. Check out this post to see a real example of my day-of Thanksgiving timeline to help prepare for yours!
How to roast a whole turkey
- Place it in your oven. Once you’ve added your turkey garnishes and covered the entire turkey with maple herb butter, place it in the oven at 425 degrees F for 30 minutes. Track your start time so that you know exactly how long your turkey is cooking. After 30 minutes, lower the heat to 350 degrees.
- Get roasting. As I mentioned, for every pound of turkey, you’ll roast it for 15-20 minutes, plus a little more depending on your oven. I ended up roasting my turkey for a little over 3 hours. I do not recommend cooking anything else in your oven while the turkey is cooking because it will alter the temperature in the oven.
- Baste & rotate. To ensure that the turkey stays nice and juicy, every 30-45 minutes remove it from the oven and baste the entire thing with drippings that have collected in the roasting pan. You’ll also want to rotate your turkey at these times to ensure even cooking.
- Test doneness. Once you think your turkey is done, test the breast and thigh with a meat thermometer to make sure the breast reads 165 degrees F and the thigh reads 175 degrees F. If they do, then your turkey is done!
More tips for the perfect Thanksgiving turkey
- Save extra drippings to make turkey gravy.
- If your turkey looks like it’s getting too brown but is not yet done, simply cover it with tinfoil so that the inside continues to cook.
- Once your turkey is done, remove it from the oven, drape it with foil and let it rest for about 20-30 minutes so that it maintains all of its juiciness inside. This also gives you time to warm up your side dishes and make your turkey gravy.
Storing and freezing tips
- To store: store any leftover turkey in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Simply reheat in the microwave, and try some of our great recipes for using leftover turkey!
- To freeze: if you have lots of leftover turkey, go ahead and freeze it for later! Make sure the turkey has cooled completely, then add it to a freezer-safe bag and freeze for up to 3 months. For many soups and stews, you can add the frozen turkey directly and just add some cooking time, but for other recipes, you’ll likely want to thaw the turkey in the refrigerator before using it.
What to serve with this maple roasted turkey
- The Best Homemade Healthy Green Bean Casserole
- Scallion Jalapeño Popper Stuffed Mushrooms
- Parmesan Bacon Sourdough Mushroom Stuffing
- 15-Minute Homemade Orange Cranberry Sauce (naturally sweetened!)
- The Best Creamy Garlic Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes
- Lightened Up Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Oat Streusel
- Winter Butternut Squash Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad
- Maple Glazed Carrots with Goat Cheese & Pistachios
Get all of our Thanksgiving recipes here!
I hope you love this whole maple roasted turkey recipe! If you make it, be sure to leave a comment & a rating so I know how you liked it. Enjoy, xo!
Herb Butter Maple Roasted Turkey
Incredible maple roasted turkey made with a savory herb butter and plenty of sweet pure maple syrup flavor. This whole turkey recipe is perfect for your Thanksgiving table and easy to make thanks to this step-by-step guide on how to cook a turkey!
- 1 (12-14) pound turkey, thawed
- ½ cup butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup pure maple syrup, at room temperature
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more
- Freshly ground black pepper, plus more
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- Handful of fresh rosemary
- Handful sage leaves
- Zest from 1 lemon
- For the cavity of the turkey:
- 1 lemon (and apple or onion, if desired)
Set your turkey out at least 1-2 hours before you plan on baking it so that it can come to room temperature.
While your turkey comes to room temp, make your maple herb butter: add softened butter, maple syrup, garlic, salt, black pepper, thyme, rosemary sage and lemon zest. Pulse until all ingredients are well combined. Set aside at room temperature. You can also make this ahead of time, but it’s best to let the butter thaw/soften at room temperature before using it on the turkey.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Remove the turkey from its packaging, and remove the neck and bag of giblets from the large cavity of the turkey if it’s there. Next, pat the turkey well with paper towels until dry and place it in your roasting pan.
Place a few lemon wedges inside the cavity of the turkey, plus any other items you’d like such as fresh herbs, half an onion or even an apple.
Next, tie the legs together with kitchen twine.
Now it’s time to add your herb maple butter! Massage the turkey evenly with the maple butter, try to get some under the skin above the turkey breast; this will help you achieve crispy skin! If you are having a hard time getting your butter massaged into the turkey, then that likely means your turkey is still a bit cold. Don’t worry, here’s a solution: simply warm/melt your butter just slightly in the microwave for 15-30 seconds, then use melted butter on the turkey instead. I like to use a pastry brush to get it everywhere, but your hands will also work well. Now you’re ready to roast your turkey.
Place turkey (in the roasting pan) in the oven at 425 degrees F for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, lower the heat to 350 degrees. No need to open the oven -- simply just adjust the temperature. I do not suggest baking anything else in your oven as your turkey cooks.
For every pound of turkey you’ll roast it for 15-20 minutes, plus a little more depending on your oven. Remember to track your start time for putting the turkey in the oven.
Every 30-45 minutes or so remove the turkey from the oven and baste the entire thing with drippings that have collected in the roasting pan. You’ll also want to rotate your turkey at these times to ensure even cooking.
Once you think your turkey is done, test the breast and thigh with a meat thermometer to make sure the breast reads 165 degrees F and the thigh reads 175 degrees F.
If your turkey looks like it’s getting too brown but is not yet done, simply cover it with tinfoil so that the inside continues to cook.
Once your turkey is done, remove it from the oven, drape it with foil and let it rest for about 20-30 minutes so that it maintains all of its juiciness inside. This also gives you time to warm up your side dishes and make your turkey gravy. That’s it! Enjoy.
This post was originally published on November 8, 2020, and republished on November 14, 2021.
I’m sorry, but where are the details for making the maple herb butter?
Hi! It’s in Step 2 of the recipe.
I am having a small thanksgiving due to COVID 5 people. We were thinking of doing a turkey bread instead of a whole turkey. Have you tried this? Is so would it just adjust the cooking time?
Looks amazing! Does this work with turkey breast vs bone in turkey?
Sure! I haven’t tried it but I’m sure the glaze would be fine!
Do you brine by turkey first?
Nope I don’t 🙂
I used this recipe to make my first ever turkey today and it was juicy, flavorful, easy, and impressive! Will use it for years to come. Made amazingly flavorful gravy. I did brine the turkey before hand for 24hrs. Together with the ambitious kitchen cranberry sauce, cornbread stuffing, pumpkin pie and sweet potato casserole we had a delightful feast that was easy and fresh. Thanks Monique! Thankful for you!
Amazing! So happy you found the perfect Thanksgiving menu here 🙂 Love all those recipes!
This looks absolutely fabulous! If I plan on spatchcocking the turkey, how should I adjust the cooking time? Happy almost-Thanksgiving!
Sorry for the delay! Spatchcocking cooks the turkey much faster, as I’m sure you noticed 🙂 it just depends on the size!
Do you use stock at all or does the herb butter maple cover for basting?
Hi! I used the herb butter maple + the juices that came out of the turkey for basting 🙂
Thanksgiving emergency! I made this recipe exactly as stated above but when I went to baste the first time, all of the drippings were black and stuck to the bottom of the pan. I just mixed extra butter, maple syrup and chicken stock together and filled the bottom of the pan for future bastings. Did anyone else have this problem?
it sounds like the maple syrup may have burned. I’ve made this a few times without issue. It may have been if your turkey was on a roasting pan that was on a rack so that extra air circulated on the bottom.
So I shouldn’t use a rack?
This recipe is Amazing! Thanks Monique 💖
So glad you loved it, Lindsay!
I made a mistake and cooked the turkey upside down but nonetheless it was the most delicious turkey I have ever had! So moist and flavorful!
I’m glad it still worked out well! 🙂
This turkey was absolutely fabulous! I wanted to give it five stars but the site wouldn’t let me. The maple added such an amazing depth of flavor that is was unbelievable. It only took minutes to throw together. Thanks for making Thanksgiving delicious!
I forgot to mention that I ended up melting an additional stick of butter and pouring it over the top.
Perfect! So glad you loved it!
We used this recipe for our two person thanksgiving this year, and it turned out delicious! We had never cooked a whole bird before, so I really appreciated the detailed and easy to follow instructions. The dish was incredibly flavorful and really fun to make. We’ll be using this recipe again in the future, when we are able to safely celebrate thanksgiving with our family!
Amazing! So happy you both enjoyed!
I made this with a turkey breast not full turkey. It was simple and very moist. Will make the recipe again!
Love that idea! Glad you enjoyed 🙂
We made this with a 5.5 lb roast chicken for our small Thanksgiving this year and it was delicious! I just cut the maple herb butter in half and adjusted the cook time to about 1 hr and 45 mins (still cooking at the higher heat for the first 30).. The chicken was so moist and the maple herb butter made the skin crisp up really well!
Perfect! Love that idea!
We made this for Thanksgiving, and it was by far our favorite turkey recipe! We ended up spatchcocking the turkey and smoking it, and it turned out delicious! I loved the sweetness the maple flavor gave the turkey. Our new go-to recipe for Thanksgiving!
Perfect! So happy to hear that!
This recipe was fantastic! The flavor of the turkey came out amazing. I made it for Thanksgiving, and some of my family members who are not huge fans of turkey told me that they loved this one! The recipe is simple but super good!
So happy to hear that!
I made my first Thanksgiving turkey this year and used this recipe. It was a 27lb bird and I was terrified. It came out so good. My whole family (who can be pretty tough critics) loved it. My mom even said she might have to permanently pass the turkey cooking torch to me. I blame this recipe. The herb butter made my whole house smell amazing, The skin was very crispy and the meat was perfectly moist.
Amazing! So happy to hear that!
This last Thanksgiving was the first time I made a turkey! My husband and I were on our own since we couldn’t be with family. I used this recipe (doubled the maple, herb butter recipe because it was a larger turkey). I used ghee because my husband has a dairy allergy! I also did not baste it, I just added some chicken broth to the bottom of the roasting pan. Seems to have still worked out well! I made plates for friends and family and did social distance drop offs. Everyone raved! The turkey was so tender and moist! The flavors were amazing too. Officially my only and favorite turkey recipe!
Amazing! So glad that worked out well and that everyone loved it 🙂
well read turkey recipe & sounds pretty good but only want garlic, sage, thyme etc NO sweetness for mine. also why do you cook in open pan instead of in a covered roaster?? my mom always used that & now I have a counter top electric roaster & love love it oven is available for other stuff & always very moist. doesn’t it get more dry & takes more time. i know lots of folks use the open pan but just doesn’t really make sense to me??? thanks much
I think it should be fine to leave out the maple! And mine always comes out great in the oven 🙂
Do you put the turkey on a rack in the roasting pan?
This looks amazing! Thanks for sharing!!
GIRL. This turkey was unreal. Thanksgiving turkey is typically at the bottom of my favorites list but damn it is now at the top. Flavor was top notch and so juicy! God bless ya
This was the best turkey I have ever eaten! I’m in my 80’s so I have eaten a lot of turkeys. And it made wonderful gravy. Thanks for the recipe! I will not cook turkeys any other way.
Hi, Dorothea! I’m so happy you tried and loved this recipe. Thanks for the kind review–it means a lot ❤️
This was the most delicious turkey I’ve ever made. My family typically prefers ham over turkey but I’m one of those who insists on having turkey on Thanksgiving😂 There were no complaints this year! Everyone loved the turkey. The drippings from this roasted turkey made the best gravy. This will be my go to recipe for turkey from now on! Thank you AK!
Aw I’m so glad to hear that, Lori! Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving!
This was my first time cooking Thanksgiving dinner and my very first turkey. It was so easy and turned out beautifully! It was perfectly juicy and tender. I was so thankful for the thawing instructions. Monique makes cooking a no brainer by sharing all of her in depth knowledge on each recipe. Thank you!
Ahhh so happy to hear that–congratulations!! And thank you so much, that means a lot! ❤️
My family is always hesitant when it comes to turkey. It seems to always come out dry or bland no matter how it is seasoned/brined/cooked/etc. This turkey changes the game. I love the addition of sweetness with the maple syrup. We also stuffed ours with apples. It came out beautifully moist and flavorful. Thank you, Monique!
I’m SO happy this one came out perfect! And I’m obsessed with the idea of stuffing with apples — did you chop them up?
We made this for Thanksgiving our first time roasting a turkey. Monique does such a great job laying out all the steps, I actually felt like I knew I was doing. It turned out amazing.
You are SO SWEET, thank you! Happy it came out perfect 🙂
This herb butter is *everything*. Very very well written recipe, happy I made it!
Thank you SO much, Jim! I’m so glad the instructions were clear and that you loved it 😊
Amazing recipe! Our turkey was 14lbs and was done in 2.5 hours so definitely recommend checking turkey and temping it every 30 minutes.
Yes, so important to check it! Glad you loved it. And thanks for all your comments!
Could I make this in a Reynolds oven bag?
We do not have Thanksgiving in Spain but this amazing turkey makes me consider starting to celebrate it! WOW I will surely give this a go in Christmas! 🙂
Ahh! This would be a great Christmas dish as well. It is delicious, enjoy! 🙂❤️
A couple of people asked about roasting with a rack in the pan. I did not see an answer to this. What do you recommend – a roasting pan with or without a rack? Thank you!
I do not typically use a rack, just straight into the pan
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I love your post because I’m a food Lover and I travel for food too. Pakistan is the best spot for food sweetheart’s model. Karachi has the best biryani and Naharis, Best Restaurants in DHA Lahore is Café Romansu. It is dedicated to providing quality meals that are of the highest quality and taste to all foodies. Lahore is known for the inexpensive food and all over Pakistan, we get a great deal of assortments of food sources. I like your blog as it is all around depicted. For food arranges everywhere.
Love this recipe!
Yess! So glad you enjoyed this recipe ❤️
Very tender turkey. I made it in a Reynolds’s cooking bag but should have shortened the time, so the breast meat was a bit dry. The rest of the bird was very tender. Next time I will probably use the bag again and shorten the time.
Thank you so much for sharing! I am so glad you enjoyed this recipe ❤️