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Maple-Roasted Turkey with Sage, Smoked Bacon, and Cornbread Stuffing

Maple Roasted Turkey with Cornbread Stuffing

by Barbara Kiebel on November 16, 2009

I’ve been making this maple roasted turkey for the last four or five years for our Thanksgiving dinner. I used to love changing up ingredients and making something new each year, then I did this recipe from an issue of Bon Appetit magazine and everything changed. The article was a charming tale of how Tyler Florence made this for the holiday with his son during a period when he found himself single again; well, Tyler is no longer single but I’m still making this bird! it is simply an amazing, moist and wonderfully flavored star of our Thanksgiving meal.

It’s such a perfect combination of things I love; the fresh sage still available from our garden in the fall is added to butter that is rubbed on the turkey and used in a fabulous cornbread stuffing. Combining the maple glaze and the basting with bacon and all that flavor combined in a gravy that goes over cornbread stuffing…SO good! I tried something a bit different after the first year because I was unhappy with how the maple drippings would burn in the bottom of the roasting pan, so I added some chicken stock to the pan and that worked beautifully. Not only did the maple syrup mixture not burn but I think the steam that is created is just one more component that results in this amazingly moist bird.

I admit I once tried adding a bit of jalapeno to the stuffing for just a slight bit of heat and as much as I usually love cornbread with jalapeno, I won’t do that again…I much preferred having the fresh sage be predominate in this amazing dish that, yes, we will be making again this year! Welcome to our Thanksgiving table!

Maple-Roasted Turkey with Sage, Smoked Bacon, and Cornbread Stuffing
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
The most amazing turkey I have ever had! Tender, juicy and fabulous flavor.
Serves: Serves 12
For the Sage Butter:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ bunch fresh sage, leaves finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Cornbread Stuffing
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 1 loaf cornbread, cubed (about 6 cups)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup heavy cream
For the Turkey:
  • 1 (12 to 14 pound) fresh turkey
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup hot water
  • 8 strips smoked bacon
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 4-6 cups chicken stock (some will be used in the pan during cooking and the remainder for making gravy
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and remove the top rack.
  2. Combine the butter and sage in a mixing bowl, mash with a fork or spoon until the sage is well incorporated and the butter has flecks of green in it; season with salt and pepper.
  3. In a sauté pan, melt 4 tablespoons of the sage butter, add the onions, cook and stir for 15 minutes until soft and golden. Remove from heat. Put the cornbread in a large mixing bowl and scrape the sautéed onion mixture on top. Add the egg, heavy cream and just enough chicken stock to moisten the stuffing without making it soggy (about ½ cup.) Toss well to combine, season with salt and pepper.
  4. Remove the neck and gizzards from the inside of the turkey and discard. Rinse the bird thoroughly inside and out with cold water, pat dry. Sprinkle the cavity and skin liberally with salt and pepper. Using your fingers, gently lift the skin from the breast and legs, and slip pieces of the sage butter underneath; massaging it in as you go.
  5. I cook my stuffing in a separate dish; keeping the inside of the turkey empty has it cook faster but that's just personal preference, if you like to stuff the cavity you'll probably have enough to fill a small buttered casserole dish as well.
  6. Truss the turkey; place it on a rack in a large roasting pan, pour 2-3 cups of chicken stock into bottom of roaster and put into the oven (replenish as needed to keep liquid in bottom of pan to keep the combination of maple and bacon drippings from burning; I think the steam heat is another benefit to keeping the bird moist!).
  7. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the maple syrup and hot water to thin the glaze out a bit; use this to baste the turkey every 30 minutes. The turkey should take about 3 hours to cook (i.e. 15 to 20 minutes per pound.) If the legs or breast brown too quickly, cover with foil. About 2 hours into cooking, shingle the strips of bacon oven the turkey breast to cover; continue to roast and baste for another hour or so.
  8. The turkey is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the meatiest part of the thigh registers 170 degrees F (the thigh juices will also run clear when pricked with a knife.) Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and let rest for 20 minutes before carving, so the juices can settle back into the meat.
  9. Skim off the excess fat from the pan drippings with a spoon and place the roasting pan over 2 burners set on medium-high heat. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up any brown bits stuck to bottom of pan. Whisk the flour into the drippings, stirring as it thickens to prevent lumps. Add enough chicken stock for a gravy consistency and bring to a simmer; season with salt and pepper and hit it with a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten the flavor. Simmer for 5 minutes and then strain if desired to remove any particles (I don't do this...I'll hit it with a stick blender to smooth, much easier and less messy!).
  10. Serve the gravy with the maple-roasted turkey and cornbread stuffing.

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

1 iluvs2fish November 10, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Just a note, I mix a stick of butter with my fresh chopped rosemary-it too is hardy here in Indiana this time of year, then I lift the breast skin up ever so gently and rub the breast under neath with this flavored butter. It melts all over and the result is delish. I find it also keeps the skin from getting to dark as it used to when I buttered on top. Tx for your recipes.


2 Creative Culinary November 10, 2012 at 6:46 pm

That’s what I do with this turkey too although I use sage. I grown a large sage bush all year long just to have fresh sage for this turkey! My rosemary is still going in a pot but I fear that will soon be over; a hard freeze here in Colorado will do it in. A sad day for me for sure.


3 Simone December 29, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Ok, you convinced me to make this next time I do a turkey! That just looks amazing. I have saved the recipe and will for sure give it a go!
Simone Most Recent Post: Turkey adventures


4 Creative Culinary December 31, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Simone I am not lying; just the best turkey ever. The gravy that is produced as a result of having some maple syrup and bacon drippings is also just to die for…particularly with cornbread stuffing. I’m craving it again now!


5 robynski November 23, 2011 at 10:53 am

I’ve decided to just come to your house for Thanksgiving. Yep.
robynski Most Recent Post: Juniper Berries


6 Curt November 20, 2011 at 6:36 am

Now that’s how you do turkey! Man, cornbread stuffing AND bacon wrapped? Yes!
Curt Most Recent Post: Beef & Turkey Rolled Slider


7 Creative Culinary November 20, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Yes, yes and yes.It is soooooo good. The gravy with a hint of maple on that cornbread stuffing…well, now I’m making my own mouth water.


8 Heather | Farmgirl Gourmet November 17, 2011 at 10:36 pm

You can come over for Turkey day Barb….and bring this bird with you! Mmmmm


9 Creative Culinary November 18, 2011 at 8:56 am

I wish…it’s so complicated here. Ex, jobs…just give me one day with the family and none of that stuff; it’s all I want for Christmas. :)


10 Priscilla-ShesCookin November 17, 2011 at 4:50 pm

What, no turkey this year? I’d be missing this too! You may have to roast a bird when you return :)
Priscilla-ShesCookin Most Recent Post: Paris Inspired


11 Creative Culinary November 17, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Since I mentioned, I called my daughter’s boss at Nordstrom’s and I’m going to bring the whole visual team a Thanksgiving dinner. Whoo hoo. Guess I will be making after all. Whew…that feels better. :)


12 Nancy@acommunaltable November 17, 2011 at 1:03 pm

He..he .. and I thought I’d found the perfect turkey recipe!! After reading this I am more than happy to admit defeat.. this sounds absolutely amazing!
Yes, putting some stock in the bottom of the pan is the secret to not having the drippings burn – have to remind my cousin to do that this year so that I have something to make the gravy with!!
Oh, and Barb? Next year I am coming to your house for Turkey day ok???
Nancy@acommunaltable Most Recent Post: Pear Tart with Ginger and Vanilla


13 Creative Culinary November 17, 2011 at 8:44 pm

Yes please. I called my daughter’s boss today and I’m bring dinner for the whole crew on Wednesday night…I had to cook for Thanksgiving and this bird will get made after all. Can we say Yay!??


14 sippitysup November 17, 2011 at 12:29 pm

OMG you just gave me the greatest idea for a post. Don’t tell anyone… GREG
sippitysup Most Recent Post: T-Gives at my Table, with my Family and on the Podcast: A Thanksgiving to Remember


15 Creative Culinary November 17, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Your secret is safe with me.


16 Diane {Created by Diane} November 16, 2011 at 11:36 pm

YES, bring on the bacon :) and the turkey! Looks wonderful!
Diane {Created by Diane} Most Recent Post: Caramel Coconut Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie Pie


17 Creative Culinary November 17, 2011 at 12:44 pm

It’s the best and I was missing not making it so much that I just arranged to bring dinner to my daughter and her crew at work at Nordstrom’s; they are the elves that put out all the decor for Christmas on Thanksgiving day. I am now fulfilled


18 Cookin' Canuck November 16, 2011 at 9:17 pm

What a gorgeous turkey! I can’t imagine anything better than a bacon-flavored bird. Isn’t it great that the fresh sage is still flourishing in this cold weather? I’m using it as much as possible.
Cookin’ Canuck Most Recent Post: Thanksgiving Recipes: Entrees, Side Dishes, Sauces & Desserts


19 Creative Culinary November 17, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Thanks Dara…it is always amazing. I love fresh sage and I’ve decided the reason it is so predominant in turkey is because it is hardy through the first cold; I always have some fresh that I can pick on Thanksgiving…going into December the cold does it in. Our ancestors must have discovered the same thing, right?


20 Carolyn November 16, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Um, wow! That’s about all I can say for this one. Yum and wow.
Carolyn Most Recent Post: Browned Butter Cacao Nib Cookies (Low Carb and Gluten Free)


21 Creative Culinary November 16, 2011 at 8:18 pm

That’s all you have to say. It is yum and it is wow. :)


22 Mary Ann November 26, 2010 at 11:05 am

I made this turkey yesterday for Thanksgiving. By far the best turkey we’ve ever tasted. I added fresh Rosemary in addition to the fresh sage butter. The turkey was so moist, incredible flavor from the maple syrup and bacon. I worried at first about not greasing the outside of the turkey. But the salt, pepper & maple syrup was all it needed. Then you put the bacon on top for the last hour. The aroma was fantastic, and a minor brawl ensued over who would get to eat the maple roasted bacon. OMG!!! I found thick sliced maple bacon to use.
I was tempted to use more syrup, but 1 cup was plenty. If I added more, the gravy would have been too sweet.

I used my stuffing recipe from last year, which is: 1 box Stovetop cornbread, 2 stalks celery, 1 onion, chopped dates, few slices mild jalapeño chopped fine, broth to soften, 2 eggs to bind. Maple gravy on this stuffing was divine!

Thank you for incredible recipes that will become family traditions!


23 Creative Culinary November 26, 2010 at 12:58 pm

So glad to hear you loved it too; our all time favorite. We tried jalapeno in the cornbread last year but this year in lieu of fights over the bacon, I chopped it up and put it in the stuffing; our turkey comes out and sits while we bake the stuffing and some sides. The addition of rosemary sounds great and I’ll try that next time. Next year!

You’re right about the syrup; since it does flavor the gravy; anymore would affect it adversely but it’s the yummiest gravy ever with that bacon/maple thing going on…yum, and right now craving and thankful for LEFTOVERS!


24 49er Barbie November 11, 2010 at 7:09 pm

Thanks for the clarification. I thought I had to make the cornbread from scratch. We can’t wait to try it. By the way, your table is simply beautiful.


25 49er Barbie November 10, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Sounds wonderful. Is there a special cornbread recipe for the dressing?We are ready for something new after all the years of Grandpa’s recipe,


26 Creative Culinary November 11, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Yes, the cornbread recipe is included in the instructions for the turkey; it’s all here!


27 Paula November 9, 2010 at 10:20 am

It looks amazing and so delicious. I just might try this for our Christmas this year!


28 Jennifer October 6, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Oh my god this looks and sounds amazing! I’ve been making the same brined turkey every year and while it’s delicious, it might be time to try something new. And this recipe could very well be it.


29 Creative Culinary October 6, 2010 at 5:42 pm

We just absolutely love this…on top of the great turkey, the combination of a gravy with a subtle maple flavoring on top of that cornbread. Oh my, now wishing Thanksgiving were closer! Try it, you’ll like it!


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