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maple cider bourbon brined turkey with bourbon gravy

Maple Cider Bourbon Brined Turkey with Bourbon Gravy has crispy skin, juicy meat, and so so much flavor!maple cider bourbon brined turkey with bourbon gravy
Last month, a couple from a close group of our friends moved back to the Twin Cities. To make sure we saw enough of each other, we planned a weekly group dinner with a different home hosting each week.  It was such a joy to see these friends on a weekly basis who we were used to seeing only every few months.  While the weekly dinners definitely aren’t sustainable with all of our busy schedules, we really wanted to keep up with at least monthly dinners.

So to kick off our monthly dinners, Marc and I hosted a Friendsgiving this weekend.  I’ve always wanted to do a Friendsgiving. So when Butterball offered to send me a turkey to develop a recipe with, this gave me the perfect opportunity to do so.  While I feel pretty comfortable in the kitchen with most ingredients, I have to say I was pretty intimidated cooking a turkey.  I’ve heard plenty of horror stories from my friends, family, and patients.   I wanted to make sure I didn’t make any of the classic mistakes that one could make.

One thing I’ve found when asking for turkey-making advice, is that everyone has their own (strong) opinions on how to bake the perfect turkey.  So I took their advice, did my own research, and decided I definitely wanted to brine my turkey.

I settled on a brine of salt, maple syrup, apple cider, rosemary, orange zest, and bourbon.  With those flavors, I’m pretty sure any turkey is bound to be delicious.  After a good 18 hours of brining, I made an easy butter mixture to spread all over before popping it in the oven to ensure a crispy skin.  I also stuffed the turkey with onion, apple, rosemary, and garlic to infuse it with some more great flavor.

The turkey turned out just as I hoped – a crispy, flavorful skin with incredibly moist meat.  I used the drippings from the pan to create a simple gravy, which I jazzed up with more bourbon to tie it with the turkey meat.  Together, the turkey and gravy were so tasty and while they were a slight variation from the traditional turkey and gravy, they were definitely satisfying to my turkey and gravy cravings.

If you’re looking to change up your Thanksgiving table this year, I would definitely recommend this turkey.  In fact, it was so good I’ll be making it again for our family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

Butterball has also offered to send two of my readers vouchers for their own Butterball turkey!  Since Thanksgiving is creeping up on us, this giveaway will be a quick one – only until Thursday, so be sure to enter quick.  You can enter by commenting below, liking greens & chocolate on facebook, following greens & chocolate on Twitter, and tweeting about the giveaway on Twitter, below.

***Giveaway has ended and winners have been notified via e-mail***

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Maple Cider Bourbon Brined Turkey with Bourbon Gravy

maple cider bourbon brined turkey with bourbon gravy

The general rule is that you should plan for 1-1.5 lbs of turkey per person. If you are thawing your turkey, make sure it is not already salted and seasoned. Also allow for 1 day per 5 pounds for thawing.
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  • 15 lb turkey fresh or thawed, innards removed

for the brine:

  • 32 oz apple cider
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp peppercorns
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • zest from 1 orange
  • 3/4 cup bourbon
  • 1 gallon water

for the turkey:

  • 1 apple quartered
  • 1 onion quartered
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter at room temperature
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp fresh rosemary chopped

for the gravy:

  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 16 oz chicken broth
  • 2 tsp fresh rosemary chopped
  • 2 tbsp bourbon
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • In large pot, combine apple cider, maple syrup, kosher salt, peppercorns, rosemary, cinnamon stick, and orange zest.
  • Bring to a boil then let simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Let cool completely.
  • In large pot or brining bag (I used an oven bag) combine cooled cider mixture with bourbon and water.
  • Add turkey and let brine for 8 to 24 hours, turning every few hours.
  • Once brined, remove turkey from brine and place bird on roasting rack.
  • Pat very well to dry.
  • Place apple, onion, sprig of rosemary, garlic cloves, and stick of cinnamon into cavity of turkey.
  • Combine butter, brown sugar, salt, and rosemary and mix well.
  • Rub all over turkey, making sure to peel skin back from breast and spread some of the butter under the skin.
  • Tuck the wings under the body, and tie the legs together with twine.
  • Pour 1/2 cup of water (or additional chicken broth, if desired) to bottom of roasting pan.
  • Bake in 500 degree oven for 30 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350 and bake 2 hours more, or until internal temperature (measured at the thighs) reaches 165 degrees F. Keep an eye on the turkey for the last hour and if the skin is getting too brown, you can cover it with foil for the remainder of the cooking time.
  • Cooking time will vary depending on the size of your bird. Use a meat thermometer to ensure it is completely done.
  • Remove turkey from roasting pan and cover with foil, allowing to rest for 15-20 minutes while making the gravy.

To make the gravy:

  • In a medium saucepan, add strained drippings from roasting pan and bring to a simmer.
  • Shake flour and chicken broth in a sealed container (like a mason jar) for at least 45 seconds.
  • Add to simmering drippings, along with rosemary and bourbon.
  • Stir constantly until thickened, about 15 minutes.
  • Add salt and pepper, taste.
  • Serve with carved turkey.
  • Enjoy!
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Maple Cider Brined Turkey with Bourbon Gravy

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Recipe Rating

  1. Wow! I’m getting hungry, and get to attend Thanksgiving at Taylor’s house this year!!! That dinner looks amazing!

  2. First I am definitely trying this recipe. Everything right about a turkey is going on in that recipe~thanks! My favorite way to make a turkey is traditional way with lots of fresh herbs! Thanks for always posting great recipes!

  3. I usually dry brine but I really am tempted to try this recipe. Before doing the dry brine I had always done Alton Brown’s wet brine which was also good.

    1. I almost did his dry brine but I didn’t want to spend a lot of $$ on stuff like the allspice berries and crystallized ginger. I’m a cheapo 🙂

  4. I want to try this on Thanksgiving. I have never brined befor. Should I rinse the turkey after taking it out of the brine?

      1. Thanks for replying. I can hardly wait to try this recipe. One more question… I am. Making a 25 pound Turkey. Do I need to double the brine recipe? Will that make it too salty? This will be my first time at brining so I’m not sure at what I’m doing.

        1. I would 1 1/2 the brine recipe (looking at the proportions, this shouldn’t be too difficult) and also lean towards the longer time frame of brining. For turkeys 20+ pounds it is generally recommended to brine for 15-24 hours. Also, be sure to rotate the turkey around every few hours (except for when you are sleeping!) to make sure it is evenly distributed. Good luck!

    1. I would *think* this is okay if you omit the salt, as my biggest concern with re-brining it would be that it would be way too salty. However, since I don’t have experience with brining a brined turkey, I can’t say for sure. Sorry Katie! Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

  5. I accidentally poured 64oz of cider into my brine, do u think it would be OK? Or should I add extra water or start over? I’d just remove half the cider to get the right amount, but I didn’t realize I did it until after I added everything and started to boil

  6. I accidentally poured 64oz of cider into my brine, do u think it would be OK? Or should I add extra water or start over? I’d just remove half the cider to get the right amount, but I didn’t realize I did it until after I added everything and started to boil

  7. I am making this for Thanksgiving this year. I have everything all ready and right now it is the morning before. We have a 20 lb turkey so I am going to add an extra 1/2 portion of all ingredients just to be on the safe side. It looks so good in the picture and sounds delicious. Is 2 and a half hours really all it should take to cook it? Doesn’t it usually take a long time to cook a turkey?

    1. Hi Cynthia! My turkey was 15 pounds so you will likely need to cook it longer – probably 30-60 more minutes. The best way to ensure its fully cooked is to monitor the temperature of the meat with a meat thermometer – it should register 165 degrees. Hope you have a great Thanksgiving!!

  8. I am going to be trying this and as I am not a bourbon connoisseur, does anyone have suggestions on the type of bourbon to use?

    1. Tracy, really any kind of bourbon will do. You don’t need anything fancy since you’re not sipping it. You could always ask someone at your local liquor store for a cheaper but decent bottle of bourbon! 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving!

  9. I just finished the first few steps of this and placed my turkey in the bag with the mixture and will let it soak for 36 hours. I used Raw Agave instead of Maple Syrup. Do you see an issue with this? Also any concerns with brining for that long. I bought a 15lb turkey. Thanks in advance!

    1. I think it will be just fine with the agave! It won’t have the maple flavor obviously, but it will still be great 🙂 The only issue with brining it too long is that it will potentially be salty. General recommendation is to not brine longer than 48 hours, so 36 should be fine. Happy Thanksgiving Suz!

    1. Hi Sarah,
      Sorry I didn’t get to your comment in time for Thanksgiving. Typically, the recommendation is 20 minutes per pound. The best way to determine your turkey is done is with a meat thermometer, and the breast should be 165 degrees F.

  10. Do you place the turkey directly in the roasting pan and it sits in the water/broth or do you put it on a rack in the roasting pan?

  11. I’m all for adding bourbon to anything, and I can’t wait to try this recipe this Thanksgiving!! Did you use a regular Butterball turkey? Their site says they use a solution of water, salt, and spices which sounds like brine. I’ve never brined before & don’t want my turkey to come out too salty.

    1. Hi Candice!
      Yes, I used a regular Butterball turkey. That definitely sounds like a brine that they recommend, which is exactly what this recipe is, with the addition of some other delicious things 🙂

      Hope you love it!

  12. 5 stars
    I will never make another turkey again!! I have been making this turkey for the last 5 years, and everyone loves it.

  13. I have never brined a turkey before, and bought a frozen turkey from our grocery that has been basted. It says on the label 430mg sodium/18% and is 22lbs. I was curious if I could still soak/brine with the ingredients to try and get the flavor and cut back on adding salt?
    Thank You!

  14. Can I leave out the rosemary? My mom really hates the spice and I want her to enjoy the meal, if it is a subtle taste it should be fine… but I wasn’t sure

  15. What’s the longest anyone has brined with this recipe. I am planning on 48 hours. That’s what I usually do with other brines.