Would you like to know the best herbs for roasting turkey? Thanksgiving is coming soon and a roasted turkey is on many menus.
You can just place a turkey in your oven and roast it without using any seasoning, but the addition of the perfect fresh herbs will take the taste to a whole new level.
Keep reading to find out what herbs go with turkey, the best spices for turkey stuffing, as well as learning about popular Thanksgiving herbs to make your whole dinner taste great.
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The smell of a typical Thanksgiving dinner is a yearly happening that most of us really look forward to. Roasting turkeys with dressing and pumpkin desserts are two popular aromas coming from the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day.
Fresh herbs can be frozen in fall, so it’s possible to enjoy their flavor all winter long.
Even if you don’t have room for a large herb garden outdoors, many common herbs for Thanksgiving can easily be grown in pots indoors.
The best herbs for roasting turkey
Are you looking for some fresh herbs to use in the stuffing for your turkey? Need to know what to buy to make desserts and sides?
There are five main herbs commonly used in recipes for turkeys, stuffing and side dishes for Thanksgiving.
All of these are available in blister packs at the supermarket, or you can grow your own herbs, easily at home.
Here are the five traditional herbs that will really give your turkey and side dishes an authentic Thanksgiving aroma and taste!
The best spices for turkey stuffing
Poultry seasoning is often called for in turkey stuffing recipes, but let’s elevate the taste a bit.
Using fresh (or dried) herbs is one of the best ways to add great flavor to any turkey stuffing. They are super easy to use. Although stuffing made with fresh bread crumbs is best, even adding Thanksgiving herbs to a boxed stuffing mix will work!
Don’t know which herbs to use? A music memory will help. Remember the old Simon and Garfunkel lyrics – “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme?” Add them all to round out any dish of stuffing!
Best herbs for turkey – sage is as the top of the list
The most commonly used Thanksgiving herb is sage. It has velvety leaves with a spicy and aromatic flavor and is often used in turkey stuffing as well as in seasoning the whole bird.
Combine sage and thyme leaves with butter and lemon slices and place them under the skin of your turkey. They will add juiciness and flavor to the breast of the turkey.
Sage pairs well with root vegetables such as butternut squash and also pairs well with sausage and pork. Hearty Thanksgiving casseroles like this creamy potato and sausage casserole are real crowd pleasers.
Combine sage with cranberries, simple syrup and gin for a refreshing Thanksgiving cocktail. With all these ways to use sage, it’s easy to see why it is such a popular Thanksgiving herb.
Sage is a member of the mint family and works well in recipes with sweet flavors. The blossoms from sage plants are also great when tossed into a fresh salad.
Find out more about growing sage here.
Herbs for roasting turkey and side dishes – thyme is a great Thanksgiving herb
I use thyme in cooking year round and really give it a work out on Thanksgiving day. I enjoy using it in side dishes like these mushrooms in brandy and thyme. Thyme tastes great in stuffing for your turkey. and adds flavor to a turkey by placing it with butter under the skin on the breast area.
Thyme stems can be woody, but the tiny leaves are easy to strip off and use in recipes.
In addition to flavoring your turkey, thyme is a wonderful addition to pasta and tomato sauces, stews, and soups, and is especially good with any poultry dish.
Find out more about growing thyme here.
Rosemary adds flavor to Thanksgiving side dishes
The delightful scent of rosemary is evident in our house from Thanksgiving through to Christmas. I often get a rosemary tree for a Christmas plant to decorate and also pick off leaves to use in recipes!
A little goes a long way with rosemary. The flavor is strong, so start with a small amount, knowing that you can always add more.
As is the case with thyme, the stem of rosemary is woody, so strip off and use just the leaves.
Rosemary doesn’t mind a longer cooking time, so it is useful in stuffing recipes, and Thanksgiving side dishes like these rosemary and olive oil roasted carrots.
Find out how to grow rosemary here.
Parsley is a great all around Thanksgiving herb
You can purchase (and grow) two types of parsley: curly and flat-leaf parsley.
Italian flat-leaf has a flavor that is more pronounced. For a garnish, the curly leaf variety is my choice.
Parsley is a great all-purpose herb to have around to add fresh, delicate flavor to your stuffing, to side dishes, soups, and casseroles.
Finely chopped parsley is a great garnish for all types of recipes to add both flavor and color.
Bay leaves are aromatic and flavorful
Use whole dried bay leaves in stocks, brines, stews and sauces. The leaves are removed after cooking.
The flavor of bay leaves is strong, so you will use just one or two leaves. This wild rice with pine nuts makes a great Thanksgiving side dish for your vegan family members.
Bay leaves come from a plant known as bay laurel. It will eventually grow into a tree but can be grown indoors for a short period of time. The leaves are dried to use in recipes.
Find out how to grow bay laurel here.
Other spices for Thanksgiving recipes
The five herbs above are the most commonly used Thanksgiving herbs but there are also some common dried spices used on Thanksgiving day. Try some of these to add bold flavor to your recipes.
Whole nutmegs is perfect for grating in mashed potatoes or as a garnish for appetizers. Ground nutmeg is used in any number of baked good recipes.
It’s hard to think of ginger as a spice when one looks at the rhizome but a spice it is!
Ginger can be dried, pickled, and candied. Crystallized ginger adds sweetness and a bit of a bite to cranberry sauce.
Find out more about growing ginger root here.
Use cloves in your recipes for mulled wine along with ginger and oranges. The flavor of cloves is spicy and aromatic!
Cinnamon is the perfect spice for any fall dish that uses apples. Try these cinnamon baked apple slices for a great example.
Stick cinnamon is used in hot cider recipes and ground cinnamon is used in any number of baked goods for Thanksgiving.
Try these toasted pecans with cinnamon and maple for an appetizer to start your Thanksgiving gathering.
Even though the name allspice indicates that this produce is made up of several spices, it is actually one. Allspice comes from a tropical evergreen tree – pimenta diocia.
The spice got its popular name because the flavor of the dried berry resembles a combination of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
It is widely used in baking and is usually present in mincemeat pies.
Use allspice with ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon in these pumpkin swirl mini cheesecakes.
Roasted root vegetables like butternut squash taste wonderful when flavored with allspice.
Growing fresh herbs indoors for Thanksgiving
If you have a sunny windowsill, you can grow most herbs indoors for Thanksgiving.
Even if you don’t have a lot of natural light in your home, grow lights can be used so that your Thanksgiving recipes don’t have to miss out pm their flavor.
There are a few things to keep in mind when growing Thanksgiving herbs indoors.
Watering and fertilizing Thanksgiving herbs
Indoor herbs need to be watered more often than herbs in a garden outdoors. Pots dry out quickly so keep an eye on the moisture level until you know how often to water your herbs.
I like to determine this by placing a finger in the soil. If it is dry down about an inch, it’s time to water again.
Indoor herbs also need more fertilizer, because frequent watering washes the nutrients out of the soil quickly. Plan on fertilizing about once a month.
Sunlight needs for indoor herbs
Place your Thanksgiving herbs in the sunniest window location that you have. Winter days are shorter and darker. Adding a florescent light nearby will extend the sunlight hours for your herbs.
Aim for about 10 hours of light combined between the natural sunlight and the additional bulb light.
Harvesting Thanksgiving herbs
Fortunately, the best way to have lots of fresh herbs for turkey is to use them often.
Harvesting cuts the stems of the herbs and encourages them to be more bushy and grow more vigorously.
If you notice any flowers forming on your herbs, be sure to remove these, since they can make the herb taste bitter.
How many fresh herbs should I use in my recipes?
A good rule of thumb for using fresh herbs for Thanksgiving is to use three times the amount of dry herbs called for in your recipe. That means if your casserole askes for 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, use 3 teaspoons (one tablespoon) of fresh oregano.
Also, if possible, add the fresh herbs towards the end of the cooking time to help preserve their color and flavor. Hearty herbs such as thyme, sage and rosemary are more forgiving and can be added earlier.
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You can also watch our video about what herbs and spices that go with turkey on YouTube.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
- I tablespoon fresh sage leaves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- Pink sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 whole turkey, (about 16 pounds) thawed and rinsed well.
- 1 lemon cut into slices
- 10 cups of stuffing
- Preheat the oven to 325° F and place the oven rack in the lowest position.
- Mix the butter, thyme, rosemary and sage herbs in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
- Stuff the turkey cavities with your stuffing mix.
- Starting from the neck, slide your fingers under the skin of the turkey and push your hand in to enlarge the space between the skin and the turkey breast.
- Being careful not to rip the skin, rub the herb butter under the skin over the turkey breast.
- Add the slices of lemon and place the skin over the top of the herb butter and lemon.
- Place the turkey on a rack in a large baking pan. Season well with salt and pepper.
- Tent the turkey with foil and roast for one hour, basting with the pan drippings often.
- Remove the foil and continue baking, basting often with the pan juices. Total baking time for a 16 pound turkey cooked at 325° F is about 3¾ to 4 hours.
- If the turkey starts to brown too much, replace the foil tent.
- Allow the turkey to rest for 30 minutes before carving.
I like to cook a turkey at 325° F. I find that it dries out less than when cooked at 350° F/
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 432Total Fat: 29gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 4gUnsaturated Fat: 20gCholesterol: 12mgSodium: 988mgCarbohydrates: 38gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 6g
Nutritional information is approximate due to natural variation in ingredients and the cook-at-home nature of our meals.