If you haven’t replaced your turkey with a Thanksgiving Chicken, this is your year. Turkey is a bit polarizing and often comes out dry when it’s not cooked properly. A whole bird can weigh upwards of 20 pounds and requires loads of defrosting and oven time. Granted, if there’s ever a time to dedicate the day to poultry, it’s this one. But Thanksgiving Chicken plays the part of holiday poultry very well, with no defrost time and half the time in the oven. It’s a game-changer. 

Thanksgiving Chicken on platter

If anything, making a Thanksgiving chicken proves that you’re more than capable of cooking a whole bird– even a turkey. Roasting the whole bird is possibly the easiest way to cook chicken, and it’s definitely the most delicious. It’ll turn the holiday poultry haters at the table into true believers, elevating the meal with minimal effort. All it takes is flavored butter and a sheet tray. Designed to make the chicken the star of the table, this recipe delivers all the flavor you’d find in a Thanksgiving Turkey. Spoon the drippings over the bird, or use it to make the best gravy you’ve ever had. Seriously.

close view of Thanksgiving chicken

Seasoning Breakdown 

Seasoned with herbed butter good enough to eat with a spoon, this Thanksgiving Chicken is packed with flavor. To make the butter, mix melted butter with celery seed, rubbed sage, paprika, and orange zest. This blend hits on every taste bud, and that’s precisely what it’s designed to do. The celery seed lends a bright flavor, and the rubbed sage gives it that unmistakable Thanksgiving quality. It is herbaceous and vegetal, with a subdued punch from the paprika and sweet acidity from the orange zest. 

Thanksgiving chicken in pan with serving utensils

Prepare the Chicken 

Before massaging the chicken with the seasoned butter, bring it to room temperature, pat it completely dry, and salt it liberally. Salting the bird liberally before roasting simultaneously tenderizes the meat and significantly enhances the flavor. Finally, give it the Thanksgiving treatment by stuffing the carcass with onion, orange, and a bundle of fresh sage. Finished with a healthy drizzle of olive oil (there’s never too much fat with lean poultry), it’s ready for the oven. As the chicken roasts, the butter cascades down its slow-crisping skin to create an unbelievably tender, moist, and flavorful golden bird. Its schmaltz drips onto the extra slices of onion and orange, making a dessert-like reward for your efforts.

What To Serve With Thanksgiving Chicken

Thanksgiving Chicken

Katie Calton
Servings: 4 people
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr 45 mins
Total Time: 2 hrs 15 mins
Given the thanksgiving treatment, this chicken is herbaceous, vegetal, and incredibly moist, all thanks to a combination of flavor-packed butter and a slow roast.


  • 1 4-6 pound whole chicken
  • 2-3 tablespoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed
  • 2 teaspoons rubbed sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 navel orange
  • 1 bunch sage (about 4 big stems) plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


  • Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator, transfer to a cutting board, and remove any giblets or neck from the chicken. Pat totally dry with paper towels and salt the chicken liberally, making sure to include crevices and the inside of the chicken. Allow the chicken to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the melted butter, celery seed, rubbed sage, paprika, black pepper, and the zest of the navel orange using a spatula. Using a basting brush, baste the butter all over the outside of the chicken, getting into all the folds.  
  • Slice the red onion and zested navel orange into eighths by slicing in half, then slicing the halves in half, and so on. Take one eighth each of the onion and orange, and stuff it into chicken from the bottom. Stuff the entire bundle of sage into the carcass as well, tie the legs together with butcher's twine, then transfer the chicken to a baking tray. Arrange the remaining orange and onion slices around the base of the chicken, then drizzle the olive oil all over everything on the tray, including the chicken.  
  • Roast the chicken in the oven until the internal temperature reaches 165°F and the skin of the chicken is a deep golden brown, about 1 hour and 45 minutes and up to 2 hours. Start checking the chicken for doneness around the 90-minute mark, checking every 5-10 minutes until the chicken comes to temperature. Allow the chicken to rest for at least 15 minutes prior to carving. Spoon the drippings all over the chicken or use to make gravy. Garnish with sage and serve with caramelized onions and oranges, which can be squeezed over the top of the meat.


  • Butcher's Twine


This recipe can be easily doubled. To make two birds at once, double the recipe and use a large baking sheet. Place the chicken at least 5 inches apart and roast as the recipe directs.  

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