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Herb Butter for Turkey or Chicken

Herb Butter is versatile and a great way to add flavor to roast turkey, chicken, fish, or even pork. You can vary the herbs for different flavors. This recipe uses sage, thyme, and rosemary, as well as several different spices. 

A turkey rubbed with herb butter made from fresh herbs.

There are several ways to make sure your roast turkey stays moist on the inside with crispy skin on the outside. You can rub it down with olive oil or melted butter, or even canola oil.

Or you can elevate your turkey to a more flavorful level by slathering it with softened butter mixed with spices and fresh herbs.

Once you try herb butter for turkey, you’ll never go back to plain oil. And, the drippings from this marvelous concoction also add a lovely layer of complexity to the giblet gravy…subtle hints of rosemary, sage, and thyme.

Fresh herbs on a cutting board to use for herb butter.

One of the best things about this herb butter recipe is the way your kitchen smells while the turkey is roasting! The herbs and spices combined with the vegetables and herbs tucked inside the turkey leave your house fragrant and your mouth watering.

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Ingredients for Herb Butter

  • Fresh herbs – rosemary, sage, thyme
  • Unsalted butter
  • Black pepper
  • Cumin
  • Garlic powder
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Allspice
  • Ground cloves
  • Nutmeg

Steps for How to Make Herb Butter

Step 1.

Start by finely chopping 2 tablespoons each of fresh sage, thyme and rosemary.

Step 2.

Add the herbs to 2 sticks of softened, unsalted butter. Add freshly ground black pepper, ground cumin, garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes, ground allspice, ground cloves, and freshly ground nutmeg.

Step 3.

Use an electric mixer to thoroughly combine the ingredients.

**Pro Tip: The herb butter can be made a couple of days ahead and will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Here are some more Make-Ahead Tips to help your Thanksgiving go smoother!

Step 4.

When ready, generously slather this herb butter all over your turkey on the outside and under the skin (be very careful not to break the skin).

**Pro Tip: You may not need the entire batch of butter, so scoop out some into another bowl so you don’t contaminate it all. I generally use all of it, but then I always cook at least a 20 lb. turkey.

A bowl of mixed herb butter for turkey.

Extra Tips for the Best Herb Butter Recipe

  • Use fresh herbs! Dried herbs will not give the best flavor in this recipe.
  • Make this herb butter recipe several days ahead of time and store in the refrigerator.
  • Use good quality butter—no store brands!
  • The herb butter can be frozen in an airtight container.

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Herb butter slathered on a turkey ready for roasting.

Herb Butter for Turkey

Yield: 10 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

A flavorful butter for rubbing on turkey or chicken before roasting.


  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Beat with electric mixer until thoroughly blended. Refrigerate and save up to 4 days.


Tips for Making Herb Butter

  • Use fresh herbs! Dried herbs will not give the best flavor in this recipe.
  • Make this herb butter recipe several days ahead of time and store in the refrigerator.
  • Use good quality butter—no store brands!
  • The herb butter can be frozen in an airtight container
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 10 servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 168Saturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 48mgSodium: 6mgCarbohydrates: 1g

Did you make this recipe?

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Adapted from Martha Stewart Living’s Spice Butter.

Update Notes: This post was originally published November 14, 2011, and on November 10, 2018, was updated with one or more of the following: step-by-step photos, video, updated recipe, new tips.

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