Sweetened Cantonese-Style Turkey: A New Spin on Thanksgiving

Indulge in a culinary experience steeped in centuries of tradition with our remarkable sweetened Cantonese-style turkey. Throughout the ages, the Cantonese culinary heritage has been celebrated for its mastery of roasting, and now you have the opportunity to elevate your Thanksgiving feast with this exquisite dish. Our sweetened Cantonese-style turkey, carefully prepared with a harmonious blend of sweet and savory flavors, promises to be a captivating centerpiece for your dinner table. Immerse yourself in the rich history and delectable aromas as you savor each succulent bite of tender turkey, glazed to perfection. This fusion of Cantonese techniques and Thanksgiving tradition will transport your taste buds to new heights of culinary delight. Allow our sweetened Cantonese-style turkey to take center stage and leave your guests in awe as they embark on a gastronomic journey like no other.

A Novel Approach to the Classic Thanksgiving Turkey

This Sweetened Cantonese-Style Turkey is a refreshing and unconventional method for preparing your annual Thanksgiving centerpiece. It’s an excellent choice whether you’re hosting Chinese guests for your festive dinner or simply wish to add a unique twist to the standard turkey and side dishes. This distinctive Cantonese-inspired turkey dish, brimming with genuine Chinese flavors and a honey glaze for a touch of sweetness, will undoubtedly captivate your guests.

Why not marry Chinese and American traditions and present a dish that honors both cultures? The familiar taste profiles of Cantonese roast duck or Hong Kong Style Pigeon, with their generous use of five-spice powder, ground bean sauce, hoisin sauce, and an ample helping of garlic and ginger, make for an enticing transition to turkey.

While this recipe includes an innovative take on mashed potatoes, feel free to go all out and pair this turkey with other Chinese recipes as side dishes, deviating from the standard stuffing and green bean casserole.


For the Turkey Preparation:

  • A turkey, weighing 13-15 pounds (fully defrosted and thoroughly rinsed)
  • ¼ cup of ground bean sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of Hoisin sauce
  • 4 garlic cloves (finely minced)
  • 1 tablespoon of finely minced shallot
  • 2 teaspoons of freshly minced ginger
  • 1½ tablespoons of salt
  • 3 tablespoons of Shaoxing wine
  • 1 teaspoon of five-spice powder
  • 3-4 dried Chinese tangerine peel pieces
  • 3 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes (peeled and chopped into 1½-inch pieces)
  • 1 entire leek (approximately 8 oz/225g, chopped and thoroughly rinsed to remove any grit or sand)

For the Sweet Glaze:

  • ⅓ cup of hot water
  • 2 teaspoons of red Zhejiang vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons of honey


  1. Start by defrosting your turkey. This process needs adequate time, ideally an overnight thaw in the kitchen sink several days before Thanksgiving (if completely frozen), or the day before you plan to cook it (preferably in the morning since it will need time to marinate). Once thoroughly thawed, unpack the turkey. If the inside is still frozen, add warm water to the cavity and let it sit for a few more hours. Alternatively, you can submerge the turkey in tepid water to speed up the thawing.
  2. It’s key to even cooking that you remove the giblet package from the cavity, give the inside and outside of the turkey a good rinse, drain all the water from inside, and pat it dry with paper towels or let it air-dry on a rack.
  3. Now, it’s time to mix the marinade. Combine ¼ cup of ground bean sauce, 3 tablespoons of hoisin sauce, 4 teaspoons of minced garlic, 1 tablespoon of finely chopped shallot, 2 teaspoons of freshly chopped ginger, 1½ tablespoons of salt, 3 tablespoons of Shaoxing wine, and 1 teaspoon of five-spice powder.
  4. Use the marinade generously on the turkey, making sure every bit is coated, inside and out. Try to work the marinade under the skin where you can. Use any extra marinade in the cavity. Finish by placing the dried Chinese tangerine peels into the cavity.
  5. Put the turkey in a roasting pan, wrap it with plastic, and refrigerate it overnight to marinate. The next day, remove the turkey 3 hours before cooking to let it reach room temperature.
  6. When it’s time to roast the turkey, arrange the chopped potatoes and leek in the roasting pan and position the turkey on top, breast-side down (we’ll flip it later).
  7. Set your oven to preheat at 425 degrees F, with an oven rack situated in the lower third. As the oven heats, mix together the glaze: ⅓ cup of hot water, 2 teaspoons of red Zhejiang vinegar, and 3 tablespoons of honey. Set this aside.
  8. Roast your turkey for half an hour. Then, using a basting brush, apply your honey glaze to the turkey and turn the pan 180 degrees. Continue roasting for another half hour, giving the turkey another glaze.
  9. Take the turkey from the oven and reduce the temperature to 325 degrees F. Using a clean kitchen towel and a strong roasting fork, flip the turkey so the breast side is up. Brush off any veggies sticking to the turkey, taking care not to tear the skin.
  10. Roast the turkey at the lowered temperature for another 65 minutes (for a 13-pound turkey) or up to 90 minutes (for a 15-pound turkey). Remember to glaze the turkey every 15 minutes, and halfway through the second part of roasting, turn the pan. If the turkey browns too much, loosely cover it with aluminum foil.
  11. To ensure the turkey is cooked properly, use a meat thermometer. The internal temperature of the thigh should be 165 degrees and the juices should run clear, not pink.
  12. Once the turkey is done, move it to a serving plate, loosely cover it with foil, and let it rest for 20 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the potatoes and leeks from the pan. You can serve them as is, or convert them into a scrumptious side of roasted mashed potatoes (simply add milk, butter, and salt to taste). Lastly, sieve the pan drippings into a fat separator to prepare the gravy.

Turkey isn’t just delicious; it’s also a lean source of protein that can be a healthier alternative to some types of meat. The white meat (the breasts and wings) is lower in fat and calories than the dark meat (thighs and legs). It also contains essential nutrients like niacin, which supports metabolism, and vitamin B6, important for brain development and function. Pairing turkey with a variety of colorful vegetables can provide a range of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients beneficial to health.

Cooking a turkey can seem like a daunting task, especially for beginners. But with careful preparation, the right ingredients, and a good recipe, it can be a rewarding experience. The key to a juicy, flavorful turkey lies in the marinade and the cooking time. Remember to allow sufficient time for the bird to marinate and to monitor the oven temperature carefully to avoid overcooking.

Remember that the preparation time of 1 hour does not include the time needed to defrost and then marinate your turkey!

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