Bacon-Apple Chicken Burgers with Maple-Cranberry Sauce

September 28, 2013 in Categories: by

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There’s something glorious about fall that makes me want cranberry sauce smothered chicken or turkey.  Maybe it’s an association with Thanksgiving?  Regardless of the source of this association, I decided to indulge my craving for cranberry sauce by playing with some new ideas.  Specifically, I wanted to continue my search for the perfect sweetener for cranberry sauce.  The cranberry sauce of my youth was made with white sugar, which doesn’t have any flavor whatsoever.  The good thing about this is that the dominant flavor is cranberry.  The bad thing is that white sugar doesn’t have much nutrition to impart and I’d far rather use a healthier alternative.  I’ve tried cranberry sauce with evaporated cane juice, honey, dates, fruit juice, and various combinations of the above, and never completely loved the flavor combination of these sweeteners with cranberries.  I figured the one natural sugar that I hadn’t tried yet was maple syrup.  I had been hesitant to try it since I knew the maple would be a strong flavor and thought that it wouldn’t be very compatible with the equally strong flavor of cranberries.  But, as my ideas cemented for the bacon-apple chicken burgers, it seemed like a good time to try out the cranberry-maple combination.  I felt confident that even if maple syrup wasn’t the best flavor to go with cranberries, it would be great with bacon, apple, rosemary and chicken.

Shortly after finishing our meal, I called my mom.  My exact words were “Mom, never make cranberry sauce with anything other than maple syrup ever again.”.  It was soooo much better than I could have imagined, the flavors combining perfectly (that’ll learn me for making assumptions!).  AND, it was the most amazing compliment to the burgers (which are pretty darned tasty on their own too!).  So, while this recipe looks like it’s all about a flavorful way to spruce up some ground chicken or turkey, it’s really about the cranberry sauce.   Once you try it, you’ll understand.

I made these burgers with ground pasture-raised chicken, but you could just as easily use ground turkey or even ground pork instead.  I also pan fried them, but I think you could get a wonderful added dimension of flavor by barbecuing them, which I will definitely be trying next time.  You could also bake them in the oven if you don’t have a large frying pan (I would try 400F for about 20 minutes, but check the temperature of the patties to be sure).

Oh yeah, and no modifications necessary to make this autoimmune protocol-friendly.  It’s good to go.

Serves 5-6

Bacon-Apple Chicken Burgers with Maple-Cranberry Sauce | The Paleo Mom

Ingredients (Maple-Cranberry Sauce):

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/2 cup Grade B maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  1. Combine cranberries, maple syrup and water in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce heat to maintain a simmer.
  2. Simmer uncovered for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the berries have popped and the sauce has thickened.
  3. Transfer to a serving bowl and refrigerate until ready to eat (or at least 1 hour).

Ingredients (Bacon-Apple Chicken Burgers):

  • 2-2 1/2 pounds ground chicken or ground turkey
  • 8 oz bacon (if using 2 1/2 pounds ground turkey, you can use 10oz of bacon)
  • 1 large apple (good cooking varieties are Granny Smith, Fuji, and Rome Beauty)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt or truffle salt
  1. Place bacon in a cold frying pan and then turn on the heat to medium-high.  Cook, flipping once or twice, until bacon is crispy.
  2. Meanwhile, very finely dice onion and apple (you could also grate the apple if dicing is too much work).  Chop the rosemary.
  3. When the bacon is crispy, remove it from the pan and add the onion to the bacon fat in the pan.  Saute 5 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is starting to soften.  Add the apple and rosemary and continue sauteing until onion is browned and both onion and apple are soft (about 5-8 more minutes, depending on how finely diced your onion and apple are).
  4. Once bacon has cooled enough to handle, chop into small pieces (think bacon bit size).
  5. Combine ground chicken, bacon, apple and onion mix, and salt in a bowl.  Mix well with your hands.  Form into patties.  If your pan cooled down, heat it back up over medium  heat (if it’s still hot, just turn the element down to medium).  You may want to add a tablespoon of cooking fat (more bacon grease would be great, but you can use whatever cooking fat you have on hand).  Add the patties to the pan (you might want to cook in batches).
  6. Cook patties, flipping once half way, until full cooked (internal temperature should be 160F and I definitely recommend checking with a meat thermometer).  This will take 15-25 minute total, depending on the size of your patties.
  7. Serve with chilled maple-cranberry sauce!


Apparently I have fully embraced the AIP, since I read this recipe and thought that it sounds like a great breakfast! This is from someone that could not stomach non-breakfast foods first thing, even if–as happened often in college–I had slept through breakfast and my first meal was lunch (college cafeteria always had toast, cereal and milk).

I took a whole foods cooking class while studying Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University. Here was our teacher Mary Shaw’s recipe for cranberry sauce. It’s so good, I haven’t wanted any other since! It might be a fun riff on yours if you want to try another!

1 c. cranberries
1 apple, diced (about ⅔ cup)
½ c. apple juice or water
1 lemon, zested
¼ c. maple syrup
2 t. parsley, minced


Combine everything but parsley in a saucepot, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and simmer uncovered until the cranberries pop, which releases their pectin and helps the chutney to firm up once it cools. Remove from heat, stir in parsley, and let cool.

There have been a few meals that I’ve had that have made me so happy I began adopting a paleo lifestyle. I can’t remember what they are anymore. This. is. amazing. I made it with turkey, but otherwise, it was the same. The maple syrup cranberries. Simple. And my life is forever changed. I tried some out of the pan, and I probably shouldn’t repeat what I said. Then I put it on the patties. I was calmer then, but still in a state of bliss, which is good since I was trying to get my 16 month old daughter to try it. She was busy eating ketchup (off her parsnip fries), but when she finally tried it all, I could see in her face that her life was forever changed, too! Then I sent a pic to my husband (out of town). He’s quite, quite jealous. And I promise, I’m not prone to exaggeration! Thanks for posting!

I made this meal tonight. It was amazing. Loved it! I used ground turkey instead and had to sub cherries for the cranberries as I could not find them anywhere, even after going to multiple stores. I switched the measurements for the water and maple syrup as I figured the cherries where pretty sweet and didn’t really need a half cup of additional sweetener.

I want to send a Thank You to you, Sarah, as the information that you provide has been a beacon of light for me. I switched to Paleo via a doctor’s recommendation just over a month ago. I was thrilled with how my body responded but found that I still had some weird things going on. I found your site early on and was therefore able to see that I might have some larger issues at hand. I have since fine tuned my eating plan to lean more in the direction of AIP and I am feeling great. I really value your insight. Thank you for providing this site!

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Concentrated orange juice is another sweetener that goes well with cranberries. I do a bag of cranberries, a small can of concentrated orange juice, and some cinnamon.

This recipe looks great and I can’t wait to try it.

Oh my word. I made these tonight and I am such a happy happy girl. I used beef instead of chicken or turkey, and I made them into meatballs instead of patties (and baked them in the oven) and it was DELICIOUS!!! This one is definitely a keeper. In fact, this is now my new “sausage” for whenever I want sausage. I don’t like any of the AIP sausages I’ve tried…they have no bite and very little flavor, which is so disappointing to me, but these little meatballs were packed full of delicious flavor. YUM!!

Thank you SO MUCH!!

Love these! I’ve made them twice so far and hoarded them all for myself. Apples are the secret to transforming ground poultry into moist deliciousness, aren’t they?

So far I have only made the cranberry sauce (had to use dried cranberries as I couldn’t find anything else) and it is so good I just want to eat it alone…alas the bacon is cooking as we speak! Can’t wait to try the whole shebang!

This year will be my first paleo Christmas, cranberry sauce makes my Christmas so I’m really happy (and relieved) to see your recipe here! Thank you so much for sharing. By any chance do u know how long a jar keeps for, or if its ok to freeze? I’m going to be rushed off my feet with Uni right up until just after Christmas so I figure I ought to start preparing for the holidays when I get the odd bit of time. Lol! Xxx

I put leftover sauces in a ice cube tray let it freeze and pop them out then into a plastic bag. Keeps for 3 months but never lasts in my house as the 2 year old likes to dip food in a sauce.

I made this tonight, along with the Bacon Braised Brussels Sprouts. Awesome meal!! Thanks for the great recipes Sarah! I love your blog.

These are amazing!

I also couldn’t find cranberries anywhere (I looked in 4 different stores) and instead used frozen dark sweet cherries. I found that I had to cook them down a lot more, closer to 20 minutes. But daaaaamn, incredible!

As a bonus, it made the kitchen smell like Thanksgiving.

These are great!!!! I started cutting them in pieces, adding greens to it, avocado and olive oil. Have them as salad

Hi, Sarah. I just received my order of bacon from this company you referred. My husband called them and he was told that pork is not grass-fed. Their pigs are fed with soy and grain. Is it okay to eat this bacon? I was very disappointed.

Yes, that’s fine. Pigs don’t eat grass. They are foragers and will eat all kinds of plants (including grains) and bugs if left to their own devices. – Christina, Sarah’s assistant

I made these last night and I have one word to describe the burgers: Scrumptious!
I didn’t have fresh rosemary, so I used the dried form, and no cranberries either. Still
delicious and full of flavor. I will do these again and again (with all the ingredients this time!)
Thanks for a wonderful recipe.

Holy bananas – these burgers were simply superb! Everything worked so beautifully together and tasted absolutely divine!
These will become a weekly staple in my menu – and I’m not even mad about that 🙂

I’m new to the AIP diet – today is day 8 – and until I tasted these, I wasn’t sure I would ever fall in love with anything that fit this new diet. Thank you for making me fall in love with this! It’s given me new hope for this diet!!

Hi this looks amazing! I want to make these this Friday but I cannot buy fresh or frozen cranberries where I live 🙁 I can by dried sweeten cranberries – would it be a direct one to one substitute? Thanks, Tori

I made the cranberry sauce this weekend and it was so good! I’m in Canada, so I used the No. 2 amber grade of maple syrup.

I just wanted to thank you for this amazing recipe! I have been making and eating these burgers for a few months now. I started making them for dinner and now I’m even cooking these in batches. The patties freeze well so I have been able to rely on them for breakfast & lunch when I’m in a hurry. I use the ground turkey and green apple which along with the flavor of bacon & maple syrup is so amazing! You are a food genius! 🙂

Was DELICIOUS!!! Everyone loved it especially my fussy eaters! The cranberry sauce was the BOMB! 🙂 thanks for sharing! 🙂

I made these tonight for the first time. Baked them in a muffin tin instead of frying – about 40 min @ 375. Used the leftover cranberry pulp from making cranberry juice, and excellent Quebec maple syrup…you can imagine. Served it with quickly stir fried Shanghai bok choi, with garlic, done in the scrapings from the onion frying pan. My 10 yr old son, who thinks I am a horrible cook (“don’t make it so HEALTY, Mom!!”) ate 4 in about 10 seconds, and then casually asked, “Can I have 10 more of these, please?” Nuff said. New fave!

I made this tonight and holy cow, I have no words to describe how delicious it was!!! The burgers were ridiculously good with all that bacon fat and the cranberries were the perfect compliment. I mean really, the flavors went so well together!!! I had to stop myself from eating the whole batch. I’m so excited for leftovers tomorrow!

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