Turkey brine adds both flavor and moisture to roast turkey!

A brine is very easy to make with salt, sugar, fresh (or dried) herbs/spices, and a hint of citrus. Once you learn how to brine a turkey, you’ll never want to prepare it any other way.

Simply mix the brine, cool, and let the turkey soak overnight.

Easy Turkey Brine with oranges and turkey

What is Turkey Brine?

Brine is a liquid, usually water, that is heavily salted/seasoned. This easy turkey brine recipe is a salt and sugar mixture that a whole turkey (or even just a breast) is soaked or brined in.

The ingredients in this turkey brine are salt, brown sugar, and water but also add more flavor with herbs and a bit of citrus.

Variations

  • Try additional flavors like onions or lemons (or just orange peel or lemon peel).
  • Swap the water for apple juice or apple cider (not apple cider vinegar).
  • Add other spices and herbs like allspice berries.

Dry Brine vs. Wet Brine

There are two types of brine, wet brine and dry brine.

This recipe is for a wet brine where the salt and spices are in water or liquid.

A dry brine is a salt (and sometimes sugar) mixture with herbs/spices that is rubbed directly on the skin without water and refrigerated (usually overnight or longer). It’s sometimes called salting the turkey.

Why Brine a Turkey?

Brining makes a very flavorful turkey and makes the meat incredibly tender and juicy. The secret is in the salt, which dissolves some of the proteins.

This easy turkey brine is a simple mixture that adds some extra flavor too, everyone will wonder what magic you used to make such a perfect Thanksgiving turkey!

Turkey brine does infuse the meat but it does not make the meat taste overly salty, just seasoned!

ingredients for turkey brine on a counter

How to Make Turkey Brine

Thaw the turkey if needed and ensure you have a container large enough for your turkey. The brine below should be enough for a 12-15lb bird. If yours is larger you might like to make extra or add extra water to ensure it is completely is covered.

  • Add all of the brine ingredients (per the recipe below) to a large pot and bring to a boil on the stove. Stir and simmer until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
  • Cool the brine completely before using, I add a couple of handfuls of ice to cool it faster.

How to Brine a Turkey

  1. Remove any giblets from inside the cavity.
  2. Place the turkey in a brining bag, a large container, or a clean bucket. Add the cold brine and refrigerate for up to 24 hours turning occasionally if needed.
  3. Remove the turkey from the brine and discard any remaining brine and the herbs in the brine, it cannot be reused. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels and oven roast the turkey per your favorite recipe until the juices run clear and a meat thermometer registers 165°F.

Herb Swap

Fresh herbs are great but dried herbs work too. If using dried herbs, you will need about 1 tablespoon of each and they should be added to the brine when it comes to a boil so they can rehydrate.

Turkey brine in a glass container

Tips for Safe Brining

  • Ensure the brine is cool before adding to the turkey.
  • Store turkey in the refrigerator while it brines (not at room temperature).
  • Ensure turkey is sealed or covered in the fridge so it doesn’t contaminate other foods.
  • Do not brine longer than 2 days (I recommend up to 24 hours).
  • If rinsing the turkey, remove all items such as dishes and dishcloths from around the sink area and cover the area around your sink with paper towels to avoid cross-contamination according to the USDA.
  • Ensure the turkey meat (and the center of the stuffing if you’re stuffing the turkey) reaches 165°F.
  • The drippings from a brined turkey will have more salt than a turkey that hasn’t been brined. If making gravy, add a little bit at a time to ensure the gravy isn’t too salty. Taste before seasoning and salting the gravy. If it is too salty, add some water or no-sodium broth.
preparing turkey brine

How Long to Brine a Turkey

Every brine recipe recommends a different time in the solution, depending on the amount of salt. If you leave it in too long, your poultry can get too salty and the meat can even become mushy.

This turkey brine calls for leaving the turkey in the brine for no more than 24 hours for a 12 to 15-pound bird. Follow these steps and it won’t be long before you’re enjoying the best turkey you’ve ever tasted!

a turkey in a brining bag

A simple brine for 24 hours before roasting a turkey is a total game-changer. Once cooked, serve with a side of mashed potatoes, a green bean casserole, and a cranberry Waldorf salad.

Try Brine on These Turkey Recipes

Easy Turkey Brine with oranges and turkey
4.95 from 17 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
Or to leave a comment, click here!

Easy Turkey Brine

Packed with herbs, aromatics, and a hint of citrus, this mélange infuses your turkey with complex flavors and succulent tenderness.
Cook Time 15 minutes
Brine Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 15 minutes
Servings 1 turkey brine

Ingredients  

  • 12 cups water divided
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 5 cloves garlic halved
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 whole bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh sage
  • 4 cups broth chicken, turkey, or vegetable, or apple cider
  • 1-2 oranges sliced, optional

Instructions 

  • In a soup pot, on the stove over medium-high heat, add 4 cups water, kosher salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, garlic, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, and sage.
  • Bring to a gentle simmer while stirring to help dissolve the sugar and salt.
  • When the sugar and salt are fully dissolved remove the pot from the heat.
  • Pour in the remaining water (or add some ice to cool it faster). Add the cold broth and allow the mixture to fully cool.
  • When the mixture is cooled add to a large food-grade container or brining bag and brine turkey for up to 24 hours.
  • Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse with very cold water. Discard brine, do not reuse.
  • Dab dry with paper towels and cook according to your favorite roast turkey recipe.

Notes

Makes enough for a 12-15 pound turkey, this recipe can be doubled for a larger bird.
Substitute 1 tablespoon of dried herbs for the fresh herbs if desired.
If using apple cider, ensure it’s not apple cider vinegar. I use this roast turkey recipe.
Ensure the brine is cool before adding to the turkey.
Store turkey in the fridge while it brines (not at room temperature).
Ensure turkey is sealed or covered in the fridge as to not contaminate other foods.
Ensure the turkey meat (and center of the stuffing if you’re stuffing the turkey) reaches 165°F.
4.95 from 17 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
Or to leave a comment, click here!

Nutrition Information

Calories: 129 | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 11878mg | Potassium: 321mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 24g | Vitamin A: 908IU | Vitamin C: 78mg | Calcium: 209mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.

Course Turkey
Cuisine American

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Brine adapted from Canadian Living

close up of turkey in Easy Turkey Brine with a title
ingredients in a bag before adding Easy Turkey Brine with a title
turkey with Easy Turkey Brine and writing
turkey in Easy Turkey Brine and photo of just the bowl with brine and writing

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About the author

Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!
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Comments

  1. I love your recipes, and your tips for roasted turkey are wonderfully clear. Does the turkey need to be completely submerged in the brining liquid?

  2. Love your recipes; we’ve made several never been disappointed. On the brine recipe ya list oranges as optional but don’t mention in the instructions when to add them.

  3. When do you add the oranges? Don’t see the oranges in the directions. We are going to have this for our Thanksgiving if not before!

    Anyone have any hints on how to do this with a turkey breast? There are only two of us. Thanks!

  4. Hi Holly!
    So happy to have found your cooking site! What better way to spend a day and collect recipes for future use. Love this brine recipe . I used to buy the packaged brine but the one above is a keeper! Hope you and yours are safe and well during this terrible time for the USA and the rest of the world. Take care.5 stars