Our oven-roasted turkey breast recipe is slathered in a lemon, garlic, and herb butter. It is hands down the best recipe for a juicy and moist bone-in roasted turkey breast. Perfect for your gluten-free Thanksgiving menu!
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Thanksgiving can be tough to prepare for and there are a lot of opinions on classic versus modern Thanksgiving recipes. And I am all about tried and true recipes mixed with updated versions, like our whole roasted cranberries and our updated sweet potato crunch. The best of both worlds.
This turkey breast recipe has classic Thanksgiving flavors with sage and thyme but is easier to manage than a whole turkey.
It is the perfect Thanksgiving turkey recipe for 4 to 6 people. Or you can make it to supplement your whole turkey for large gatherings.
This recipe is great for a few reasons...
- Naturally gluten-free
- Can be made with a whole breast or half breast
- Can be made with a boneless or bone-in turkey breast
- Pairs perfectly with our gluten free gravy recipe
- Extends beyond Thanksgiving for other gatherings like Christmas or Easter
- Perfect for meal prep, freeze half for later
This recipe uses only easy to find ingredients. I typically roast my turkey with a dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, or even Chardonnay.
If wine isn't your thing, you can substitute turkey stock or chicken broth. The key is to keep moisture in the oven to ensure a juicy breast.
- Whole bone-in turkey breast with the skin still on (6 to 7 pounds)
- Fresh Herbs- Thyme, Sage and Rosemary
- Salt and Pepper
- Dry white wine
To make a half turkey breast or boneless turkey breast you can scale down the herb better ingredients. Or split the herb butter and use half for your dinner rolls.
🦃 Selecting a Turkey Breast
The average bone in full turkey breast is 6 to 7 pounds. When estimating the size needed, assume 1 pound per person for a bone-in turkey and ½ pound for boneless.
Fresh turkeys are chilled below freezing but not frozen solid. They should be baked within 2 days of purchase.
Fresh vs Frozen
When selecting a frozen turkey breast, look for any signs of frost. Skip those.
You will need to defrost the turkey fully before cooking. The average bone-in double turkey breast will need 48 to 72 hours in the refrigerator to completely defrost.
When it comes to turkey, labels can be confusing. Heritage, organic, pastured, free-range... it can be confusing. Buy the best quality turkey in your price range. There are only 2 things you need to look out for.
First, avoid basted and self-basting turkeys if possible. These will be the most highly processed. If you have already purchased a basting turkey, do NOT brine. They are injected with a solution that is intended to retain moisture. Your turkey may be too salty if brined.
Second, do not brine kosher turkeys. They are typically brined during the packaging process. Confirm with your butcher if you are unsure. Again, it will be too salty if doubled-brined.
🦃 Brining Turkey Breast
Often people ask if bringing turkey is really necessary and my answer is... yes! I am a big fan of brining chicken and brining salmon. Turkey is no different, in fact, I would say that a turkey brine is the most critical step in roasting a turkey.
Turkey breast meat is known to dry out quickly which is why brine is a critical step.
There are two brine methods. The wet method submerges the turkey breast in a solution of water, salt, sugar, and herbs.
While the dry method coats the turkey in salt and it sits uncovered in the fridge. Both are great but the dry method takes longer so I prefer a wet brine.
Turkey Brine Ingredients
- Water and ice
- Kosher salt
- Molasses- you can substitute brown sugar or granulated sugar, if needed.
- Whole Black peppercorns
- Fresh Herbs- Sage and Rosemary
A bone-in turkey breast should brine overnight or about 12 hours. A boneless turkey breast can get away with less time but a minimum of 3 to 4 hours.
⏲️ How to Cook a Turkey Breast
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Step 1- Brine Overnight
To make the turkey brine, combine half, 4 cups, of the water, molasses, salt, pepper, herbs, and lemon in a stockpot. Heat until salt dissolves. There is no need to bring it to a boil.
Remove the pot from heat and add the remaining 4 cups of cool water and the ice. This helps to speed up the brining process.
Put turkey breast into a pot large enough to fully submerge the turkey. I typically use the same stockpot. When the brine mixture is completely cooled pour over turkey (or place the breast into the pot.
If the turkey isn't completely covered by water add enough to fully submerge. Place in refrigerator for 12 hours.
Step 2- Prep the Turkey
Preheat the oven to 325 F degrees. You will want your turkey to sit out at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes before roasting.
Site a wire rack in a sheet pan. Remove the turkey from the brine and set on the wire rack to drip dry for a few minutes. Then pat dry the turkey breast with paper towels.
Step 3- Make the Lemon Herb Butter
In a small bowl, combine the garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, softened butter, and lemon juice to make a paste. For a stronger lemon flavor, you can also use the zest of one lemon.
The herb butter goes half under and half over the turkey skin. This allows for flavor to go directly onto the meat while getting enough butter onto the skin to crisp it up.
Loosen the skin from the meat gently with your fingers and smear half of the paste directly on the meat. Spread the remaining paste evenly on the skin.
Step 4- Bake the Turkey
Place the turkey breast, skin side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Roasting the turkey on a rack allows the juices to drain so we can have pan gravy.
Pour the wine into the bottom of the roasting pan.
Roast the turkey for 2 hours to 2 ½ hours, until the skin is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees F. Check the turkey every 30 minutes and add more wine, turkey stock, or water to the bottom the pan if it begins to run dry.
A half turkey breast will typically cook in less than 2 hours. While a boneless version of the recipe will be about 90 minutes, depending on the size.
Step 5- Serve
When the turkey is done, cover with foil and allow it to rest at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes. It should come up to 165 F degrees minimum.
To serve, slice the turkey into ¼ to ⅓ inch pieces and spoon over pan juices. Garnish with lemon slices and fresh herbs.
To serve with pan juices carefully scoop off the top layer of fat from the juices. Then ladle the pan juices over the turkey.
🥗 Turkey Breast Side Dishes
Turkey is a versatile protein. Here are a few of our favorite turkey side dishes:
- Brussel Sprout and Pomegranate Salad
- Modern Green Bean "Casserole" (deconstructed and no cream of mushroom!)
- Sweet Potato Crunch
- Bourbon Roasted Cranberries (the best not sweet cranberry recipe ever!)
To drink, I like to serve chardonnay, or the less popular but arguably better, viognier. For red wine, I recommend sticking with the classic turkey breast and pinot noir pairing.
🥘Tips and Tricks
- If you don't have a rack for your roasting pan you can ball up a few pieces of aluminum foil to prop your turkey up on.
- Be sure to salt and pepper the bottom of your turkey for maximum flavor.
- If you live a very dry climate start your turkey covered with foil for the first 30 to 45 minutes
- If you turkey begins to brown to quickly, loosely cover or tent with foil to stop the browning but allow steam to escape.
💭 Christmas Roasted Turkey Breast Recipe
My favorite variation of this recipe is to swap out the lemons with oranges and add a pinch of nutmeg to the herb butter. This is how I make it for our Christmas dinner.
You can also throw a few cinnamon sticks into the brine.
🌡️ Storage and Food Safety
A frozen turkey breast may take a few days to thaw in the fridge so plan accordingly. It can continue to thaw out in the brine if needed.
Cooked turkey lasts 3 to 5 days when tightly wrapped and stored in the fridge. Or freeze up to 2 months.
Just a few reminders when working with raw poultry.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched the turkey.
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature beyond the 1 hour resting period
💬Frequently Asked Questions
Should a turkey breast be cooked covered or uncovered?
In order to brown the skin, the turkey breast should be cooked uncovered with liquid (wine or stock) in the pan to ensure a moist environment. If you live in a dry climate, cover the turkey breast with foil for the first 30 to 45 minutes of cooking then remove. If the turkey skin browns too quickly loosely cover with foil.
Yes. Whole and half turkey breasts will stay fresh longer than sliced turkey. Tightly wrap in plastic wrap, place in a freezer bag and store for up to 2 months.
Turkey is done at 165 F degrees. It can be removed from the oven at 160 F degrees and covered with a foil tent. While the turkey is resting (about 10 minutes) it should come up to 165 F degrees.
For bone-in turkey breasts or whole turkeys, plan for 1 pound per person. For boneless turkey breasts, plan on ½ pound per person. Increase to by ½ to 1 pound for leftovers.
The key to a moist turkey breast starts before roasting. Brine your turkey breast overnight and keep liquid in the bottom of the pan when roasting. White wine, stock, or water.
Roasted Turkey Breast with Herb Butter
Turkey Breast Brine
- 8 cups water
- ½ cup kosher salt
- ¼ cup molasses
- 4 cloves garlic smashed
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 2 sprigs fresh sage
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 2 lemons cut in half
- 4 cups ice
Roasted Turkey Breast
- 1 whole bone-in turkey breast 6 ½ to 7 pounds
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 tablespoons butter softened
- 1 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 cup dry white wine
Brine the Turkey
- In a large stockpot, combine 4 cups of water, molasses, salt, pepper, herbs, and lemon. Heat until salt dissolves, remove from heat. Add the remaining 4 cups of cool water and 4 cups of ice.8 cups water, ¼ cup molasses, 4 cloves garlic smashed, 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, 2 sprigs fresh sage, 2 sprigs rosemary, 2 lemons, 4 cups ice, ½ cup kosher salt
- Put turkey breast into a large pot. When the brine mixture is completely cooled and pour over turkey. If the turkey isn't completely covered by water add enough to fully submerge. Place in refrigerator for 12 hours.1 whole bone-in turkey breast
Roasting the Turkey Breast
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- In a small bowl, combine the garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, butter, and lemon juice to make a paste.3 cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves, 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves, 1 tablespoons lemon juice, 4 tablespoons butter
- Remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry, Loosen the skin from the meat gently with your fingers and smear half of the paste directly on the meat. Spread the remaining paste evenly on the skin.1 whole bone-in turkey breast, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Place the turkey breast, skin side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Pour the wine into the bottom of the roasting pan.1 cup dry white wine
- Roast the turkey for 2 hours to 2 ½ hours, until the skin is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees F. When the turkey is done, cover with foil and allow it to rest at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes. It should come up to 165 F degrees minimum.
- To serve, slice the turkey into ¼ to ⅓ inch pieces and spoon over pan juices. Or pour pan juices into prepared turkey gravy (see recipe link below) and serve gravy on the side. Garnish with lemon slices and fresh herbs.
- Kosher, self-basting, or basted turkey breasts should not be brined as they have either been previously brined (kosher) or are injected with a solution.
- If the skin is over-browning, cover the breast loosely with aluminum foil.
- Allow the turkey to rest at room temperature for 1 hour before placing it in the oven.
- Gluten-Free Turkey Gravy Recipe