If you're looking to simplify or scale down your traditional Thanksgiving dinner — yet still want to give turkey its annual chance to shine — don't overlook turkey breasts for Thanksgiving or any time you want a delicious, savory meal featuring lean poultry.

By Jackie Freeman
Updated September 24, 2020

Why Make Turkey Breasts

There are definite advantages to making turkey breasts for Thanksgiving (or for any dinners):

  1. Turkey breasts are sized just right for serving two or a few (with leftovers).
  2. They have the same great flavor as the whole bird, but are quicker to prepare and will save you fridge space and money.
  3. You can tap into all kinds of new recipes when you move away from the cooking constraints that come along with prepping and serving a huge whole bird.
  4. More white meat for sandwiches!

Read on for tips on how to buy and prep a turkey breast, plus 8 ways to cook a turkey breast.

Related: Find top-rated Turkey Breast Recipes

How to Buy and Prep Turkey Breasts

  • Turkey breasts are sold boneless and skinless or bone-in with skin. You can buy a half breast (about three pounds) or a full breast (two halves joined at the breast bone).
  • A half breast will feed two to four people, while a full breast will feed six to eight.
  • You can brine a turkey breast the same way you would a whole bird to ensure it turns out juicy and flavorful.
  • If you buy a frozen turkey breast, make sure it's fully thawed before you cook it.
  • A bone-in turkey breast takes about 20 minutes per pound to cook at 350 degrees F. (175 degrees C). The internal meat temperature should reach 165 degrees F (75 degrees C); cooking times and temperatures will vary depending on the recipe you follow.

How to Cook Turkey Breasts

We'll show you eight different ways to cook Thanksgiving turkey breasts, plus top recipes to try for each cooking method.

1. Classic roast turkey breast.

Roasting turkey breast is a simple technique for even the beginner cook. Try adding different herbs, glazes, or sauces for added flavor and to help retain moisture. Make sure to season the turkey well with salt and pepper first, and add a bit of fat (like butter or oil) under the skin to help with crisping. Try this recipe for Oven-Roasted Turkey Breast.

2. Instant Pot turkey breast.

Using a Instant Pot saves valuable oven space on the big day, leaving it open for all of the other things that need time in the oven, such as pies, stuffing, roasted vegetables, and casseroles. Even better: You don't have to thaw a frozen turkey breast to cook it safely in your Instant Pot. Try this recipe for Instant Pot Frozen Turkey Breast.

3. Slow cooker turkey breast.

Slow cooker turkey breast is a great way to free up oven space, and allows you to turn it on and walk away for fuss-free cooking. You'll have more free time to focus on other tasks, visit with friends and family, or even leave the house for a few hours. (That touch football game isn't going to play itself!) Try this recipe for Slow Cooker Turkey Breast.

4. Air fryer turkey breast.

Use your air fryer to cook a split turkey breast with crispy skin. Rub it with oil or butter, and season with salt, pepper, and herbs ensure the best flavor. Try this recipe for Air Fryer Turkey Breast.

5. Grilled turkey breast.

It may be sweater weather, but you can still fire up the grill! Cooking turkey on the grill is a great way to free up oven space (and it gives you a great excuse to escape awkward family dynamics). Try this grilled recipe for Marinated Turkey Breast.

6. Brined turkey breast.

Brines and marinades are a great way to infuse flavor to grilled turkey breast, but don't assume that more time marinating means more flavor; letting your turkey breast sit too long in marinade will result in a mushy texture. And don't continue basting your turkey with the leftover marinade past a certain point. While you can brush some of the marinade on the bird while it cooks, from a food-safety standpoint you should stop using the uncooked marinade at least 5 minutes before the cooking time ends. Try this recipe for Olive-Brined Air Fryer Turkey.

7. Fried turkey breast.

Breaded and fried turkey breasts gives them a lot of kid appeal, as Thanksgiving dinner suddenly takes on some of the same characteristics as a plate of chicken tenders. Be sure to season the flour with salt and pepper, but also try adding some dried herbs, paprika, or garlic powder. Prefer your breaded turkey on the crispier side? Try adding a little bit of cornstarch, which will help it crisp up when you add it to the hot oil. Try this recipe for Deep-Fried Turkey Breast.

8. Baked turkey breasts.

If you're really looking to wow your guests, try stuffing turkey breasts with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and even cheese. It creates a beautiful presentation for turkey breasts, adds amazing flavor, and helps the breasts to retain moisture for a delicious result. You can make sure everything cooks more evenly by gently pounding the breast to an even thickness before stuffing. Try this recipe for Cranberry Stuffed Turkey Breasts.