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.
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sliced turkey breast on cutting board
Credit: Buckwheat Queen

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 whole bird.
  4. More white meat for sandwiches!

Read on for tips on how to buy and prep a turkey breast, plus eight 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 3 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.
  • 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 Roast a Turkey Breast

Roasting turkey breast is a simple technique for even the beginner cook. You can try adding different herbs, glazes, or sauces for added flavor and to help retain moisture. These instructions are based off of takestu2tango's Oven-Roasted Turkey Breast. The original recipe includes an accompanying gravy, but you can also make your own using the pan drippings.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon salt-free garlic and herb seasoning blend (such as Mrs. Dash®)
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 (3 pound) turkey breast with skin

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix butter, garlic, paprika, Italian seasoning, garlic and herb seasoning, salt, and pepper in a bowl.
  3. Place turkey breast skin-side up into a roasting pan. Use your fingers to loosen the skin. Brush half the butter mixture over the turkey breast and under the skin (this is key to a super crispy skin). Reserve the remainder of the mixture. Loosely tent the turkey with foil.
  4. Roast in preheated oven for an hour. Brush remainder of the mixture over the turkey. Return to the oven and roast until the juices run clear or an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 165 degrees F, or about 30 minutes.
  5. Let the turkey breast rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Prepare gravy from the pan drippings if desired.

How to Cook a Turkey Breast in the Instant Pot

Using an 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. And even more important: It locks in moisture for a super juicy result. This recipe for Instant Pot Turkey Breast comes together in just one hour. You can also make it straight from frozen by adjusting the cooking time.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (1 ounce) package onion soup mix, or seasoning of your choosing
  • 1 turkey breast, thawed or frozen
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into large chunks
  • 1 onion, cut into large chunks
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • Optional for gravy: 2 tablespoons water
  • Optional for gravy: 1 tablespoon cornstarch, or more as needed

Instructions:

  1. Rub onion soup mix or other spices onto turkey breast. Place into the inner pot of an electric pressure cooker. Place celery and onions over and around the turkey. Pour chicken broth over turkey.
  2. Seal pressure cooker and cook on high pressure according to manufacturer's instructions for 30 minutes (50 minutes for frozen).
  3. Allow pressure to release naturally for about 20 minutes, then release the remaining pressure.
  4. Transfer to a plate to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.
  5. To make gravy: Mix water and cornstarch in a bowl until dissolved. Strain the liquid from the pot, return to the pot, and select the Sauté function. Bring to boil and stir in the cornstarch mixture. Whisk until thickened, about 3 minutes. Serve alongside turkey.

How to Cook a Turkey Breast in a Slow Cooker

sliced turkey breast with gravy on a plate
Credit: Lori

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. This recipe for Slow Cooker Turkey Breast requires just two ingredients, but you can spruce it up with aromatics like onions or celery, or season to your liking.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (6 pound) bone-in turkey breast
  • 1 (1 ounce) envelope dry onion soup mix
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons butter
  • Optional: Aromatics like onions, celery, garlic, etc.

Instructions:

  1. Pat turkey breast dry. Loosen the skin with your fingers. Rub onion soup mixture over the outside of the turkey and under the skin (you can also rub the turkey with butter to help crisp up the skin).
  2. Place turkey in the slow cooker. Optional: Add any aromatics like onion, celery, garlic, etc.
  3. Cover and cook on High for 1 hour, then set to Low and cook for 7 hours, or until the internal temperature reads 165 degrees F.
  4. Let it rest 10 to 20 minutes before serving.

How to Cook Turkey Breast in an Air Fryer

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. This recipe for Air Fryer Turkey Breast gives oven-roasted flavor but in far less time. If you prefer to brine your bird, check out this Olive-Brined Air Fryer Turkey Breast recipe.

sliced air fryer turkey breast on cutting board
Credit: Bibi

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh garlic
  • ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • 2 ¾ pounds skin-on, bone-in split turkey breast

Instructions:

  1. Preheat an air fryer to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place rosemary, chives, garlic, salt, and pepper on a cutting board. Cut butter into thin slice thin slices on top of herbs and seasonings and mash until well blended.
  3. Pat turkey dry and rub with herbed butter all over the turkey, including under the skin.
  4. Place the turkey in the basket of the air fryer, skin-side down, and fry for 20 minutes.
  5. Turn the turkey skin-side up and continue to fry until an instant-read thermometer reads 165 degrees F, about 18 minutes.
  6. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

How to Grill a 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. This Marinated Turkey Breast features both sweet and savory flavors. If you're using just 1 (3 pound) turkey breast half, cut the recipe in half.

sliced marinated and grilled turkey breast on a bed of fresh lettuces
Credit: Nicolette

Ingredients:

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 (3 pound) boneless turkey breast halves
  • 6 whole cloves
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, mix together garlic, basil, and pepper. Rub over the turkey breasts. Insert one clove into each end of the turkey breasts, and one in the center.
  2. In another shallow dish, mix together vegetable oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, and brown sugar. Place the breasts in the dish and turn to coat. Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
  3. Preheat a grill for high heat.
  4. Lightly oil the grill grates. Discard the marinade and place turkey breasts on the grill. Close the lid and grill turkey breasts for about 15 minutes on each side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.

How to Fry a 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. You can 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. Plan ahead for this Deep-Fried Turkey Breast recipe, as it requires 24 hours for the spice rub to penetrate the meat.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 (7 pound) turkey breast
  • 2 gallons canola oil for frying

Instructions:

  1. Combine spices in a plastic container and shake until well mixed.
  2. Rub the entire spice mixture over the turkey breast to coat completely. Wrap in aluminate foil and refrigerate for 24 hours.
  3. Remove the breast from the fridge and let stand at room temperature as you heat the oil.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pot with a lid (large enough to fit the oil and the breast) to 325 degrees F.
  5. Carefully add the breast to the oil, cover, and fry until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F, about 25 minutes.

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