Easy Turkey Brine Recipe - I Heart Naptime (2024)

Easy Turkey Brine Recipe - I Heart Naptime (1)

Jamielyn Nye
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This basic turkey brine recipe is a simple way to make your Thanksgiving turkey juicy and flavorful. Takes just 5 simple ingredients and is fail-proof.

We use this recipe to make a roasted turkey, turkey breast, or smoked turkey every year for our Thanksgiving menu

Easy Turkey Brine Recipe - I Heart Naptime (2)

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Table of Contents

  • Why This Recipe Works
  • 5 Simple Ingredients
  • Variations
  • How to Brine a Turkey
  • 5 star review
  • Expert Tips
  • Recipe FAQ’s
  • Favorite Dishes to Serve Alongside
  • Easy Turkey Brine Recipe Printable Recipe

Why This Recipe Works

You’re not going to believe this turkey brine recipe is made with only 5 ingredients! That’s why this is the most simple turkey brine you’ll ever make.

  • So easy. You only need 5 ingredients and 10 minutes of prep time to make this easy turkey brine recipe.
  • Moist and flavorful. Not only does it add an amazing flavor, but it makes the meat super moist and juicy. It will also help make your homemade turkey stock and turkey gravy that much more delicious from the flavorful drippings and carcass.
  • Customizable. Use this base recipe as the starting point and then add extra spices and herbs to your taste, whether that’s sweet, savory, or spicy.

5 Simple Ingredients

Easy Turkey Brine Recipe - I Heart Naptime (3)

Find the fullprintable recipewith specific measurements below.

  • Turkey: This recipe is for a 12-15poundturkey. Do not use a Kosher or pre-salted turkey, as we’re adding our own salt and it would be entirely too salty with both!
  • Salt: This is the main key ingredient for brining meat. I prefer to use 1 cup of kosher salt, but if you’re using fine sea salt, make sure to reduce the amount to 3/4 cup.
  • Brown sugar: I love adding brown sugar to my brine. It adds the best flavor and a subtle hint of sweetness that balances out the salt.
  • Garlic and herbs: I love adding garlic cloves and fresh herbs such as rosemary to boost the flavor, however, you could always leave these out if preferred.

Variations

Give the turkey brine an extra boost of flavor by adding in other savory herbs such as sage, thyme, bay leaves, black peppercorns, or red pepper flakes for a little heat.

For a sweeter taste, mix in 2 cups of apple juice along with some fresh orange peels or lemon for a hint of citrus. There are plenty of ways to make this simple brine for turkey your own!

How to Brine a Turkey

Brining a turkey doesn’t have to be intimidating! This is the perfect simple turkey brine for beginners to start with and only takes 10 minutes to prep.

Easy Turkey Brine Recipe - I Heart Naptime (4)
  1. Prep. First, thaw the turkey until no longer frozen. Then remove the neck and giblets and discard. Place in a bag or container.
  2. Mix. Mix together the water, salt, and sugar so it can dissolve. Then add your garlic and herbs.
  3. Brine. Pour the brine over the meat. Close the bag or cover it with a lid. Marinate in the fridge.
  4. Rinse. Next, remove the turkey from the bag or pan and discard the liquid. Rinse under cool water to remove excess salt and then place on paper towels to dry.
  5. Prep. Prep your turkey (I love to add my garlic herb butter on top) and fill it with onions and fresh herbs like fresh sage and fresh thyme. Then place in roasting pan.
  6. Roast. Follow my instructions for how to roast a turkey. Cook until the meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reaches 180°F. Be sure to cover loosely with foil after the first 30 minutes to prevent browning. Let stand for 15 minutes before carving the turkey.
Easy Turkey Brine Recipe - I Heart Naptime (5)

5 star review

“First time brining a turkey and I’ll never do it any other way! Made it so juicy and tender. Thanks!”

-Abby

Expert Tips

Follow these helpful tips for making the best turkey brine recipe!

  • Thawing. Don’t forget to allow time to thaw the turkey before you brine it! A twelve to fifteen-pound bird will need to thaw in the fridge for about 4 days beforehand. For a quicker method, you can soak the turkey in cold water for about 8 hours.
  • Container for brining. I’ve found that using the 5-gallon buckets from Home Depot is the perfect size for brining a turkey of this size. It needs to be deep enough so that both the turkey and brine fit in the bucket. A large food-safe plastic bag will also work too.
  • Fridge space. If you don’t have enough fridge space to store the turkey overnight, you can use a cooler packed with ice. It should be kept in a cool space so that the meat doesn’t get too warm. I would also recommend covering the top of the turkey with ice so that it stays cold.
  • Let rest. After you rinse off the brine and pat the meat dry, it’s important to let it rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes before prepping. This will help it cook quicker and more evenly since it won’t be cold from the refrigerator.

Recipe FAQ’s

How long should you brine before cooking?

I like to brine mine overnight, but it’s important that you let it brine for at least 12 hours before cooking. The longer it brines, the more time the flavors have to marinate together to create a flavorful and juicy turkey. You can let it brine for up to 3 days.

Can you stuff a brined turkey?

Sure, just make sure to cook it a little longer. Turkeys that are stuffed take about 30 minutes longer to cook through than ones that aren’t.

The stuffing soaks in some of the heat and moisture, which causes a difference in how the heat circulates throughout. I would just tack on an additional 30 minutes to the cooking time, so about 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

Does a brined turkey cook faster?

A turkey that’s been marinating in a brine does actually cook a little faster. Because it contains more moisture, it cooks faster than if it had not been brined. I typically cook mine for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, however, this time could fluctuate a little depending on your oven.

To ensure yours is cooked to perfection, check the temperature ever so often with a meat thermometer (insert it in the thickest part of the thigh). It will be cooked through when the temperature reaches 180°F.

What is the difference between a wet brine and a dry brine?

A wet brine is a liquid mixture that your turkey will be submerged into to marinate. It will always contain salt, water, and usually sugar. A dry brine is rubbed directly onto the turkey imparting flavor that way. Both are great ways to add flavor to your meat!

Easy Turkey Brine Recipe - I Heart Naptime (6)

Looking for ways to use leftover turkey? Try my turkey soup, turkey tetrazzini, and more leftover turkey recipes.

Favorite Dishes to Serve Alongside

Browse all
  • Brown Sugar Glazed Carrots
  • Best Green Bean Casserole Recipe
  • Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes
  • Easy Cranberry Sauce

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Easy Turkey Brine Recipe - I Heart Naptime (11)

Easy Turkey Brine Recipe

5 from 63 votes

↑ Click stars to rate now!

Author: Jamielyn Nye

This basic turkey brine recipe will teach you how to brine a turkey – the easy way! Takes just 5 simple ingredients and is fail proof. This is the best recipe for beginners and makes a great Thanksgiving dinner!

Prep Time: 10 minutes mins

Brine time: 12 hours hrs

Total Time: 12 hours hrs 10 minutes mins

Servings: 16

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Video

Equipment

  • large food-safe plastic bag or deep non-metallic container

Ingredients

  • 12-15 pounds turkey , do not use Kosher or pre-salted
  • 3-4 quarts water
  • 1 cup Morton kosher salt , or 3/4 cup sea salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 cloves garlic , peeled and smashed
  • ¼ cup fresh rosemary leaves

Optional: Orange peels and fresh herbs (such as sage, thyme, or bay leaves)

    Instructions

    • Thaw the turkey (will take about 4 days in a refrigerator or 8 hours in cold water).

    • Remove neck and giblets from body and neck cavities, and discard.

    • Place turkey breast side down in a bag or large container.

    • Mix together the water, salt, brown sugar, garlic and rosemary leaves. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add in orange peels or other herbs, if desired. Pour over the turkey. Close the bag or cover the container with a lid. Marinate in refrigerator for at least 12 hours or up to 2 days.

    • When ready to cook, thoroughly wash the turkey under cold water to remove excess salt. Place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels really well. Let rest for 30 minutes before prepping.

    • Follow with cooking instructions. See my favorite roasted turkey below. Note that a brined turkey will cook about 20-30 minutes faster.

    Notes

    How to cook turkey: Learn how to make my oven roasted turkey or my smoked turkey.

    Variations:

    • For a sweeter brine: add in 2 cups of apple juice with orange peels.
    • For a savory brine: double the garlic and add a bundle of thyme and a teaspoon of red pepper flakes.

    Containers: I like to use the 5-gallon buckets from home depot to brine my turkey in. If you don’t have the fridge space, you could also use a cooler packed with ice. Make sure to keep it in a cool place and cover the top of the turkey with ice.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 394kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 52g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 174mg | Sodium: 7357mg | Potassium: 567mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 148IU | Vitamin C: 0.3mg | Calcium: 50mg | Iron: 2mg

    Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.

    Course: Main Course

    Cuisine: American

    Diet: Gluten Free

    Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!

    Categorized as: 5 Ingredients Or Less, 5 Ingredients Or Less, American, Christmas, Dairy-Free, Dinner, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Thanksgiving

    Easy Turkey Brine Recipe - I Heart Naptime (12)

    Jamielyn Nye is the founder and recipe creator at I Heart Naptime. She is also the author of the I Heart Naptime Cookbook. Here you will find easy family-friendly recipes for every occasion.

    More about Jamielyn Nye

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    Add a comment

    42 comments

      • Kyle

      Why a non-metallic container? I have a large stainless steel pot that would accommodate a turkey nicely. Also, could I use a bag inside the SS pot?

      • Reply
        • Jamielyn Nye

        A stainless steel pot will work. You’ll want to use a pan made from non-reactive material.

        • Reply
      • Brian Wheeler

      Should you poke holes in the turkey to let the brine get in the meat more?

      • Reply
        • Jamielyn Nye

        Yes you can poke some holes into the turkey beforehand, although if brining overnight it’s not necessary.

        • Reply
      • Tim

      I’m confused. You don’t boil the brine first? I always thought you had to cook down the sugar. That’s how I’ve always done it.

      • Reply
        • Jamielyn Nye

        You can boil it if you’d like, you’ll just need to make sure to chill it. I find the sugar dissolves in the water just fine.

        • Reply
          • Tim

          Awesome. Will definitely save me some time. Thank you!!

        • Sam Coll

        Just made. Used basic recipe & added extras. Thanks.

        For consistency you may want to review your content. 3 ingredients, 5 ingredients and listed 6 ingredients.

        • Reply
          • Jamielyn Nye

          Hope you enjoyed the recipe! We don’t count water as an ingredient when we say 5, as we figure that is readily available.

          • Reply
        • Natasha
        • Easy Turkey Brine Recipe - I Heart Naptime (17)

        It’s the easiest Turkey Brine recipe I’ve ever made. Can’t believe that I only had to use 5 ingredients. It turned out very juicy and full of flavor.

        • Reply
        • April
        • Easy Turkey Brine Recipe - I Heart Naptime (18)

        I brined my turkey for the first time last year – OMG. NEVER NOT BRINING A TURKEY EVER AGAIN, what a game changer! Looking forward to trying this brine recipe!

        • Reply
        • Anne

        What container are people using to put the turkey in? I mean, I have room in my fridge for the turkey in some kind of deep container, but, I don’t have room for a big bucket….

        • Reply
          • Jamielyn Nye

          You could also use a large stock pot if you have one of those.

          • Reply
          • Kenneth Austin

          I found some brining buckets with a hold down attachment that keeps you from having to turn it like in a bag. Then, I use a 55gal Igloo cooler to set it in with a couple 20 lbs bag of ice. I’m good with that for 3-4 days. Just search Briner Buckets and see what comes u near you.

          • Reply
        • Rebecca Hubbell
        • Easy Turkey Brine Recipe - I Heart Naptime (19)

        We actually used this on a chicken last night and it turned out so juicy and delicious!

        • Reply
          • Taylor @ I Heart Naptime

          Thanks for sharing, Rebecca. This brine can be used all year long :)

          • Reply
        • Abby
        • Easy Turkey Brine Recipe - I Heart Naptime (20)

        First time brining a turkey and I’ll never do it any other way! Made it so juicy and tender. Thanks!

        • Reply
          • Taylor @ I Heart Naptime

          Welcome to the brining club, Abby. Once you try it, you won’t go back!

          • Reply

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