If you're looking to simplify your traditional Thanksgiving dinner—yet still want to give turkey its annual chance to shine—don't overlook turkey breasts for Thanksgiving.
There are definite advantages to making turkey breasts for Thanksgiving:
- Turkey breasts are sized just right for serving two or a few (with leftovers).
- They have the same great flavor as the whole bird, but are quicker to prepare and will save you fridge space and money.
- 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.
- More white meat for sandwiches!
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. The internal meat temperature should reach 165 degrees F; cooking times and temperatures will vary depending on the recipe you follow.
6 Feast-Worthy Ways to Cook Thanksgiving Turkey Breasts
We'll show you six different ways to cook Thanksgiving turkey breasts, plus top recipes to try for each cooking method.
1. Use a slow cooker or Instant Pot.
Using a slow cooker or 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. Slow cookers also enable a hands-off approach, giving you 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!)
Fresh herbs, celery leaves, and a splash of wine give this slow-cooked turkey breast tons of flavor. Save the juices that are left over from cooking and turn them into gravy, like naples34102 did. "This was fragrant, immensely flavorful, and so tender and moist," she says.
Recipe creator Tammy Lynn says, "The Instant Pot made the moistest turkey breast I have ever made. I usually let this cook in the slow cooker all day, but this turned out so much better. I couldn't believe that I had such a wonderful meal ready in less than an hour total!"
Allrecipes home cook Kristen Tesar agrees: "This is my first recipe review ever, but I just had to share how great this recipe went! Two important notes: I doubled the onions and celery, and I also cooked it for 40 minutes in the cooker after realizing that the turkey was slightly pink inside at 30 minutes. I also added 3 cloves of garlic because we love garlic. What a wonderful recipe!"
2. Make stuffed 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.
After butterflying your turkey breasts, you pack the flattened breast with stuffing, cranberries, and pecans to capture all of the flavors of Thanksgiving in one humble turkey dish.
Allrecipes reviewer Teri Blackburn Pell says, "I've made this recipe two years in a row and must say that it's not only tasty, but has a very nice presentation. I would suggest making more of the stuffing/pecan/cranberry mixture and serving it alongside."
Preparing your turkey breast hasselback-style is an elegant way to serve a main that's fancy enough for the holiday table. If you have a busy day ahead of you, mrssarahstocker suggests prepping this recipe ahead of time and baking it later.
3. Classic roasted 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.
Both sweet and savory, the marinade for this turkey breast recipe combines maple syrup, liquid smoke, and a variety of spices. Even Allrecipes home cook SWEETJAM—who admits she's not a big fan of maple or liquid smoke—says she "took a leap of faith on this one." Her verdict? "This was excellent. I loved the flavor combination and even better, this was the juiciest turkey breast I have ever made—and I make a lot of them."
This is a simple recipe that tastes great—and you can even make an easy veggie side dish at the same time, as Allrecipes home cook DBAZAN1 did. She says, "the spices were perfect, and the gravy was an excellent complement. Throw in some chopped root vegetables to roast at the same time, add a green salad, and you've got a fantastic fall meal!!" Watch the video to see how to make it.
4. 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).
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.
Rel.hearts.food says this "was truly amazing" and will satisfy anyone at the table. Fresh basil and garlic are the key ingredients in this fresh and flavorful marinade, so you might even find yourself bookmarking this recipe for the warm summer months when basil is at its peak.
Linda Depasquale says: "This was the first recipe I found for grilled turkey breast, and it is excellent. I have made turkey breast many different ways, but this was so tender and tasty that I may never make it any other way!!!
Turkey and sage is a match made in heaven, and the sage adds a wonderful herbal-smoked flavor to the meat. You can easily swap out chicken for turkey in this recipe, as Spunky Buddy did when he made it.
5. 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.
A turkey cutlet is smaller, thinner cut of meat from the main turkey breast—and is an almost sure-fire way to make kids happy about Thanksgiving dinner. Just don't tell them that recipe developer Tanya Belt added a surprise ingredient to this breaded turkey cutlets recipe—sour cream. "The sour cream seals in the moisture and no one would ever guess that it's in there," she says. But because the sour cream is a little stickier than egg (which you would typically use to bread and fry something), it helps the combination of bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese adhere to the outside of the cutlets for a deliciously crunchy take on Thanksgiving turkey.
You'll dry-brine the turkey breast in the fridge for 24 hours before breaking out the deep fryer. The result? A super-fast, super juicy T-Day treat. If you've never deep-fried a turkey before, check out these helpful guide for tips on how to deep-fry a turkey.
6. Use your air fryer.
Break out your new air fryer to make this savory, juicy recipe. Recipe creator Buckwheat Queen marinates a boneless, skinless turkey breast overnight in buttermilk and olive brine, then cooks it in the air fryer.