Elevate your next turkey dinner with this amazing citrus turkey brine. Whether you are preparing for a holiday potluck or a quiet weeknight meal, this simple, easy recipe is your ticket to the most flavorful bird in town.
I’m always looking for clever ways to make traditional dishes even tastier. Over the years, I have cooked our Thanksgiving turkey a variety of ways. I have made our beloved holiday bird with a dry brine, herb compound butter, and everything in between. Today, I am excited to share one of my all time favorites with you — my citrus turkey brine.
It has all the pungent, aromatic herbs you would expect in a turkey brine plus a generous amount of bright juicy citrus fruits. The resulting flavor profile is phenomenal. Not to mention, the brining process will make your bird fall-off-the-bone tender. Fair warning though — make a bird with this citrus brine just once for your family, and you’ll be hired to cook the Thanksgiving turkey every year!
Of course, turkey and a flavorful brine are great options year-round. Pining for Thanksgiving halfway through the year? Check out my post on turkey and trimmings for two for a bit of inspiration.
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Kosher Salt – This is what makes the brining magic happen. Kosher salt is the best choice, but sea salt will work in a pinch.
- Brown Sugar – This adds a bit of sweetness to balance out all that saltiness. If needed, you can substitute molasses, honey, or plain white sugar.
- Black Peppercorns – For depth and subtle spiciness. Feel free to use mixed peppercorns if that is what you have on hand.
- Bay Leaves – This slightly bitter herb is famous for boosting the flavor and aroma of sauces, soups, and stews.
- Rosemary and Thyme – These two aromatic herbs give the brine an earthy flavor while adding a bit of complexity.
- Citrus Fruit – Oranges, lemons, and limes all work together to put the citrus in citrus turkey brine. They add a lovely brightness that will make your brine shine.
- Onion and Garlic – Both onion and garlic add a bit of pungent umami flavor to the mix and help to balance out the overall flavor of the brine.
HOW TO MAKE CITRUS TURKEY BRINE
- Combine Herbs and Spices. Use a stock pot or large Dutch oven to combine 8 cups of water with your sugar, salt, peppercorns, bay leaves, and herbs. Stir thoroughly until the salt and sugar have dissolved and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Add Remaining Ingredients. Place the citrus fruit, onion, and garlic in the pot, then bring the mixture back to a boil. Cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes. Then, turn off the heat and leave your brine covered for another 15 minutes.
- Allow To Cool. Remove the lid from the pot and stir in 4 cups of cold water.
HOW TO WET BRINE A TURKEY
- Submerge the Turkey. Choose a large enough container to hold both your turkey and the brine. Add 4 cups of ice to the bottom of the container, place the turkey on top of the ice. Pour the entire pot of cooled brine mixture over the turkey.
- Chill. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours and no longer than 24 hours. Any longer and the meat will start to break down.
- Rinse and Cook. Once you are ready to smoke or roast your turkey, be sure to give a good rinse in cool water first. Enjoy!
How Long Should You Salt Brine a Turkey?
As a rule of thumb, 45-60 minutes per pound is best. You’ll want to brine for at least 3 hours and no more than 24 hours. Be sure not to brine your bird too long or you will end up with overly salty and spongy meat. No good!
What is the Best Container to Brine a Turkey In?
It’s important to use a nonreactive container that is large enough to hold both the bird and the brine. Stainless steel is the only safe metal to use, but glass and food-safe plastic will work as well. You can even use special brining bags or a cooler if needed.
How Long Can You Keep A Brined Turkey Before Cooking?
A brined turkey can be safely stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days until ready to cook. Be sure to keep it covered.
What Else Can I Use Citrus Turkey Brine For?
Citrus turkey brine is a great option for any poultry. Try it out next time you are making chicken, duck, or other bird. Keep in mind that it doesn’t need to be an entire bird. Go ahead and brine your chicken breasts for dinner tonight — just don’t leave them submerged for more than 6 hours. NEVER REUSE BRINE! Once it’s used please discard.
Citrus Turkey Brine
- 1 1/2 cups kosher salt
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 1 orange quartered
- 1 lemon quartered
- 1 lime quartered
- 1 yellow onion quartered
- 6 cloves garlic smashed
- In a large dutch oven or stock pot add 8 cups of water to the salt, sugar, peppercorns, bay leaves and herbs. Stir to dissolve and bring to a boil.
- Add remaining ingredients. Bring to boil again, cover and simmer for 15 minutes on low. Turn off heat, keep covered for 15 minutes.
- Remove lid, add 4 cups of cold water and stir. Allow to cool.
- In a container large enough to hold turkey and brine, add 4 cups of ice. Place turkey on top of ice and pour cooled brine mixture over turkey. Cover and refrigerate no longer than 24 hours, minimum 3 hours. Rinse turkey before preparing to roast or smoke.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.