If you are roasting or smoking a turkey this season, our Easy Turkey Brine recipe is the perfect first step to preparing your holiday meal. Learn how to brine a turkey for a super juicy, tender Thanksgiving star every time! You can use this turkey brine for Juicy Roast Turkey or Spatchcock Turkey.

It’s so juicy, that you don’t even need the Turkey Gravy. Oh, who are we kidding? You always need gravy!

A whole turkey submerged in a salty brine with garlic and herbs

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What is a Brine?

Brining means to soak your turkey (or chicken, or pork) in a water and salt solution (brine) with herbs, sugar, spices, and sometimes even fruit.

Why Do You Brine a Turkey?

Turkey, like chicken and pork, is a naturally lean protein and is prone to overcooking and drying out while roasting in the oven. Brining is a helpful technique to enhance moisture retention because the salt alters the structure of the meat’s proteins, allowing it to absorb and retain more flavor-infused liquid.

Best Turkey Brine Recipe

If you have never brined a turkey, you are missing out. This wet brine recipe is not part of the cooking process but is an additional step in preparing your turkey 12-24 hours before cooking. Soak your turkey in this herbal brine and you will have the most flavorful, tender cuts of turkey your platter has ever seen. Brining will make your turkey:

  • Extra flavorful, seasoned throughout
  • Consistently moist, tender, and juicy
  • Aromatic – all of the fresh herbs that are infused while soaking are enhanced when the turkey is roasting in the oven.

Pro Tip:

Be sure to remove the bag of giblets and neck from the turkey’s cavity before adding your bird to the brine.

Ingredients

This brine recipe is so simple, it really is as easy as submerging your turkey (just about any sized turkey will work here) in seasoned water and adding some herbs. For this easy turkey brine recipe you will need:

  • Salt – fine sea salt or kosher salt, preferably salt without additives or iodine
  • Granulated sugar – balances the saltiness of the brine and also helps to give your finished roasted turkey a golden brown, caramelized crust.
  • Herbs and spices – bay leaves, whole peppercorns, fresh garlic, rosemary, and thyme
  • Water – cool not hot, enough to fully submerge your turkey
Ingredients for brining turkey, bay leaf, kosher salt, thyme, rosemary, garlic, peppercorn, sugar

Substitutions

Sugar – Swap the granulated sugar for brown sugar.

Cider – Try replacing 3 cups of water with equal amounts of apple cider (apple juice in a pinch, NOT apple cider vinegar) for extra flavorful moisture.

Zest – Add the peels from 3 oranges for a hint of citrus in your brine. Use a knife to finely slice only the zest (colored skin) and not the bitter white pith.

Dry Herbs – if you don’t have fresh rosemary and thyme, it’s perfectly ok to substitute 1 Tbsp dried rosemary and 2 tsp dried thyme.

Pro Tip:

A general rule of thumb is to brine for 1 hour per pound of turkey to give you the best flavor and moisture content.

How to Brine a Turkey

  • Combine – Place the sugar, salt, peppercorns, 1 gallon of water, and fresh herbs into a container large enough to hold your brine and submerge your turkey (or use a brining bag). Stir the mixture until the sugar and salt dissolve.
  • Add Turkey – Place your turkey breast down, into the brine and more cold water until the turkey is fully submerged (I added 8 additional cups).
  • Brine – Store your turkey and brine in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours or overnight.
  • Get Ready to Roast – Remove the turkey from the pot or brining bag and discard the brine. In a clean sink, rinse the turkey to remove the excess salt and seasonings. Pat dry all over with paper towels and you’re ready to roast or smoke your turkey.
How to brine a turkey- a turkey submerged in a bucket of salted and sugared water, with herbs.

Safety Tip:

Before rinsing the turkey, make sure that your sink is clean and does not have anything in it. Have paper towels for drying, and your roasting pan next to the sink ready to receive the dried turkey. Being set up before rinsing will prevent the splashing and spreading of raw turkey juices and bacteria. After placing your turkey into the roasting pan, be sure to clean the sink and counters with antibacterial cleaning products to prevent cross-contamination.

A brined turkey after 12+ hours of soaking, ready to be oven roasted

Common Questions

Can I brine a frozen turkey?

This recipe is best with fresh or already defrosted turkey to allow the meat to fully absorb the brine.

Should I rinse my turkey after brining?

Yes! After brining is the only time you should rinse a turkey, inside and out, to reduce the saltiness and remove the herbs. You can also soak the turkey in a pot of cold, fresh water for 15 minutes.

My brine water turned pink, is that ok?

It’s totally normal and fine if the water turns a pinkish color while your turkey soaks.

My container does not fit in the fridge, can I store it outside if it’s cold?

The USDA recommends that you always store raw turkey in the refrigerator at 40°F or less to prevent foodborne illness. A brining bag takes up less space than a large, rigid container, so consider using this option if space is a concern.

How do I get a crispy turkey skin?

If you prefer crispy skin, we recommend letting your turkey sit uncovered on a platter in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours before cooking.

Refrigerating turkey uncovered for a crispy skin

What Type of Container Should I Use to Brine a Turkey

This recipe works well for a turkey 10-20 lbs. You are going to need a large pot or container to hold your turkey while it brines. It’s best to use something non-reactive such as plastic, glass, or stainless steel. Consider using a:

  • food grade bucket
  • large stockpot
  • cooler
  • crockpot bowl
  • a brining bag or 2-gallon Ziploc bag- double bag it!

For a turkey that is larger than 15 lbs, a brining bag is recommended. If you don’t have a brining bag, you will need to increase the recipe by 50% to keep the salt-to-water ratio balanced (make 1 1/2 times the recipe). Make room in your fridge because you definitely need to keep the turkey refrigerated while it soaks.

Pro Tip:

To help keep your turkey fully submerged, place a plate, bowl, or pot lid on top to weigh it down.

A whole turkey soaking brine with herbs sprinkled on top

Since the turkey is the star of the Thanksgiving table, it’s definitely worthwhile to brine for a more flavorful and tender turkey. I find the turkey is a little more forgiving when it’s brined.

Leftover Turkey Recipes

With Thanksgiving on its way, you are going to need all of the turkey recipes to enjoy leftovers in a million different ways. Don’t fret, Natasha’s Kitchen has you covered. You don’t want to miss these other recipes to help you use up your leftover Roast Turkey.

Natasha's Kitchen Cookbook

Easy Turkey Brine Recipe

5 from 40 votes
Author: Natasha Kravchuk
A whole turkey soaking in a salted, herbal brine
Learn how to brine a turkey for a juicy turkey every time! You can use this turkey brine for Juicy Roast Turkey or Smoked Turkey. If you don't have a container large enough to accommodate a whole turkey, you can also use a turkey bag inside a large bowl or pot. We used a 13 lb turkey, but this will work for just about any turkey 10-20 lbs.*
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Brining time: 12 hours

Ingredients 

  • 16 cups lukewarm water, plus 8 cups cold water
  • 1 cup fine sea salt , or 1 1/2 cups kosher salt*
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp whole peppercorns, coarsely crushed
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 2 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh rosemary, or 1 Tbsp dried rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh thyme, or 2 tsp dried thyme

Instructions

  • Combine brine ingredients and 1 gallon of water in a container large enough to hold and submerge your brine and your turkey, or use a turkey brining bag set in a large bowl. Stir until sugar and salt are dissolved and the liquid turns clear.
  • Add the turkey and add more cold water to ensure the turkey is fully submerged. I added an additional 8 cups of cold water (this will vary depending on the size of your turkey and the size of your tub/container/pot. Store in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours or overnight.
  • Remove the turkey from the brine and discard the brine. Carefully rinse your turkey to avoid splatter* and dry all over. If a crispy skin is desired, we recommend letting it sit on a platter uncovered in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours before cooking your turkey.

Notes

*For a turkey that is larger than 15 lbs, a brining bag is recommended. If you don’t have a brining bag, you will need to add quite a bit more water so you’ll need to increase the recipe by 50% to keep the salt-to-water ratio balanced (make 1 1/2 times the recipe).
*Use a salt without added preservatives and avoid iodized salt. 
*Thoroughly clean your sink and surrounding work surfaces after rinsing your turkey. 
Course: Condiments, How to
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Turkey Brine
Skill Level: Easy
Cost to Make: $

Natasha Kravchuk

Welcome to my kitchen! I am Natasha, the blogger behind Natasha's Kitchen (since 2009). My husband and I run this blog together and share only our best, family approved and tested recipes with YOU. Thanks for stopping by! We are so happy you're here.

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Comments

  • Ro
    January 27, 2024

    Hi Natasha, I wanted to brine a 3 lb chicken and wasn‘t sure how to reduce the ingredients from your turkey brine to my chicken brine. I tried reducing everything by approx. 75%. I‘d appreciate your thoughts and help for the next time. Thanks 💕

    Reply

    • Natasha
      January 29, 2024

      HI Ro, you could use the slider bar to adjust the ingredients (click on servings and it will show up). It depends on your container size but 75% sounds right and you could add more water if needed to submerge the chicken.

      Reply

  • Dan R
    December 25, 2023

    Would be useful to give some salt to water ratios here.

    I’m pretty sure I screwed up my turkey following this recipe as my turkey is large.

    I read on all other recipes I looked up after that you need a 1 cup per gallon of water ration. So If I added an extra 3 gallons of water, 1 cup of water is not nearly enough to do anything at all!

    Reply

    • Natasha
      December 26, 2023

      Hi Dan, I had a note in the post about this but I also added it to the recipe card in the notes section to make it more obvious: “*For a turkey that is larger than 15 lbs, a brining bag is recommended. If you don’t have a brining bag, you will need to add quite a bit more water so you’ll need to increase the recipe by 50% to keep the salt-to-water ratio balanced (make 1 1/2 times the recipe).”
      I hope your turkey stilled turned out delicious. I don’t think under salting would ruin it.

      Reply

  • Rachael
    December 1, 2023

    Hi again! Iv’e been using your roast turkey recipe for the last two years where you put the butter mixture under the skin. I had still planned on doing that this time, but since I’m brining it also, will the butter mixture be ok, or just be overkill??

    Thank you!

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      December 1, 2023

      Hi Rachael! Yes, you can still use the butter/herb mixture. I like to omit the salt if I brine the Turkey so it’s not overly salty.

      Reply

  • Shebra
    November 26, 2023

    Natasha,

    This noodle soup is a great big hit! My husband absolutely love it! This recipe is a keeper!

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      November 26, 2023

      That’s lovely! Thanks so much for sharing, we appreciate it.

      Reply

  • Nancy
    November 22, 2023

    Do I need to add more salt and sugar if I added more water to completely submerge the turkey? I had to use more than 8 additional cups of water to the recipe.

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      November 22, 2023

      Hi Nancy! If you increased the water, then yes, I would increase the other ingredients accordingly too.

      Reply

  • Rachael
    November 21, 2023

    Hi Natasha! What would you suggest for brining a 24lb frozen turkey (days in the fridge before brining..etc)? I don’t want it to go bad while defrosting and then brining it. BTW, love your cookbook recipes (and so do my kids and hubby! 🙂

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      November 21, 2023

      Hi Rachel! Here are the USDA recommendations for thawing safely. The Turkey should be thawed completely so that the brine work’s effectively. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

      Reply

  • Lydia
    November 19, 2023

    Simple recipe that turned out great! We doubled this for a 16 lb bird and rinsed it off before smoking it. The turkey was flavorful and juicy. I’ll definitely be using this recipe again!

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      November 19, 2023

      Great to hear that you enjoyed it!

      Reply

  • Nelya
    November 14, 2023

    Hi, would you recommend brining a turkey if it will be fried?

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      November 14, 2023

      Hi Nelya, I haven’t tried frying a turkey before to advise, but doing a quick online search it seems people have done it. I’m also reading a dry brine is perfect for deep frying because no additional liquid is introduced.

      Reply

  • Maria Miserendino
    November 13, 2023

    Love your recipes. If I plan to brine the turkey and NOT use the herb-butter mixture this time, at what oven temperature do I cook the turkey? How long for a 16-lb turkey? Also, I assume I don’t need to stuff the cavity??

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      November 14, 2023

      Hi Maria! You can still follow the same baking instructions in that recipe, just skip the herbed butter rub. You will bake about 13 min for every pound of turkey). The turkey thigh should register at 170˚F on the temperature probe and the breast at 160˚F to make sure it’s fully cooked through.

      Reply

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