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Roast Turkey Breast with Cranberry Balsamic Glaze {Brined Turkey}

This roast turkey breast is brined, roasted to tender juicy perfection, then served with a tart and sweet cranberry balsamic glaze. Perfect for a low key holiday dinner.

Stock pot full of turkey brine, fresh herbs, and citrus fruits.

Turkey in pan with fresh herbs and veggies

Roast turkey sliced on a wooden cutting board.

Roast turkey sliced on a wooden cutting board with cranberry glaze on top.

Turkey dinner always seems to be a massive affair. That’s great if you have a large family or are hosting a big and festive friendsgiving, but! Some folks like to keep it low key—especially when part of a small family. Since cooking and cutting up a whole bird can be daunting, I wanted to bring this glorious three pound turkey breast to the table to inspire your laid-back feast. Who says a holiday dinner can’t be relaxed?

I brined this turkey breast for about three hours in a pot full of super salty water, brown sugar, smashed garlic, full peppercorns, citrus, and fresh herbs. I then rubbed it with rotisserie seasoning and roasted it alongside more fresh herbs, celery, carrots, and leeks. The flavors that came through were unbelievable and the meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender. My husband and I both agreed that it was by far the best turkey we’d ever had in our lives. Pretty big statement, but we meant it :)

How to brine a turkey breast.

Brining the breast in this recipe is optional, but I wouldn’t skip it. The process infuses flavor deep into the meat while also plumping it up and making it extra tender and juicy.

Timing. When working with a full bird, you’re looking at about 8 hours of brining. But with a turkey breast like this, an hour per pound is sufficient. Any longer and you risk over brining your meat, which will ruin the texture and flavor. (Way, way too salty.)

Ingredients. Flavoring a brine lets you get creative! There are a few key ingredients you can’t swap out—like water, salt, and sugar (the sugar balances out the saltiness)—but you can switch things up with the extras. Citrus and fresh autumnal herbs like sage, rosemary, and thyme are faves of mine. Garlic and peppercorns are always great, and you could even add cinnamon sticks or cloves, depending on what you’re going for.

How to roast a turkey breast.

Obviously you don’t need a huge roasting pan for this job. I like to use a deep braiser or sauté pan, or a Dutch oven. And instead of using a wire rack, I like to create a vegetable platform to sit the turkey breast on. I used celery, carrots, and leeks in this instance and they added so much flavor. Also, shove a bunch of fresh herbs in that pan! Sage, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves… any (and all!) of them work. Sometimes they have a “poultry blend” packaged together at the supermarket. Super convenient. Get that.

When it comes to roast time, 15 minutes per pound seems to do the trick. A three pound breast like this took 45 minutes in a 325-degree oven. Always check the internal temperature by sticking a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast. You’re looking for 160-165º F. Protein will continue to cook after you take it out and let it rest.

Cranberry Balsamic Glaze.

If you’re into straight up cranberry sauce, go for it. If you pine for that red bouncy cylinder that slides out of the can, power to you. I changed things up with a cranberry balsamic glaze that brings forth a fun balance of tart and sweet.

Overhead shot of roast turkey sliced on cutting board and topped with cranberry balsamic glaze.

If you try this recipe or create your own variation, let me know in the comments! I love connecting with you. Then snap a photo and tag me on the Insta @killing__thyme to be featured in our newsletter.

Roast turkey sliced on a wooden cutting board.
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5 from 6 votes

Roast Turkey Breast with Cranberry Balsamic Glaze {Brined Turkey}

This roast turkey breast is brined, roasted to tender juicy perfection, then served with a tart and sweet cranberry balsamic glaze.
Servings 4 people
Author Dana Sandonato

Ingredients

Roast Turkey.

  • 3 lb turkey breast
  • 2 TBSP Rotisserie seasoning Or simply use fine kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 large carrots, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 2 large celery stalks
  • 1 large leek, sliced in half lengthwise You can replace the leek with a quartered sweet onion
  • 1 generous handful of fresh herbs, like sage, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, etc. Using a pre-made "poultry blend" of fresh herbs is ideal. You can find these with the fresh herbs in the supermarket.

Turkey Brine (this step is optional, but encouraged).

  • 10 cups water
  • 1/2 cup coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 8 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 large orange
  • 1 large lemon
  • 2 TBSP peppercorns
  • 1 generous handful of fresh herbs, like sage, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, etc. Using a pre-made "poultry blend" of fresh herbs is ideal. You can find these with the fresh herbs in the supermarket.

Cranberry Balsamic Glaze.

  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 TBSP cranberry sauce (jam, compote, or chutney works as well) When using store-bought cranberry sauce, don't use the jellied kind (the one that comes out shaped like a can). It doesn't break down properly.
  • 3-4 TBSP balsamic vinegar Start with 3; if you feel you need to add the 4th TBSP, go for it.
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 TBSP brown sugar

Instructions

Turkey Brine.

  • Fill a large stock pot with water, 1/2 cup of coarse kosher salt, and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Add the smashed garlic cloves. Bring the contents to a low simmer, stirring occasionally, until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Add the herbs and peppercorn. Then, squeeze the juice from the orange and lemon into the pot (don't worry about the pits); place the squeezed orange and lemon into the pot as well. Remove the pot from the heat and let the liquid cool. (Speed up the process by adding ice to the stock pot).
  • Once the brine is cool, carefully place the turkey breast into it. I do this in the sink to ensure no brine spills onto any of my kitchen surfaces. Cover the pot, and refrigerate for at least one hour, but no longer than three hours.

Roast Turkey.

  • Preheat the oven to 325º F.
  • Line a cutting board with paper towels. Carefully remove the turkey from the brine and place it on top of the covered cutting board. With more paper towels, pat the top of the turkey until dry. Rub the top of the turkey with the Rotisserie seasoning. If you're using salt and pepper, then simply sprinkle a bit of the salt and pepper over the breast.
  • Pour 2 cups of vegetable broth into the bottom of the sauté pan or Dutch oven. Line the bottom of the pan with sliced carrots, celery stalks, and the leek. Carefully place the breast on top of the vegetables, then tuck the fresh herbs into the around the breast.
  • Place the turkey in the oven, uncovered, for 45 minutes or until the thickest part of the breast has an internal temperature of 165º F. Remove from the oven and let the turkey rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing into it.
  • While the turkey roasts, make the cranberry balsamic glaze.

Cranberry Balsamic Glaze.

  • Melt 1 TBSP of butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted, add the sliced shallot and simmer until softened—about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the cranberry sauce and the balsamic vinegar. Whisk it until cohesive and let the mixture simmer until it thickens and becomes slightly syrupy; this should take about a minute. Add 1/4 cup of room temperature water and the brown sugar. Stir well and bring to a rolling boil, then lower the heat. Let the mixture bubble and thicken; about 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. If you feel the glaze could be more tart, add the fourth TBSP of balsamic vinegar. Transfer the glaze to a serving dish and serve with the turkey.

8 Comments

  • […] live it down. Which is why I swear by brining. Whether I’m working with a full bird or just a turkey breast, brining has become my go-to method. Because, in the event that things do get a little hectic in […]

    Reply
  • Scarlett Wilson
    October 24, 2019 at 2:32 pm

    5 stars
    Made this for Canadian thanksgiving since we have a small family and OMG seriously the best turkey we’ve ever had! It was sooooo juicy and flavourful. I’m obsessed. I honestly think we’re going to have turkey once a month. It’s just TOO GOOD. Thank you so much! Never brined before. Glad we found this recipe. Made all the difference!

    Reply
    • Killing Thyme
      October 27, 2019 at 3:38 pm

      I’m so glad this was a hit, Scarlett! I’m already looking forward to making this again for American Thanksgiving :)

      Reply
  • Trish Bozeman
    October 3, 2019 at 10:13 am

    5 stars
    Jared and I make a mini Thanksgiving for ourselves every single year and THIS IS PERFECT! That cranberry glaze is everything I want to eat this time of year. Add some mashed taters on the side and I’m such a happy girl.

    Reply
  • Lisa
    September 30, 2019 at 10:08 am

    5 stars
    I love the idea of a low-key holiday — or “celebrating” any time of the year with this beautiful roast turkey breast. I’m also positively drooling over that cranberry balsamic glaze. Who needs gravy???? This has so much MORE flavor! Well done.

    Reply
  • Julie Menghini
    September 27, 2019 at 4:39 pm

    5 stars
    I’m definitely keeping this recipe. I think brining a turkey makes all of the difference in the world and love this balsamic cranberry glaze you’ve made. We love getting the turkey breast and grab a couple of them when they go on sale around the holidays. It’s a delicious way to eat a leaner protein and the leftovers are so versatile!

    Reply
  • Gloria
    September 27, 2019 at 7:32 am

    5 stars
    This is the perfect holiday meal for a small crowd. Great for the person that does not want to deal with the whole bird. I happen to love turkey, and could eat it all year long. Preparing it this way, I can. I always stock up on fresh cranberries and put them in the freezer. I can make cranberry recipes too.

    Reply
  • Sarah
    September 27, 2019 at 7:14 am

    5 stars
    Somehow I didn’t even know that 3 lb turkeys exist! I love this, because well- there’s only 2 of us and we’d never make it through an entire bird. And that cranberry sauce looks AMAZING. I’m definitely going to look for a tiny turkey!!!

    Reply

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