This roasted turkey breast recipe captures the same great flavor as a full-sized bird. That means crispy skin, tender, juicy meat, and plenty of tasty drippings for your favorite turkey gravy recipe.
This recipe is perfect when a whole turkey is too much for your Thanksgiving dinner group. Its’s also a great choice for guests who prefer a larger portion of white meat. And it’s a smart choice if you want plenty of leftovers to use in your favorite leftover turkey recipes.
Once you learn to cook turkey breast and you taste how delicious it is, you may just decide to skip deli meat and make this delicious protein year-round. (Roasted turkey breast also happens to make a fantastic turkey sandwich!)
Boneless or bone-in turkey breast?
Before we dive into how to cook a turkey breast, let’s talk about whether you should go bone-in or boneless. Bone-in turkey breasts contain both breast halves. As the name indicates, they also include a bone. The bone acts as an insulator as the turkey cooks, and it slows the transfer of heat towards the center of the meat. That means longer cooking times but juicier meat.
Boneless turkey breasts typically feature a single breast half. They’re ideal when your guest list is very small. Since they cook faster than bone-in cuts, you’ll want to reduce the cook time to prevent dried-out meat. You can sometimes find a boneless, skin-on turkey breast, but boneless turkey is usually sold skinless. Use a recipe (like this herb-roasted turkey breast) that’s made especially for boneless, skinless cuts.
Roasted Turkey Breast Ingredients
- Bone-in turkey breast: This turkey breast recipe calls for a 5- to 6-pound bone-in turkey breast. If you’re unsure how much you need, use our handy calculator to determine how much turkey per person.
- Lemon juice and olive oil: We brush this mixture underneath the turkey skin to infuse the meat with flavor. The mixture also adds moisture so everything turns out nice and juicy. You can use lemon and lime juice interchangeably. If you’re substituting with a sweeter citrus like orange juice, we recommend including a bit of acidic lemon or vinegar to spark up the flavor.
- Seasonings: There are many ways to season a turkey, but we love this combination of pepper, rosemary, thyme and garlic salt.
- Onion and celery: You don’t need a roasting pan with a rack if you have chopped vegetables. These veggies keep the turkey elevated from the bottom of the pan, promoting airflow as it cooks.
- White wine or chicken broth: Any liquid added to the roasting pan turns into steam, which helps the meat stay juicy and moist. Wine adds an extra layer of flavor. It mingles with the drippings and makes any gravy made from those drippings exceptionally tasty.
Step 1: Create the seasoning mixtures
Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil. In a separate bowl, stir together the pepper, rosemary, thyme and garlic salt.
Step 2: Season the turkey
Starting at the neck end, carefully loosen the skin from the turkey breast by sliding your fingers under the skin until you reach halfway down the breast. Then, move your fingers around the sides to loosen the skin on each side.
Brush the lemon juice mixture under the skin. Rub the pepper mixture over the turkey skin.
Editor’s Tip: You may want to use toothpicks to fasten the skin in place. This helpful turkey tip keeps the skin from shrinking back, which exposes (and dries out) the meat. Pull the loosened skin down towards the sides, and secure it with a toothpick, pinning the skin to the meat underneath.
Step 3: Prepare the baking dish
Place the onion wedges and celery pieces in a 3-quart baking dish. Place the seasoned turkey breast on top, skin side up. Pour the wine or broth into the dish.
Step 4: Cook the turkey
Bake the turkey, uncovered, until a thermometer reads 170°F, two to two and a half hours. How long to cook a turkey isn’t always about the clock. The thickest part of the breast meat should read 170° with a thermometer. If the turkey skin browns too quickly, cover it loosely with aluminum foil.
Remove the turkey from the oven. Cover it, and let it stand for 15 minutes before carving.
Test Kitchen Tip: It’s OK if your turkey breast isn’t quite thawed when you pop it into the oven. Allow for a longer cooking time to accommodate the colder bird. It’s also possible to cook a frozen turkey, if need be.
Roasted Turkey Breast Variations
- Experiment with the spices: Sub in seasoning from your favorite Thanksgiving turkey recipe, or make a homemade turkey seasoning with dried herbs.
- Swap in butter: Skip the lemon mixture and pepper mixture called for here, and try an herbed butter instead for the seasoning. Our Test Kitchen recommends mixing 1/4 cup softened butter with 2 teaspoons rubbed sage, three minced garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon each dried minced onion and thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread 2 tablespoons of the butter mixture under the turkey skin, and spread the remaining mixture over the skin.
- Try a different cooking method: Free up the oven, and cook your bird with a slow cooker turkey breast recipe. Or, take the cooking outside, and make a brined grilled turkey breast.
How to Store Roasted Turkey Breast
To store your turkey, let it cool completely, then store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for three to four days. For extended storage, transfer the turkey to a freezer-safe resealable bag, and store it in the freezer for up to three months. (Psst: This is how long Thanksgiving leftovers are good for.)
To reheat turkey without drying it out, add a little water, broth or gravy to the meat. Warm it in an aluminum foil pouch in the oven, or in a microwave-safe dish in the microwave.
Roasted Turkey Breast Tips
Is it better to roast a turkey breast at 325° or 350°?
Our Test Kitchen recommends roasting turkey at 325°. This lower temperature promotes even cooking and allows the meat to reach a food-safe cooking temperature without burning the skin.
Should you cover turkey breast when roasting?
We bake our turkey breast uncovered. Covering the turkey could add extra moisture to the baking dish and prevent the skin from crisping up. If the skin gets too dark as it’s cooking, you can loosely tent a piece of foil over the top to protect it from burning.
How to cook a turkey breast so it doesn’t dry out?
Prevent roasted turkey breast from drying out by cooking it to the proper internal temperature. Meat loses moisture as it cooks, so overcooked meat will have a tough texture and a dry feeling. You could also consider brining the turkey breast before cooking it. Our guide on how to brine a turkey has all the details.
What can you do with leftover roasted turkey breast?
There are so many great ways to use leftover turkey! Turn it into turkey enchiladas, use it as the filling for savory turkey potpies, or make air-fryer turkey croquettes. You can also combine the meat with any leftover Thanksgiving side dishes to create mashups like turkey-stuffing waffles or turkey-potato casserole.