Fresh Herb and Citrus Turkey Brine [Holiday Recipe Exchange]

Holiday Recipes, Recipe Exchange, Thanksgiving Recipes | 12 comments

Let me take you back about 9 years….

Picture this. It’s nine years ago. I am a bride to be and I’m meeting my in-laws for the first time. It’s a rainy Thanksgiving evening in Washington and my soon to be Mother-in-Law has just prepared the BEST.TURKEY.EVER.

The turkey has amazing, juicy flavor and the breast meat isn’t dry at all. I think to myself, “where has this turkey been all my life?”

herbed turkey brine

The answer: Brining. I had no idea what brining was, but I was eager to learn. I knew that I’d soon have the experience of being in charge of roasting my own turkey and I wanted it to taste just like my Mother-in-Law’s did.

Nine years later, I can tell you that for as long as I’ve been making my own turkey, I’ve been using a turkey brine before roasting my turkey. I think it’s the best way to ensure a delicious, moist turkey.

This fresh herb and citrus turkey brine infuses roasted turkey with so much flavor and helps keep the meat moist. It’s a must have for me when I’m hosting Thanksgiving.

I happen to really enjoy the combination of sage, rosemary, thyme, and parsley in my turkey brine, but you can play around with the herbs for your brine, if you like, for different flavors. Just be sure to use fresh herbs. I think that makes all the difference.

herb citrus turkey brine

I hope you’ll join Jamie and me this week and share your favorite recipe that uses fresh herbs for our Shenandoah Growers Organic Fresh Herbs. Shenandoah Growers offer high-quality organic fresh herbs and are perfect for using this Holiday season. Head on over to My Baking Addiction where Jamie is sharing a recipe for Mac and Cheese with Roasted Chicken, Goat Cheese, and Rosemary.

What is your secret to a flavorful, moist turkey?

Fresh Herb and Citrus Turkey Brine

Yield: brine for 1 turkey

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 12-24 hours

Print Save Recipe


For a 16 - 20 lb. Turkey:
2 2/3 cups Morton's kosher salt
1 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
4 bay leaves
5 stems fresh thyme
3 stems fresh sage
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 cup loosely packed parsley (stems ok)
4 cloves garlic garlic, smashed
peel of 3 tangerines or oranges (optional)
1 gallon boiling water
8 pounds ice cubes


Combine the salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, bay leaves, thyme, sage, rosemary, parsley, garlic, and tangerine peel together in a large stock pot. Add 1 gallon of water. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, remove from heat.

After removing from heat, steep the mixture for 45 minutes. Then, add in enough ice to bring the brine amount up to 2 gallons (2 gallons = 32 cups). This is very important otherwise you will have an incredibly salty turkey.

For smaller stock pots, you may have to allow the brine to cool and add the additional amount when pouring the brine into the bag in the following step.

Place the turkey in a large zip-top bag. I recommend the Ziploc Big Bags (size large). Put the bagged turkey in a clean cooler. Pour the brine over the turkey, in the bag, making sure the breasts are fully submerged. Zip the bag closed. Place the cooler in a cool place, such as your garage or, and allow the turkey to soak in the cold brine for 12-24 hours.

Use gel ice packs or bagged ice around the zipped bag inside the cooler, if necessary, to keep the brine below 40°F. (Adding more ice directly to the brine would only dilute it.)

Alternatively, if you have room in your refrigerator, you may place the bagged turkey in a large foil tray rather than a cooler and store it on the fridge shelf.

After the brining process, transfer the turkey to a roasting pan and discard the brine. Roast according to your preferred method.

Note: For a smaller turkey you may make less brine; however, be careful to do so with the original proportions of ingredient still intact. Too much salt will leave you with an incredibly salty turkey. Also, birds less than 10 pounds will likely not need to soak for the full 24 hours to achieve the desired results.


Depending on the brand of kosher salt you use, you'll need different amounts of salt because the different brands available on the market have different densities. I use Morton's kosher salt in this recipe, however here are the conversions:

  • Diamond Crystal 2 cups salt per gallon of liquid.
  • Morton's kosher 1 1/3 cups salt per gallon of liquid.

Bringing Time Guide

  • Whole Turkey: 12-24 hours
  • Turkey Breast: 3-6 hours
  • Large Whole Chicken: 2-4 hours

Shenandoah Growers even has holiday trio packs that include living organic Rosemary, Thyme, and Sage, so they’re perfect for holiday cooking. Festively wrapped with an elegant holiday greeting card, they also make an excellent hostess gift. Look for the Holiday Trio Pack at the following stores: ACME, Rouses, Whole Foods, Giant, Martins, or The Fresh Market.

How To Participate

For a chance to win a $200 Cash Card:

  1. Write and post a recipe on your blog featuring FRESH HERBS.
  2. Include “Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Shenandoah Growers Organic Fresh Herbs.” in your blog post.
  3. No blog? Just leave your recipe in the comments section.
  4. Add your link to the widget on either GoodLife Eats or My Baking Addiction (we have the same widget code, so only add it on one site).
  5. Submit your post before Nov. 14, 11:59 PM.
  6. Anyone can participate in the link up, but the prizes will ship to US addresses only.
  7. More detailed info are available here.

Link Up Your Recipes:

Love any of the recipes featured in today’s Holiday Recipe Exchange? If so, be sure to to use the Ziplist Web Recipe Clipper to add your holiday favorites to your online recipe box.

This Week’s Prize:

$200 cash card.

Prizes provided by Shenandoah Growers Organic Fresh Herbs.

Recipe Theme Schedule:

Katie Goodman

About the Author:

Katie’s lifelong interest in cooking good food has shown her that part of the goodness in life is enjoying delicious food with friends and family. She is: Mom. Writer. Photographer. Recipe Developer. Website Founder. Lover of all things good in life. A mix of great recipes, family memories, and yummy photography is what Katie serves up each week at GoodLife Eats™. Katie and her family reside in Colorado.

Email  Facebook  Twitter  Pinterest

  • 1
    Annie @ Annie's Cooking Lab - November 07, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

    That sounds great! I’m a vegetarian, but somehow I always get roped into helping with the turkey even though I won’t be eating it :) This sounds like a delicious, new way to prepare it!


  • 2
    Tameka Downing - November 07, 2011 @ 3:15 pm

    I always brine my turkey. I also brine my chicken and pork. I will have to try this recipe for my next dish.


  • 3
    Kim - November 08, 2011 @ 6:22 am

    I have heard some people say to rinse the turkey after brining to get rid of extra salt. Do you rinse yours before? I would think rinsing would take much of the flavor out, but I am not sure. Thank you, and thank you for sharing your wonderful talents with us.


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — November 8th, 2011 @ 7:22 AM

      Honestly, I have never done that because it’s a hassle to handle the turkey and rinse it without making a huge mess. I always buy a fresh turkey. I know some of the frozen ones have already been pre-brined in a plain salt water solution so perhaps that is why some rinse it. I’m not sure.

    • Jen at The Three Little Piglets replied: — November 8th, 2011 @ 8:21 PM

      It wouldn’t make a huge difference if you rinsed it after you brined, just so long as you clean it well before you brine. The point of brining is to allow osmosis to transfer some of the salt (and thus flavor) into all of the meat. Allowing a long time in brine (like 24 hours) ensures that the salt is really evenly distibuted throughout the turkey. Because nomally we tend to season just the top of our turkey, the outer cut is really flavorful, and then the inside not so much… Brining ensures that all of it is seasoned. As does stuffing the cavity of the turkey with fresh herbs before it goes in the oven.

  • 4
    Liz - November 09, 2011 @ 3:33 pm

    I can’t find my recipe, but our stuffing has loads of fresh herbs in it, as well as sausage, bourbon, and pecans. It is delicious!


  • 5
    Stefani - November 11, 2011 @ 2:54 am

    my favorite vinaigrette using fresh herbs:
    -1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    -1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
    -1-2 tsp. sugar
    -1/2 tbsp. thyme
    -1/2 tbsp. basil
    -1 tsp. dijon mustard
    -1 clove garlic, minced
    -1/8 tsp. pepper

    Combine ingredients and shake well.


  • 6
    Donna B. - November 13, 2011 @ 7:08 pm

    I use fresh herbs in just about everything (I grow them indoors in the winter) but probably the thing I do the most is scrambled eggs :) I add fresh parsley, thyme, a hint of rosemary and savory, and then also add some feta for a little salty sharpness. If I have some bacon, ham or sausage I may add that too or serve it on the side. Much easier than an omlette.

    I have this for breakfast several days a week, and probably at least 2 nights for dinner.


  • 7
    Sarah Y. - November 28, 2011 @ 7:23 am

    I made a turkey for the first time ever this year – and shared it with our family of 10 adults. I used this brine recipe then stuffed the turkey with onions, carrots, sage and thyme. This was the best we have ever had, no kidding. This brine made the turkey so moist and delicious. My father, who is a dark meet eater because white meat is too dry, made the comment that the white meat of this turkey was better than the dark. Thanks for sharing and helping me make my first turkey experience wonderful.


  • 8
    Laura - November 10, 2012 @ 8:34 am

    Can u also brine turkey pieces. How Lon?


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — November 10th, 2012 @ 12:39 PM

      How big are the pieces? A turkey breast only needs to brine for 3-6 hours, depending on the size. Something the size of a boneless, skinless chicken breast only needs about an hour.

  • 9
    Erin @ Texanerin Baking - November 13, 2012 @ 1:55 pm

    Oh goodness. I’m so happy that turkeys are hard to find here. I went looking last year and the biggest I could find was about 6 pounds. No big turkeys is a great excuse to just continue on with my turkey breast! I think I’ll make a turkey breast adapted version of this on the weekend. Can’t wait to try it!


Leave a Comment