Citrus Turkey Brine

Citrus Turkey Brine

The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

Prep: 40 mins
Cook: 35 mins
Brine Refrigeration:: 2 hrs
Total: 3 hrs 15 mins
Serving: 1 serving
Yield: 1 gallon
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
1588 Calories
5g Fat
423g Carbs
22g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Amount per serving
Calories 1588
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 7%
Saturated Fat 1g 3%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 90882mg 3,951%
Total Carbohydrate 423g 154%
Dietary Fiber 55g 196%
Total Sugars 298g
Protein 22g
Vitamin C 1210mg 6,052%
Calcium 966mg 74%
Iron 9mg 51%
Potassium 3769mg 80%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This turkey brine adds a light citrus flavor from a whole orange, lemon, and lime. The touch of acid helps to carry the flavors into the meat.

This brine can be used whether you are roasting, grilling, smoking, or deep-frying the turkey. The quantity of brine is right for a turkey of 12 to 15 pounds. For a larger bird, you may need more brine. 

Choose only a turkey that isn't already injected with a self-basting solution. Often these are labeled as a "natural" turkey. The ingredient list should only say "turkey." Otherwise, you may end up with an oversalted bird.

Be sure that you use non-iodized salt when you are brining a turkey, as iodized salt can spoil the flavor. If you use kosher salt or coarse salt, you will need to use more salt due to the flake size resulting in less salt per volume measure. You need the salt concentration to be just right in order for it to draw moisture and flavor into the poultry.

Unchlorinated water is best to use as the chlorine will also change the flavor. Or, dechlorinate tap water by bringing it to a boil, then cooling it.

"This brine was incredibly flavorful. I used Diamond Crystal brand kosher salt. Note that the grain size of kosher salt differs from brand to brand, which means that volume is not always a reliable measure of how salty your brine will be. When salt quantities are high, as in this recipe, it's best to go by weight." —Diana Andrews

Citrus Turkey Brine/Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1 gallon water, divided

  • 1 1/2 cups Diamond Crystal kosher salt (10 1/2 ounces)

  • 3/4 cup sugar

  • 1 large lemon

  • 1 large lime

  • 1 large orange

  • 1 medium onion, thickly sliced

  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed

  • 4 leaf bay leaves

  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for citrus turkey brine

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

  2. Bring 4 cups of water to a low boil in a large saucepan. Add the salt and sugar and stir until they are completely dissolved.

    salt, sugar and water in a pot

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

  3. Cut the lemon, lime, and orange into 8 pieces each.

    lemons, limes and oranges cut into pieces

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

  4. Add the lemon, lime, orange, onion, garlic, bay leaves, and thyme to the saucepan. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Let simmer for 30 minutes.

    brine ingredients in a pot

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

  5. Pour this mixture into a large pot. Add the remaining 12 cups of cold water. Refrigerate the brine until it is completely cooled.

    water added to brine mixture in the pot

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

  6. If using a frozen turkey, it must be completely defrosted before brining.

    Place the poultry and brine in a large plastic container. The poultry should be fully surrounded by the brine. Keep the turkey refrigerated throughout the brining time. Brine for 1 hour per pound. Do not brine for more than 24 hours.

    Thoroughly rinse all the brine from the turkey before cooking. Otherwise, the turkey will be too salty.

    Citrus Turkey Brine

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo


  • You won't need to salt any stuffing you put into the turkey as it will be well-seasoned by the turkey juices during roasting.
  • If you are using a turkey rub, you can omit the salt. The drippings will be salty, so you may need to adjust seasonings when using them to make gravy.
  • To make this brine with Morton's kosher salt, use the same weight as for Diamond Crystal or, if measuring by volume, a scant 1 1/4 cups.

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