Citrus Turkey Brine Recipe

Citrus turkey brine ingredients
Claire Cohen
Ratings (49)
  • Total: 40 mins
  • Prep: 40 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Yield: 1 gallon (16 servings)

This turkey brine adds a light citrus flavor from a whole orange, lemon, and lime cut up. This touch of acid that 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 14 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.


  • 1 gallon water (divided)
  • 1 cup salt (or 1 1/2 cups Kosher or coarse salt)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large lime
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 orange
  • 1 onion (cut into thick slices)
  • 4 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon thyme (dried)

Steps to Make It

  1. In a large saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a low boil. Add the salt and sugar and stir until they are completely dissolved.

  2. Cut the lemon, lime, and orange into eight pieces each.

  3. Add the remaining ingredients (lemon, lime, orange, onion slices, crushed garlic, bay leaves, and thyme) to the saucepan. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Let simmer for 30 minutes.

  4. Pour this mixture into a large pot. Add the remaining water (cold) and refrigerate the brine until it is completely cooled.

  5. If you are 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.

  6. Thoroughly rinse all the brine from the turkey before cooking. Otherwise, there will be a salty flavor to the turkey.

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.