Citrus Turkey Brine

Citrus turkey brine recipe

​The Spruce / Cara Cormack

Prep: 40 mins
Cook: 35 mins
Total: 75 mins
Servings: 16 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
100 Calories
0g Fat
27g Carbs
1g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 100
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 5682mg 247%
Total Carbohydrate 27g 10%
Dietary Fiber 4g 13%
Total Sugars 19g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 75mg 377%
Calcium 63mg 5%
Iron 1mg 3%
Potassium 239mg 5%
*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 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 1/2 cups kosher salt

  • 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 / Cara Cormack
  2. 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.

    Bring water to boil
    ​The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  3. Cut the lemon, lime, and orange into 8 pieces each.

    Cut lemon, lime, orange
    ​The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  4. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, and thyme to the saucepan. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Let simmer for 30 minutes.

    Add remaining ingredients
    ​The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  5. Pour this mixture into a large pot. Add the remaining water (cold) and refrigerate the brine until it is completely cooled.

    Add water
    ​The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  6. 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.

    Brine turkey
    ​The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  7. Thoroughly rinse all the brine from the turkey before cooking. Otherwise, there will be a salty flavor to the turkey.

    Thoroughly rinse all brine from turkey
    ​The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  8. Serve your cooked turkey and enjoy.

    Serve cooked turkey
    ​The Spruce / Cara Cormack


  • 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.

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