Best Turkey Brine Recipes

Citrus Brine
Claire Cohen

Brining a turkey is a process of adding moisture and flavor to the meat by soaking the bird in a salt-water mixture before cooking. But the brine doesn't have to be just salt and water. These recipes are among the best ways to infuse flavor into your bird.

Whether you're roasting, grilling, smoking, cooking rotisserie-style, or frying your next turkey, always start out with a good brine to guarantee a beautifully moist and tasty bird.

1:13

Watch Now: How to Brine a Turkey

  • 01 of 11

    Basic Turkey Brine

    Turkey brine ingredients

    Claire Cohen

    This is a good recipe if this is your first time using a brine and you want to start simple. Dissolve kosher salt, garlic, herbs, and allspice berries in water. Submerge your turkey for up to 24 hours in the brine (keep it down by adding canned beans or some sort of weight on top).

    Keep in mind that you're using 2 gallons of water, so you need a plastic container that can hold that much liquid and also the necessary space in the fridge.

  • 02 of 11

    Savory Turkey Brine

    Savory brine
    Claire Cohen

    This turkey brine combines vegetable stock with kosher salt, sugar, and herbs to create a rich flavor. The mixture is simmered on the stove until the salt is dissolved and then plenty of cold water is added.​

    If you're using pre-made vegetable stock, use low-sodium and keep in mind that you're using generous amounts of salt in the brine. You don't want to overdo it. It's easier to add more salt when cooking the turkey than to have turkey meat drenched in salty water. Always user kosher salt as it has no iodine, which can alter the flavor of your meat.

  • 03 of 11

    Apple Spice Brine

    ingredients for apple spice turkey brine
    Claire Cohen

    Since a brine is typically water and salt with a little sweetness to give it flavor, using fruit juices, like orange and apple, in place of the water is a great idea. Plus, the acidity in the juices helps to tenderize the meat.

    Your kitchen will smell like the holidays as you simmer the apple and orange juices with cloves, brown sugar, and nutmeg.

  • 04 of 11

    Smoked Turkey Brine

    Smoked turkey brine
    Claire Cohen

    This simple brine adds a nice herb flavor to the bird because it includes fresh tarragon and whole bay leaves. The mixture is best for turkeys that are going to be cooked in the smoker.

    A quick boil of water, sugar, and salt is the only extra step you need to make this brine. Once removed from the stove, add all spices, and let cool off completely before mixing it with the rest of the water (1 gallon total) and submerging the turkey.

    Continue to 5 of 11 below.
  • 05 of 11

    Cranberry Turkey Brine

    Cranberry turkey brine
    Claire Cohen

    It only seems right to brine a turkey with seasonal cranberry. The combination of cranberry, apple, and orange juices, salt, garlic, and fresh herbs makes this brine a great option for a Thanksgiving bird.

    Simply mix all of the ingredients and submerge the turkey. Your bird will be infused with a slight acidity from the fruit juices and will be beautifully moist and tender.

  • 06 of 11

    Holiday Poultry Brine

    Ingredients for holiday poultry brine
    Claire Cohen

    The candied ginger and allspice give this brine a unique flavor that is perfect for your holiday turkey. By cooking the salt, sugar, and spices in vegetable stock, you get extra flavor with a mild saltiness that makes for a perfect brine.

    Bring the ingredients to a boil and let cool off completely before submerging the turkey. Remember to use low-sodium broth to avoid an extra salty turkey, a seasoning that'd be difficult to adjust.

  • 07 of 11

    Poultry Brine

    Poultry brine spices
    Claire Cohen

    This brine works with the added power of pickling spices, which increase the moisture in poultry. Combined with vinegar, brown sugar, and some great seasonings such as tarragon, allspice, and garlic powder, this brine brings a lot of flavor to your turkey.

    Use it in chicken or turkey, and always wash the brine off and pat the bird dry before cooking.

  • 08 of 11

    Maple and Brown Sugar Brine

    Maple and brown sugar brine

    The Spruce

    This brine has a sweet maple flavor and can be used on any kind of poultry but works especially nicely on turkey. All of the ingredients, which include soy sauce, maple syrup, spices, and brown sugar, are boiled together making for a quick and easy brine.

    Dissolve and cook the ingredients in part of the water, let cool, and add the rest of the liquid before using it. Use it on big roasts and pork chops by halving the amounts.

    Continue to 9 of 11 below.
  • 09 of 11

    Apple Turkey Brine

    Apple cider brine
    Claire Cohen

    The apple juice in this turkey brine gives the slightest hint of tartness that fills out the flavors of this recipe. Add to it brown sugar, cloves, cinnamon, and orange zest and you have a bright, flavorful and tangy brine.

    Use regular apple juice and don't overspend on organic pressed apple juice. The end result will be great regardless of the quality of the juice.

  • 10 of 11

    Citrus Turkey Brine

    Citrus turkey brine recipe

    ​The Spruce / Cara Cormack

    The citrus fruits in this citrus turkey brine not only add a great tangy flavor but also act to tenderize the meat of the poultry. The mild acid of the lemon will help to carry flavors deep into the meat, and the onion and garlic add a nice savory touch.

    As easy as cutting the fruit in pieces, you won't have to squeeze any juice. Cook the fruit with part of the water, salt, and sugar, and let cool before adding the rest of the ingredients and using on your turkey.

  • 11 of 11

    Hawaiian-Style Turkey Brine

    ingredients for hawaiian turkey brine
    Claire Cohen

    Fruit and fruit juices are a common way to tenderize meat, and peels and seeds are used in many cultures to infuse flavor into meats, but also to make tough cuts of meat softer and juicier. For our Hawaiian-style brine, you need pineapple, sugar, soy sauce, maple syrup, dry herbs, and garlic.

    Mix and use! This fruity and tropical concoction is great on poultry and adds a lively tang to your holiday bird. Add chunks of raw pineapple and onions into the bird cavity while cooking for extra fragrance and flavor.

The Perfect Brine

For a successful brine remember to:

  • Use 1 hour of brine per pound of turkey you're making. A 12-pound turkey will require 12 hours in the brine mixture.
  • Use a turkey that's completely defrosted.
  • Use kosher salt and filtered water.
  • Use a weight of some sort to keep the turkey submerged while brining.
  • Wash your turkey carefully and thoroughly after the brining period. Avoid splashing your counter and be aware of the areas your raw turkey has been in contact with. Raw poultry juices are dangerous to consume.