What Is Turkey Breast?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

Turkey breast

Diana Miller / Getty Images

Turkey breast is a high-protein, low-fat protein that's very popular in the United States as a roast and ingredient in sandwiches. A whole turkey breast also takes up less space in your refrigerator, and cooks in less time than a whole turkey.

Fast Facts

  • Juicy, tender white-meat cut 
  • High in protein and low in fat
  • Purchase skin-on for best roasting results
  • Typically found in American cuisine
  • Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before cooking

What Is Turkey Breast?

A turkey breast is the meat from the chest of the turkey. This large, lean cut is the only white meat on the bird. Because of this, it’s a little more expensive per pound than a whole turkey, but it’s also easier to work with and store.

How to Cook Turkey Breast

Turkey breast can be roasted whole in the oven, grilled, or smoked, or sliced into thin cutlets and pan-seared. It can can also be prepared in an electric pressure cooker or slow-cooker. A boneless, skin-on breast can be butterflied, stuffed with ingredients like herbs, mushrooms, and breadcrumbs, and then rolled up, tied, and roasted for an attractive holiday entree. 

As with a whole turkey, turkey breast can be dry-brined or wet-brined with spices, herbs, and other flavorings before roasting. Use skin-on, bone-in turkey breast if roasting whole, since it stays juicier when roasted, and its crisp skin boosts flavor and texture. Turkey breast is done when a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 165 F. Allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes before carving into slices against the grain and serving. 

A whole, bone-in turkey breast will serve between three and 10 people as an entree depending on its size—plan on buying 1 1/4 pounds of bone-in turkey breast per person. 

Raw turkey breast
nitrub / Getty Images
Roast turkey breast
Diana Miller / Getty Images 
Crockpot Maple-Glazed Turkey Breast
The Spruce Eats / Katarina Zunic 
Pan-Seared Turkey Breast With Lemon and Herbs
The Spruce 

What Does Turkey Breast Taste Like?

Turkey breast tastes like a richer chicken breast. It has a mild, savory flavor and a slight sweetness, with a tender, succulent texture. Flavorings like spice rubs and herb butters are popular with this cut, as well as classic holiday accompaniments like turkey gravy, cranberry sauce, and stuffing made with ingredients like celery and sage. When roasted or smoked and sliced for sandwiches, mayonnaise and mustard are traditional condiments.

Turkey Breast Recipes

Turkey breast makes a quick-cooking Thanksgiving entree for a small group, simple protein for sandwiches, or an easy weeknight meal to serve alongside potatoes or rice and vegetables.

Where to Buy Turkey Breasts

You can buy fresh turkey breast in the refrigerated meat section of well-stocked supermarkets, as well as at most butcher shops. Turkey breast can be purchased skin-on or skinless, bone-in or boneless, and as split or whole breasts. Avoid products containing additives, injections, or preservatives, which can adversely affect flavor and texture. Turkey breast is typically sold by the pound, with whole, bone-in breasts weighing between four and 12 pounds each. Since fresh cuts of turkey are sometimes considered seasonal food in the U.S., it’s best to call the store ahead of time to check availability. 

Storage

Refrigerate uncooked turkey breast in its original packaging at 40 F or below for up to two days before cooking, and place it in a tray or bowl in the refrigerator to catch any leaks. Store cooked turkey breast in a sealed container in your refrigerator for up to four days. Frozen turkey breast can be stored in the freezer in its original packaging for up to one year. Plan on one day of thawing in the refrigerator for every four to five pounds of turkey breast. 

Nutrition and Benefits

Turkey breast is an excellent source of lean protein as well as a good source of B vitamins, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. A three-ounce serving—roughly the size of a deck of playing cards—contains 170 calories and eight grams of fat.