This smoked turkey brine is a blend of apple juice, citrus, fresh herbs and spices that is simple to make and produces a juicy and flavorful turkey. A good brine is a must-have for the perfect smoked turkey!

I smoke a turkey for Thanksgiving every year. I always pair my turkey with this smoked turkey brine, as well as a smoked turkey rub for the best results. This wet brine is a foolproof method to ensure a delicious turkey each and every time! Serve your turkey with other Thanksgiving recipes such as a Thanksgiving charcuterie board, cranberry orange sauce, pumpkin soup, crock pot stuffing and make ahead mashed potatoes for a memorable meal.

A raw turkey in a pot of smoked turkey brine.

When I’m hosting my family and friends for the holidays, I always run into one issue: not enough oven space! I solve this problem by cooking my turkey in the smoker. For every smoked turkey, you need a smoked turkey brine. This brine is simple to make and adds so much flavor and moisture to your bird.

Smoked Turkey Brine Ingredients

Bowls of ingredients including salt, sugar, water, citrus and herbs.

This recipe contains ingredients that are easily accessible at the grocery store including salt, brown sugar, apple juice, garlic, pepper, citrus, fresh parsley and fresh rosemary.

How Do You Make Smoked Turkey Brine?

Place all the ingredients in a large pot and bring everything to a simmer. Cook for a few minutes until all of the salt and sugar has dissolved into the liquid. Take the brine off the heat, then let it cool to room temperature. Place your turkey in the brine and place it in the refrigerator, then after it’s had time to soak, proceed with smoking your turkey.

Step by step process shots showing how to make smoked turkey brine.

Tips For The Perfect Brine

  • Make sure you use kosher salt and do not substitute any other type of salt. Table salt is denser than kosher salt and doesn’t measure the same way. I use Diamond Crystal kosher salt.
  • You want to make sure you put your turkey into a cool brine; never put a turkey in a hot or warm brine as it can cause food safety issues. If you’re in a rush, it’s fine to add a handful of ice cubes to the bring to help it cool faster.
  • Don’t forget to serve your turkey with Hasselback sweet potatoes, turkey gravy and turkey stuffing! I also offer a fall dessert such as apple crisp or pumpkin cheesecake bars.
  • This turkey brine recipe is designed for a 12-14 pound turkey. If your turkey is slighter larger, it’s fine to add a little extra water to the brine so that the bird is fully submerged. You can also cut the brine recipe in half and use it for turkey breasts.
  • If you have leftover turkey, save it to make turkey salad or turkey noodle soup the next day.
  • Make life easier by buying a brining bag to store your turkey in as it soaks in all those flavors in the fridge. You can buy brining bags at the grocery store at the meat counter during the holidays, and they are also readily available online.

Quick Tip

Pat your turkey dry before you smoke it, this will help to get crispy skin on your finished bird.

A cooked smoked turkey on a serving platter.

Recipe FAQs

Should you brine your turkey before smoking?

I highly recommend that you brine your turkey before you smoke it. A brine does two things: it adds flavor to the turkey, and also extra moisture. That extra moisture helps to prevent the turkey from drying out as it smokes.

Does a brined turkey take longer to smoke?

A brined turkey does not take any more time to smoke. In my experience, I find that brined turkey typically cook at the same rate as a non-brined turkey, or sometimes even faster.

How long should you brine a turkey for?

It is best to brine a turkey for a minimum of 18 hours. That being said, I like to brine for 24 hours whenever possible. I don’t recommend brining your turkey for more than 24 hours as it can become overly salty.


Sliced smoked turkey garnished with grapes and herbs on a platter.

Flavor Variations

This brine is fabulous as-is, but you can add other ingredients you have on hand to customize it to your tastes.

  • Sweetener: No brown sugar on hand? Honey or maple syrup will also work just fine.
  • Herbs: You can add other fresh herbs you have on hand such as thyme, savory, marjoram or chives.
  • Flavorings: Feel free to add other flavorings such as fresh sliced ginger, dried chili peppers, juniper berries, apple cider instead of juice, or fennel seeds.

Once you have your smoked turkey brine ready, don’t forget to check out my recipe for the ultimate smoked turkey!

More Great Holiday Recipes

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Please leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 rating in the recipe card below & a review in the comments section further down the page.

5 from 31 votes

Smoked Turkey Brine

AuthorSara Welch
A raw turkey in a pot of smoked turkey brine.
This smoked turkey brine is a blend of apple juice, citrus, fresh herbs and spices that is simple to make and produces a juicy and flavorful turkey. A good brine is a must-have for the perfect smoked turkey!
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time3 minutes
Cooling Time45 minutes
Total Time58 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine American
Serves 24


  • 2 cups apple juice
  • 2 gallons cold water
  • 1 1/2 cups kosher salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 8 cloves garlic smashed
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 2 oranges thinly sliced
  • 2 lemons thinly sliced
  • 5 sprigs rosemary
  • 3 sprigs sage
  • 5 sprigs parsley
  • 3 dried bay leaves


  • Place all the ingredients in a large pot over medium heat. Bring the pot to a simmer.
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the salt and sugar have dissolved in the liquid, stirring occasionally. 
  • Turn off the heat. Let the brine mixture cool to room temperature.
  • Place a whole turkey in the brine solution to fully submerge it, then refrigerate for 18-24 hours.
  • When you're ready to smoke your turkey, remove it from the brine and rinse with cool water; pat dry with paper towels. 
  • Proceed with your normal turkey smoking, or I've listed my recipe for the best smoked turkey below in the notes.


  1. Use my smoked turkey recipe with this brine for the best results.
  2. It is very important to only use kosher salt in this recipe – do not substitute a different type of salt.
  3. This brine is designed for a 12-14 pound turkey. If your turkey is a little larger and not fully submerged, it’s fine to add a little extra water to cover.


Calories: 42kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Sodium: 661mg | Potassium: 62mg | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 25IU | Vitamin C: 8.7mg | Calcium: 20mg | Iron: 0.3mg

Hello! I’m Sara!

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Recipe Rating


  1. Hi there,
    This brine recipe is for a 12-14 lb turkey. What adjustments can I make for a 10.25 lb turkey? And how long should I brine this small turkey for?
    Thank you.

  2. Smoked turkey is our method every Thanksgiving and plan on using your brine recipe. Gravy is always the dilemma …no drippings when you smoke. Any suggestions for that homemade gravy without drippings?

    1. I have this same issue when I smoke a turkey! What I do is buy 2-3 turkey wings at the butcher and make my own turkey broth ahead of time. I simmer the turkey wings with onion, carrots, celery, parsley, and some seasonings like garlic and peppercorns. You don’t have to measure the seasonings exactly, and I just add enough water to cover the wings, usually 6-8 cups with 2 cups of the veggies and herbs. I use the homemade turkey broth for gravy with this recipe, I just use all broth without drippings. The butter gives it a rich flavor even without drippings:

  3. 5 stars
    I don’t have an oven so this recipe is such a lifesaver! Made this brine yesterday for our smoked turkey and everyone loved how it turned out!