This turkey brine recipe is flavored with apple, citrus, brown sugar, rosemary and spices. It’s the perfect way to guarantee a moist and flavorful turkey every time!

Every cook’s biggest fear on Thanksgiving day is a dry turkey. A good brine does wonders for the flavor and consistency of the bird and helps to prevent it from drying out during the roasting process. I have the best turkey brine recipe for you. Serve your turkey with sweet potato casserole with marshmallows and Southern cornbread dressing for the ultimate holiday meal.

A whole turkey in a pot of turkey brine.

Every year around the holidays, cooking a turkey was such a source of stress for me. I was worried about the turkey either being bone dry or completely raw in the middle! Now that I’ve discovered the wonders of a good wet brine recipe, I can produce a juicy and delicious turkey every time with no stress.

When you select your Thanksgiving recipes, make sure you have plenty of fantastic side dishes like slow cooker mac and cheese, garlic mashed potatoes, cranberry salad and turkey gravy. If you end up with turkey leftovers check out my favorite leftover turkey recipes.

Turkey Brine Ingredients

To make this turkey brine recipe you will need kosher salt, brown sugar, water, apple cider, garlic, whole peppercorns, lemon slices, orange slices, fresh rosemary and bay leaves. It is very important to use apple cider the drink, not apple cider vinegar.

Ingredients including apple cider, salt, sugar, herbs and seasonings.

How Do You Make Turkey Brine?

To make turkey brine first place all the ingredients in a large pot and bring them to a simmer. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until all of the salt and sugar have dissolved. Let the brine cool completely. Place the turkey in the liquid. Add cool water until you cover the turkey. Leave the turkey in the fridge for 18-24 hours. When it is done, remove the bird from the brine. Rince it with cool water and pat it dry. Finally, cook your bird as desired.

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

Tips For Turkey 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.
  • Make sure your stock pot is large enough to hold a turkey. If not, you can buy brining bags. These are giant resealable bags that are made for turkey brining. The bags are easy to fit into a standard sized refrigerator.
  • You want to make sure you put your turkey into a cool brine; never put a turkey in a hot or warm brine.
  • To cool your brine quickly you can add some cold water or a few ice cubes.
  • Need less turkey? Brine a turkey breast with 1/2 of the recipe and 1/2 the amount of time.
  • Pat your turkey dry before you roast it to ensure crispy skin.

Quick Tip

Be sure to use apple cider the drink, do NOT use apple cider vinegar! If you can’t find apple cider, apple juice will work fine.

A roasted bird cooked golden brown on a serving platter.

Recipe FAQs

Why do you brine a turkey?

A turkey is a naturally lean type of meat which mean it’s prone to drying out. When you place a turkey in brine, it absorbs some of the liquid which helps to both keep it moist and also to season it all the way through. When you’re working with a brined turkey, even if you overcook it a bit, it should still come out tender and juicy. I always brine my whole chickens for the same reason!

How long should you brine a turkey?

A turkey needs to brine for at least 18 hours, but you can go up to 24 hours if you have a larger bird. Do not go past 24 hours or your turkey could be overly salty. Also, you need to make sure that the turkey you buy from the store is not already pre-brined or treated with salt.

Can you make gravy from a brined turkey?

People typically make gravy with turkey drippings, but in the case of a brined turkey, sometimes the drippings can be overly salty. You should taste the drippings before you proceed with your gravy. If you think the drippings are on the saltier side, you can always use unsalted chicken or turkey broth to keep the seasoning of your gravy at the proper level.

How long do you cook a turkey?

A turkey needs to cook in the oven for approximately 15 minutes per pound. Roast your turkey for the appropriate amount of time based on the size of your bird. A turkey is done when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees F.

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Sliced roasted turkey on a serving platter.

Flavor Variations

This turkey brine will give you a juicy and delicious turkey as written. However, you can change the flavors to suit your taste.

  • Veggies: Add to your wet brine chopped up celery, carrots and onion.
  • Citrus: Boost the citrus flavor by adding an orange peel or lemon peel.
  • Herbs: Add fresh sage leaves, fresh thyme sprigs or allspice berries.

These recipes pair perfectly with this brine. There are plenty of options including roasted turkey, smoked turkey and turkey breast. If you’re making a smoked turkey, try using my smoked turkey brine recipe.

Use this brine to seal in the moisture for a juicy and delicious bird. If you have extra time and don’t want a wet brine, you can also try my fantastic dry brined turkey. Regardless, of what method you choose, your guests will thank you for serving a succulent turkey.

More Recipes For Your Thanksgivng

Turkey Brine Video

Love This Recipe?

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

5 from 156 votes

Turkey Brine Recipe

AuthorSara Welch
A whole turkey in a pot of turkey brine.
This turkey brine recipe is flavored with apple, citrus, brown sugar, rosemary and spices. It’s the perfect way to guarantee a moist and flavorful turkey every time!
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time3 minutes
Total Time13 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine American
Serves 30


  • 2 cups apple cider DO NOT use apple cider vinegar
  • 2 gallons cold water
  • 1 1/2 cups kosher salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 5 cloves garlic smashed
  • 2 tablespoons peppercorns
  • 2 oranges thinly sliced
  • 2 lemons thinly sliced
  • 5 rosemary sprigs
  • 3 bay leaves


  • Place all the ingredients in a large pot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer.
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes or until salt and sugar have dissolved. 
  • Turn off the heat. Let the brine mixture cool.
  • Place a whole turkey in the brine solution to fully submerge it, then refrigerate for 18-24 hours. If your turkey does not fit into the pot, place the turkey and the brine into a brining bag.
  • When you’re ready to cook your turkey, remove it from the brine and rinse with cool water; pat dry with paper towels. 
  • Proceed with your normal turkey roasting method, or I’ve listed my favorite turkey recipes below in the notes section.


Here are my favorite turkey recipes to pair with this brine
  1. 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.
  2. Be sure to use apple cider the drink, do NOT use apple cider vinegar! If you can’t find apple cider, apple juice will work fine.


Calories: 43kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Sodium: 561mg | Potassium: 62mg | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 25IU | Vitamin C: 8.7mg | Calcium: 20mg | Iron: 0.3mg

Hello! I’m Sara!

Learn more about Sara

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5 from 156 votes (101 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Amazing results from this brine! Our turkey was tender and juicy. I’ve never had such a juicy turkey. We will be trying this on everything.

  2. 5 stars
    This was the first year in many that my Turkey came out juicy and tender thanks to this brining! My mom even told me how she really doesn’t like turkey, but this year it was ‘simply off the charts delicious’! You must try this. I cleaned my 20 lb turkey, brined it for ~21 hours in a brining bag, cleaned it again. I used the foil method, and wrapped it like jiffy pop, put in roaster and pulled when breast temp reached 168, and thigh area read 171 and rested for 40 min. Perfection! The juices were flowing with every cut! Thank you for your recipe – it was an amazing and flavorful delight! I highly recommend!

  3. 5 stars
    This was excellent! I used just 1 lemon and 1 orange instead of 2 of each. There was just enough very subtle citrus flavor in the turkey- you might not even realize it, if you didn’t know. We brined it for about 14 or 15 hours because that was all the time we had. This was better than any other brine we’ve tried other years- so good that we will stop trying other recipes; this is now our go-to.

  4. 5 stars
    I used this brine recipe this year and it is the best of all that I have tried, and I have tried several different recipes. My turkey came out with wonderful flavor and was so moist. I bought a half gallon of apple cider and just used the whole thing instead of using the cups called for in the recipe. I had a 21 pound bird so this extra was fine. I also had some fresh sage and thyme to use in my dressing so threw in a sprig of sage and a couple of thyme to the brine. I think this will be the brine recipe I use from now on.

  5. 5 stars
    My first time hosting Thanksgiving. Needless to say I was nervous. I used this brine for 24 hours, rinsed and dried uncovered in the fridge overnight. Then packed flavored butter under the skin of the breasts and put lemons and a poultry sprig inside the cavity. The turkey was great! Super moist and flavorful! I couldn’t be more proud!

  6. 5 stars
    I used this brine recipe this year and it was by far the best flavored and juiciest ever!! This will be my go to for turkey from now on!

  7. the recipe for the brine says its serves 30 , just to be clear , if I am cooking a 12lb bird for say 8-10ppl , should I be following those measurements for the brine for 30 people ?

    1. It’s hard to list the serving size for turkey brine since you only actually ingest a tiny portion of it! For a 12 pound bird you’d want to make the recipe exactly as directed.

  8. I’m excited to use this recipe for Thanksgiving! I’m having trouble finding Apple Cider but have both Sparkling Apple Cider and Apple Juice. Which one would you recommend using for brining? Thank you!

  9. Hi Sara,
    Good to see you in Dinner Zoo your recipe I have questioned about the recipe all you mention but how many hours need to cook for 11-12 lbs. whole turkey please let me know.
    Thank you

  10. Hi I would like to use your recipe for Thanksgiving, and am wondering how big the turkey should be for the amount of marinade listed.

  11. Made this brine and put the Turkey in last night. Just worrying because the lemons that I used happened to have very thick rinds, and the brine had a slightly bitter scent. Worrying this bitterness will transfer to the Turkey.

    1. I don’t think the lemon rinds would impart a bitter taste, but if you’re really worried about it you could just remove the lemons and the turkey will still be delicious!