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 turkey and helps to prevent it from drying out during the roasting process. Serve your brined turkey with sweet potato casserole and 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 turkey brine recipe, I can produce a juicy and delicious turkey every time with no stress.

Turkey brine ingredients

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

The ingredients in this recipe include kosher salt, brown sugar, water, apple cider, garlic, whole peppercorns, sliced lemons and oranges, fresh rosemary and bay leaves. It is very important to use apple cider the drink, not apple cider vinegar.

How do you make turkey brine?

Place all the ingredients in a pot and bring it 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 brine. Refrigerate the turkey in the liquid for 18-24 hours, then 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.
  • 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.
  • Many pots are not large enough to hold a whole turkey. I typically buy brining bags, which 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.
  • Pat your turkey dry before you roast it to ensure crispy skin.
A cooked turkey made with turkey brine.

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 a turkey is placed into brine, it absorbs some of the brine 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?

Typically gravy is made 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. After your turkey comes out of the brining liquid, dry it with paper towels, then roast it 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.

Sliced roasted turkey on a serving platter.

Recommended turkey recipes

These recipes pair perfectly with this brine, there are plenty of options including roasted turkey, smoked turkey and turkey breast.

More recipes for your Thanksgiving table

Turkey Brine Video

5 from 58 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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Recipe Rating


  1. Can you make this brine ahead of time? (Make brine Tuesday night, brine turkey on Wednesday, ready to cook turkey on Thursday)

  2. 5 stars
    This turkey brine made my turkey so much easier to cook and so much more flavorful, I did not know how much I was missing out until I tried this.

  3. 5 stars
    for this thanksgivng being my first time making the turkey, this recipe has made it seem that much easier! thank you so much for sharing

  4. 5 stars
    This turkey brine is really a game-changer! The meat is juicy and so flavorful! I’ll be making it every time from now on.

  5. Hello I have a question about the serving size. 30 servings for the brine is for what size turkey? I have a 14lb turkey, how many servings do I need for the brine?

  6. Hi, do you still coat it with butter or other recipes after you rinse it with the cool water. Dose it mean after that you just put it in the oven right, can you clarify it for me. Thank you.

  7. 5 stars
    Thanks for sharing, was thinking of how to try the brine recipe for Christmas turkey. A friend told me just to use brown sugar solution but now that I have come across yours, I trust am good. Will do it for Christmas. Thank you.

    1. You will likely keep the lemons and oranges in the brine with the turkey; as I have seen it that way on all other brine recipes.

  8. Are you supposed to leave the herbs/citrus/etc. ingredients in the brine while the turkey is in it? I wasn’t sure if you were supposed to place the turkey in just the liquid or not.

  9. 5 stars
    I just shared this flavorful recipe with my niece who is in charge of her family’s Thanksgiving turkey this year. This recipe’s a keeper!

  10. 5 stars
    You know, I have never tried brining a turkey but I do love the sound of the flavors in this so I think it’s time to give it a try! The end turkey looks os tasty.

    1. Lol I almost made the same mistake, but remember the grating taste of apple cider vinegar and concluded it had to mean something else.

      1. I did use apple cider vinegar, but I reduce the vinegar abit and turned out the taste delicious 🤣🤣 for deep fry turkey

  11. The recipe automatically calculates the ingredients based on a serving of 30. Is that the correct “serving size” for a smaller 12lb. turkey?

  12. 5 stars
    I made this tonight as an early Thanksgiving with my family and it was a big hit! Even my daughter who doesn’t are much for turkey thought it was really good! It’s the first time that I ever brined a turkey as well and I thought that it was very easy to do! Thanks for sharing!

  13. Hi… first time brining. I have a 21 lb turkey…. How should I adjust the recipe? Is 24 hours long enough to brine?

    1. 24 hours should be fine. I would do 1 1/2 times the recipe. You can adjust the number of servings in the recipe card and the ingredient amounts will automatically recalculate.

  14. Is this brine for a fresh turkey? Frozen are already injected with salt, so should I eliminate the salt? Not wanting to ruin the bird with too much salt? Thanks!

    1. The brine is for any turkey where salt has not already been applied. I’d look at the ingredient list to see if there has been salt added. A brine is salt solution by nature, if you removed the salt it would not be a brine anymore and unfortunately would not add much to the flavor of the turkey. You may want to consider my turkey marinade recipe instead which is not salt based.