The best Turkey Brine recipe is made with lots of apple cider, salt, and all the right spices. Your turkey will be so incredibly moist and delicious.
I've used this same brine recipe for years when making my oven roasted turkey. The amount of flavor and moisture it adds is incredible. Be sure to make the best turkey gravy too!
There are a lot of ways to brine a turkey. The easiest and most obvious way is to buy a brine kit at the store which is usually an expensive combination of a lot of salt along with some herbs.
The difference with the way I like to brine a turkey is that I save my money on the brine kit by making my own recipe with salt and other ingredients I already have in the pantry.
Then, I combine that with unfiltered apple cider. Oh my. It makes all the difference in the world!
How to make this recipe:
The actual process of making this brine is extremely simple.
- The first step is to combine all of the brine ingredients except for the ice in a large pan. This solution is heated simply to dissolve all the salt.
- The brine then needs to be completely cooled and chilled (photo 1 below).
That's it! But making the brine is only part of the process. Now you must get that turkey soaking.
Here's what you need:
- A large pot or clean bucket large enough to fit your entire turkey.
- You'll need a large food safe plastic bag. I highly recommend using a turkey roasting bag. You can find them at the grocery store in the same aisle where the disposable aluminum roasting pans are. They're food grade quality and big enough.
- Lots of ice
- Room in your refrigerator. Don't overlook this step. You might have to get real creative or hope that's it's under 40 degrees F outside so you can brine the turkey outside in a predator-free area.
How to brine a turkey:
- Remove giblets and neck from turkey cavity and place in bowl in refrigerator. You'll want to use them to make the best turkey gravy ever. Give the turkey a good rinse and place inside bag in your giant pot or bucket.
- Stuff turkey cavity with a ton of sliced orange wedges (photo 2 above).
- Add all of the chilled brine to the bag (photo 3 above) and ice (photo 4).
- Taking great care not to tear the bag, squeeze out as much of the air as possible, then twist and secure the top (photos 5 and 6 above). I use a clip instead of tying a knot because I will reach in and turn the turkey over at least once during the brine process.
- Refrigerate the brine turkey and let it do it's magic. When you're ready to cook the turkey, remove it from the bag, discard the brine and orange wedges, rinse it with cold water and pat it dry.
How long to brine a turkey:
How long you choose to brine your turkey is completely up to you. My recommendation is anywhere from 12-24 hours. You want to give the brine enough time to soak in and really work, but you really don't need to soak your turkey longer than a day.
Since I do as much Thanksgiving prep the day before as possible, making an easy turkey brine is just part of the process.
Best Thanksgiving recipes:
Now that you've made the most flavorful moist turkey, here are more recipes that will complete your Thanksgiving spread.
- 8 cups apple cider (unfiltered recommended (apple cider like juice aka the kind you drink - NOT apple cider vinegar))
- ⅔ cup kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns ( coarsely crushed)
- 1 tablespoon whole allspice ( coarsely crushed)
- 6 whole cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 cups ice
- 12 pound turkey (ensure its fully thawed if previously frozen, turkey size can vary)
- 2 valencia oranges (quartered)
- Combine apple cider, salt, peppercorns, allspice, cloves, and bay leaves in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes until salt dissolves. Cool completely in refrigerator.
- Remove giblets and neck from turkey, refrigerate until ready to use, and reserve for gravy. Rinse turkey with cold water and pat dry. Trim excess fat. Stuff body cavity with orange quarters. Place a turkey-sized oven bag inside a large stockpot. Place turkey inside bag. Add cold cider mixture and ice. Squeeze as much air out of bag as possible. twist top and secure with twist tie or tuck end so that it stays put. Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours, turning turkey occasionally.
- Once done, remove turkey from bag, and discard brine, orange quarters, and bag. Rinse turkey with cold water and pat dry.
- Cook turkey using your favorite method.
- Nutritional information is based on the brine only, but you don't really eat the brine, so I'm not sure why I bothered.
- I use my canning pot to hold the turkey with the brine. It works perfectly and fits on the bottom shelf of my refrigerator as long as I clear everything else out.
Planning to fry my turkey this time. Could this brine be used it? Husband wants to inject but not I. I've roasted with your brine...so freaking GOOD!! Fry, YES?
Yes! Just be sure to dry it as much as possible first. You don't want to be adding any water to hot oil.
I have a question what is the best way to cook the turkey after this like what do you put on the turkey in the turkey things like that?
This is one of my favorite ways to make it. You can also roast in the oven instead of the BBQ if you want. https://selfproclaimedfoodie.com/thanksgiving-turkey/
I have a 16 (almost 17 pound) turkey that I will cook for Christmas will this be enough brine for mine or will I have too up the recipe a bit?
This should be enough. Just be sure to squeeze all of the air out of the bag and the brine should cover the bird.
I love this brine for my Thanksgiving turkey! Have you ever brined 2 days ahead? I am trying to do as much ahead as possible, but I am not sure if that is too long to brine a turkey...
Thanks for your help!
I know I'm way behind on my comments - I apologize! I usually never brine longer than 16 hours max.
I only have a 13lb turkey and this isn’t enough to cover the bird is that ok?
Yep! In that case, I usually rotate it once or twice during the brine process.
If I am doing a 25lb Turkey Do I double the recipe for the brine or leave as it!
I think you can leave as is. The surface area of your turkey will be larger, but it still should be enough brine to cover all surfaces once you squeeze all the air out. Enjoy!
You can also make sure that your turkey is breast down since that's the part that really needs to be in the brine.
What kind of cloves do you mean and do you mean apple cider vinegar?
Hi Olivia, I mean whole cloves. You can usually get them from the bulk spice section at most grocery stores. I use apple cider (the kind of juice you drink) and not vinegar for this recipe.
Hi, Krissy! I'm looking to try this amazing-sounding brine this year, but as it's just going to be myself and my mom, we're planning on doing just a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey - do you think it will work as well as for a whole turkey? And will just placing the oranges with the breast in the brine directly be acceptable?
I totally think it will work and you can cut in half to account for size. Enjoy! If you don't want to brine, I have a great slow cooker turkey breast recipe: https://selfproclaimedfoodie.com/slow-cooker-turkey-breast/
I put garlic cloves instead of actual whole cloves lol I have no idea how it’s going to taste! I hope it will be okay.I had a 20lb turkey
It should still turn out great!
I'm planning to try this for our Thanksgiving turkey this year. After rinsing and patting the turkey dry from the brine soak will it be ready to oil and sear before roasting?
Hi I’ve never tried to cook Turkey before but I want to try this recipe. How long do you have to cook it in the oven lets say if its a 10-12 lbs Turkey? Thanks in advance.
Here's my recipe where I used a 12 pound turkey: https://selfproclaimedfoodie.com/thanksgiving-turkey/ It took only a couple hours to cook plus the rest time.
Can you make this without the bay leaves? It’s the only thing I’m missing from my pantry. Not a big fan!
Hi Lori, I'm really sorry for the late reply. You can totally omit the bay leaves.
Such an easy recipe and sounds like its full of flavor
This is such a great turkey brine that leaves the turkey so juicy, tender and full of flavor!
Hi.. I'm anxious to try this recipe. I have been so excited to try this as I have never brined a turkey before. My question is... After we brine and dump the brine and prepare the turkey for roasting, should we still add salt and oils for flavor to the turkey? I would hate to over salt or over season if it will already have a lovely flavor from the brine.
Sorry for the late reply. I will often add a salted dry rub to the skin prior to cooking. As long as you don't over do it, it won't be too salty.
That brine sounds divine! And the tip to double check the fridge space is so true. 🙂 Trying to fit a big heavy pot into a fridge and realizing that there's not enough space is simply not fun.
Hello, I had that same issue and ended up using a cooler to brine my turkey. It worked great. I hope this help to anyone who needs to brine a large (20 lb) turkey.
Is that actual Apple cider or Apple cider vinegar?
Apple cider (like apple juice)
I totally misread and use apple cider vinegar🤦♀️🤦♀️🤦♀️
Oh no! How did it taste?
This is one good looking turkey brine!! I love the photos which are so clear and beautiful. I am with you the kit sounds expensive and your way sounds delicious, cheers!