Two classic Thanksgiving staples are combined in this Cranberry Glazed Turkey Breast recipe. No need to serve the cranberry sauce on the side, serve it right on top of this flavorful turkey breast!

From the white wine brine, to the savory spice rub, to the cranberry glaze, this recipe is bursting with flavor and makes a beautiful presentation on any holiday table!

sliced turkey breast on plate covered with cranberry sauce

In 2012, I made this recipe for the first time at Thanksgiving. My family loved it so much that they requested it again that year for Christmas! For almost a decade now, this turkey recipe has been making an appearance on my families Thanksgiving and Christmas tables every year.

Although you do have to brine it the night before, it’s still super simple to make and only takes about 30 minutes of actual work time to prepare the brine, rub the turkey and make the glaze.

I’ve made this recipe with both boneless and bone-in turkey breasts, and they both work great for this recipe. But I have a whole section below that goes into detail about why you might want to use one over the other.

The cranberry sauce that’s made from separating the solid cranberries from the glaze, can be served on the side or spread on top of the turkey. I’ve served it both ways and honestly, you can’t go wrong with either! I think this one really just depends on how big of cranberry fans you have in your family.

Although this recipe has become a holiday staple at my house, we usually make it an extra couple times during the winter months for a weekend meal. It’s seriously delicious any time of the year!

ingredients for turkey brine

Brine ingredients

  • White wine – you’ll want to use a dry white wine, like a sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio. The wine acts as an acid, along with the orange juice, used to tenderize the turkey breast.
  • Orange juice
  • Coarse salt – I recommend a coarse kosher salt for this recipe, but any coarse salt will work. If you don’t have coarse salt available, you can still make it work with traditional table salt.
    • Pro tip! The type of salt isn’t as important as the weight of the salt. Because each type of salt varies greatly in weight, for this recipe, I provide the salt measurement in ounces instead of tablespoons, so you can use whatever salt you have on hand.
  • Brown sugar
  • Fresh ginger – the ginger, peppercorns, bay leaves and thyme are used to add flavor to the brine, and therefore impart more flavor into your turkey breast.
  • Peppercorns
  • Bay leaves
  • Fresh thyme sprigs
  • Turkey breast – for this recipe I used a boneless turkey breast, but you can also use a bone-in turkey breast. See the section below for “what type of turkey breast to use”, where I go into more detail about fresh vs. frozen and the benefits of bone-in vs. boneless turkey breasts.

The full ingredient list with measurements can be found at the bottom of the post in the printable recipe card.

turkey breast in bag with white wine brine

How to make the brine

  1. Bring 4 cups of water to boil in a medium saucepan on the stove.
  2. Once the water is boiling, add the salt and brown sugar. Whisk until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved into the water.
  3. Add 4 cups of cold water to the brine, then place it in the refrigerator to cool for at least 30 minutes, or until it comes to room temperature.
    • Pro tip! You never want to pour hot liquid over raw meat, as it could potentially cause bacteria growth. So it’s important to cool the water down before brining the turkey breast. You can always add 4 cups of ice cubes, instead of 4 cups of cold water, to cool it down faster.
  4. Remove the turkey breast from any packaging and/or netting. Arrange a brining bag inside a large bowl or roasting pan, then place the turkey breast in the bag. Add the ginger, peppercorns, bay leaves and thyme.
  5. Add the white wine and orange juice. Once the sugar salt water has cooled to room temperature, pour it over the turkey breast.
  6. Pull the brining bag up and over the turkey breast and tie it closed, making sure the brine covers the whole turkey breast.
  7. Place the brining turkey breast in the refrigerator overnight, or for up to 12 hours.
  8. After the turkey breast has brined, remove it from the brining liquid, rinse it under cold water, then pat it dry.
cranberry glaze ingredients

Cranberry glaze ingredients

  • Fresh cranberries – frozen cranberries can also be used to make the glaze.
  • Fresh ginger – for the sauce, you’ll want to use fresh grated ginger. Use a zester or grater to grate peeled ginger into the sauce.
  • Orange – for this recipe, you’ll use the zest of an orange. You’ll want a clean, firm, brightly colored orange with no visible markings on the outside of the orange. Wash the orange thoroughly, then use a zester, grater or vegetable peeler to zest the outside of the orange.
  • Honey
  • Brown sugar
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Orange juice
  • Orange flavor liqueur – also referred to as triple sec. Additional orange juice can also be used in place of the orange liqueur, if you’d like.
collage of images showing how to make cranberry glaze

How to make cranberry glaze

The cranberry glaze can be made up to 2 days in advance, while the turkey is brining, or while the turkey is roasting in the oven. The solid cranberries discarded from the glaze can be used as a cranberry sauce, served on top of the roasted turkey, or on the side.

  1. Add all of the ingredients for the cranberry glaze to a medium saucepan on the stove over medium heat. Stir to combine the ingredients.
  2. Wait for the cranberries to begin to burst, stirring occasionally. This could take 10 minutes, or more. Once the cranberries begin to burst, lower the heat on the stove to low and continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes.
  3. Set a large mesh strainer on top of a large bowl and pour the cranberries through the strainer.
  4. Use a spatula to press the liquid out of the solid cranberries, through the strainer.
  5. Remove the strainer of cranberries and what you have left in your bowl is the glaze for the turkey breast. Set it aside if you’ve made the glaze while the turkey is in the oven, or cover the glaze and place it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before roasting the turkey.
  6. Set the solid cranberry mixture aside and either serve it on the side of the turkey, or spread on top.
turkey rub ingredients and turkey rub mixed together in small bowl

Spice rub ingredients

  • Paprika
  • Salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Black pepper
  • Onion powder
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Ground cloves
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried thyme
  • Olive oil
uncooked turkey breast on baking sheet next to cooked turkey breast on baking sheet

How to rub and roast the turkey breast

  1. Combine all of the spices in a small bowl.
  2. After the turkey has brined and is rinsed and patted dried, rub the turkey breast with the olive oil.
  3. Then sprinkle the spice rub all over the turkey breast and rub it in.
  4. If the turkey breast comes apart into two pieces, that’s no problem. You can tie them back together with kitchen twine after you rub them with the spice rub. Place the spice rubbed turkey, skin side up, on a rimmed baking sheet, or in a roasting pan.
  5. Roast the turkey breast for one hour in a 375°F oven, or until an instant read thermometer, inserted into the thickest part of the breast, reaches 165°F.
  6. Cut the cooking twine off of the turkey breast and use a pastry brush to brush the cranberry glaze on the turkey.
  7. Let rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing. This will allow the juices to redistribute evenly throughout the turkey. Slice the turkey using a sharp knife or electric knife. (One of my favorite underrated kitchen gadgets!)
sliced turkey breast on plate with fresh cranberries on the side

How to serve it

Place the sliced turkey on a serving platter with a few sprigs of thyme and some fresh cranberries for a beautifully presented dish!

Serve the cranberry sauce on the side or spread it on top of the turkey before serving.

slices of turkey breast on plate with cranberry sauce on top of the turkey slices

Frequently asked questions

  • Can you remove the skin after roasting the turkey? Yes, the skin can be removed from the turkey after roasting, before adding the cranberry glaze. But if you aren’t a fan of the crispy baked skin, I actually recommend removing it before starting the recipe. This way, you don’t lose any of that delicious spice rub when you remove the skin after the turkey is roasted. Refer to the next question for how to make the recipe without the skin.
  • Can you make it without the skin? Yes. If you’re not a fan of the turkey skin, use a sharp knife to remove the skin from the turkey breast before starting the recipe.
  • Can you make it with a bone-in turkey breast? Yes, this recipe can be made as-is with a bone-in turkey breast. Meat on the bone tends to cook slower than boneless meat, so you might need to add 10-15 minutes to the roasting time, if you’re using a bone-in turkey breast. I always recommend using an instant read thermometer to ensure the meat is at 165°F before removing it from the oven.
  • How long does leftover turkey stay good? Leftover turkey will stay good in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. I always recommend storing it in an airtight container for the best flavor.
  • Should you roast the turkey breast covered or uncovered? This turkey breast recipe is meant to be cooked uncovered. This will give you a delicious spice rub crust on the top of the turkey.
  • What temperature should you cook a turkey breast to? The USDA recommended internal temperature for a turkey breast is 165 degrees Fahrenheit in the thickest part of the breast.
  • Can you use this recipe to make a whole turkey? Yes, depending on the size of the turkey, the brine and rub recipes will need to be tripled, so that the whole turkey will sit in the brine and be covered in the rub. The cranberry glaze recipe makes a lot of sauce and glaze, but you can double it to cover a whole turkey, if you’d like. A whole turkey should roast for approximately 13 minutes per pound in a 350°F oven.
sliced turkey breast covered in cranberry sauce on plate with large serving fork

What type of turkey breast to use

When shopping for a turkey breast, you’ll usually find many options, either fresh or frozen, boneless turkey breasts, bone-in turkey breasts and turkey breast roasts. So what’s the difference and which one should you use for this recipe?

  • boneless turkey breast is simply the breast of the turkey with the bones removed. If you’re buying a frozen, packaged boneless turkey breast, you’ll usually find 2 turkey breasts in the package, bound together with netting. These packaged turkey breasts usually vary from 3-5 pounds in size.
  • bone-in turkey breast is the breast portion from a whole turkey. It contains both breasts still attached to the bone. Because this is one whole piece, it will not be bound by netting. A bone-in turkey breast can run anywhere from 5-12 pounds in size, but remember some of that weight is from the bones, which will be removed after cooking.
  • Turkey breast roasts can be found pre-seasoned and sometimes with a combination of white and dark meat. Refer to the label on the roast, if it simply says “breast meat” that’s perfect to use for any recipe that calls for a boneless turkey breast.

Fresh turkey breasts are always preferred because there’s generally no added or injected ingredients. But they can be hard to find in months other than November in the US. Frozen turkey breasts are generally found year-round at the grocery store, and can usually be found bone-in or boneless.

So which is the best? Depends on your preference! Bone-in turkey breasts are going to have more flavor that comes from roasting the meat on the bone. But they aren’t as easy to carve as a boneless turkey breast.

A boneless turkey breast is smaller, therefore it can fit in smaller ovens or slow cookers. If you’re loading up your oven for a holiday meal, I recommend a boneless turkey breast because it takes up less space.

For this recipe, you can use any of the options above. If you’re using a boneless turkey breast, or turkey breast roast that is bound by netting, be sure to remove the netting before you start the recipe. You don’t want the netting pulling off all of the delicious herb rub at the end!

If the turkey breast comes apart into two pieces, that’s no problem. You can roast them side by side, which is what I did in the pictures above, or you can tie them back together with kitchen twine after you rub them with the herb paste.

The only turkey breast that you do not want to use for this recipe would be one that says “oven ready” or “ready to roast”. These turkey breasts have been pre-seasoned and are meant to be cooked in the bag that they come in, so they will not work for this recipe.

sliced turkey breast on plate with fresh cranberries and thyme

Ways to use leftover turkey

A classic turkey sandwich with slices of leftover cranberry turkey is absolutely delicious. But there are several other ways that you can use leftover turkey in recipes for an appetizer, lunch or dinner!

What to serve with it

A cranberry glazed turkey breast is perfect for a smaller Thanksgiving, but seriously delicious year-round. Make it for a meal anytime of the year, and pair it with any of these delicious side dishes!

sliced turkey breast covered with cranberry sauce and fresh thyme sprigs on white plate
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Cranberry Glazed Turkey Breast

This Cranberry Glazed Turkey Breast recipe is bursting with flavor from the white wine brine, to the savory spice rub, to the cranberry glaze!

Ingredients

Brine

  • 8 cups cold water, divided
  • 4 ounces kosher salt
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 4 pound boneless turkey breast, *see notes below
  • 2 tbsp ginger
  • 1 tbsp peppercorns
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup orange juice

Rub

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • ½ tsp thyme

Cranberry Glaze

  • 12 oz cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, fresh grated
  • 2 tsp orange zest
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup orange liqueur

Instructions

Brine

  • Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan on the stove.
  • Once the water is boiling, add the kosher salt and brown sugar. Whisk until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved into the water.
  • Add 4 cups of cold water to the brine, then place it in the refrigerator to cool for at least 30 minutes, or until it comes to room temperature.
  • Remove the turkey breast from any packaging and/or netting. Arrange a brining bag inside a large bowl or roasting pan, then place the turkey breast in the bag.
  • Add the ginger, peppercorns, bay leaves and thyme.
  • Add the white wine and orange juice.
  • Once the sugar salt water has cooled to room temperature, pour it over the turkey breast.
  • Pull the brining bag up and over the turkey breast and tie it closed, making sure the brine covers the whole turkey breast.
  • Place the brining turkey breast in the refrigerator overnight, or for up to 12 hours.
  • After the turkey breast has brined, remove it from the brining liquid, rinse it under cold water, then pat it dry.

Rub and roast

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • Place the dried, brined turkey on a cutting board and rub all over with olive oil.
  • Combine all of the spices for the rub in a small bowl, then rub it all over the turkey breast.
  • If the turkey breast comes apart into two pieces, that’s no problem. You can tie them back together with kitchen twine after you rub them with the spice rub. Place the spice rubbed turkey, skin side up, on a rimmed baking sheet, or in a roasting pan.
  • Roast the turkey breast for one hour, or until an instant read thermometer, inserted into the thickest part of the breast, reaches 165°F.
  • Cut the cooking twine off of the turkey breast and use a pastry brush to brush the cranberry glaze on the turkey.
  • Let rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing. 

Cranberry glaze

  • While the turkey breast is in the oven, prepare the cranberry glaze.
  • Add all of the ingredients to a large saucepan on the stove over medium heat.
  • Wait for the cranberries to burst, stirring occasionally. This will take 10-15 minutes.
  • Once the cranberries begin to burst, lower the heat on the stove to low and continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes.
  • Set a large mesh strainer on top of a large bowl and pour the cranberries through the strainer.
  • Use a spatula to press the liquid out of the solid cranberries, through the strainer.
  • Remove the strainer of cranberries and what you have left in your bowl is the glaze for the turkey breast. Set it aside until the turkey comes out of the oven.
  • Set the solid cranberry mixture aside and either serve it on the side of the turkey, or spread on top.

Notes

  • Turkey breast – for this recipe I used a boneless turkey breast, but you can also use a bone-in turkey breast. See the section in the blog post above on “what type of turkey breast to use”, where I go into more detail about fresh vs. frozen and the benefits of bone-in vs. boneless turkey breasts.
  • If you do use a bone-in turkey breast, meat on the bone tends to cook slower, so you will probably need to add 10-15 minutes to the roasting time.
  • You can make this recipe without the skin. Use a sharp knife to remove the skin from the turkey breast before starting the recipe. 
  • I do not recommend removing the skin after roasting the turkey, as you’ll also be removing a lot of the delicious spice rub.
  • Leftover turkey will stay good in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. I always recommend storing it in an airtight container for the best flavor.
  • Using a 4 pound boneless turkey breast, this recipe will feed 8 people at 1/2 pound of turkey per person.

Nutrition Facts

Serving 6gCalories 354kcal (18%)Carbohydrates 68g (23%)Protein 1g (2%)Fat 5g (8%)Sodium 9855mg (411%)Potassium 299mg (9%)Fiber 4g (16%)Sugar 57g (63%)Vitamin A 430mg (9%)Vitamin C 35.6mg (43%)Calcium 73mg (7%)Iron 1.2mg (7%)
Did you make this recipe?Tag @WhitneyBond on Instagram and hashtag it #WBRecipes!

Thanks to Emeril Lagasse for the original inspiration for this recipe!

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