Citrus Rosemary Turkey Breast Recipe (and Gravy)

Turkey breast on a white plate, garnished with orange quarters.

 

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The turkey is and should always be the centerpiece of a Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner whether it being just Thanksgiving for two or for a large family. This turkey breast recipe with citrus and rosemary is a little fresher, which I think pairs perfectly with all the heavy side dishes of sweet potato and stuffing and all the others delicious treats.

 

In this post I’ll share all my tips and tricks how to cook a turkey breast, from how much you need per person, why you should rest it and how to cut it. And of course I’m sharing a ton of side dishes too, because what is Thanksgiving without side dishes? I’ve summarized this in a recipe card at the bottom, so just click the jump to recipe button above if you want to cut to the chase!

 

This turkey breast recipe is a part of my Thanksgiving for Two series, where I share a complete Thanksgiving meal, time schedules and all the important stuff to make it go as smoothly as possible on the big day. Thanksgiving for Two is also very easily Thanksgiving for Four or even Six, because of the amount of side dishes.

 

I have calculated how much you need in order to make a ton of entirely fresh Thanksgiving leftovers recipes the following week. More people just means less leftovers, but that’s ok too!

 

Turkey breast on a white plate, Thanksgiving side dishes around.

 

Bone In vs Boneless Turkey Breast

 

You can of course use a boneless turkey breast. That will probably be both easier and quicker, I Food Real has a lot of info about that. BUT let me just say that I think roasting a whole bird feels more like a special day, like Thanksgiving or Christmas, but a boneless turkey breast is more like an every Sunday kind of meal.

 

So a whole bird is a little too much for most gatherings, but a bone in turkey breast will be just perfect! And you can get that extra collagen boost by reserving the bones later to make a super healthy bone broth.

 

How Much Turkey Per Person

 

Roasting a whole turkey, or any bird for that matter, isn’t really hard. But it can be hard to calculate how big bird you should get. The basic rule is one pound per person, but I would aim for 1 1/2 per person, maybe even more. Why? Because we want leftovers, but we also want people to eat however much they actually want and then some. It’s a special occasion, and having too little food would be a recipe for disaster. That is why I’ve actually used more than 1 1/2 pounds per person in this turkey breast recipe.

 

To summarize: 1 1/2 pound (700g) per person.

 

How to Prepare a Turkey Breast: Defrosting

 

First things first, you need to defrost the turkey. You will most likely buy a frozen turkey (if not, you obviously do not need to defrost it). The basic rule here is to defrost it for about 24 hours per 4-5 pounds of turkey. Keep the turkey in its original wrapping and on a tray to catch any juice, and defrost it slowly in the refrigerator. Defrosting slowly is better to avoid bacteria development.

 

If you are short on time, it is possible to thaw the turkey breast in a cold water bath. But that requires a whole lot more work. Secure the turkey breast so that no water can enter. The water needs to be 40F (4.4C) or colder at all times, and thus you need to change the water every 30 minutes. And this needs to be done until it’s thawed, which will be about 30 minutes extra per extra pound. Use a thermometer to make sure the water is cold enough. The turkey will likely float, and it needs to be completely submerged at all times, so you need to keep something heavy on top.

 

Whatever you do, do NOT thaw frozen turkey in room temperature. Poultry should not be in room temperature for more than two hours.

 

To summarize: Defrost for 24 hours (per 4-5 pounds) in the refrigerator.

 

Uncooked turkey breast in a roasting pan with squeezed orange and lemon wedges.

 

How to Prepare a Turkey Breast: Before cooking

 

Pre-heat oven to 450F (230C), but make sure to reduce it later, keep reading.

 

You have completely defrosted the turkey breast. Now it’s important to rinse it under cold water thoroughly, inside and out, and then pat dry. With your fingers, carefully separate the skin from the meat and spread half of the butter under the skin. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Spread the rest of the butter on the skin along with more salt and pepper. Rub it in.

 

Place the turkey breast in a roasting pan. You want to use a small roasting pan, so that you can use half of the oven to make your sides (read my Thanksgiving for Two post for tips). Pour the white wine/sherry and juice from the lemon and orange on top. Cut the juiced lemon and orange into quarters and place in the roasting pan along with the garlic and rosemary. Top the turkey breast with rosemary sprigs. 

 

Reduce the oven temperature to 350F (180C).

 

How Long Does it Take to Cook a Turkey Breast

 

The last thing you want to on Thanksgiving, is to serve an undercooked turkey. As a general rule, a 4 pound turkey breast will need about 1 1/2 hours of roasting time. However, I can’t emphasis enough how much I would recommend getting an oven-safe thermometer. This thermometer isn’t only for roasting meat, it’s also handy when making homemade buns, candies like homemade marshmallows and peppermint cream cheese filled truffles, and lemon curd. So you have plenty of excuses to get a thermometer!

 

When the turkey breast is roasting in the oven, you can baste the breast with its juices every 20-30 minutes. Just pour its sauces back on top of the turkey. Optional step! If you think the turkey breast is getting too brown too quickly, loosely cover it with aluminum foil to prevent burning.

 

The turkey breast is done when the thermometer shows a minimum of 165F (74C). You should check the turkey in the thickest part of the breast. Some like to take the turkey out of the oven at a temperature of 160F, keeping it covered until it reaches 165F, but I personally don’t like to risk it.

 

Turkey breast on a plate, garnished with orange quarters and rosemary sprigs.

 

It is Important to Rest the Turkey

 

When the turkey is done, take it out of the oven and let it rest for 30 minutes. This resting will help redistributing the juices inside the meat, making it juicier. And as an added bonus, the turkey breast will be colder, making it easier to handle and to carve!

 

How to Cut or Carve a Bone In Turkey Breast

 

The carving may sound like a daunting task. But it’s not really rocket science. If you see any bloody juices, the turkey is – sorry to say it – NOT done. That’s why we use a thermometer, to avoid that unpleasant surprise.

 

Use a sharp chef’s knife, run the knife along the side of the breast bone. Continue slicing downward, close to the breast bone and down to the wing joint while pulling the breast away with your other hand. Slice the breast into half inch thick slices, against the grain.

 

Don’t forget to cut or pull off the rest of the meat on the bird and serve those too. Reserve the bones to make a great turkey bone broth. And as extra information, here’s a video from The Spruce Eats on how to carve an entire turkey.

 

Cut turkey breast on a white plate.

 

The Best Citrus Turkey Gravy Recipe

 

Turkey gravy is adapted from The Kitchn. Because this turkey breast recipe is lemony rosemary flavored, so will the turkey gravy taste like. It’s tangy, but also full bodied and delicious. Because it’s so tangy, I have added a little sugar to the recipe. If you decide to omit lemon in your turkey, I would also omit sugar from the gravy. But I hope you don’t!

 

When the turkey is done, there will be a lot of sauce and pan drippings in the pan. Save this in a cup. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, this way the fat and pan drippings will separate and it’s easier to measure.

 

Once done chilling, scoop out the fat and measure. You ideally want 1/4 cup, but this time I didn’t have enough so I compensated by adding butter to reach 1/4 cup. Place in a saucepan. Once hot, add in the flour (to make a roux). Whisk for a few minutes, it will be bubbly, until it smells a little nutty.

 

Pouring gravy on top of complete Thanksgiving meal, including turkey breast slices.

 

The Roux

 

When making a roux, we ideally want equal amounts of fat and flour measured by weight. 1/4 cup of butter, or fat, weighs about 55g, but 1/4 cup flour weighs only 32g, so you should add an additional 3 tbsp (not heaping), to reach 55g. I have made this with 1/4 cup flour too, and it’s no big deal, it’s still a delicious sauce!

 

Add in 1 cup, or 250ml, pan drippings (if you have less, add chicken or turkey broth to compensate). Whisk. Add salt and pepper and taste. If it’s too sour to your liking, add in 1 tsp sugar or more if you want. My gravy was a little sour, but that does not matter when you eat it alongside all the other dishes, it’s all about the balance. So remember, a little sour is fine.

 

Whisk in more chicken stock if needed, to reach desired consistency. It will thicken a little once cooled. Leftover turkey gravy is perfect in a cauliflower soup, see 7 Thanksgiving leftovers blog post.

 

Complete Thanksgiving meal with sliced turkey breast and gravy.

 

The Perfect Side Dishes

 

When making turkey, we can’t forget about all the delicious side dishes! This turkey breast recipe is designed to balance with these side dishes:

 

Thanksgiving side dishes; green beans, cranberry sauce, stuffing, sweet potato mash, brussels sprouts.

 

 

But I would also love to try this turkey breast recipe with these lemony blackberry brussels sprouts and broccoli, bacon and cheese dinner rolls and maybe even rosemary french fries!

 

Thanksgiving side dishes that pairs with turkey breast recipe.

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Comment below or tag me @thegingerwithspice on Instagram. And don’t forget to Pin it for later! To make sure you’re never missing another recipe, please feel free to subscribe to my newsletter. As a thanks you will receive a free e-cookbook Travels Through the Seasons, with many delicious recipes from around the world that suit different seasons of the year. 

 

In order to keep the blog up and running this post may contain affiliate links, it will be at no extra cost to you, please read the disclosure for more information.

 

 

Pouring gravy on top of complete Thanksgiving meal, including turkey breast slices.
Print Recipe
5 from 13 votes

Citrus Rosemary Turkey Breast Recipe

This turkey breast recipe with citrus and rosemary is a little fresher, which I think pairs perfectly with all the heavy side dishes of sweet potato and stuffing and all the others delicious treats.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr 30 mins
Resting30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: thanksgiving, turkey, turkey breast, turkey breast recipe
Servings: 3 people
Calories: 374kcal
Author: Stine Mari | Ginger with Spice

Ingredients

Citrus Rosemary Turkey Breast

  • 1 half turkey breast (split at the bone) 3.7 lb / 1.7 kg*
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1 cup white wine or cooking sherry. 250ml
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 orange
  • 1/2 head garlic crushed, paper still on is ok
  • salt and pepper to taste

Turkey Gravy

  • 1/4 cup turkey fat or butter to compensate
  • 1/4 cup flour + 3 tbsp**
  • 1 cup pan drippings or chicken/turkey stock to compensate. 250ml
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp sugar optional***
  • More chicken stock as needed

Instructions

Turkey Breast

  • Defrost: Defrost for 24 hours (per 4-5 pounds) in the refrigerator. Keep the turkey in its original wrapping and on a tray to catch any juice.
  • Pre-heat oven to 450F (230C), we will reduce it later.
  • Rinse and pat dry: rinse the turkey breast under cold water thoroughly, inside and out, and then pat dry. With your fingers, carefully separate the skin from the meat and spread half of the butter under the skin. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Spread the rest of the butter on the skin along with more salt and pepper. Rub it in.
  • Place in a pan: Place the turkey breast in a roasting pan. You want to use a small roasting pan, so that you can use half of the oven to make your sides (read my Thanksgiving for Two post for tips). Pour the white wine/sherry and juice from the lemon and orange on top. Cut the juiced lemon and orange into quarters and place in the roasting pan along with the garlic and rosemary. Top the turkey breast with rosemary sprigs. 
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 350F (180C).
  • Roast the turkey: When the turkey breast is roasting in the oven, you can baste the breast with its juices every 20-30 minutes. Just pour its sauces back on top of the turkey. Optional step! If you think the turkey breast is getting too brown too quickly, loosely cover it with aluminum foil to prevent burning. Keep an oven-safe thermometer in the thickest part of the breast, the breast is done when it reaches 165F (74C). About 1 1/2 hours.
  • Rest: Rest the turkey for 30 minutes, to redistribute the juices inside the meat.
  • Carve: Use a sharp chef’s knife, run the knife along the side of the breast bone. Continue slicing downward, close to the breast bone and down to the wing joint while pulling the breast away with your other hand. Slice the breast into half inch thick slices, against the grain. Don't forget to pull off the rest of the meat off the bones too, and reserve bones for a turkey bone broth.

Turkey Gravy

  • Refrigerate 30 minutes: When the turkey is done, there will be a lot of sauce and pan drippings in the pan. Save this in a cup. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, this way the fat and pan drippings will separate and it’s easier to measure.
  • Make a roux: Once done chilling, scoop out the fat and measure. You ideally want 1/4 cup, so add butter to reach 1/4 cup if you don't have enough. Place in a saucepan. Once hot, add in the flour. Whisk for a few minutes, it will be bubbly, until it smells a little nutty.
  • Make the gravy: Add in 1 cup, or 250ml, pan drippings (if you have less, add chicken or turkey broth to compensate). Whisk. Add salt and pepper and taste. If it’s too sour to your liking, add in 1 tsp sugar or more if you want.
  • Too thick? Whisk in more chicken stock if needed, to reach desired consistency. It will thicken a little once cooled, but best served warm. 

Notes

Did you make the recipe? Tag @thegingerwithspice on Instagram, I'd love to see!
 
* General rule is 1 pound of turkey per person, but aim for 1 1/2 (700g)  to make sure you have enough + bonus with all the leftovers! Mine was 3.7 lb. Cooked turkey keeps for 3-4 days in the fridge.
 
** We are making a roux, which requires equal parts of flour and fat (butter or turkey fat) by weight. 1/4 cup of fat weighs about 55g, and so does 1/4 cup + 3 tbsp flour. Using 1/4 cup flour is ok too, it will just be a little thinner. Turkey gravy keeps for 1 week in the fridge, perfect as liquid for soups. 
 
*** The turkey gravy may be a little too sour, and sugar balances it out. However, a little sour gravy is ok as it works really well with all the heavy side dishes. 
 
Thanksgiving for Two blog posts includes a lot of side dishes: https://www.gingerwithspice.com/thanksgiving-for-two/
 
Make sure you check out my 7 Thanksgiving Leftovers Recipes as well: https://www.gingerwithspice.com/7-ways-thanksgiving-leftovers/
 
Nutrition:
Calories: 374 | Fat: 14.3g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Protein: 34g |  Carbohydrate: 15.7g |  Fiber 1.3g |  Cholesterol: 98mg | Sodium: 697mg | Vitamin D: 4 mcg | Calcium: 53mg | Iron: 3 mg | Potassium: 470mg
 
Nutrition information is an estimate and is provided for informational purposes only. If you have any specific dietary concerns, please consult with your healthcare practitioner.

 

Did you like this recipe? Don’t forget to pair it with:

 

 

Sweet potato mash with chopped sage leaves and melted butter on top. Orange Cranberry Sauce for Thanksgiving Sauteed green beans on a white, rectangular plate.

 

 

Thanksgiving for Two (plus leftovers): A Complete Menu and Planner Honey Balsamic Baked Brussels Sprouts

 

 



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