Buttery, tender turkey breast infused with rosemary, thyme and orange. Roasted Turkey Breast with Gravy is a bright spin on your classic family turkey, just big enough for a single family and served up in under 90 minutes.
I know many of us will have to spend the holidays at home—which can be pretty disheartening after a disappointing, 52-month (yes, you read it right) year. So I want to share a recipe that feels like family Thanksgiving, but with much less time and effort.
This Roasted Turkey Breast with Gravy is my tried-and-true recipe for when I’m making turkey for just my immediate family. It’s perfect because for an averaged-sized household, you’ll still have leftovers for sandwiches or creamed turkey—but not 7 lbs of leftovers you’re tempted start charging for rent.
Sometimes I make it just so I can make creamed turkey for a taste of home.
What is a split turkey breast and why would I use one?
A split turkey breast is just a bone-in skin on turkey breast. It’s split, because it’s just one side, not both breasts still together. The main reason I use them is the size, but there are plenty of reasons split turkey breasts are great:
- You can usually buy them fresh, whereas most turkeys come frozen. No thawing time is a win for me! (24 hours/5 lbs of turkey, if you need it.)
- Less guesswork in cooking! It’s a smaller portion and pretty uniform in thickness, so you’re not trying to make sure the thickest parts are cooked without drying out the rest.
- Smaller portions also mean you can cook it at a higher temperature for less time. That’s secret this turkey breast is so juicy and tender.
- Bonus: If you cook it in a small pan, that opens oven space for other dishes that cook at the same temperature.
Where can I find a split turkey breast?
The nicer grocery stores in my area carry them in their regular case near the other turkey products during the fall and winter months, but I recommend calling ahead to check. You may be able to request the butcher there cut one for you, but try to do that early as they may have limited stock, or have to order it for you.
You can of course go to a butcher’s shop if you’re lucky enough to have one nearby!
Can I use a frozen whole turkey breast?
You can, but you’ll have to increase the cooking time to get it to the correct temperature. If the skin starts to get too dark and dry, I would cover it with foil for the remainder of the cooking time, and maybe reduce the heat to 350ºF. You’ll also need to double the butter, salt, pepper, rosemary and orange.
The other drawback, of course, is that you have to wait for it to thaw. That typically takes a few days in the refrigerator.
How to carve a split turkey breast
Yes, you’ll still have to carve it. At least there’s less to carve! And it’s not as intimidating as it sounds.
- Use a long, sharp knife to slice the breast off as close to the bone as possible, from the top to the bottom . Holding the breast on its side vertically can help. The most tender parts are in the middle near the bone, so try not to leave them off
- Slice the breast into pieces as thick or thin as you want (thicker will stay juicier and you can slice thinner later).
- Shred any extra pieces of meat off the bone with your hand or a fork.
- Arrange on a plate with orange slices and more herbs for garnish.
I’m not the best carver (working on it), but remember as long as it tastes good it really doesn’t matter if your cuts are perfect.
What to make for your first solo Thanksgiving (besides turkey)
There’s no shame in keeping it simple! My suggestion for a beginner? Some roasted potatoes and roasted green beans on the side. That’s a complete, homemade meal right there!
Maybe one more favorite dish (dressing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato souffle, etc.). Otherwise, you can buy so much of it. I’m personally a big fan of canned cranberry sauce, and store-bought rolls and stuffing can be great too.
Here’s a quick recipe for tricolor roasted fingerling potatoes:
- 1.5 lb tricolor potato medley (halved)
- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon minced rosemary
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
- Black pepper to taste
- Combine on a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Bake at 400º F for 30 minutes (or until they begin to brown), stirring once midway through.
And one for roasted green beans:
- 12-oz fresh (snipped) green beans
- About 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- Black pepper to taste
- Combine on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.
- Bake at 375º F for 30 minutes.
I’ll eventually break these out into their own posts, but I want to get them out now for people who might need them.
If you do want to make homemade cranberry sauce, here’s the recipe I use in my Holiday Stuffed Baked Brie with Rosemary-Infused Cranberry Sauce. I add a little extra liquid and maybe sugar to serve without the baked brie.
Here are a few other suggestions if you want to go semi-non-traditional:
- Roasted Acorn Squash Soup with Pancetta
- Tricolore Pear Salad
- West Virginia Creamed Turkey
- Maple Brown Sugar Pavlova with Raspberry Compote
My turkey reached temperature but it’s still pink! Is it safe?
A public service announcement: if your turkey reached the proper temperature, but is still a little pink, it is safe to eat. From the USDA:
Scientists have found that pinkness occurs when gases in the atmosphere of a heated gas or electric oven react chemically with hemoglobin in the meat tissues to give poultry a pink tinge. They are the same substances that give red color to smoked hams and other cured meats. The presence of high levels of myoglobin, or some of its redder forms due to incomplete denaturation during heat processing, can account for poultry having a pink to red color similar to that of an undercooked product.
Here’s another great explainer from Modernist Cuisine: Why is the turkey still pink?
If you try to cook the pink out in the oven, you’ll end up with a dry turkey breast. If it really bothers you, 30 seconds in the microwave usually helps (after you’ve carved it).
I hope this Roasted Turkey Breast with Gravy gives you that warm holiday feeling if you’re staying home this year. Maybe it will even inspire you to have turkey as a regular meal more often!Print
Buttery, tender turkey breast infused with rosemary, thyme and orange. A bright spin on your classic family turkey, just big enough for a single family and served up in under 90 minutes.
For the turkey breast
- Split turkey breast (about 3 lbs, bone-in)
- 4 Tablespoons softened, unsalted butter
- 1 Tablespoon coarse kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh rosemary, plus 2-4 sprigs
- 6 fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 small bulb garlic, sliced in half through the cloves
- 1 shallot, halved
- 1 orange, halved
- 1 ½ cup dry white wine (or chicken stock)
For the gravy
- Drippings from turkey
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 4 teaspoons cornstarch
- Roasting pan with rack
- Meat thermometer, preferably instant read
To roast the turkey
- Preheat the oven to 400º F and move the oven rack to the center (or low enough to fit your pan).
- Mash the butter, salt, pepper, and minced rosemary into a paste (a mortar and pestle works great, or you can smash it with the back of a spoon or knife).
- Place the turkey in the pan on a roasting rack, and pat it dry with paper towels. Rub it all over with the butter, including under the skin. Don’t layer it too thick on the skin, or it won’t brown.
- Lay half of the rosemary and thyme over the turkey, and half under it. Place the garlic bulb and the shallot in the pan as well.
- Squeeze one half of the orange over the turkey, then place the rind in the pan, setting the other half aside for later. Pour the wine over the turkey as well.
- Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes or until it reaches 155-160º F on a meat thermometer.
- Cover with foil and allow it to rest at least 10 minutes, or until it reaches 165º F.
- Slice the meat off the bone and slice the breast into serving portions. Garnish with orange slices.
To make the gravy
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan, and add the chicken stock and strained turkey drippings. Bring to a boil over medium heat, turn down to low and simmer for about five minutes.
- In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch with two teaspoons of cold water until dissolved.
- Pour the cornstarch slurry into the liquid, turn down the heat, and whisk until it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Serve immediately or keep warm until serving.
- You can also make this with a small non-split turkey breast, just double the rest of the recipe and increase the cooking time as needed. If the skin gets too brown, cover it with foil.
- If you don’t have cornstarch you can use 1/4 cup flour instead and just whisk it straight into the strained liquid.
- If you want your turkey skin more brown, but it’s already reached 165º F, you can put it under the broiler (on low) for a couple of minutes. Keep the oven open and watch it closely. Secure the skin with toothpicks first so it doesn’t shrink too much, and remove the herbs.
- Turkey reached temperature, but it’s pink inside? It’s likely still safe. Read this explainer: https://modernistcuisine.com/mc/why-is-the-turkey-still-pink/
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Roasting
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: Herbed orange turkey breast, turkey breast, split turkey breast