How to make a simple turkey brine with just salt, sugar, and water! No need to add extra flavorings unless you want to, you can truly make the BEST turkey brine with just 3 ingredients. It's a WHOLE LOTTA YUM!
You might've scrolled the internet looking at turkey brine recipes, and truth be told, all of the extra ingredients aren't even necessary! This was the first year we added citrus and fresh herbs to the brine, but all years prior to this we skipped that and just made a simple brine recipe of water, salt, and brown sugar.
The best time to add extra flavor to the turkey is by stuffing it with citrus, apples, fresh herbs, etc.
- water - we just use plain tap water, you can also swap out some of the water for apple cider.
- fine sea salt - you'll want to adjust the salt in the recipe if you're using something other than fine sea salt (such as kosher or table salt). We recommend you check out the Morton's salt conversion chart.
- brown sugar - light, dark, or even granulated sugar is fine.
- optional add-ins - a lemon, orange, and fresh herbs such as sage, thyme, or rosemary. Honestly, we don't usually add citrus and herbs to our brine, where we add the citrus and fresh herbs is to stuff the turkey cavity before baking or smoking.
** Please see the recipe card at the bottom of the post for the exact quantities **
- 3-4+ gallon food grade container to put the brine and turkey in (depending on the size of your turkey). We used a 5-gallon food grade bucket, that holds a large turkey just fine.
- You can also use a turkey brine bag.
- If you do not have a large enough container to be able to completely cover the turkey with the brine, use the largest container that you can find, start the turkey breast down, and flip it every 4-6 hours.
- Without sugar- to make a brine without sugar, for many years when my husband was on a keto diet, we used the Stevia in the Raw sweetener blend that's a 1:1 ratio to sugar. You can also use golden monk fruit or erythritol.
How to Make a Simple Brine for Turkey
While brining your own turkey might seem intimidating at first, it's honestly really simple! And we can guarantee you won't skip the simple turkey brine from here on out. It's as simple as adding the water, salt, and sugar to a food-grade bucket (or using a turkey brine bag) and letting the turkey soak for 12-24 hours.
- Add 2 gallons of cold tap water to a clean 5-gallon food-grade bucket, alternatively, you can use a turkey brine bag.
- Add the salt and brown sugar to the bucket and combine them with the water. If you want to add citrus or fresh herbs, add them during this step.
- Place the prepared turkey in the brine, making sure you removed the neck and gizzards beforehand.
- Brine the turkey for 12-14 hours.
- Remove the turkey from the basic brine, rinse it off, and pat the turkey down with paper towels.
- Proceed with your favorite turkey recipe, we love to add our popular turkey seasoning rub before baking or smoking. Enjoy!
- Our recipe includes instructions for brining a 10-15 lb turkey. If you're making a larger one you "might" need to adjust the amount of brine you're using in the recipe (2 gallons of water as stated in the recipe might be fine, you won't know until you add it to the 5 gallon bucket). For each gallon of water, you need ¾-1 cup of salt and ¾ cup of brown sugar.
- How much salt we add to the brine depends on how we're seasoning the turkey after brining it first. If we're doing a simple herb butter turkey we use the full 1 cup per gallon of salt. If we're using our seasoning rub, we cut back on the salt in the brine since the seasoning rub has a lot of salt already.
- All you need to make a simple recipe for turkey brine is water, salt, and the turkey! We love to add sugar but it's optional too. Other optional additions are fresh herbs like 3-4 springs each of rosemary, thyme, and sage, or sliced oranges or lemons.
- To make an apple cider turkey brine swap some of the water with apple cider (the juice not vinegar).
- if you're planning to smoke a turkey for Thanksgiving, brine it on Tuesday, smoke it on Wednesday, and then reheat the smoked turkey on Thursday.
Adding sugar to your brine is entirely optional, all you need to technically brine a turkey is the salt and the water, besides the turkey of course.
Our instructions include the exact quantities for a 10-15 lb turkey but if you want to know what the ratio is for the brine to either make a larger turkey or to scale it down for turkey parts, here's the ratio: ¾-1 cup of salt and ¾ cups brown sugar to each gallon of water. A 10-15 lb turkey will take 2 gallons of water to completely cover the turkey before cooking it.