Simple Lemon-Garlic Roasted Turkey Breast

Only the breast for you.

10 to 14 servings
Serving Size: 6 (from 3 pound turkey)

Simple Lemon-Garlic Roasted Turkey Breast / Sarah Crowder / Katie Workman /

I often get a little touch of Thanksgiving fever in the month before Thanksgiving – which is helpful because if you are in the business of making recipes that people can use for their actual holiday cooking, you’d best not be making and sharing them on the holiday itself.  Not so very useful.

And also, Thanksgiving is always at my Mom’s house, and even though she’s a vegetarian, she makes the bird.  I am certainly welcome to take home leftovers, but it doesn’t quite satisfy my itch to make a turkey for us here in our home.

Simple Lemon-Garlic Roasted Turkey Breast / Sarah Crowder / Katie Workman /

But a whole turkey, even a small one, is pretty excessive for a family of four, so sometimes I go for just a turkey breast. This seems a bit more manageable and less insane than roasting a whole bird just days before Thanksgiving.

If you think of it, make the rub/marinade mixture and slather it on the turkey (rubbing it under and over the skin) the night before.  Toss it into a big zipper-top bag and refrigerate it.  This will definitely give the meat more of the lemony-herb flavor, but if you’ve not planned ahead, don’t worry about it one little bit.

Simple Lemon-Garlic Roasted Turkey Breast / Sarah Crowder / Katie Workman /

So, I’ve now done with with a 6 pound breast, and also a 3 pound breast.  The 6 pound breast cooking instructions are below – for the 3 pound breast it was about 15 minutes at the 450°F temp, then about 45 minutes to 1 hour at the 350°F temp.   Most importantly, check with an instant thermometer – you want the internal temp to be between 160°F and 165°F when you take it out, and you want to let it sit for at least 20 minutes before slicing.

Thanksgiving Plate / Sarah Crowder / Katie Workman /

Simple Lemon-Garlic Roasted Turkey Breast


  • 1 6-pound pound turkey breast
  • Zest from one lemon
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

1. Preheat the oven to 450° F. Rinse and dry the turkey breast.  Oil a roasting pan.

2. In a small food processor, combine the lemon zest, shallot, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme.  Blend until it becomes a paste.

3. Loosen the skin from the turkey breast, and using your hand rub the paste over and under the skin, covering the breast completely.

4. Place the turkey breast in the roasting pan and roast for about 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350°F and continue cooking for about 1 hour 15 minutes, until nicely browned, and a meat thermometer shows an internal temperature of 160° F.  Let sit for 15 minutes for the juices to redistribute, and for the internal temperature to continue to rise to 165°F before slicing.

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6 thoughts on “Simple Lemon-Garlic Roasted Turkey Breast”

  1. Sally says:

    Sounds great, especially for a small Thanksgiving. About the Patriots game — well, I’m from Indianapolis. :-(

    1. You can still come eat turkey at our house, we’re not exclusionary.

  2. maxine says:

    Sounds great! I can’t wait to try it. What is lemon zest?

    1. Lemon zest is the brightly colored outer skin of the lemon. you can take it off with a vegetable peeler, and mince it, or use a zester or microplane specifically designed for that purpose. Either way, make sure to only take off the very bright outer layer, and not dig into the white at all, which is called pitch, and is quite bitter.

  3. Jay Cohen says:

    Katie, love the rub recipe, but notice you pull the breast at 170. Did your meat still come out moist, as I would pull at 160ish, knowing that it would still rise 5+ or so.
    Thanks for the great website!!

    1. You are totally right. I had an uncharacteristic burst of adhering too firmly to the FDA guidelines. It’s true, the temperature does continue to climb after you remove the food from the oven, which is called carryover cooking – that is 100% right. So, I would take it out at 160, and let it climb to 165 as you suggest. That’s probably what I did, only in writing the recipe (and knowing NPR was going to link to it), I stuck with the FDA super-safe recommended temp, but in the end, it’s truly about a moist breast, not overcautious food safety, right? (Unless there are babies or old people or sick people at the table- then, err on the side of super safety.) Thanks for making this point.

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