This roast turkey breast is the answer to when you have more white meat lovers at Thanksgiving than you have white meat. Succulent, flavorful, and ready in 1 1/2 hours.
Turkey on a weeknight? Yup. Extra white meat for the breast-meat-only holiday crowd (and for leftover turkey sandwiches)? Yup. That, too. Simply stir up an herby, mustardy rub, slather it on a couple turkey breasts, and pop the pan in the oven and your work is done.–Jenny Howard
*Why Not All Salts Are Created Equal
Salt is salt, right? Not quite. It’s important to note that this recipe, or any recipe which calls for a considerable amount of salt, will turn out differently depending on which brand or form of salt you use. The 18 grams of salt called for in this turkey rub equals 2 tablespoons of Diamond brand kosher salt. But if you’re using Morton brand kosher salt, which has smaller crystals, then it equals just 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon. (And if you’re using regular table salt, with even finer crystals, you’ll need to reduce the amount even more to 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon.) Take heed.
Roast Turkey Breast
- 6 pounds boneless skin-on turkey breast halves OR 8 pounds bone-in, skin-on turkey breasts (3.6 kg)
- 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt*
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large bunch sage
- 2 large yellow onions thickly sliced, about 1/2 inch (12 mm)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3/4 cup water
- If using boneless turkey breast, and your turkey comes tied like a roast or in netting, remove all of that and just unroll the turkey so it’s nice and flat. This way the turkey will cook more quickly and is less likely to dry out. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. If using bone-in turkey breasts, either have your butcher take them off the bone or do it yourself (it’s not as hard as it seems; just get a sharp knife and follow the bones). and use the bones for stock for your gravy. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels.
- In a small bowl, stir together the mustard, salt, and pepper. Pick 12 sage leaves from their stems, reserving the stems and the remaining leaves. Mince the sage leaves and add them to the mustard mixture. Rub the mixture all over the turkey breasts and gently slip a little under the skin as well. If you have time, cover the turkey and let it marinate overnight in the refrigerator, being certain to let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to roasting.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
- In a large roasting pan, scatter the onion slices and drizzle with the olive oil. Arrange the remaining sage and reserved sage stems over the onions. Place the turkey breasts, skin-side up, in a single layer on top of the onions. Pour the water into the roasting pan, being careful not to pour it directly on the turkey.
- Roast the turkey until the skin is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F (180°C) and continue to roast until the turkey is firm to the touch and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of each breast registers 165°F (75°C), 20 to 35 minutes more, depending on the size.
- Transfer the turkey breasts to a cutting board and let them rest for at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile, remove and discard the sage leaves from the roasting pan and use a slotted spoon to transfer the onions to a warmed serving platter. Strain the pan juices and skim any fat from the surface. Pour them into a small bowl for serving or, if you’ve made gravy, stir in the strained pan juices into it.
- Once the turkey has rested, slice the meat as thickly as desired. Place the sliced turkey on top of the onions and drizzle with gravy or pan juices. Serve warm.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Roast turkey breast is not something that I think of as a possible contender for a weeknight meal, but this version was so easy and delicious I’ve changed my mind. The turkey was juicy and the rub added to the overall pleasure of this dish.
I cut the recipe in half in the hopes that it would be enough for a couple of meals. To my complete surprise, I was able to serve it sliced for two meals and then again in a turkey jambalaya for a third. I decided not to make gravy and instead relied on the pan juices to keep the meat nice and juicy. I served this with roasted asparagus and potatoes and enjoyed it in all forms for three meals. This could easily work with additional vegetables in the roasting pan along with the onions (e.g., carrots, peppers, sweet potatoes, etc.).
The roast turkey breast was tasty with subtle hints of the mustard after the skin had been removed and the onions were soft and tasty in the gravy. I sliced the turkey and served it with roast potatoes, vegetables, and gravy. I also made sandwiches out of some of the meat. In the future, I might use other vegetables, such as carrots and celery, to add additional flavor to the gravy.
Originally published November 10, 2018