Without a doubt, this is the easiest, safest and tastiest way to cook turkey breast without brining. This Slow Cooker Turkey Breast is moist and juicy, takes 3 minutes to prepare, then just leave it to cook in your slow cooker (crock pot). Then use the juices to make a killer gravy!
Turkey breast is notoriously lean so the only way to guarantee it comes out juicy if you roast it in the oven is to brine it – dry or wet brine. If you don’t brine it, then even if you use a meat thermometer, it is extremely difficult to roast the turkey breast perfectly.
I created this Slow Cooker Turkey Breast after trying a handful of recipes for turkey breast and being disappointed by the bland looking skin, dry meat and mediocre gravy. So I tossed out everything I’d read and decided to come up with my own version using a slow cooker. This is by far the juiciest turkey breast I’ve ever had – without fussing with brining. And my friends agreed!
I know a whole roasted turkey looks fabulous as a centrepiece for any festive gathering. But the reality is that I only have one ordinary size oven and I have to prioritise and use it for things that can only be made in the oven. In my case, this year I reserved it for Easy Maple Sticky Glazed Ham and Festive Duck with Apple Cider Drizzle, neither of which can be made in a slow cooker.
Also, when you already have a 4.5kg (9 lb) ham and a 2.5kg (5 lb) duck and are only feeding 15 people, a whole turkey would be serious overload! So this year I opted to go with a turkey breast for a Christmas Party I was having with friends.
This recipe starts with a tasty rub for the turkey. It can be made using a boneless single breast – which is what I have done here – or a bone in breast, either single OR both breasts (which we call a “turkey buffe” here in Australia).
Turkeys differ drastically in size – they can range from 3kg / 6lb to over 10kg / 20lb here in Australia. The beauty of this recipe is that it will work for any turkey breast size – as long as it fits in your slow cooker!
I place a halved garlic bulb and onion in the base of the slow cooker to elevate the turkey so the bottom half isn’t poaching in it’s own liquid AND they flavour the turkey juices which is then used to make the gravy. Double duty!
When it comes out of the slow cooker, you will be shocked how much liquid is in the slow cooker – all from the turkey. The best gravies in the world are made with a homemade stock, and that’s how this gravy is made – using those juices. It’s INCREDIBLE!
In addition to the juiciness of the turkey breast, the skin crisps up beautifully just by popping it under the grill/broiler for a few minutes AND the intense flavour of the juices that pool in the slow cooker make a fabulous gravy using the juices released by the turkey.
I took this Slow Cooker Turkey Breast to a Christmas party lunch. I slow cooked it overnight and in the morning I made the gravy. When I arrived at the party, I popped the turkey in the microwave for a few minutes to reheat it, then placed it under the grill/broiler to crisp up the skin (again).
Each year, I share a Christmas and Thanksgiving Menu. This Slow Cooker Turkey Breast is from my 2014 Christmas and Thanksgiving Special where I showed how to make 3 mains and 4 side dishes that take just 1.5 hrs to prepare and can be largely made ahead. Pop over to read the full menu and how to get organised for it! – Nagi x
I've tried a handful of other methods over the years. This has produced the juiciest turkey breast by far, plus slow cooking generally is very forgiving so you don't need to be spot on with the cooking time. The skin won't come out crispy straight out of the slow cooker (that's scientifically impossible!) but it only takes a few minutes under the grill/broiler to crisp up. The juices that pool in the slow cooker has extra flavour from the garlic and onion so it makes a fantastic gravy. RECIPE VIDEO above.
- 2 kg / 4 lb turkey breast, skin on, bone in or boneless (if using frozen, thaw it) (Note 1)
- 1 head of garlic, cut in half horizontally
- 1 onion (brown, yellow or white), unpeeled, cut in half
- 5 sprigs of thyme (or 2 tsp dried thyme leaves)
- 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp salt
- 5 grinds of black pepper
- 1 1/2 - 2 tbsp olive oil
- Chicken stock/broth (or water), for topping up liquid (see Gravy step 1)
- 4 tbsp / 50g butter
- 1/4 cup / 35g flour
- Salt and pepper
Place Rub ingredients in a bowl and mix to combine, it should be a wet paste.
Pat the turkey dry all over with paper towels. Slather with the Rub, using most for the side and top.
Place the garlic, onion and thyme face down in the slow cooker. Place the turkey breast on top so it is elevated.
Cook on low for 6-7 hours.
Remove turkey from the slow cooker and let it rest for 20 minutes before crisping the skin.
Preheat gril/broiler to high.
Place an oven shelf 30cm / 1 foot from the heat source.
Remove turkey breast from the slow cooker into a heatproof serving dish.
Place on the oven shelf and broil for 3 to 5 minutes until the skin is crispy. Keep an eye on it - it browns very quickly!
Serve immediately with gravy on the side.
Strain the liquid into a measuring jug, squishing the garlic etc to extract all the flavour. If you are short of 2 cups, top up with chicken broth (I usually get 2 cups of liquid from a 4 lb / 2 kg turkey breast).
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and mix to combine. Pour about 1/2 cup of liquid into the flour mixture and mix until it forms a paste. Slowly add remaining liquid, stirring as your go. Use a whisk if required to make the gravy smooth. Simmer until thickened - take it off before it is as thick as you want because it will continue to thicken.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with turkey.
1. Turkey breast can come in all sorts of sizes and cuts. A single boneless breast can be as small as 1 kg / 2 lb. A double bone in breast (also known as turkey "buffe" or "crown") can be as large as 6 kg / 12 lb. In Australia, turkey breast can also come with the leg still attached, which is what I have used in the past so you may see some photos floating around on my site with a drumstick attached to the breast. 🙂
This can be made with any cut of turkey breast - but it needs to have skin if you want the nice colour you see in the photos.
If you buy a frozen turkey breast from the supermarket that comes in a box, make sure it hasn't been brined or pre seasoned. This recipe is for a plain turkey breast - try to avoid using brined turkey (check the packet / ask the butcher. If there is salt in the ingredients, it's brined).
If it has been brined, no problems, just cut the salt in half. 🙂 But if it's been preseason with another sort of rub, I'd suggest either scraping the rub off before adding my rub.
2. Because turkey is so lean, it is far better made as close as possible to serving time. But if you need to make ahead, slow cook the turkey but do not brown the skin. Cover and store in the refrigerator overnight, then bring to room temperature. Cover with cling wrap and microwave for 3 minutes on LOW (if high, you run the risk of drying out the edges of the turkey), then grill/broil per instructions to brown and crisp the skin. The gravy can also be made ahead then reheated in a saucepan or in the microwave.
3. COOK TIMES: Slow cookers are very forgiving so don't stress too much about cooking time, an hour or 2 over and it will still be moist. The worst that might happen is that the meat falls apart a bit when you lift it out of the slow cooker, but still juicy!
Bone in skin on turkey breast (I used this):
1 kg / 2 lb: 5 hours on low
2 - 3 kg / 4 - 6 lb: 6 - 7 hours on low
4 - 5 kg / 8 - 10 lb: 8 - 9 hours on low
4. No water is required for this, the turkey steams in its own juices. It won't dry out or burn but it is important to elevate the breast off the bottom with the onion and garlic!
5. OPTIONAL lemon addition: Sometimes, I like to make this with a touch of lemon. To do this, use 1 small lemon. Cut it in half then place half on the base of the slow cooker and squeeze the lemon of the other half over the turkey once it is in the slow cooker. Cook per recipe. Discard the lemon before making the gravy.
6. Note: Some people have questioned the slow cooker I am using, saying it looks like a press cooker. I am using a slow cooker called a "Breville Slow Fast Cooker" which is a slow cooker AND pressure cooker in one. This recipe is cooked using the slow cooker function. This recipe is not suited to a pressure cooker.
7. Nutrition per serving, including gravy.
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Slow Cooker Turkey Breast nutrition assumes the turkey breast serves 12 people as part of a multi course meal and it includes the gravy.
MORE WAYS WITH TURKEY
Easy, Stress Free Seven Course Thanksgiving or Christmas Menu (1.5 hr prep)
This is the Thanksgiving / Christmas menu I shared in 2014. You can read about this menu here, including a step by step of the order in which I prepared, baked, reheated and plated up each dish. I made all these dishes (with the exception of the cabbage salad) for a Christmas Party with my friends and these are photos of the actual dishes that I took to the party. I’m sharing this in the hope that it might inspire your Christmas menu!
- Easy Maple Sticky Glazed Ham (15 min prep, 1 – 1 1/2 hrs inactive baking, can be made ahead)
- This Juicy Slow Cooker Turkey Breast (5 min prep, then set and forget, reheats well but best slow cooked overnight on the night before serving)
- Festive Duck with Apple Cider Drizzle (5 min prep, 1 1/2 hr inactive baking, reheats very well)
- Pork Apple Stuffing in Pancetta Cups (20 min prep and worth every second. Reheats extremely well)
- Julia Child’s Potato Dauphinoise Gratin (15 min prep, 45 min baking, reheats very well)
- Red, Green and White Christmas Salad (10 minutes prep)
- Warm Red Cabbage and Spinach with Garlic Herb Butter (10 minutes prep)