sliced turkey breast on plate

While Thanksgiving TV shows and movies all seem to feature huge gatherings of friends and family, for many of us, this isn’t the case at all — we may be observing the holiday festivities with just a few people, or perhaps we’re having a solo celebration. In such a case, recipe developer Michelle McGlinn recommends that "Turkey breast is a great, great way to have Thanksgiving dinner for 1-4 people without fussing with an entire turkey." As she points out, not only is it smaller, but it may be less expensive and it also cooks (and thaws) more quickly. Plus, as she notes, "With all the many Thanksgiving sides, sometimes you just don’t need a whole turkey."

As for the herby flavor, that comes from compound butter, something McGlinn tells us "is always a great, quick trick for making really flavorful roasts." She explains how she’s using it here, saying "rubbing it under the skin will allow the butter to soak into the turkey and moisturize the inside." Here she’s using a flavored oil instead of the butter for the top of the turkey, saying this "help[s] keep the outside crisp" due to the fact that it contains less water than butter, but she does say "you can definitely just use butter on the skin, too."

Gather the ingredients for this autumnal herby turkey breast

ingredients for herbed turkey breast

Besides the turkey breast itself, you’ll need the ingredients for the compound butter: butter (of course), plus rosemary, sage, garlic, and lemon juice. The oil (olive) is seasoned with salt and pepper. You will also need some vegetables (and fruit) to make a bed for the turkey. Here McGlinn us using fennel, an onion, a whole head of garlic (no need to peel), and a sliced lemon. She does say, though, that you can "feel free to use any root veggie" in place of the fennel, suggesting potatoes, carrots, or parsnips as fall/winter vegetables that could be possible substitutes. She also says that if you’re using dried sage instead of fresh, you should reduce the amount called for by half, but the amount of rosemary won’t vary depending on what kind you use.

Rub the turkey with compound butter

compound butter in glass bowl

As you’re making preparations to roast the turkey, there are a few things you’ll need to do first such as preheating the oven to 375 F and taking to bird out of the refrigerator so it can reach room temperature. You should also pat the turkey dry with a paper towel. As McGlinn informs us, "Moisture is the enemy of a crispy skin," going on to say, "We want as dry of an outside as possible."

As the turkey is warming up, mix the butter with the rosemary, sage, garlic, and lemon juice. Rub the butter under the skin and into the cavity, then rub some on the outside, as well — just not on the top (skin side).

Arrange the turkey on a bed of vegetables

raw turkey breast in pan

Mix the oil with the salt and pepper, then brush some of it over the top of the turkey. Put the fennel, onion, lemon slices, and halved garlic bulb into a baking pan large enough to fit the turkey, too. There’s no need for a rack, though, since the vegetables will be performing that function. Drizzle the rest of the oil over the vegetables, then arrange the turkey on top, oiled skin side up.

As to what you’ll be doing with the vegetables once the turkey is done, the root vegetables can be served as a side dish, while the baked garlic is more of a lagniappe. McGlinn describes it as "super soft and delicate flavored," and notes that "you can squeeze it out and use it for other dishes like your mashed potatoes, or spread it on crostinis for an appetizer."

Bake the turkey breast

cooked turkey breast in pan

Bake the turkey for 50 to 55 minutes, but start checking the temperature with a meat thermometer at 40 minutes. This, McGlinn says, is done "to ensure [the] turkey does not overcook." Once it reaches an internal temperature of 160 F, take it out of the oven and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Carve the turkey diagonally to the bone, then it’s ready to eat. Pair it with classic Thanksgiving sides, like potatoes, macaroni and cheese, or green bean casserole, and you’ve got a perfectly autumnal meal.

Autumnal Herby Turkey Breast Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 (3-pound) turkey breast, bone-in and skin-on
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh or dried rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon chopped sage
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 fennel bulb, quartered
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 head of garlic, halved

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  2. Take the turkey out of the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature. Pat the turkey completely dry with a paper towel.
  3. Combine the butter, rosemary, sage, garlic, and lemon juice.
  4. Lift the skin of the turkey and rub the compound butter under the skin and into the cavity.
  5. Spread any remaining butter over the turkey, except for on top.
  6. Stir the salt and pepper into the oil and brush this over the top of the turkey.
  7. Put the fennel, onion, lemon slices, and halved garlic bulb in a baking pan.
  8. Pour any remaining oil over the vegetables, then put the turkey on top, skin side up.
  9. Roast the turkey, uncovered, for 50-55 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 160 F.
  10. Let the turkey sit for 5-10 minutes before carving.
  11. Slice the turkey diagonally to the bone.

Nutrition

Calories per Serving 682
Total Fat 37.5 g
Saturated Fat 12.5 g
Trans Fat 0.3 g
Cholesterol 221.9 mg
Total Carbohydrates 15.2 g
Dietary Fiber 4.3 g
Total Sugars 4.3 g
Sodium 507.6 mg
Protein 69.5 g