It should come as no surprise that Thanksgiving is going to look a lot different in 2020 than it has in previous years. Since Joe and I love dishes with a bit of spice, we're taking this two-person Thanksgiving idea and running with it. This succulent Tandoori Roasted Turkey Breast is a fun twist on traditional Thanksgiving turkey and is perfectly suited for a smaller family.
I'm the first to admit when I'm wrong. When I was little, I never understood why my Mom would say she was "bored" of our traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu. A whole roast turkey, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce were just what you were supposed to eat. Now that I'm older, I 1000% get where she was coming from. And this year has given me the opportunity to change things up big time.
Table of Contents
- Why We're Switching Things Up
- How to Make Tandoori Roasted Turkey Breast
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Need more holiday inspiration? Check out these other recipes:
Why We're Switching Things Up
Not only is the staid Thanksgiving menu a whole heck of a lot of work for whoever is cooking, it is also rather heavy. Tons of butter, cream, and carbs on carbs make it necessary for folks to eat dinner at 4 in the afternoon. That's just bonkers if you're not eligible for an early bird special!
This year, I'm veering in a different direction, and I invite you to come along with me. The menu so far:
- Tandoori Roasted Turkey Breast (perfect for a family of 4 or fewer)
- Harissa Maple Sweet Potato Tian
- Wilted Kale Salad with Crispy Chickpeas and Roasted Garlic Tahini Dressing
- Orange Cranberry Jalapeño Relish
I'm super excited for a healthier, vegetable-heavy and well spiced Thanksgiving meal! While I'm not sure my Mom would dig all of my flavor choices - she doesn't love spicy foods like we do - I'm still dedicating this Thanksgiving dinner to her. Mom, for all the times we whined that things had to stay the same, I'm SORRY! Thanks for giving me the courage to step out of my rut.
How to Make Tandoori Roasted Turkey Breast
Roasting a turkey breast is much simpler and faster than dealing with the whole bird. First up, you should brine your turkey breast for at least 12 hours for the juiciest, most succulent meat.
Brining meat is a process whereby the meat is submerged in a brine, which is a flavored and salted liquid. The meat absorbs the extra flavor and salt along with some of the liquid, which results in a tastier and more tender cut. The process of brining is especially important for leaner cuts of meat that end up drying out easily.
I personally used a store bought brine (this huge container was on sale for $6 at my Costco!) to take one step out of the process, but there are plenty of great brine recipes out there for those of you who prefer to go the "from scratch" method.
Submerge your turkey breast in brine and refrigerate it for at least 12 hours and up to 36 hours. While you can opt to brine your turkey in any kind of container, I find that a freezer bag requires the least amount of space in my already tight refrigerator.
In the meantime, you can make your spice rub by combining all ingredients. Soften about 2 tablespoons of butter and combine with about a tablespoon of the spice rub.
Once the turkey has finished brining, remove it from the liquid and pat it dry. Use your fingers to loosen the skin from the breast. Rub the compound butter underneath the skin and on top of the skin.
Sprinkle more spice rub on the underside of the turkey and rub it in. Finish with a final sprinkling of the tandoori spices on top of the buttered turkey breast.
Tent the roasting dish with foil, then roast at 350F for about an hour. Pull the breast out after 30 minutes to baste with the juices and butter, then return to the oven uncovered. Baste every 15 minutes until the meat reaches 160F.
Remove the turkey from the oven and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes. During this time, the turkey will continue to cook and should reach 165F for food safety. Once the turkey has rested, thinly slice on the bias. Enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of turkey breast roast should I buy?
For our purposes, I use a split turkey breast (skin on and bone in) that is roughly 2.5 lbs. This amount of meat is plenty for our family of two, and offered plenty by way of leftovers. That said, you should purchase enough for however large your gathering will be.
What if I have a family larger than 4?
If you're trying to replicate this Tandoori Spiced Turkey on a larger scale, you have a few options. First, you can simply double or triple the number of breasts you use, or opt for a whole breast vs. our split breast turkey.
Alternatively, you can opt for using a spatchcocked turkey. A spatchcocked turkey refers to how the bird is butchered prior to roasting. By removing the backbone of the turkey, it can be pressed flat. This helps to reduce cooking time by a lot, which will also result in a bird that is juicier and tastier.
You'll still end up with the whole bird, but because of how it is butchered, it cooks in a fraction of the time and results in a more succulent meat.
Do I need to brine my turkey breast?
Brining is almost always a good choice for any kind of lean meat, turkey breast included. The salty-sugar water solution will add moisture to the white meat, making it more difficult to end up with a dry turkey à la the Griswold's in Christmas Vacation.
That said, I know that brining liquid takes up a lot of space in the fridge during the busy kitchen season. If this is the case, you can opt to do a dry brine instead.
I'm worried my family is going to miss the gravy... any suggestions?
While I love this meal as is, I understand that some traditions are harder to let go of than others. You can either opt to make this recipe for a spicy harissa gravy that would go swimmingly with the other flavors of this holiday spread, or you can do what we did instead.
I happen to love gravy and potatoes, both of which are conspicuously missing from my Thanksgiving spread this year. I opted to make a separate Mushroom Gravy this year, which I am serving as a breakfast poutine for the day after Thanksgiving. Joe and I are both perfectly happy with this arrangement, so maybe think on it!
I kinda love dark meat... any chance I can work that into this Thanksgiving meal for two?
If you're a fan of dark meat, I hear you! Instead of going the traditional route and using turkey, why not go for a roasting chicken instead? You'll end up with the same pieces as turkey, just on a smaller scale. Just be sure to adjust your cooking times accordingly. Either way, poultry needs to hit 165F before serving.
Need more holiday inspiration? Check out these other recipes:
- Roasted Delicata Squash Salad
- Harissa Maple Sweet Potato Tian
- Orange Cranberry Jalapeño Relish
If you tried this recipe for Tandoori Roasted Turkey Breast, please rate and review it below so I know how it turned out for you. I love hearing about your kitchen adventures!
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Tandoori Roasted Turkey Breast
- Dissolve brining mix in 1 C hot water, then add 3 C cold water to chill it down quickly. Submerge turkey breast in brining liquid, then refrigerate (covered) for 12-36 hours.
- Remove turkey from brine, then pat dry with paper towels. Loosen skin from turkey breast by working your fingers between the meat and skin. Preheat oven to 350F.
- Mix butter with about 2 tablespoons tandoori spice mix.
- Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons tandoori spice mix all over turkey breast and rub in. Rub compound butter under skin and on top of skin. Sprinkle with a final bit of spice mix. Tent loosely with foil.
- Roast for about 30 minutes at 350F, then remove from the oven. Baste with any juices/melted butter, then return to the oven uncovered.Roast until breast reaches at least 160F, basting every 15 minutes. This took a bit more than an hour for us.
- Rest turkey for 5-10 minutes. Be sure that meat registers 165F for food safety. Slice thinly on the bias and enjoy!
- If brining liquid takes up too much space, do a dry brine instead.
- Use any brine mix (or make your own), then marinate for 12-36 hours.
- You will have lots of leftover spice mix for later use. I love roasting chickpeas with it, and also love using it as a rub for whole chickens.