Table of Contents
  1. Say hello to dry-brine!
  2. Let's get a crispy skin!
  3. Watch how to make this dry-brine turkey
  4. Citrus Dry-Brine Turkey Recipe

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I always hear Thanksgiving is the nemesis of all food writers and publications. How do you ever go about reinventing the wheel year after year? Coincidentally, the turkey can be a lot of home cooks’ nemesis as well. Often, it ends up being pretty dry or has minimal flavor. Moreso, the turkey, often takes the back seat to all of the side dishes that make Thanksgiving what it is.

But, a day built around the main dish shouldn’t have to be in the back seat! Honestly, growing up, I never remember the turkey itself. I remember my grandma and mom going back and forth on who would roast it, acting as if it were the punishment. Ha!

Top down view of a cooked turkey with browned skin sitting on a white platter with orange and pomegranate all on wood board

What if the turkey became the star? What if it was full of flavor and always juicy?

I used to think a good turkey was a lot of work. I would prepare a vat of water with salt and some spices and empty out the refrigerator to brine it. The outcome was good but hardly worth the effort.

Say hello to dry-brine!

A dry-brine has changed everything! In a wet brine, the salt-infused water slowly penetrates the meat. In a dry-brine, which is one with no water, the salt mixture is rubbed directly on the meat and pulls out its natural juices. These juices mix with the salt and spices and then return to the meat and infuse throughout. It’s just easier, cleaner, and… better!

As the salt infuses into the meat, it’s the best time to add additional flavors with a spice blend. To ensure the turkey picks up the flavor, start by toasting the spices to release their natural oils. This brine uses black peppercorn, pink peppercorn, coriander, fennel seed, and bay leaves.

Right after toasting, grind the spices to draw out their flavor. Finally, mix this blend with salt and citrus zest. Citrus gives the acidic pop the meat needs, brightening up the spices. That’s it for the perfect salt mixture for a turkey!

Slices of citrus dry-brine turkey sitting on white platter with turkey legs sitting beside with pomegranate and orange slice all on wood board

Let’s get a crispy skin!

To ensure the skin browns and gets crispy, there are a few tips that make a difference:

  • Separate the skin from the meat, making sure not to tear it. Releasing the skin allows air to dry the skin and also makes it easy to rub the salt mixture directly onto the meat.
  • Add baking powder to the salt mixture. Baking powder browns the skin and gives the crispiest finish.
  • Once the salt brine is applied, place the turkey uncovered in the refrigerator. Uncovered, the turkey skin will dry out, which is one of the most important steps for a crispy skin.

This dry-brine method not only seasons the turkey but flavors the meat as well. It’s a plate full of bright spiced flavors that will make anyone go back for seconds this holiday!

Top down view of crispy browned turkey skin sitting on white platter with open pomegranate and orange slice nestled among slices
Just look at that crispy skin! It tastes just as good as it looks… maybe even BETTER!

Watch how to make this dry-brine turkey

Top down view of brown-skinned pieces of turkey on white serving platter with pomegranate and slice of orange and parsley all on wood board

Citrus Dry-Brine Turkey

4.09 from 58 votes
A dry-brine turkey is the perfect, speed-efficient way to brine a bird for Thanksgiving! With a citrus and brown sugar dry rub and a sweet basting glaze, this turkey will be a favorite of any guest!
Prep Time 9 hours
Cook Time 3 hours 50 minutes
Total Time 12 hours 50 minutes
Servings 15 servings (for 15 lb turkey)


  • 12-18 lb turkey
  • 2 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp pink peppercorns
  • 2 tsp coriander seed
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt per every 4 lbs (example: 3 tbsp for 12 lb turkey)
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp orange zest

For the basting butter

  • ½ cup butter
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice


  • Remove the giblets and neck from the thawed turkey. Slowly separate the skin from the meat. Work fingers slowly in between the meat and skin and keep working into the leg and thigh. Once the skin is separated, set the turkey aside and prepare the brine.
    12-18 lb turkey
  • In a small skillet, combine the black and pink peppercorns, coriander, fennel seed, and bay leaves. Heat slowly over medium-low heat until the spices become fragrant, 3-5 minutes.
    2 tbsp black peppercorns, 1 tbsp pink peppercorns, 2 tsp coriander seed, 1 tsp fennel seed, 5 bay leaves
  • Remove the spices from the heat and grind, using a coffee grinder. In a bowl, combine the ground spices, salt, citrus zest, baking powder, and brown sugar. Stir to combine.
    1 tbsp kosher salt per every 4 lbs (example: 3 tbsp for 12 lb turkey), 1 tbsp baking powder, 2 tbsp lemon zest, 2 tbsp orange zest, 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • Work the brine mixture under the skin and on top of the skin, including in the cavity. Place the brined turkey in the refrigerator uncovered for 8-24 hours.
  • Remove turkey from the refrigerator one hour before roasting. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • In the bottom of a roasting pan, place two ribs of celery, two carrots, and one onion, all roughly chopped. Place turkey in the roasting pan on top of vegetables, stuffing a few pieces of the vegetables in the cavity as well. Place in preheated oven and immediately turn the heat down to 375°F.
  • While roasting, prepare the basting butter by melting all the ingredients together over low heat. Every 30 minutes, brush the turkey with the basting butter.
    ½ cup butter, 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses, ¼ cup orange juice, 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Turkey takes about 15 minutes to cook per pound. If the turkey becomes too dark, tent with aluminum foil. Roast until the breast registers 150°F and the thighs register 165°F.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to rest 20-30 minutes before carving.


  • Cooking times and calorie amounts in this recipe are for a 15 lb turkey. Adjust calories and times based on the actual weight of the turkey.


Serving: 1serving (6 oz)Calories: 344kcalCarbohydrates: 6.2gProtein: 54.9gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 4.9gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 161.3mgSodium: 896.4mgPotassium: 623.2mgFiber: 0.6gSugar: 4.3gVitamin A: 58.7IUVitamin C: 5.1mgCalcium: 78.1mgIron: 1.8mg
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Difficulty Intermediate
Method Baking

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I’m Kaleb! I'm not a chef, professional baker, landscaper, or designer, but I like to play each on Knollgate Farm. Come join me on my journey and let's learn together!

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4.09 from 58 votes (47 ratings without comment)

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    1. I am trying this with cornish hens. It will only be my husband, myself and our daughter, who is vegan, this year. Our son is spending the holiday with his girlfriend and her family.
      I am SO EXCITED for dinner!
      Thank you Kaleb for ALL the recipes you share and your videos. You are definitely high on my THANKFUL list this year!!!

  1. Made mine tonight! My kitchen smells delicious!

    I tried to put a picture of it but not sure how to do that.
    Thank you for this wonderful recipe!

    1. I don’t know if it can or not either Paula but I’ll be using regular molasses as well. We live very rurally and I wasnt able to find it either.

    2. Pomegranate molasses is not a variation of molasses. Rather, it is a reduction of pomegranate juice with sugar and citrus added; the resulting syrup is used in middle-eastern cuisine. If your local grocer carries pomegranate molasses, it will likely be in an aisle with other international products. If you’re unable to find pomegranate molasses, and don’t want to want for delivery from an online source, I suggest making your own using an online recipe.

  2. Kaleb, I just wanted to say thank you for this amazing recipe! First time I have tried a dry brine and it’s the best yet! Up next, your pecan pie! Muah! Enjoy your videos and you always bring a smile to my face!

  3. 5 stars
    Turned out great! So moist and flavorful. This is now my go to turkey recipe. Did experience a bit of trouble locating the pomegranate molasses (discovered it’s not located with “regular” molasses, so did a bit of a hunt and luckily found it over in the “international” aisle with middle-eastern products), but worth the effort. Am thankful for your video — you eliminated the fear factor of separating the skin from the meat. Can’t wait to try another of your recipes. Perhaps next holiday, I’ll attempt the mashed potatoes and gravy!

  4. The best Turkey I’ve ever made!! Moist inside and crisp outside. Flavors popped and my family enjoyed it! Thank you for sharing your recipes and enthusiasm in the kitchen!

  5. 5 stars
    I made this turky and it was delicious 😋 So thankful for your amazing Recipe and presentation. You are truly wonderful soul. Thank you 🙏
    Blessings ,

  6. My daughter told me about this recipe. I made 2 turkeys this Thanksgiving just in case it wasn’t what we were expecting. I should have done BOTH turkeys like this!!!!! It was the best turkey I have ever done. The whole family loves it (all 18) of us!!! We have a very picky family and I will always make my turkey like this from now on!!! Thank you so much for sharing your recipe with us!!!!
    The McAllister Family

  7. I made my very first turkey this year and I tried your recipe!! The dinner turned out amazing! The brine was super easy and I love the video tips My family loved the turkey and the gravy!! Thank you so much for the videos and sharing your recipes!!!!

  8. Hi from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

    We enjoyed the dry rub turkey tonight and it was so very good – we didn’t have fennel on hand, but must tell you it was delectable even so. Thank you

  9. 5 stars
    Hi from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
    We enjoyed the dry rubbed turkey so much tonight. We didn’t have fennel here but this years bird was so delectable despite not having this ingredient.
    Thanks for teaching us how to dress a turkey 😍

  10. 5 stars
    Hi, Kaleb, I made this recipe using the dry brine & just pasted with plain butter (folks are quite traditional). Everyone absolutely LOVED it! My sister said it was the best ever & had such great flavor! She wrapped up a leftover plate immediately! This recipe has been saved & will definitely be made again next year. Thanks for making my Thanksgiving meal a great success! Loved your holiday video, too! Take & all the best!

  11. 5 stars
    Best Turkey I ever made !!! Everyone loved it. I will be using this from now on, thankyou for a great Turkey feast!!

  12. 5 stars
    I tried your recipe for a belated thanksgiving dinner. The result was awesome. My family really enjoyed it. Thank you 😊

  13. 5 stars
    I successfuly followed this receipe yesterday for Thanksgiving dinner (ordered pomegranite molassass, corriander seeds, peppercorns ahead of time – thanks Amazon!) and it was delicious! Glad I added the cheesecloth on top of the bird, because it did get dark, but the meat was so juicy and delicious. Looking forward to some leftovers today. Thanks for taking something so daunting and breaking it down step by step. Enjoy the holiday season!

  14. I’m confused about rinsing the turkey after brining. Some recipes call for it some don’t. Is there any rule of thumb?

  15. 5 stars
    I made this at Thanksgiving 2022 and it was unanimous that this was the best turkey recipe ever! It was incredibly moist and made delicious gravy (used your recipe, as well). Better than any liquid brine I’ve done and no mess. I couldn’t find pomegranate molasses, so used about half the amount of regular. The turkey browned quickly, so applied a tent after the first 30 minutes. All of your recipes are great–my mother made the scrumptious sweet potatoes.

  16. 5 stars
    I have made this recipe for the past 2 thanksgivings and am going to make it again next week for the third, everyone raves over it, I dont know I can bring myself to make a different turkey since everyone loves it so much, I guess you can say it is a family tradition now, thank you so must for sharing it, I love all of your videos and recipes.