This slow cooker turkey breast is moist and flavorful and requires less than 10 minutes of actual work. And the gravy. Oh that gravy! It's the stuff of Thanksgiving dreams.
Slow Cooker Turkey for the Win
Every Thanksgiving host has that Norman Rockwell fantasy of a perfect, caramel-skinned roast turkey on an autumnal-themed tablescape surrounded by their favorite people, all beaming with love and appreciation. And there are many home cooks, my mother included, who can pull off that fantasy with ease. But I am not one of those magical beasts.
Nope, I am a mortal who signs up to host and then turns into a hot-cheeked mess when I realize I mistimed everything and the potatoes will be cold and gluey by the time the turkey is ready to serve. I used to be embarrassed by those kinds of admissions. But now, with a kid and a career and streaks of gray hairs that I lovingly refer to as highlights, I own these parts of myself. And the best part? I know I'm not alone.
If you need to make Thanksgiving turkey for a crowd but don't have the time (or patience) to handle the gizzards, shove herb butter inside the skin of the whole bird, transport the slippery, buttered-up bird to a roasting pan, baste it every half hour as it roasts, and then carve it into pretty slices, I've got your back.
This slow cooker turkey breast with gravy requires less than 10 minutes of actual work. Yes, you read that right. Less than 10 minutes of actual work. You just season the turkey breast with rub made of herbs and spices you already have in your pantry, drop it in the slow cooker, and cook on low for 5-ish hours. Meanwhile, your oven is free to make pies and other sides so everything is done at the same time.
And the results? The slow cooker locks in more moisture than your oven can, so the turkey breast is tender and flavorful, and the drippings make an amazing gravy. The only thing missing is the crispy oven-roasted skin, which can be fixed with a few minutes under the broiler.
The Recipe, Step by Step
Time needed: 5 hours and 15 minutes.
Adapted from Nagi Maehashi's Juicy Slow Cooker Turkey Breast, this recipe is super easy to follow and very forgiving. Here are the basic steps:
- Assemble your ingredients.
For this recipe, you'll need a 4- to 5-pound boneless, skin-on turkey breast. In general, plan on ½ pound turkey for each guest. I like using boneless turkey breast to avoid the annoyance of carving around the bone, but feel free to use bone-in breast if that's all you can find.
In addition to the turkey, you'll also need a couple heads of garlic, an onion, salt, pepper, paprika, onion and garlic powders, dried herb blend, and olive oil. That's it!
- Season the turkey.
Make the rub using the spices listed above, then massage it into the turkey breast on all sides.
- Cook the turkey in a slow cooker for about 5 hours.
Halve the heads of garlic and the onion and place them in the slow cooker. Lay the seasoned turkey breast on top of the garlic and onion, cover the slow cooker, and cook on low for about 5 hours, until the turkey registers 165°F on an instant-read thermometer. As soon as it's done cooking, immediately remove the turkey from the slow cooker.
- Make the gravy.
Pour the turkey drippings from the slow cooker into a 2-cup measure, and top it off with water. Melt butter in a pan, whisk in flour, and then whisk in the turkey drippings. Season with salt and pepper.
- Crisp up the turkey skin.
Preheat the broiler and set a rack in the middle of your oven. Broil the cooked turkey on a baking sheet, skin-side up, just until the skin is caramelized.
Carve up that delicious turkey and serve it with the gravy in your fanciest gravy boat.
Looking for more Thanksgiving and holiday dishes? Check out Every Night Meals' holiday recipe collection.
Slow Cooker Turkey Breast with Gravy
- Slow cooker
- Small saucepan
- Large rimmed baking sheet
For the turkey
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon smoked or regular paprika
- 1½ teaspoons garlic powder
- 1½ teaspoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian herb blend or herbes de Provence
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 to 5 pounds boneless, skin-on turkey breast
- 2 heads garlic, rinsed (unpeeled) and halved horizontally
- 1 medium onion, halved and peeled
For the gravy
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
To cook the turkey
- In a small bowl, mix together the black pepper, salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, dried herb blend, and oil to make a paste.
- Use some paper towels to pat the turkey breast dry. Then, scoop the spice-and-herb paste onto the turkey and rub it in on all sides, paying special attention to the skin on top.
- Arrange the onion and garlic halves cut-side down in a slow cooker, and top them with the seasoned turkey breast, skin-side up. Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours or until the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 165°F on an instant-read thermometer. If possible, check the internal temperature of the turkey after 4½ hours of cooking; mine was slightly over 165°F at the 5-hour mark.
- As soon as the turkey is done cooking, remove it from the slow cooker and let it rest on a carving board for about 15 minutes. If you’d like to crisp up the turkey skin, preheat your broiler to high and set a rack in the center of your oven. Otherwise, remove and discard the turkey skin, and cover the turkey with foil to keep it warm.
To make the gravy
- While the turkey rests, make the gravy. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a 2-cup or larger measuring cup. Pour the turkey drippings from your slow cooker through the sieve into the measuring cup, pressing the garlic and onion to get out as much liquid as possible. If you don’t have 2 cups of drippings, pour in some water to top it off. (I got about 1¾ drippings from 5 pounds of turkey breast.)
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, let the mixture cook for 1 to 2 minutes, whisking constantly, then gradually whisk in the turkey drippings. Cook, whisking, until the gravy thickens to your liking, then remove the pan from the heat. Taste the gravy and season with salt and pepper.
- If you’re crisping the turkey skin, place the turkey breast on a baking sheet, skin-side up. Transfer to the oven and broil for about 3 minutes, just until the skin is caramelized on top.
- Remove the turkey from the oven, put it back on the carving board, and cut it into slices. Serve with the gravy.