If you’re cooking for a smaller crowd this Thanksgiving, try this delicious and juicy Slow Cooker Turkey Breast!
Cooking turkey breast in a slow cooker for 6 hours on LOW yields amazing results. It’s so flavorful, moist, and tender! This slow cooked turkey breast is rubbed with a homemade herbed butter that makes it so flavorful and extra juicy.
Prep work is minimal…the slow cooker takes care of the rest. It’s a super convenient and easy recipe for Thanksgiving dinner!
I always cook for a small crowd on Thanksgiving day, so turkey breasts are my go-to. Today, I’m excited to share this slow cooker turkey breast recipe with you!
Turkey breast is lean and can sometimes come out dry and tough, unless you brine it in advance. My favorite way of ensuring turkey breast comes out juicy and moist is by slow cooking it!
This slow cooker turkey breast is packed with tons of flavor thanks to the homemade herbed butter. The trick is rubbing most of the butter UNDERNEATH the skin since the skin won’t really brown inside the slow cooker anyway. Instead, you’ll broil it at the end to get that crispy golden brown skin.
Why Cook Turkey Breast in a Slow Cooker
- Keeps it moist: The slow cooker keeps the turkey breast moist and tender! You don’t have to worry about it turning out too dry or tough.
- Time and oven space saver: There’s no basting or keeping a close eye on it – just let it slow cook. Plus, you’ll have the entire oven available to make Thanksgiving side dishes.
- Easy and fuss-free: Prep time is minimal and straightforward.
Thawing Turkey Safely
Prior to cooking the turkey, you need to safely thaw it if it’s frozen.
The best and safest way to thaw turkey is by letting it sit in the refrigerator for a few days. Place the UNOPENED frozen turkey breast in a tray in case any of the juices leak out. Allow about 1 ½ days of thawing in the fridge for every 4 pounds, approximately.
If you’re running out of time, you can thaw it in cold water in your sink. Submerge the unopened turkey breast in cold water, and change out the water every 30 minutes so that it stays cold. Allow about 30-45 minutes of thawing per pound.
Cook the turkey within 3 to 4 days of thawing.
The ingredients you need to make this slow cooker turkey breast are pretty straightforward.
- Turkey breast: a 6 to 7 pound turkey breast, bone-in and skin-on, safely thawed.
- Unsalted butter: It needs to be softened so you can easily spread it over the turkey.
- Garlic powder and onion powder: For flavor!
- Smoked paprika: For flavor.
- Fresh rosemary and fresh thyme: For aromatic herb flavors.
- Kosher salt: For seasoning and flavor.
- Ground black pepper: For seasoning.
- Yellow onion: To build a “bed” under the turkey. This will help with even cooking.
- For the gravy using the drippings (optional): turkey or chicken broth, butter, flour, salt, pepper, plus the drippings from the turkey.
1. Let the turkey sit on the counter
Remove turkey breast from its packaging. Let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before using.
Tip: Letting the turkey sit on the counter will help the butter spread much easier. If the turkey is too cold, the butter will firm up as soon as you start applying it.
2. Add onions and broth to slow cooker
Add sliced yellow onions to the bottom of a slow cooker. This will elevate the turkey breast for even cooking, and also add flavor to drippings that you can use to make gravy.
3. Make the herbed butter
In a bowl, evenly combine the softened butter with spices, seasoning, and fresh herbs.
Tip: Make sure you use softened butter to make it easier to spread onto the turkey.
4. Butter the turkey and slow cook
Thoroughly pat the turkey breast dry with paper towel, including inside the cavity.
Transfer turkey to the slow cooker breast side up. Spread about ¾ of the prepared herbed butter under the skin. You can do so by opening “pockets” between the skin and the flesh. The remaining ¼ of the butter mixture should be used to butter the exterior of the turkey breast.
Cover and cook for 6 hours on LOW.
Note: Since it cooks in a slow cooker, the skin doesn’t crisp up (you’ll broil it at the end to get a crispy skin), so it’s best to use most of the butter mixture underneath the skin to ensure maximum flavor.
4. Crisp the skin
After 6 hours on LOW, check the internal temperature of the turkey with a meat thermometer. It should be 165 degrees F when inserted in the thickest part of the breast.
Then, carefully lift the turkey and transfer to a baking pan. Broil on HIGH for 3-4 minutes or until the skin is browned and crispy.
Let it rest for 15 minutes prior to serving to allow the juices to redistribute. To serve, remove the breast meat from the breast bone with a knife and slice.
5. Make the gravy (optional)
If you’re making gravy from the juices released in the slow cooker: pour drippings through a strainer into a bowl, discarding the solids. In a saucepan, melt butter and add flour, whisking constantly to form a paste for about 3-4 minutes. Then, gradually add 1 cup of the drippings and 1 cup of turkey broth, whisking on a low simmer until thickened, about 5-6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
How Long to Cook
For a 6 to 7 pound turkey breast, I used a large 8-quart Crockpot and cooked it for 6 hours on LOW heat. 6 hours is perfect to ensure the breast is moist and tender, but not falling apart. Don’t cook it on HIGH – this could actually dry it out.
If your turkey breast is on the bigger side, like 8-10 pounds, you may need to cook it for 8 hours on LOW. Always check for doneness with a meat thermometer – it should read 165 degrees F in the thickest part.
Pairing and Serving Ideas
Thanksgiving dinner isn’t complete without cranberry sauce and gravy. Along with this slow cooker turkey breast, try my Orange Cranberry Sauce. If you’re not planning to make gravy from the drippings in the slow cooker or want to make gravy ahead of time, try my Turkey Gravy without Drippings recipe.
My favorite Thanksgiving sides of all time:
For a 6-7 pound turkey breast, use a large 8 quart slow cooker.
6 hours on LOW. Don’t cook it on HIGH or it could actually turn out dry.
No. It’s not safe to slow cook frozen meat.
Thaw the turkey in the fridge for a few days (usually 1 ½ days of thawing for every 4 pounds). If you forgot to defrost the turkey, the quickest method is by submerging it in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes so it stays cold (it takes about 30 minutes per pound).
Using a knife, cut along the breast bone, which is in the middle, to separate the two breast halves. Then, slice each breast half to serve.
Tips for Success
- Remember to safely thaw the turkey (unopened) in advance. More information under recipe notes.
- Let the turkey sit at room temperature (packaging removed) for 30 minutes before prepping so that it’s not so cold. It will be much easier to butter it that way.
- Stick most of the herbed butter underneath the skin to keep it extra moist and flavorful. The butter spread on the outside of the turkey won’t do much since it’s cooked in a slow cooker.
- When broiling at the end, keep a close eye on the turkey. It’s very quick process, so it can be very easy to burn it.
Slow Cooker Turkey Breast
- 8 quart slow cooker
- Baking pan (for broiling)
- 6 to 7 pound turkey breast, bone-in and skin-on safely thawed, see note below
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and cut into thick slices
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 ½ teaspoons Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
For the gravy (optional)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup turkey or chicken broth
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Make sure the turkey is thawed in advance – it takes a few days to thaw in the fridge. See “thawing instructions” under recipe notes.
- Remove packaging from the turkey breast and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before using. This will allow it to not be so cold and make it easier to apply the butter and seasoning.
- Place onions in the slow cooker in one layer. Set aside.
- Make the butter mixture: In a small bowl, combine the softened butter, garlic powder, onion powder, rosemary, thyme, paprika, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
- Remove anything inside the cavity of the turkey breast, if needed. Thoroughly pat dry the turkey breast with paper towel.
- Transfer turkey to the slow cooker, breast side up. Loosen the skin, creating “pockets.” Rub ¾ of the butter mixture underneath the skin into those "pockets" (between the skin and the flesh), and the remaining butter on the outside. Tip: Because it cooks in a slow cooker, it’s important to “trap” the butter underneath the skin – you’ll get a moist and super flavorful turkey that way. If the butter starts to harden as you spread it on the outside, you can microwave the butter for a few seconds and carefully pour it over the top.
- Cover and cook on LOW for 6 hours until tender and cooked through. The thickest part of the breast should register 165 degrees F.
- Transfer turkey to a baking pan and broil on high for 3-4 minutes or until the skin is golden brown, rotating as needed to get even browning.
- Remove turkey breast from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the gravy (optional): Pour the drippings through a strainer, and discard the solids. Melt 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour, stirring constantly to form a paste, about 3-4 minutes. Gradually, add 1 cup of the reserved drippings and 1 cup of turkey or chicken broth, stirring. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly for about 5-6 minutes, until thickened.
- Serve: To slice the turkey, cut along the breast bone to separate the two breast halves. Then, slice each breast half with a sharp knife. Serve with gravy if desired
- If you’d rather make gravy in advance, try my Turkey Gravy without Drippings recipe!
- Let the turkey sit at room temperature (packaging removed) for 30 minutes prior to using. If it’s too cold, it will be hard to apply the butter.
- Turkey size: Use a 6 to 7 pound turkey breast for about 6 people. If your turkey breast is 9-10 pounds, you may need to slow cook it for 8 hours on LOW (check the temperature for doneness, it should reach 165 degrees F in the thickest part of the breast).
- Slow cooker size: Use an 8 quart slow cooker.
- Prep ahead: The butter mixture can be made ahead. When ready to use, microwave it for a few seconds until softened.
- The best and safest way to thaw turkey is by letting it sit in the refrigerator for a few days. Place the unopened frozen turkey breast in a tray or pan in case any of the juices leak out. Allow about 1 ½ days of thawing for every 4 pounds, approximately.
- If you’re running out of time, you can thaw it in cold water. Submerge the unopened turkey breast in cold water, and change out the water every 30 minutes so that it stays cold, otherwise it could go bad. Allow about 30-45 minutes of thawing per pound.
- Turkey breast: You can use a boneless turkey breast instead of bone-in. Boneless breasts are usually smaller, about 3 to 4 pounds. If that’s the case, you can adjust the cooking time on LOW to about 5 hours, and always check for doneness using a meat thermometer (165 degrees F in the thickest part of the breast).
- Instead of 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary, use 1 teaspoon dried rosemary.
- Instead of 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, use 2 teaspoons dried thyme.
- Feel free to add other herbs and spices to the butter mixture.