This Instant Pot Turkey Breast with Lemon and Thyme is a Thanksgiving game changer! Free up your entire oven for sides and pies and cook up a juicy, tender, bone-in, skin-on turkey breast in your pressure cooker in under an hour. You’ll even have drippings to make gravy when it’s all done!
A turkey breast is a wonderful alternative to cooking an entire turkey for Thanksgiving. It still feeds a good amount of people (a 6-7 lb. turkey breast will have about 8 servings), and as a bonus, it cooks up a bit more evenly since it’s all white meat.
And cooking it in your instant pot is SO EASY! You just set it and forget it, so you can focus on more important things. Like your friends and family and pie.
Even when it’s not Thanksgiving, it’s easy to whip up a turkey breast in your instant pot for tons of lean protein for turkey sandwiches, soups and stews, or a Sunday dinner.
AND you can freeze the leftovers.
I used lemon and thyme – and lots of it – to season this turkey. You can use the same cooking method with your favorite turkey seasonings, such as a pre-made poultry seasoning, rosemary and sage, or even just plain old salt and pepper (which is usually what I do when I roast a whole turkey in the oven).
The lemon in this adds a light citrus flavor to both the turkey and to the drippings. So be aware- if you are using the drippings to make gravy, it will be quite lemony. I liked it, but if that’s not your thing, leave the lemons out of the bottom of the pan.
The process to make this is quite simple. Just mix some softened butter with lemon zest, lots of salt, and fresh thyme, and slather it all over the turkey breast.
DO make sure to get some of that butter mixture under the skin of the breast, as it will help flavor the meat directly.
Then, add some veggies (carrots, onions, and celery), along with the stems from the thyme and the rest of the lemon, into the bottom of your pressure cooker.
Add some chicken broth – this will serve as a base for the drippings as well as provide liquid, which is necessary for the Instant Pot to work properly and come up to pressure.
Then, place the wire trivet that came with your instant pot on top of the veggies, place the turkey on top of that, and you’re good to go!
I used my 6 quart Instant Pot to make this with a 6.6 lb. turkey breast. It was quite tight, but I made it work by smushing the turkey breast down as much as possible.
One thing to keep in mind if you make your turkey in your pressure cooker (or slow cooker- I’ve included instructions for this in the recipe below) is that it won’t develop a crispy, golden skin.
In fact, the skin will be fairly unappetizing and sad looking when you take off the cover of your instant pot. Don’t worry! You have a few options here.
The first option, and the easiest, is simply to remove the skin and serve it as is. It will be delicious and juicy and fine.
But if you’re a fan of crispy skin and love the “wow” factor of a gorgeous golden color on your turkey, there is hope!
To get the golden skin you see in these photos on my turkey, I just stuck it under the broiler for about 10 minutes after it was done. I also used a kitchen torch to crisp up the sides, since the broiler did a great job on the top but not on other parts of the turkey.
If I didn’t need to take photos of this for this post, I would have simply broiled it and not bothered with the kitchen torch.
The other advantage of cooking a turkey breast as an alternative to a whole turkey is that it’s SO EASY to carve.
First, you need to make sure you allow the turkey to rest for about 20 minutes, or longer, to allow the juices to redistribute. Otherwise when you cut into it, you’ll release all the juices and the turkey will be a bit drier.
Speaking of which, I recommend cooking the turkey for 30 minutes at manual high pressure. Check the temperature when you are done using a meat thermometer. Ideally, you want the temperature to be 160 degrees F when it’s done cooking.
The recommended temperature of poultry is actually 165, but the meat will continue to cook while it rests, so taking it out 5 degrees before will help it not overcook (especially if you are going to stick it under the broiler!).
To carve, just slice down into each side of the breast just off center to carve away the biggest chunk of meat you can, then slice into pieces and serve! Easy peasy.
One final thing- I did not brine my turkey, but next time I make this, I just might. I’m not usually much of a briner, but the turkey was not as salty as I would have liked it, I think in part due to the fact that it cooks for a shorter time in the pressure cooker.
Brine or don’t brine- it’s up to you! It’s just as delicious sprinkled with a bit of sea salt when you serve it.
If you like this Instant Pot Turkey Breast recipe, you’ll love this Lemon, Garlic, and Rosemary Whole Roast Chicken. And if you have any leftovers, use them in this Easy Chicken Noodle Soup, this Easy Chicken and Dumplings from Scratch, or this Turkey Salad with Cranberries and Walnuts.
Here’s the printable recipe! Enjoy :-)
Instant Pot Turkey Breast with Lemon and Thyme
- Remove the turkey breast from packaging and make sure to remove anything from inside the turkey cavity. Pat dry with a paper towel.
- In a small bowl, mix together the softened butter, salt, pepper, lemon zest, and fresh thyme.
- In the bottom of your pressure cooker, place the onion, celery, and carrots. Add the lemon halves leftover from zesting, and the springs from which the thyme leaves have been removed as well.
- Pour in the chicken broth on top and place the wire trivet that came with your instant pot inside.
- Rub the butter mixture all over the turkey, including under the skin, being careful not to tear the skin (but if you do, don't worry!).
- Place the turkey in the pressure cooker on top of the wire trivet, making sure it's in all the way. Smush it down if you need to.
- Place the cover on and in the locked position, and double check that the pressure release valve is in the "sealed" position.
- Set your pressure cooker to manual high pressure for 35 minutes.
- Once it's done, allow the pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes. Then, you can quick release the pressure and remove the turkey carefully once the float valve has depressed, indicating the pressure has fully released.
- If you want crispy skin, place the turkey on a wire rack nestled into a baking sheet and broil it for 5-10 minutes, until you've reached the desired color and crispiness. Alternatively, you can use a kitchen torch to crisp up the skin.
- Allow the turkey to rest, uncovered, for at least 20 minutes before carving into it, so the juices can redistribute.
- Carve, slice, and serve!
- The cooking time indicated does not include the time it takes your pressure cooker/Instant Pot to come up to pressure and release the pressure. Plan for about an hour total cooking time, accounting for the pressure rise and release.
- The drippings from the bottom of the instant pot after cooking can be used to make turkey gravy.
- You can freeze the leftovers sealed tightly in a plastic bag with as much air squeezed out as possible.
- Save the carcass- you can make turkey stock/bone broth from it (in your instant pot, slow cooker, or stovetop).
- I made this recipe in my 6 qt. Instant pot. It should work the same in an 8 qt., but you may need to cut the ingredients in half for a 3 qt. mini.
- The provided nutrition information is my best estimate. It does not include any added sodium from seasoning to taste, any optional ingredients, and it does not take brands into account. Feel free to calculate it yourself using this calculator or by adding the recipe to Yummly.