Slow Cooker Turkey with No-Fuss Gravy

So I know that in the whole scheme of Thanksgiving planning, it’s wonderful and ideal and rockstar-ish to pull out the big guns and roast the most beautiful, impressive, golden wonder of a bird like the world has never seen. I get it. I’m totally bowled over by gorgeous, golden turkeys, I am. And every year it seems someone has a new, better way to produce The Juiciest Turkey with The Crispiest Skin with The Best Gravy.

But you know what? There is brilliant wisdom in simplifying sometimes and this slow cooker turkey breast – while it won’t produce the crispy golden skin and wow-that-whole-bird-is-pretty effect – is out of this world juicy, delicious and so ridiculously simple, I swear, it will leave you twiddling your thumbs on Thanksgiving. Ok, maybe not that, but close, especially since the cooking method basically produces instant gravy at the end of the process.

Slow Cooker Turkey with No-Fuss Gravy

Instead of a full turkey, a bone-in turkey breast slow cooks in a simple medley of vegetables and braising liquid and as is wont to happen in most slow cooker applications, the low and slow cooking method results in an incredibly juice, flavorful turkey. After a few minutes of stovetop simmering, you’ll also have a mighty tasty gravy to slather over that turkey.

Taking Thanksgiving out of the picture, this is a fabulous, easy meal for a Sunday dinner (which is how we enjoyed it) that can be made any time of the year, and the turkey leftovers are fabulous. As turkey leftovers always are, in my opinion.

If you are looking to simplify Thanksgiving, this recipe totally has your back. It is definitely some of the finest tasting turkey I’ve ever enjoyed and as a self-professed turkey lover who has eaten a lot, a lot of turkey, I’m kind of an expert in this area.

Slow Cooker Turkey with No-Fuss Gravy

What To ServeCheesy Au Gratin Potatoes or Baked Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Steamed vegetable or this Green Bean Casserole
A really, great dinner roll (for homemade I suggest these Lion House Dinner Rolls)

One Year Ago: Tortellini Sausage Soup
Two Years Ago: Black Bean & Pumpkin Chili
Three Years Ago: BBQ Turkey Quesadillas

Slow Cooker Turkey with No-Fuss Gravy

Yield: 6-8 servings

Slow Cooker Turkey with No-Fuss Gravy

The one thing to keep a very, very close eye on is the salt content of this recipe. If you can't find no-salt added chicken broth and use low-sodium, take care not to oversalt the turkey breast because the gravy will be too salty. I used low-sodium chicken broth and only used about 1 teaspoon salt over the entire turkey breast and it was probably on the verge of being too salty. Keep in mind that you can always add salt at the end but it's hard to take away if you've oversalted at the beginning. Got it? Great. Also, you definitely need a large, oval slow cooker for this recipe. Even still, I had to scrap using the lid and cover the turkey and slow cooker with a few layers of foil. Worked perfectly.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups no-salt added or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 tablespoon dried
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6-8 pound bone-in skin-on turkey breast
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. In a large, nonstick skillet melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook for 8-10 minutes, until the onion is translucent and the vegetables are lightly browned.
  2. Stir in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes until the flour coating the veggies turns golden. Whisk in 1 cup of the broth, working to smooth out any lumps as it cooks and thickens. Stir in the remaining broth and water. Add the thyme and bay leaves.
  3. Pour the mixture into the slow cooker. Season the turkey breast all over with salt and pepper (see the note above about how much salt to use). Place the turkey in the slow cooker (breast side down). Cover and cook on low for 5-7 hours until the internal temperature of the turkey breast reaches 165 degrees.
  4. Carefully transfer the turkey breast to a cutting board (or 9X13-inch pan to catch any juices), tent with foil and let rest while preparing the gravy.
  5. Strain the liquid in the slow cooker into a saucepan. Let it settle for 5 minutes or so and then skim the fat from the surface. Bring the gravy to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring often, until it is slightly thickened. It won't be as thick as traditional gravy but will be silky and slightly thick. If you'd like it thicker, simply whisk together a slurry of cornstarch and cold water (a tablespoon or so of cornstarch in a couple tablespoons of water) and stir the slurry into the gravy, simmering for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Season the gravy with any additional salt and pepper, if needed.
  7. Carve the turkey and serve with the warm gravy.
http://www.melskitchencafe.com/slow-cooker-turkey-with-no-fuss-gravy-simple-thanksgiving-solution/
Recipe Source: adapted from a recipe referred to me by a long-time reader, Rebecca L., from America’s Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution (thanks, Rebecca!)

53 Responses to Slow Cooker Turkey with No-Fuss Gravy {Simple Thanksgiving Solution}

  1. We aren’t having guests this year until the day after Thanksgiving so I am seriously thinking about just doing a turkey breast this year. I would love to have the turkey in the crockpot – especially if it makes its own gravy basically!

  2. Sheila says:

    Thank you for this brillant wisdom . . . .:)

  3. Julia says:

    Oh Mel, you are my hero! I bought a bone-in turkey breast this morning for Thanksgiving and I had no idea what to do with it. I usually buy a couple boneless breasts but they were a little expensive this year. I get home with my turkey breast, and check my email, an lo and behold, you have solved my problem. Since it is your recipe I trust it without doing a trial run and this frees up my oven for all the other delicious goodies. Plus, I LOVE my slow cooker(s). Thanks for bailing me out! By the way, you are a household name as in “my best friend Mel, whom I’ve never met!” Have a great Thanksgiving!

  4. Kalyn says:

    Gorgeous photos of this! I’ve been cooking a turkey breast in the slow cooker for the last few Thanksgivings just to get extra meat for sandwiches!

  5. Jan says:

    Mel, I first found you when you posted The Best Refried Beans Ever. Immediately I joined your email group and am always delighted to see your recipes and hints. No matter where we go for Thanksgiving or if we just stay at home, hubby and I always enjoy the bone-in turkey breast. You’re so right about the gravy there in the pot too. Thanks!

  6. michelle says:

    I am so doing this. We only have 3 adults eating turkey this year and possibly a kid tasting it. I’ve actually made a turkey breast like this before and it does turn out perfectly. Thank you for the reminder. There is no point in making a giant turkey that will go to waste. This will give us plenty of leftovers.

  7. Cammee says:

    I have never cooked turkey in the crockpot, but duh! I think this would be perfect for our family over Christmas. A full turkey is always too much, but we love the turkey leftovers for sandwiches.

  8. sylvia says:

    Thanks for posting. I was just searching the web last night for crockpot turkey breast receipes. I will definitely be using yours and your ham receipe. Hope you have a great holiday.

  9. Barbara says:

    You’re my hero, too! We used to always have the big Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with the good china, crystal, and silver. We all got dressed up and the 5 of us feasted on our beautiful whole turkey and all the trimmings! It was a picture perfect meal! Now we are in our 70s, retired in Florida, and that’s for our grown sons to do. We’re alone for dinner on Thanksgiving, but we still want some of our favorites in our traditional holiday meal. You’ve given me a gift that I’ll be thankful for all year ’round. I’m fairly new to slow cookery, but I love it. I’ll have stuffing, too, but baked in single portions in a muffin tin so leftovers are easy to freeze for later. The rest is easy, and we will feast, but your turkey breast method will be the star on our table this year! Thanks, and hugs!

  10. I like slow cooking, it’s just not that stressful sometimes

  11. Heather says:

    Thanks for the tin foil tip! I tried this a few months ago, but since my lid wouldn’t shut I ended up taking it out and cooking it in the oven. I don’t care about the perfect turkey-I just want it juicy and easy. Thanks!

  12. Kim in MD says:

    Mel- I have said this before (and I will say it again)…you are my culinary hero! Why haven’t I thought to slow cook turkey? Genius!

  13. Lindsay says:

    Hi Mel! You completely thaw the turkey breast first, right?

    Thanks for all of your cooking and kitchen help! Your recipes always win at my house!

    • Mel says:

      Lindsay – the cooking times are based on a completely thawed turkey breast so yes, I’d say to completely thaw first (you could try a slightly frozen one but I have no idea how long you’d need to cook it and I don’t want you stuck with raw turkey!).

  14. Laurel says:

    I think this is a great idea. I rarely cook a whole turkey anymore and this recipe fits the bill. I’m anxious to try it.

  15. mommy of 4 says:

    o.k.
    so we have decided at our house that a turkey breast is the way to go. we don’t like the dark meat…well, it isn’t my first choice and so i don’t cook with it after the fact. but if we just buy the turkey breast, it’s perfect!
    thanks for the new way to cook it!

  16. Lori Gasser says:

    Thank-you so much Mel! Everyone in my house likes breast meat only so instead of a whole turkey I figured this was the way to go. Now I know how I’m going to cook it also, freeing up the oven for the other goodies! You are my lifesaver. Also making the blueberry angel food cake for dessert!

  17. Tracey says:

    This looks SO delicious! Seriously, your pictures make me want to eat my iPad sometimes! I adore turkey as well, but the task of cooking an entire turkey for just our small family seems a bit daunting sometimes. This will be perfect. Thanks Mel! :D

  18. This sounds amazing! I cannot wait to make it for my husband and I! Thanks!

  19. Jen says:

    Will this recipe work to cook a whole turkey in the crock pot or only the breast?

    • Mel says:

      Jen – I’ve only made it with the turkey breast. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a whole turkey that can fit in a slow cooker but if you can get a small whole bird, it would probably work (just keep an eye on the cooking time).

  20. Jill says:

    Thanks so much for posting this recipe!! I was trying to figure out how to get everything prepared with only one oven, and I think you’ve solved my problem! One question, my husband loves dark meat. Do you think this recipe would still work if I found an entire turkey small enough to fit in my crockpot?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Jill – should have included you on my response just now, but yes, it should probably work with a whole turkey (but I haven’t tried it) as long as you can get one small enough to fit in a slow cooker!

  21. Danielle says:

    OH this is great. I am all about the presentation as well….but lets be honest. My 3 little girls don’t care what it looks like, and my hubby only cares about the taste. This will be perfect, I’d rather spend a little more energy on the sides anyways…thank you!

  22. Tracey says:

    This sounds fantastic and I love my slow cooker. However, sadly, Turkey is pretty much non existent here in the Middle East and certainly have never seen a bone in Turkey breast. Do you think this would work with a chicken (the chicken’s here are pretty tiny and would easily fit in my large slow cooker). Thanks

    • Mel says:

      Tracey – yes, I think this could work with a chicken but if it is a lot smaller than most bone-in turkey breasts, you might keep an eye on cooking time (contrary to popular belief, chicken can dry out in the slow cooker).

  23. After seeing these photos I can’t wait for Thanksgiving. Looks simple and delicious!

  24. Kathy says:

    Mel – This method to cook bone-in turkey breast was so timely! My DD had asked me if a slow cooker could be used to prepare turkey breast. The next day I received your email with this recipe. Thank you! We have always oven-roasted our bone-in turkey breasts but would love to try your slow-cooker method. Question – Which size/brand of oval slow cooker do you use for this recipe? I need to buy an oval slow cooker as I don’t have one yet. TIA

  25. JR says:

    I just did this. I will NEVER cook a whole bird again. Fabulous.

  26. Kathy says:

    Hi Mel – Thanks for the quick response re: which slow cooker you use. Do you think a 6 quart slow cooker would be large enough to hold the 6 pound bone-in turkey breast I already have? I was hoping to go no larger than a 6 quart size. TIA

    • Mel says:

      Kathy – it’s really hard to know! Sorry I can’t give you a definitive answer. As long as the width of the turkey fits in, you can cover it with tin foil if it sticks up above the top of the slow cooker.

  27. Jenn says:

    Mel, you’ve saved the day! I was wondering what to do for Thanksgiving with just a few of us – don’t want to roast a whole turkey. I love the idea of using the slow cooker (I love mine too!)
    By the way, you are a household name in our home. Whenever I’m trying out a new recipe my daughter says “is it from Mel?”….and then she tells me I’m the best cooker ever :)

  28. Monica B says:

    Maybe silly to ask, but will this work with a boneless turkey breast?

    • Mel says:

      Monica – not silly at all! I haven’t tried it with a boneless turkey breast but I do believe that a bone-in turkey breast will provide much juicier meat.

  29. Nicole H says:

    Um, tears almost came to my eyes when I saw this recipe. Bless you!!! I did the big turkey, aromatics brine and all last year and it turned out great. But 4 months pregnant has got me super excited to try this simple version this year. Thanks!!

  30. Christine says:

    Sounds great. However, I tried something similar to this following a recipe about 4 years ago and it was a disaster. Why, do people post recipes w/o noting the crock pot/slow cooker size? Thank you for listing your 7 qt. size. Mine was 4 and again…a total disaster. Love your recipes!

  31. Rebecca says:

    I’ve made this. It’s crazy delicious. I’m making it again for Thanksgiving. :)

  32. TRISH P says:

    I cook my turkey breasts this way but without the veggies and gravy. I usually cook one every couple of months to have leftovers for sandwiches and diced for other recipes. My favorite grocery store usually charges $1.99 Lb. for the boneless breast. Quite a bargain when you compare it to ground beef these days. And needless to say, a whole lot more healthy as it is low fat.

  33. Erin says:

    I am excited to try this out this year since it will just be my small family eating. I’m a little nervous about covering the crockpot with foil! Is there really any wrong way of doing it? If the crockpot isn’t covered properly is it going to let moisture out and make my meat not turn out as good? Do you just wrap the foil around from front to back a few times and maybe side to side and do a few layers? I just want to make sure it turns out good so my husband will give this new method a thumbs up so we can do turkeys like this from now on! Thanks for the great recipes!

    • Mel says:

      Erin, I lay out two sheets of overlapping foil the long direction and then two more the short direction and crimp all four sheets under the edge of the crockpot so it is well sealed. It works great!

  34. Mary says:

    I’m totally planning on doing this tomorrow! I just want to double check, that a bone-in 7 lb turkey breast can cook on LOW in 5-7hrs? That seems a little fast for a piece of meat that size. Just want to be sure. Thanks in advance!

    • Mel says:

      Mary – sorry for my late response. If you are worried about the temperature/cooking time, make sure to use a cooking thermometer to get the turkey to the appropriate temperature but when I made this, 5-7 hours was perfect for that size of turkey breast.

  35. TRISH P says:

    I don’t think I have ever cooked a turkey breast that big. Here are two things to consider: 1) If you have a newer crock pot, they do run a little hotter than the older ones and 2) I always start mine out on high heat for the first hour or so & then turn it down to low. With poultry I worry about the meat sitting too long at a low temperature and causing food poisoning. Mine always turn out wonderful, juicy and not dry. If your turkey ends up dry it is overcooked. Good luck & enjoy!

  36. Mel,

    I made this slow cooker turkey for my family’s small Thanksgiving get-together yesterday and it was a big hit! Everyone commented on how tender and flavorful the turkey was, and using the crock pot made getting dinner together so easy because I could use the oven for green beans and desserts. The bone in turkey breast was a perfect 160 degrees and a great color after 5 hours on low in my 2009 model Crock Pot. The aluminum foil kept the steam and heat in. Thanks so much for the recipe!

  37. Holly says:

    Thanks for this! We went to my inlays for Thanksgiving, and I wanted to roast a breast for us to have leftovers at home. This was perfect!

  38. Marne says:

    We had an oven roasted turkey but also made this. FABULOUS! Not only was it remarkably simple, the gravy was delicious [much better than I usually make]. Even as left-overs last night (Sunday) the turkey was moist and the gravy still mighty tasty. Thanks – big thanks.

  39. Elizabeth says:

    The absolute best! I made this for the family this Thanksgiving and I just got a text from my sister asking me for the recipe. She said “Do you think you can send us the turkey slow cooker recipe? We are still craving Thanksgiving leftovers. I think we’ll make it this weekend.” It was simple to make, so tender and delicious to eat and easy to clean up. I think I’ve just started a new family tradition.

  40. Monica B says:

    I used your recipe and the turkey and gravy were amazing! Thank you for helping me to make my day a little easier with delicious results!

  41. Lori says:

    Hi Mel! I have a 5lb breast should I adjust anything?

    Happy Holidays to you and your family!!!

  42. Julie says:

    Mel, I would love to use this method to cook to make hot turkey sandwiches, does this make enough gravy to do that with?

    • Mel says:

      Julie – I’ve never made hot turkey sandwiches so I don’t know exactly how much gravy you are after but it definitely makes enough gravy for mashed potatoes and for over the turkey so my guess is that yes, it would be fine for the sandwiches. Good luck!

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