Moist and Tender Pressure Cooker Turkey Breast

Turkey breast cooked in the pressure cooker is super moist and tender, with only a 30 minute cook time. Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t need to take hours when you have an Instant Pot and this easy pressure cooker turkey breast recipe!

A rectangle plate of Pressure Cooker Thanksgiving Turkey recipe, with and Instant Pot, gravy, and cranberries in the background

Thanksgiving turkey cooked in the electric pressure cooker / Instant Pot is perfect for a small Thanksgiving gathering or just a delicious Sunday supper.

Traditional oven-roasted turkeys have a tendency to turn out dry. Since pressure cooker uses steam to cook, you’ll have tender, moist meat.

When you pressure cook a turkey, you don’t end up with the classic golden-brown skin right out of the cooking pot. But you can still get crisp skin with an air fryer attachment or a quick broil in the oven.

Pinterest Image for Instant Pot Turkey Breast, sliced on a platter

When I’m having a crowd over for dinner, I still cook a large turkey in my big oven. But since my crowd loves white meat, I like to pressure cook a turkey breast as well so I’ll have extra white meat and extra gravy.

How to Cook Turkey Breast in the Instant Pot / Electric Pressure Cooker

This Instant Pot Turkey Breast recipe will work in any brand of electric pressure cooker, including the Instant Pot, Ninja Foodi, or Mealthy MultiPot. Pressure cookers are the perfect moist environment for cooking turkey. 

If you’ve never made turkey in your pressure cooker before, be sure to give yourself plenty of time so you’re not stressed about getting dinner on the table.

Before preparing the turkey breast, check to make sure it fits inside your pressure cooking pot.

Cooked pressure cooker turkey breast inside an Instant Pot Duo.

Bone-in or Boneless Turkey Breast?

You can pressure cook both bone-in or boneless turkey breasts. My recipe is for a bone-in turkey breast. You can cook a boneless turkey breast as well, it will take about the same amount of time to cook.

Do I Brown the Turkey Breast Before Cooking?

The first time I pressure cooked turkey breast, I browned it in the pressure cooker before cooking. It was difficult to brown evenly because of its shape, and I didn’t notice any difference in terms of the flavor of the turkey or gravy.

Fully cooked pressure cooker turkey breast resting on a baking tray.

And, after pressure cooking, the turkey wasn’t golden or crispy enough to serve with the skin on.
If you want to serve a beautiful brown turkey breast, I recommend browning it AFTER you pressure cook it. This is easy to do with a Ninja Foodi, Instant Pot Duo Crisp (review coming soon!), or Mealthy Crisp Lid. You can also use a traditional air fryer or a broiler in your oven.

If you don’t eat the skin anyway, you can skip this step. Just discard the skin and slice the turkey before serving.

How Long Do I Pressure Cook a Turkey in the Instant Pot?

The cook time on an Instant Pot Turkey Breast depends on the weight and the thickness. There’s no one-size fits all cook time!

If you’re cooking a bone-in turkey breast, the weight of the turkey breast generally determines the cook time.

Generally, I use a 30 minute cook time with a 10 minute natural pressure release to cook a 6-pound bone-in, skin-on turkey breast. A 3 to 4 pound bone-in turkey breast has a 25 minute cook time, and a 4 to 5 pound turkey has a 27 minute cook time.

Pressure cooker turkey breast sliced and plated with gravy, a bowl of cranberry, and green beans.

If you’re cooking a boneless turkey breast, the thickest part of the breast will determine the cook time.

Boneless breasts can vary in shape. If your turkey breast is long and skinny, your cook time will be less. However, if your breast is more rounded, you’ll need a longer cook time.

For a general start time, I use a 30 minute cook time with a 10 minute natural pressure release on a round, 3-pound boneless, skinless breast.

My Turkey Timer Hasn’t Popped

For some reason, the tender timer doesn’t always work when you cook the turkey breast in the pressure cooker, so don’t rely on that.

Pressure cooker turkey breast sliced and plated with fresh sage and cranberry sauce.

Use an instant-read thermometer to make sure your turkey is cooked to 165°F at the thickest part of the breast.

Can I Cook a Frozen Turkey in the Instant Pot?

Well, you can, but that doesn’t mean that you should.

For best results, make sure your turkey is fully defrosted before pressure cooking! (See the USDA’s recommended defrosting schedule. It always seems to take longer than expected to defrost the turkey, so be sure to leave yourself plenty of time.)

If there’s even a chance the center of the turkey is frozen, you’ll need to add extra cook time. The rule of thumb is to add 5 minutes per pound when cooking from frozen.

Remember, when you cook from frozen, the outside of the bird will cook faster than the inside. Which means that by the time the inside is cooked to a safe temperature, the meat on the outside will be tougher and dry.

Making Turkey Gravy in the Instant Pot

One of the great things about pressure cooker turkey breasts is that you get lots of flavorful liquid that makes a wonderful turkey gravy. (I’ve given gravy directions in the recipe so you can make in the pressure cooking pot after the turkey’s finished cooking.)

Adding corn starch slurry to thicken Instant Pot turkey gravy.

Keep in mind that what you flavor your turkey with will also flavor your gravy. So if you know your family’s not crazy about onions, then reduce the amount of onions you use to cook the turkey. If your mom always added rosemary to the turkey, go for it!

After pressure cooking the turkey, taste the drippings left in the cooking pot. If they’re too strong, add a little extra broth to the cooking pot. (Remember, the flavors generally intensify as the gravy cooks down. So if they’re too strong now, they’ll get even stronger.)

I prefer to use cornstarch when making a turkey gravy. Cornstarch is a great thickener with very little taste, and it doesn’t need to be long-simmered like flour does.

However, if you prefer the texture of a flour-thickened gravy, I’d start with 1/4 cup of flour and 1/4 cup water and whisk until smooth. Slowly combine the flour mixture with the liquid in the cooking pot and whisk until completely incorporated. Then bring to a boil and simmer on low for several minutes to make sure the flour is cooked through.

Yield: 8 servings

Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot Turkey Breast

Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot Turkey Breast

Spend minutes in your pressure cooker instead of hours in the oven with this easy Instant Pot Turkey Breast recipe.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 20 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes

Ingredients

  • 6.5 lb. bone-in, skin-on turkey breast
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 can (14 ounces) turkey broth or chicken broth
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 1 stock celery, cut in large pieces
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons cold water

Instructions

  1. Season turkey breast liberally with salt and pepper. (You can also season with dried thyme or your favorite spice blend under the skin if you prefer.)
  2. Put a trivet in the bottom of the pressure cooking pot. Add the broth, onion, celery, and thyme. Add the turkey to the cooking pot, breast-side up.
  3. Lock the lid in place. Select High Pressure and set the cook time for 30 minutes.*
  4. When the cook time ends, turn off the pressure cooker and allow the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes, then use a quick pressure release.
  5. When the valve drops, carefully remove the lid. Use an instant read thermometer at the thickest part of the breast to check if the turkey is done. It should be 165°F. If needed, return the lid and cook at High Pressure for a few more minutes.
  6. When the turkey is done, use the trivet to carefully remove it from the cooking pot and place on a platter. Cover with foil to rest.
  7. To make the gravy, pour the juices in the cooking pot through a strainer and skim off the fat. (I like to use a fat separator.)
  8. Whisk together cornstarch and cold water; add to broth in cooking pot. Select Sauté and stir until broth thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. If you're not planning to brown the turkey: Remove the foil and discard the skin. Slice the turkey and serve immediately.
  10. If you would like to brown the turkey in the pressure cooking pot: Transfer the gravy to a serving dish and rinse and wipe out the cooking pot. Carefully transfer the turkey on the trivet back to the inside of the cooking pot. Lock the air fryer lid in place. Set the temperature to 350 degrees F and cook until the skin is crispy and browned. (For a 5.5 pound turkey, this took me about 15 minutes in the Ninja Foodi. But be sure to check regularly!) Slice the turkey and serve immediately.

Notes

* For larger or smaller turkeys, or if you're cooking from frozen, adjust the cook time as discussed above.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 126 Total Fat: 2g Saturated Fat: 1g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 1g Cholesterol: 48mg Sodium: 300mg Carbohydrates: 7g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 2g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 19g
Nutrition information is calculated by Nutritionix and may not always be accurate.

This recipe is one of my Pressure Cooker Thanksgiving recipes. Check out the other recipes in the series!

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