July 28th, 2013

Smoked Turkey Breast, Pomegranate-Thyme Glaze


“This sauce, is it cherry?” Wendy asked.

“It has a dark cherry color,” Paulette said, dabbing a little on her tongue. “But I don’t know,” her voice trailed off.

” I bet it’s a mixture of berries,” said Marty, spooning the garnet glaze over the meat.

I smiled and shook my head.

“Plum, perhaps?” asked Rick.


No one at potluck was able to identify the fruit at the heart of this sauce.

But when I informed them that it was pomegranate, there was a collective nod and murmur, “Ahhhhh.”


Bottled pomegranate juice arrived on the food scene as the new darling almost a decade ago. Antioxidant-rich, packed with vitamins A, C, and E, the tart claret juice is now beyond a trend, and well-established in the culinary world.

Still, I had cooked with it on rare occasions. Had our roles been reversed, I doubt that I would have correctly identified the fruit either.


Wanting to cook a turkey breast for our potluck, I did a little on-line research to find some new method or preparation. Of all the recipes I pored over, this one leapt out.

Smoke-roasted turkey breast with pomegranate-thyme glaze was one of five holiday bird recipes, but it’s silly to wait until Thanksgiving for such a dish. For its versatility and taste, turkey should be welcome any time of year. It is especially good for potlucks and the like–even a plump breast of turkey can ably feed a crowd.

And, in summer, having your main cooking source placed outside makes good sense.


Garlic, shallots and fresh thyme ground with olive oil and a splash of POM make a delectable seasoning rub for the bird.

The recipe is appealing, too, for its laissez-faire nature. I could put the breast on my smoker grill (I have a Big Green Egg) and then go about my business. The smoker works its magic for hours out in the heat of the day, while I am inside,
keeping cool.


Adding soaked wood chips to those smoldering coals imparts another sweet layer of flavor. If you don’t have a smoker, you can slow-roast the turkey in your oven. You won’t get that smoky taste or distinctive pink-tinged ring permeating the meat. But the herbs and tart fruitiness will still bring intriguing tastes that partner well with turkey, but are a step out of the usual.


The glaze takes up where the pesto rub leaves off. Pomegranate’s inherent tang is both bolstered and balanced with brown sugar and vinegar. You can make it while the turkey is cooking along.

It has its own laissez-faire way. At a simmer, it reduces over the course of half an hour. Or so.
You just need to give it an occasional stir.


Even so, it is not a thick glaze–to its benefit. The thin syrup glosses over the breast, staining the skin and meat with a beautiful red violet color. Both look and taste hint at fall.


I suspect the glaze would be just as delicious brushed onto chicken or duck. Pork too!


adapted from Cooking Light
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot or 1/3 cup white onion, diced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
1/4 cup brown sugar (I used Demerara)
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
pinch or two red pepper flakes

Warm olive oil in a deep skillet. Saute garlic and shallots for 1-2 minutes, until softened. Stir in thyme leaves, pomegranate juice, brown sugar and vinegar. Season with salt, black pepper, and a sprinkle or two red pepper flakes. Allow the mixture to cook on low for at about thirty minutes, until it reduces by half, to a thin syrup.

1 6 lb turkey breast
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons pomegranate juice
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
paprika–to sprinkle over turkey breast
2 cups wood chips, soaked (applewood, cherrywood, hickory, mesquite–your choice)
smoker grill

Rinse and dry turkey breast.

Place olive oil, thyme leaves, garlic, pomegranate juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper into a food processor. Pulse until the ingredients become a kind of rough pesto.

Lift the skin of the turkey and liberally rub the thyme mixture onto the flesh.

Sprinkle the exterior of the bird with remaining salt, black pepper, and a light dusting of paprika.

Prepare grill, adding soaked wood chips to the coals. When the temperature gauge reaches 200 degrees, place the turkey breast on the grill. Cover and allow it to smoke for about 3 hours. At that point, brush on some glaze and let the breast finish for another 30 minutes. Check the internal temperature of the bird–it should register 165 degrees to be done.

Remove from the smoker grill. As the turkey cools, continue brushing with more glaze.

Cut into nice 1/4″ slices and arrange on a platter, drizzling glaze over the slices.
Serve with remaining glaze in a bowl on the side. Serves 10

Posted in Gluten Free, Meats/Poultry, Recipes, Sauces

17 Responses to “Smoked Turkey Breast, Pomegranate-Thyme Glaze”
  1. Kath Says:

    Oh my goodness this looks very delicious indeed. I am jealous of your Big Green Egg, I would like one of those very much. How do you get one with it?

  2. ernestine Says:

    another “oh my”…
    you have given me another idea for when
    I cook a turkey breast.
    In fact may do it soon.
    Youngest daughter’s birthday soon and family will arrive.
    If it is too hot to cook on my outside grill.
    May prepare this.
    thank you….
    I like cooking outside
    but too my trouble for one.

  3. Magda Says:

    I love pomegranate in every shape or form, the actual fruit, its juice, turned into molasses. Your dish is stunning Nancy. I wish I could taste it!

  4. Heather Says:

    Love the alternative to cranberry!
    Thank you Nancy.

  5. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Kath-I’ve had the Big Green Egg for about 7 years now, and it has served me well. it does great work slow-grilling and smoking.

    Ernestine–If it’s too hot to grill outdoors, I think that the glaze would be delicious on oven roasted turkey as well.

    Magda–I wish you could taste it too. It was really terrific.

    Heather–yes, you are exactly right–it is a great alternative to the cranberry

  6. Teresa, foodonfifth Says:

    This was so deliciously consumed at last Third Thursday Potluck…I really did not even realize what the glaze was…I just knew it was a lovely red color and that the turkey tasted wonderful. Pomegranate juice? Perfect.

  7. Barbara Says:

    Guessing games…don’t you love them? And pomegranate gets them every time. What a fabulous glaze, Nancy! Beautiful presentation and turkey is not just for Thanksgiving anymore!

  8. Karen (Back Road Journal) Says:

    I would have been one of those guessing about the glaze. I don’t have a smoker but think I can adapt the recipe and use my gas grill.

  9. Kitchen Belleicious Says:

    i always do whole chicken’s throughout the year but never turkey except on thanksgiving. I love your method of seasoning it and the glaze sounds phenomenal!

  10. Ellen Says:

    I am sure that I would not have guessed pomegranate. But I’d really like to try this sauce. Looks simple to make and I can imagine it’s incredible

  11. Jayne Says:

    Great looking Glaze !!!

  12. Beth Says:

    This recipe looks wonderful. I wouldn’t want to wait for fall to try it either!

  13. Michele | Cooking At Home Says:

    I love the sound of the thyme rub under the skin. And that delicious glaze would complement any kind of poultry, duck or pork. I think you have a winner here.

  14. Juliana Says:

    This turkey breast looks delicious Nancy…and yes thyme and pomegranate sounds amazing, not only add color but lots of flavors as well…beautiful dish.
    Thanks for the recipe and have a fabulous week ahead :D

  15. LINDA Says:

    I really liked this recipe. I’ll have to try to do this. Thank you

  16. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    And why haven’t I ever attempted cooking with pomegranate juice? Already a decade on the scene and… I’ll have to give it a try.

  17. Fluffy Says:

    I feel moved

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