Use It or Lose It! Salsa-Braised Turkey Breast with Chile & Citrus Peel

Take half a turkey breast: brown the outside. Add it to a pot with liquid and vegetables. Simmer. Rest meat, reduce sauce, serve. Such a simple procedure and one I’ve done many times, often, like now, when I have things that need clearing out of the fridge and freezer: an open pint of salsa; a gallon Ziploc full of fat, frozen jalapeños; another jammed with citrus peels. It’s generally tasty, sometimes ugly, but almost always satisfying in the filling-up and using-up categories. Occasionally, however, the stars align, and a simple weeknight dinner is elevated to something more.

This deceptively simple and homey dish turned out to be gloriously layered: rich, savory turkey, spicy jalapeño, sweet peach, tangy vinegar, bitter orange peel. Served over short-grain brown rice and liberally scattered with fresh farmer’s market cilantro, it was a feast for the senses: eyes, nose, and palate. The turkey meat was juicy and tender, the turkey skin crisp and crackly. The chunks of peach and bell pepper mellow and soft, the citrus peel bright and toothsome. The sauce was so good that it was gone, enjoyed over rice, long before the turkey: the bit player who steals the show from the star attraction. Oh, yes, I’ll be making this one again. Remind me, in August, to make more peach salsa, willl you?


Salsa-Braised Turkey Breast with Chile & Citrus Peel


  • one 2 and 1/2 – 3 lb half turkey breast, bone-in
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp bacon grease (or butter, olive oil)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium jalapeño peppers, seeded & thinly sliced (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar (I used peach skin-infused white vinegar)
  • 1 pint mild salsa (I used peach)
  • 2 cups stock (I used corn cob)
  • 2 cups diced red bell pepper (frozen), or about 2 peppers chopped
  • 1/4 cup thinly slivered citrus peel (I used Mandarin orange)
  • fresh cilantro or parsley, for garnish
  • grain or greens for serving


  1. Rinse the turkey breast in cool water and pat dry well. Liberally salt and pepper the skin side; allow to rest and come to room temperature if time allows.
  2. Heat bacon grease over medium-high heat in a 5-quart Dutch oven or stockpot until shimmering, but not smoking. Add turkey, skin side down, and let brown, undisturbed, for about 5 minutes, or until skin is crispy & nicely browned (use a splatter screen to contain the mess). Flip turkey breast with tongs and brown the other side for 5 minutes.
  3. Lower heat to medium-low and prop the turkey breast on its side, against the edge of the pan, using a wooden spoon. Add the onions, garlic and jalapeño: sauté for 2 – 3 minutes until slightly softened. Add the vinegar and deglaze, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add salsa, stock, bell pepper and citrus peel. Stir to mix, lay the turkey breast down in the middle of the pan, cover, and bring liquid to a simmer over medium heat. Lower heat and simmer gently, covered, until turkey is cooked through (no hint of pink in the flesh and/or a reading of at least 170 degrees F on an instant thermometer), about 40 minutes.
  4. Using tongs or two wooden spoons, remove the turkey breast to a clean plate. Let rest under an inverted bowl for at least 20 minutes. In the meantime, bring the braising liquid to a brisk boil over medium-high heat. Continue to boil, stirring occasionally, until liquid has thickened considerably and the sauce resembles a chunky salsa, about 20 – 25 minutes (you may need to reduce heat as you reduce the liquid in order to prevent sticking). If desired, re-crisp the turkey skin under a broiler, watching carefully, for about 5 minutes before serving. Slice turkey and serve with reduced braising sauce over grain or greens.

Serves 4.


  1. Substitute two bone-in chicken breasts for the turkey.
  2. This was pretty spicy with two fat jalapeño peppers, without seeds. Adjust to your palate.
  3. The citrus peel added a lovely acidity & hint of bitterness to the reduction sauce, giving it a nice complexity and contrasting beautifully with the savory flavor. Don’t skip it!


Refrigerated, for up to 5 days.


Technically, year-round, but winter into early spring is best for hearty, warming braised meats.


  1. I can not wait to make this post-DC trip!!! I buy two turkeys a year, one butchered so that I can make stuff like this throughout the year! And I have two half-eaten cans of salsa in the frig and also citrus peels & jalapenos in the freezer! BOOYA!

    • You are too good: I keep meaning to do that, get a couple of turkeys from a local farm in season and use throughout the year. This year I forgot to even buy one, because we traveled for Thanksgiving. Kick me in the ass in November to buy a turkey or two, will you? 🙂

      (p.s. And have a GREAT trip!! Can’t wait to hear all about it.)

  2. Sherri

    I know this post is ancient, but I figured I would comment that I keep on making this year after year because it is that delicious!

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