A Real Food Thanksgiving Feast (and How to Dry Brine a Turkey)

Have you been stressing about your Thanksgiving menu? Well, stress no more, because today I’m giving you a gift: A Thanksgiving menu that is healthy and completely composed of Real Food. But most importantly, it is delicious!

Let’s start with the star of the show, the turkey. We have made turkey many different ways over the years, but we have recently discovered our favorite way to make turkey is to use a dry brine. A dry brine is super simple, and I have never had a more juicy and tender turkey! The best part about this is that you can put it on the turkey when it is still frozen, then put it in the fridge with the brine on to defrost for a couple of days. When it’s time to cook, you just rinse the brine off and you are good to go! Here is the recipe for the dry brine, and for the rub that I put on the turkey in the video:

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Turkey Dry Brine and Rub
  • Dry brine:
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons dry rubbed sage
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • ½ tablespoons onion powder
  • ½ tablespoon garlic powder
  • _______
  • Turkey rub:
  • 1 tablespoon dry rubbed sage
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  1. For dry brine:
  2. Mix all ingredients together.
  3. Rub on turkey.
  4. Allow to sit on turkey for a couple of days in the fridge.
  5. Rinse the turkey before cooking.
  6. _________
  7. For turkey rub:
  8. Mix all ingredients together.
  9. Rub on turkey as you are prepping it for the oven (you can also mix it with the butter and rub both on at the same time)
  10. Cook turkey until it reaches a temperature of 165 on the meat thermometer.


This is an old video showing you how to get that bird ready to go into the oven. As a note, get the butter way up under the skin better than I did. I have learned a lot since making this video so I hope you’ll be patient with my saying the old name of my site in the beginning, the weird lighting from the window, and the noisy daughter in the next room. It’s still great info to have as Thanksgiving approaches!

(You can get a meat thermometer like the one we use right here, and a similar roasting pan is here. We also always use and recommend Redmond Real Salt.)

  • For me, it’s not a real Thanksgiving dinner without cranberry sauce. I used to love the goop that was still in the shape of the can, but as I have gotten older and my tastes have matured, I just love a good homemade sauce. This cranberry sauce is not traditional, but it is so yummy! It’s super easy to make, too, you have to give it a try.
  • Again, in my younger days, there was nothing better than stuffing from a box. As we have cut processed foods from our diet, I have found that the boxed stuff just tastes too artificial to me, and I have a hard time gagging it down. I was delighted to find this version of real food stuffing that uses rice instead of bread. What a great idea!
  • Green bean casserole was never a staple on my grandma’s Thanksgiving table, I don’t know why. I actually had never heard of it until I was married and started attending Thanksgiving dinner at different houses, and I wasn’t too sure about it. I recently found this amazing recipe from Alton Brown that is much healthier and a lot less processed, and way more delicious!
  • The rolls are a completely necessary item for me on Thanksgiving. Of course, I recommend my delicious whole wheat dinner rolls. There is really nothing better, and it even makes a great bread for your leftover turkey and cranberry sandwiches the next day.
  • You either love or you hate the goopy marshmallow-covered sweet potato dish that seems to be a Thanksgiving constant. This recipe for sweet potatoes has swapped an all-natural sweetener of maple syrup for the sugar, and a yummy pecan topping for the sticky, processed marshmallows. I adore sweet potatoes, and this recipe shows them off in a lovely way!
  • I love a nice, fresh salad to brighten up my Thanksgiving plate. Besides, I can never get enough greens! This salad is so beautiful, and I love even more cranberry on my plate, yum!
  • While there are a lot of things that say Thanksgiving to me, one thing that is totally necessary, even more than the turkey, is pumpkin pie! But how do you get a Real Food pumpkin pie? I found this pumpkin pie recipe that does a beautiful job, and I love that it has a grain-free crust for those who may have a problem with gluten. If you want a more traditional crust, you can always swap it out with this great recipe for the crust.
I hope this list helps relieve some of that pre-Thanksgiving stress while giving you a delicious, healthy meal!
I also want you to keep in mind that the way you eat your meal makes a big difference in both your enjoyment and how healthy it is for you!
When you pile your plate full to overflowing, then stuff yourself to the point of discomfort, you are trying to feel satisfied by quantity versus quality.
However, if you have food made with the highest quality of ingredients possible, and take your time to savor and enjoy each bit, that’s where you find true satisfaction! It’s healthier to eat this way in both mind and body, and it helps you enjoy your meal more!
This whole month we have been discussing Mindful Eating in the Healthy Habits program, and today we are specifically talking about how to be healthy on holidays like Thanksgiving. I would love for you to join us in that program!

3 thoughts on “A Real Food Thanksgiving Feast (and How to Dry Brine a Turkey)”

  1. I have to admit that I’ve never tried, never even heard of a dry brine, what a great (and easy) idea. So glad you linked this post up with our Thanksgiving projects in time for me to try it.

  2. It’s funny, my mom has always dry brined her turkey, although none of us ever called it that. She does something a little different, but the concept is basically the same. It does make a wonderful turkey. And now I’m totally hungry after reading your post! Those sweet potatoes with maple syrup? YUM! There really is no substitute for maple syrup. The real stuff is amazing.

    1. Wow, I have never run into anyone who has done a dry brine before, that’s awesome!

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