Sous Vide Turkey Thighs

You can't argue with tender, moist, flavorful and stress-free. That sums up sous vide turkey thighs glazed with maple syrup, Balsamic, Dijon and orange zest.

I know there are a lot of turkey dark meat doubters out there, but you just might change your mind when you taste these turkey thighs.

Sous Vide Turkey Thighs with Maple Balsamic Glaze

The soft tender meat emboldened by the glaze and sauce is simply delicious. I admit even I was surprised and I'm a dark meat lover.

Roasted turkey thighs or whole legs can be chewy, tough and stringy. The sous vide method creates a whole different universe for thighs. And the best part is they only take about 20 minutes of hands on time.

I have tried this recipe with bone-in turkey thighs. I recommend removing the bone before you start for more even cooking, super easy slicing and a much better presentation. Here's a video on how to debone and turkey thigh. Or, ask your butcher to do it. 

For those who are new to this cooking method:

Sous vide cooking is a technique in which food, sealed in a bag, is immersed in a water bath and cooked at a very precise, consistent temperature. This cooks the food to perfection - the exact temperature (e.g. medium rare) that you choose. No worries about overcooking. Meats are amazingly tender. And the whole process is pretty much stress free.

I have used an 'oven' type sous vide machine from Cedarlane Culinary that works great. But I have now switched to the Anova sous vide immersion circulator. 

What to serve with sous vide turkey thighs

I love to serve these turkey thighs with quinoa, Pearl Couscous With Vegetables and Apricots, Basic Mashed Potatoes, Root Vegetable Mash, Mushroom Spinach Couscous or Curried Rice with Raisins.

If you're hosting a Thanksgiving dinner, check out our 44 Thanksgiving side dishes - some traditional, some not. 

Sous vide tips 

We've been experimenting with sous vide for several years. Our post on Best Sous Vide Recipes includes:

  • great sous vide recipes,
  • tips on do's and dont's of sous vide cooking, and
  • links to several experts' time and temperature charts which are the holy grail of sous vide.

Cooking time and temperature

I choose a cooking temperature of 150F/65.6C for tender, moist thighs. 

Cook for minimum 2 ½ hours and a maximum of 4 ½ hours. (If thighs are fairly large, I cook them for 3 ½ to 4 hours).

Make ahead 

  • To prepare ahead: You can vacuum seal (or place in a zippered sealed bag) and refrigerate the thighs for a few days before cooking.
  • To cook ahead same day: The sous vide process can be done ahead of time (or just leave the sealed bags in the water an extra 30-60 minutes). Glaze and broil the cooked thighs just before serving.
  • To cook it a couple of days ahead, sous vide the turkey, cool it down for 10-15 minutes in an ice water bath, then place bag with the turkey in the fridge. To warm the turkey (retherm it), place in water bath at 140F/60C for 45 minutes to an hour. Then pat dry and sear if desired.

Other turkey recipes you might like

How to make sous vide turkey thighs

boneless turkey thighs, fresh rosemary,oil, salt, pepper, seasoning
Main ingredients: boneless turkey thighs, fresh rosemary, oil, salt, pepper, poultry seasoning
 Turkey Thighs being vacuum sealed in bag
Vacuum seal thighs in a vacuum bag (or use a zipper lock plastic bags with the water displacement method)
vacuum sealed turkey thighs
Submerge sous vide bag into water bath and cook thighs at 150F (65C) for 2.5-4.5 hours. 
maple dijon orange glaze ingredients
Make the glaze with maple syrup, orange juice, balsamic vinegar, Dijon and rosemary.  Half will be used to glaze the thighs, the other half to make a sauce if you like.  
Sous Vide Turkey Thighs cooked on paper towel
Remove cooked thighs, pat dry well with paper towels.
glazed Turkey Thighs
Glaze turkey thighs and broil for 2-3 minutes. Brush with additional glaze. Alternatively, sear on high heat with a bit of oil in a cast iron skillet, then brush on glaze before serving.
sliced sous vide turkey thighs on cutting board 1
Slice and sprinkle with orange zest and parsley if desired.

sliced sous vide turkey thighs over quinoa on plate with orange slices 2

forkful of turkey thigh meat

sliced boneless Turkey thighs on plate over quinoa with glaze f
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4.71 from 24 votes

Sous Vide Turkey Thighs

You can't argue with tender, moist, flavorful and stress-free. That sums up sous vide turkey thighs glazed with maple syrup, Balsamic, Dijon and orange zest. The hands on time for this dish is about 20 minutes. The rest is hands free. What a pleasure. Even white meat lovers will love this sous vide recipe.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time3 hrs 10 mins
Total Time3 hrs 30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Sous Vide
Servings: 3 -4
Author: Cheryl

Equipment

  • sous vide equipment - oven type or sous vide immersion circulator; vacuum seal bag or freezer safe zipper lock bag.

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless turkey thighs, with or without skin, Note 1 (1.5-2.0 pounds/0.68-0.9 kg total)
  • 2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning or thyme
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary (or ½ teaspoon dried)
  • OPTIONAL BRINE: salt, peppercorns, sugar Note 1

Glaze

  • 2 tablespoon Maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon good Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest, divided
  • ½ teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary (or fresh thyme)
  • teaspoon each, salt and pepper

Turn Glaze into Sauce

  • ½ cup (118 ml) turkey juices or chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • GARNISH: sea salt, chopped parsley, extra orange zest

Instructions

  • BRINE TURKEY THIGHS (OPTIONAL): Note 2 
  • PREPARE SOUS VIDE BATH: Fill water in a large pot, container or sous vide machine as per manufacturers instructions. Set the temperature of immersion circulator (or sous vide 'oven') to 150F/65.6C and allow water to heat to that temperature.
  • PREPARE TURKEY FOR SOUS VIDE: Mix oil and poultry seasoning in a small bowl. Rub mixture all over turkey thighs and tuck edges under to make an even roll. Place small sprig of fresh rosemary under each thigh or sprinkle some dried rosemary on thighs. Don't put in too much rosemary or the flavors will be overpowering.
  • SOUS VIDE TURKEY: Place thighs side by side in freezer zipper-lock bag. Slowly lower bag into water. The pressure of the water will press air out of bag. When bag is just above water line and air is mostly out, seal (zip up) bag. Cooking time is minimum 2 ½ hours and a maximum of 4 ½ hours. (If thighs are fairly large, I cook them for 3 ½ to 4 hours). Remove from water bath. Take thighs out of bag and remove skin if there is any. Reserve juices for sauce. Pat turkey dry with a paper towel.
  • MAKE GLAZE/SAUCE: In a small bowl or cup, whisk together all Glaze ingredients including ½ teaspoon orange zest. Half of glaze will be used to glaze thighs - the rest to make the sauce.
    To make sauce, add remaining half of glaze, cornstarch, turkey juices or broth, ½ teaspoon orange zest and salt and pepper to taste to a small sauce pan. Heat on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until slightly reduced and thickened. Taste and adjust seasonings (syrup, salt, orange, etc).
  • FINISH AND SERVE: To brown for a nice presentation or to get crispy skin (if using thighs with skin), place thighs on foil lined baking sheet, (skin side up if using skin), brush with glaze all over and broil for 2-3 minutes (no need to turn over) 6 inches/15 cm from heat at top. Remove and brush with glaze again. Add garnish of orange zest and parsley if desired. Slice and serve with sauce drizzled on top or on the side.

Notes

  1. How to debone a turkey thigh. Here's a video
  2. To brine turkey thighs (optional): I  buy kosher turkey, already brined, but you can easily brine thighs yourself to add flavor: Fill ziplock bag with 3 cups room temperature water, 3 tablespoons kosher salt, 1 tablespoon, 6-8 peppercorns. Massage to dissolve salt and sugar. Place thighs in bag, seal and let sit in fridge for about 1-2 hours. Don't brine too long as boneless thighs are not very thick.
  3. To Make Ahead: 
    • To prepare ahead: You can vacuum seal (or zipper lock) and refrigerate the thighs for a few days before cooking.
    • To cook ahead same day: The sous vide process can be done ahead of time (or just leave the sealed bags in the water an extra 30-60 minutes). Glaze and broil the cooked thighs just before serving.
    • To cook it a couple of days ahead, sous vide the turkey, cool it down for 10-15 minutes in a large bowl of ice water, then place bag with the turkey in the fridge. To warm the turkey (retherm it), place in water bath at 140F/60C for 45 minutes to an hour. Then pat dry and sear if desired.
 
Nutrition values do not include garnishes or optional brining which will increase the sodium level very slightly (actually only a small amount is absorbed). 

Nutrition

Calories: 430kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 43g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 141mg | Sodium: 1272mg | Potassium: 608mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 18IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 39mg | Iron: 4mg
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8 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Pretty easy and results are impressive! I did the optional brining but not sure if it's necessary. I didn't have poultry seasoning - used bouquet garni. Yum. And the glaze is really good.

    1. I agree brining does not really add a lot for boneless turkey or chicken. Thanks for leaving a comment - glad you like it!

  2. I couldn't get boneless thighs; how would you adjust this for bone-in thighs? (Also, i don't have orange zest. But I do have orange juice. Could I use a minute amount of that for the flavor?) It sounds delicious, and I'm itching to try it!

    1. Here’s what I would do: If you are willing, remove the bone before cooking the thighs. If you can't or don't want to, sous vide at 148F and increase the cooking time to 4-4.5 hrs. Instead of making a glaze then the sauce, just make the sauce with 1/4 cup turkey juices and 1/2 cup orange juice and 2 tsp cornstarch. Taste and adjust with the other glaze ingredients as needed. Brush half on while broiling then use the rest when serving. The orange flavor may not be quite as intense but will hopefully still come through. Good luck and hope you like it!

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