Barbecued Pesto Turkey Breast

This Labor Day weekend, my kids took part in one of our favorite end- of-the-summer traditions, making homemade pesto. Basil is the one herb that I can always count on in our vegetable garden. When all else fails, the basil is growing rampant. My kids love picking the basil, helping make the pesto (it’s one of those foolproof recipes) and then storing it in airtight containers. We freeze the majority of our pesto and of course leave a few fresh containers in the fridge to use for this season. The frozen batches usually last us through the spring and the containers that aren’t frozen are used in a variety of ways.

One of my favorite ways to use fresh pesto is in Barbecued Pesto Turkey Breast. It combines all my favorite things – turkey, pesto, barbecue sauce, and grilling. I created this recipe many years ago when I had a “turkey epiphany” and realized I could combine all the above into one delicious recipe. It can now be found in “The Berghoff Family Cookbook”, or as a favorite dish at Berghoff Catering and in our home. It’s naturally gluten-free and perfect for any dinner party, serving a larger group, or if you simply want leftover turkey for your family.

Turkey breasts are one of those things most people only think to use during the holidays. They are, however, so simple to cook and are a great year round dish. I only use fresh turkey and order it from my neighborhood butcher. The trick is to marinate the turkey overnight or up to two days, refrigerated. The other secret is to grill the turkey breast for about 30 to 40 minutes before placing in the oven. Brushing it with barbecue sauce not only provides great flavor but also helps give the turkey that golden brown effect from grilling. The turkey then roasts in the oven until reaching an internal temperature of 160°F.

Barbecued Pesto Turkey Breast

Yield: Serves 8

Barbecued Pesto Turkey Breast


  • 1 (6-8 pound) boneless turkey breast
  • 1 cup pesto, without cheese
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup prepared barbecue sauce


  1. Rinse the turkey in cold water, pat dry. Place in a large bowl. Combine the pesto and olive oil, and pour over the turkey, coating evenly. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Heat the grill. Brush the turkey with the barbecue sauce and place on the grill. Turn the turkey as it cooks, brushing with sauce. Grill for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown.
  3. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Transfer the turkey to a roasting pan and roast in the oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F, about 45 minutes. Remove immediately. The turkey will continue to cook by residual heat, and its internal temperature will rise.



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