Turkey ballotine is the perfect dish for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any celebration when you are having a smaller gathering.
It's so simple to prepare in advance, and takes just over an hour to cook, so there's no slaving away in the kitchen. Perfect for eating hot or cold, this dish slices beautifully too.
Best of all, the stuffing is taken care of and there are no bones to worry about after, so the cleaning up is easy!
Once you've made this dish you can swap around the stuffing ingredients and enjoy all year round for summer buffets and winter dinners.
Traditionally a ballotine is a French term for a boned poultry thigh or leg which is then stuffed. This can be a chicken, duck or other poultry bird.
It is tied to keep its shape, and may even be sewn up to stop any stuffing from escaping.
It is cooked by poaching, braising or roasting.
This dish is quite common in France, often made with a whole duck, chicken or guinea fowl, especially at Christmas.
Often, you can buy meat that is already stuffed but you can also find really good sausagemeat, or farcie, with fresh herbs and seasonings and often some cognac too.
A galantine is very similar in preparation to a ballotine in that the poultry is boneless. However, a ballotine may be served hot ot cold and galantine is always served cold.
A chicken galantine could be a whole boned chicken that is stuffed and sewn or trussed together. It is then roasted and cooled then pressed like a terrine.
Typically, it is decorated with a béchamel sauce and served with aspic.
Slices of galantine are often served for the relevé course. This is like another starter normally served after a soup course.
I remember falling in love with a picture in a cook book for a recipe which involved deboning a whole turkey and stuffing it with a pistachio forcemeat.
It was not for the faint hearted, so for this dish I have simplified the preparation and cooking process.
Boned turkey breast joints are readily available all year round now, as well as in winter, so that you can make a turkey ballotine for a delicious meal that can be eaten hot or cold at any time of the year.
❤️ Why you will love this dish
- Simple to prepare.
- Easy to vary the stuffing ingredients to the time of year.
- Great for small elegant gatherings.
- No bones to deal with.
- Carves well for presentation.
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- Turkey - bonesess turkey breast, with or without skin. These are often available in the supermarket or online.
- Cranberries - dried cranberries are best as fresh ones will release too much liquid into the stuffing when it cooks.
- Chestnuts - it's possible to buy ready prepared chestnuts in a tin or in a vacuum packed pouch.
- Shallots - long banana shallots are less sharp and slightly sweeter than normal onions. The long shallots are also easier to peel.
- Sage - fresh sage gives a great flavour to poultry.
- Butter - salted or unsalted.
- Sausage meat - ideally course good quality pork sausage meat.
- Salt - cooking salt.
- Pepper - freshly ground black pepper.
The recipe card with ingredient quantities and detailed instructions can be found at the bottom of the post.
- frying pan or skillet
- sharp knife
- chopping board
- roasting dish
- mixing bowl
Start by making the forcemeat.
Peel and finely chop the shallots and sage leaves and roughly chop the chestnuts.
Melt half of the butter in the frying pan over a medium heat.
Add the shallot and fry for a few minutes without browning until they are softened.
Put the shallots, sausage meat, dried cranberries, chestnuts, sage into a bowl.
Mix together until well combined.
I find that it's easier to break up the sausage meat with a fork.
Lay the turkey breast flat on a board. If it has skin, lay it skin side down.
Open out the fillet from the breast and cut a slit at the other end, where it is attached so that the piece is roughly an even thickness.
💭 Top Tip
- If you are aiming for a perfect result, use a rolling pin to flatten the thickest part of the breast.
- The easiest way to do this is to place the turkey breast between two pieces of cling film and gently bash the thickest part.
Form the sausage meat into a long sausage in the middle of the meat to reach both ends.
Roll up the turkey and use string to secure in place.
Place in a roasting tin and smear the remaining butter over the turkey.
Season with the salt and pepper.
⏲️ Roasting Time
Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350 F / 160 FAN / Gas 4.
Roast for the turkey ballotine for 30 minutes then baste with the juices.
Return to the oven for another 30 minutes or until the juices run clear.
The internal temperature should reach 75 C or 165 F.
💭 Top Tip
- If your turkey breast is skinless then you can cover it with foil after 30 minutes to stop it drying out.
- Alternatively, lay some streaky bacon across halfway through cooking.
When the stuffed turkey breast is cooked, place on a board and cover with foil.
Leave the turkey ballotine to rest for about twenty minutes before carving.
💭 Top Tip
- It's really important to let the turkey rest after cooking. This allows the juices to settle and ensures that the meat is easy to carve.
If you are serving the turkey hot, cut it into thick slices.
For a cold buffet the stuffed turkey breast looks arranged on a plate in this slices.
🥗 Side Dishes
For a festive roast try some of these side dishes.
- Easy Roast Potatoes
- Crispy Potatoes Pavé
- Yorkshire Pudding
- Roast Savoy Cabbage
- Celeriac Purée
- Chateau Potatoes
- Honey Roast Carrots
- Cavolo Nero Kale
- Whole Roasted Cauliflower Cheese
- Honey Roasted Swede
- Leeks in White Sauce
Of course, if you are serving this cold in the summer try some of these salad dishes.
- Carrot and Celeriac Remoulade
- Asparagus, Broccoli and Edamame Salad
- Courgette Salad
- Creamy Cucumber Salad
- Tomato and Onion Salad
- Mushroom Salad
- Fennel and Pear Salad with Blue Cheese
- Sage - if you only have dried sage use 1 teaspoon or try using parsley or tarragon.
- Sausage meat - a great alternative to sausage meat is to use some good quality pork sausages and take the skins off.
There are so many stuffing variations depending on the time of year.
Add a a tablespoon of sherry or brandy to the shallots and let it bubble for a few minutes to add extra richness.
Use a selection of these ideas, chopped and added to the sausage meat.
- Bacon - use lardons or chopped bacon cooked with the shallots.
- Mushrooms - soften with the shallots.
- Dried apricots
- Sliced black olives
- Porcini - I also like to use rehydrated dried mushrooms, such as porcini, then chop and add them to the sausagemeat. They add a huge amount of flavour.
- Chicken - use the same technique and stuff chicken breast instead. Cover in bacon before roasting and cook for 20-30 minutes. You could also make individual turkey roulade by using turkey escalopes.
- Refrigerator - cool, cover and keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Freezer - cut into slices, wrap well and freeze for up to 6 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator.
- To reheat - enjoy cold or wrap in foil and heat in the oven at 180 C / 350 F / 160 FAN / Gas 4.
🍱 Prepare in advance
- Prepare this dish the day before and just bring to room temperature before cooking.
- Alternatively, prepare and freeze for up to a month. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before cooking.
🎅 More Christmas recipes
- Frying pan or skillet
- sharp knife
- chopping board
- roasting dish
- Mixing bowl
- 1 kg turkey breast
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 250 g pork sausage meat
- 2 shallots
- 60 g chestnuts
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 60 g dried cranberries
- 1 tablespoon sage
- Peel and finely chop the shallots and sage leaves and roughly chop the chestnuts.
- Melt half of the butter in the frying pan over a medium heat. Add the shallot and fry for a few minutes without browning until they are softened.
- Put the shallots, sausage meat, dried cranberries, chestnuts, sage into a bowl and mix well together.
- Lay the turkey breast flat on a board. If it has skin, lay it skin side down.
- Open out the fillet from the breast and cut a slit at the other end, where it is attached so that the piece is roughly an even thickness.
- Form the sausage meat into a long sausage in the middle of the meat to reach both ends.
- Roll up the turkey and use string to secure in place.
- Place in a roasting tin and smear the remaining butter over the turkey. Season with the salt and pepper.
- Roast for 30 minutes at 180 C / 350 F / 160 FAN / Gas 4 then baste with the juices.
- Return to the oven for another 30 minutes or until the juices run clear. The internal temperature should reach 75 C or 165 F.
- Leave the ballotine to rest for about twenty minutes before carving.
Disclaimer: The nutritional information provided is approximate and is calculated using online tools. Information can vary depending on various factors, but we have endeavoured to be as accurate as possible.
Detailed instructions for this recipe, including step by step photographs, hints and tips, can be found in the main article.
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We sometimes take for a granted that we have years (or decades) of cooking experience, that the average visitor may not. Add to, or remove from, the list below with health and safety tips.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove