Create empty branch on GitHub

--orphan is good for creating an empty branch locally, however, in order to push it or interact with other branches, you will need a commit.

Creating a new commit on an orphan branch is not a good idea because you won't be able to interact with other branches. I.e.

git checkout --orphan test
git commit --allow-empty -m "init test branch"
git merge master
fatal: refusing to merge unrelated histories

Instead, you should prefer creating a new branch from the first commit of master. If the commit is not empty you can add an empty commit before the first one, as explained by @houtanb.

You can also follow the instructions here to create an empty commit at the root of your master branch. Then just create your release branch where that empty root commit is.

November 2021 Update: As of git version 2.27, you can now use git switch --orphan <new branch> to create an empty branch with no history.

Unlike git checkout --orphan <new branch>, this branch won't have any files from your current branch (save for those which git doesn't track).

This should be the preferred way to create empty branches with no prior history.

Once you actually have commits on this branch, it can be pushed to github via git push -u origin <branch name>:

git switch --orphan <new branch>
git commit --allow-empty -m "Initial commit on orphan branch"
git push -u origin <new branch>

Original answer:

What's wrong with the --orphan option? If you want a branch that is empty and have no history, this is the way to go...

git checkout --orphan empty-branch

Then you can remove all the files you'll have in the staging area (so that they don't get committed):

git rm -rf .

At this point you have an empty branch, on your machine.

Before you can push to GitHub (or any other Git repository), you will need at least one commit, even if it does not have any content on it (i.e. empty commit), as you cannot push an empty branch

git commit --allow-empty -m "root commit"

Finally, push it to the remote, and crack open a beer

git push origin empty-branch