These healthy ground Turkey Tacos are so tasty and quick to put together ANY night can be taco night! Perfect healthy delicious dinner less than 20 minutes. The whole family will love these so skip the “packet” and go homemade!
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If someone ever told me I had to narrow down all the foods I love and only eat one thing the rest of my life, I’d be hard pressed not to at least consider tacos.
There are so many different, a-ma-zing combinations of tortillas and fillings that I’m pretty sure I’d never get bored: fish tacos, fajita tacos, carnitas tacos, even those chocolate-covered, ice-cream stuffed choco-tacos.
One of my family’s favorites is my version of Turkey Tacos, a quick and easy, people-pleasing meal that you’ll want to add to your own list of “things I could eat every night,” especially since you’ll barely have time to set the table before these are ready to put ON your table.
My recipe is for ground Turkey Tacos, which are much more practical for me than shredded turkey tacos since I only have a leftover shredded turkey that one day in November everyone else does (when Thanksgiving turkey tacos may seem like a better option than some other creative use for those leftovers!).
What makes my Turkey Tacos infinitely better than just adding a store-bought seasoning mix is that I’ve created my own blend of spices and seasonings that’s perfectly dialed in for my family and yours – even the picky eaters – with a special depth of flavor you just can’t find in one of those little packets from the grocery store.
Ground turkey gets a bad rap sometimes, especially from those who believe ground beef is the only thing good enough to grace the inside of a crispy shell. But it really is a wonderful alternative both for flavor and texture, plus it makes me feel a little less guilty about going back for seconds . . . or thirds.
IS GROUND TURKEY BETTER FOR YOU THAN GROUND BEEF?
Although some prefer the milder flavor of turkey over beef, others choose ground turkey because it’s better for your heart.
If you compare a similar lean-to-fat batch of turkey to beef, you’ll find the calories and protein content are pretty consistent for both, but the turkey contains less saturated fat.
Most of us equate fat with flavor when we’re talking about meat, but with the right seasonings and care to not overcook it, turkey can be just as satisfyingly scrumptious as beef. That’s where my Turkey Tacos seasoning knocks other turkey taco recipes out of the ballpark.
WHAT DOES GROUND TURKEY MEAT TASTE LIKE?
Ground turkey is a very mild meat – similar to chicken or pork – that basically serves as a blank canvas for whatever culinary concoction you’re in the mood to put together. If you’ve had both light and dark meat off that Thanksgiving turkey, I’d say it more closely resembles the breast meat.
Ground turkey IS mild, so whether you’re using it in a pasta dish, making turkey meatloaf, or stufftaco cing it in tortillas you want to choose ingredients that pack a serious flavor punch.
I like to start with fresh chopped onion, since that adds a teeny bit of texture, then add all my spices. Chili powder, smoky cumin, oregano, coriander, and garlic set the stage for a classic Tex-Mex meal.
They’re staples in most store-bought mixes for a reason! Adding them into the oil with the onion gives each of these herbs and spices a chance for the hot oil to extract all the flavor out of them before they meet the ground turkey.
Ground turkey is available in a few different lean-to-fat versions, and the leanest (99% lean to 1% fat) is mostly white meat. These tacos are best made with a good mixture of light and dark meat, like an 85/15 blend. Using all breast meat just doesn’t bring the same flavor.
This IS turkey, though, so the advantage of it being lower fat means there’s the disadvantage of it drying out.
Unlike ground beef, we don’t need to brown the turkey before we add the sauce – just seal the edges of the pieces with heat, then let the turkey finish cooking in the sauce. It won’t overcook this way, plus it’ll absorb a little more of the saucy goodness by cooking directly IN it.
Most other taco recipes would stop here, or maybe add a few diced tomatoes into the mix. I took a little inspiration from the classic sloppy Joe recipe and created a savory, tangy, subtly sweet sauce that is, I think, what makes this such a popular recipe for my family.
Tomato sauce makes the filling nice and thick (which helps minimize dribbles out of your taco shell), and I add a touch of apple cider vinegar and brown sugar for that teeny bit of “sweet and sour” quality everyone loves in those messy sandwiches.
There’s so much flavor here you might be tempted to serve this filling in a bowl all by itself, but I definitely suggest loading up some taco shells with all your favorite taco toppers.
HOW MANY CALORIES ARE IN HOMEMADE TURKEY TACOS?
The calorie content of homemade Turkey Tacos can vary depending on the type of tortilla, the amount of cheese and other toppings. An average crispy turkey taco with cheese and sour cream have around 190 calories. If you use a soft shell, you’ll add another 20 calories or so.
This is seriously like the fastest dinner and so simple to put together (second only, maybe, to my Taco Chili). Prepping the toppings may actually be the most time-consuming part!
If you want to make this ahead of time for some reason, though, you can make ground Turkey Tacos slow cooker style by softening your onions and cooking the turkey, then putting everything into the crockpot on low for a few hours.
I prefer to double this recipe and pop some of the taco fillings into the freezer so there’s always some waiting on me.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF TURKEY MEAT IS BAD?
If ground turkey is bad, the smell may be sour (or just “off”) and it may have a slimy coating or strange color. Remember when in doubt, throw it out!
Even these amazing Turkey Tacos aren’t worth getting sick over. If you store it in the refrigerator, the raw ground turkey should keep 1 – 2 days. You can stretch that to 3 – 4 months in the freezer if it’s wrapped really well.
My filling will last just as long in the freezer, so you’re always prepared in case of a taco emergency.
- 2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
- 1 Cup Onion Chopped
- 1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
- 2 Teaspoons Cumin
- 2 Teaspoons Oregano
- 1/2 Teaspoon Coriander
- 1/2 Teaspoons Garlic Powder
- 1 Pound Ground Turkey
- 8 Ounces Tomato Sauce
- 1 1/2 Teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 1/2 Teaspoons Brown Sugar
- 3 Teaspoons Salt
- 1/2 Teaspoons Black Pepper
- Corn or Flour Tortillas Softened
- Shredded Cheese
- Sour Cream
- Fresh Cilantro Chopped
- Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet, over medium-high heat, until it shimmers. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until it just begins to brown, 3-5 minutes. Stir in chili powder, cumin, oregano, coriander and garlic powder and continue to cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the turkey to the skillet and continue to cook, until its still slightly pink, about 2 minutes.
- Add the tomato sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, salt and pepper and cook until the sauce thickens about 4 minutes. Adjust seasonings.
- Serve with prepared tortillas and your favorite toppings.
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RECIPE NOTES FOR TURKEY TACOS:
Use leftovers – As I’ve already mentioned, I don’t cook turkey very often and rarely have leftovers to make leftover Turkey Tacos. If you do have some cooked turkey on hand, you can make chopped or pulled Turkey Tacos by substituting 2 ½ to 3 cups of cooked turkey for the ground. Keep in mind you may need to adjust the amount of salt in the recipe, depending on how seasoned your leftovers are.
Heat it up – If you want to make spicy Turkey Tacos, you can stir in a few dashes of cayenne pepper with the spices. If you have some chipotle peppers in adobo on hand, you can stir in one or two finely chopped peppers along with a little adobo for a smoky kick, or even chop a fresh jalapeno (or three!) and saute it with the onion.
Serving suggestions – Serve these with warmed corn or flour tortillas, or the boxed prepared taco shells (heated, of course). My kids go crazy for those crunchy things! If you want to do a lower carb version, you can skip the shells altogether and serve it as a tasty Turkey Taco salad with your favorite lettuce blend on the bottom and lots of toppings.
More Taco Recipes…
- Walking Tacos– Pump up your dinner “fun factor” for kids of all ages with our Walking Tacos! Make them for 50 or for 100 by following this no-fuss recipe!
- Taco Meat Recipe– With just the right amount of spice, my Taco Meat Recipe is ready in 20 minutes! No need to wait for Taco Tuesday! With this recipe, anytime is Taco Time!
- Taco Soup– Full of beefy taco flavor, Taco Soup is bursting with meat and beans in a seasoned broth. Pile on your favorite toppings for taco perfection in every bite!
- Taco Joes – a yummy twist on everyone’s favorite messy sandwich, the sloppy joes.
- Impossible Taco Pie – my go-to, I’ve got no time to cook anything, but delicious dinner.
Source: Adapted From American Test Kitchen