The Best Turkey Taco Recipe

Ground turkey shows up where you least expect it, in the best Turkey Taco you've ever had. This recipe has a few tricks up its sleeve to make sure every bite is juicy and perfectly seasoned. Coming to tortillas near you in, oh, about 15 minutes. 

Party in a hurry? Serve turkey tacos with my copycat recipe for Chipotle's famous Cilantro Lime Rice, lots of fresh Guacamole, Mexican Corn Salad, and Paloma cocktails all around (and maybe some homemade Horchata for the kids). You'll surprise yourself with how many times you end up making these for dinner, so pick up some extra ground turkey at the store. For more of my favorite Mexican and Tex-Mex favorites, including an easy recipe for hibiscus flower tea that is destined to become your beverage of choice for now on, I'm always happy to share.

The best turkey tacos on a white platter.
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Ground turkey hasn't always been at the top of my list when it comes to super exciting dinners. Even though it's popular, has less cholesterol than beef or pork, and tastes good, I guess I always treated it more as an afterthought than anything.

People, all that changed with this recipe right here. In fact, I may never go out for tacos ever again. Because they are that good. Really.

Authentic? Absolutely not! Ground meat tacos in Mexico are pretty scarce as it is, and ground turkey? Forget about it. It's not a thing there. But just because something is inauthentic doesn't mean it is BAD. These are great!

If you're hungry, turkey tacos are ready to gobble in under half and hour. I think I mentioned this already, but usually it takes me about 15 minutes. That's less time than it will take to heat up the tortillas and make the guac, so plan accordingly.

Making Turkey Tacos for a make-your-own taco night? Just click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.

Turkey Taco ingredients:

  • Ground turkey. 93% lean is the way to go. If you get the 99% fat free ground turkey breast, it's going to be dry.
  • Onion and fresh garlic.
  • Dried oregano. This dried herb makes turkey taste like it was born and raised for making tacos.
  • Tomato sauce. For an extra spicy turkey taco, use El Pato tomato salsa, a tomato sauce that's used in tacos, enchiladas, and all sorts of great Mexican dishes. It's in a yellow can, just under 8 ounces, with a duck on the label. Or make your own sauce with tomato paste. Mix together one 6-ounce can of paste with 1/2 cup water.
  • Brown sugar. Just 1 teaspoon, and feel free to leave it out if that sounds weird to you.
  • Apple cider vinegar. Don't sweat it if all you have is white vinegar - just use that.

The best turkey taco ingredients in various bowls.

Make your own homemade taco seasoning:

I've worked and worked on this recipe, and it's what I use to make tacos at home. Add it to ground beef, turkey, pork, or chicken, then tuck it into warm corn or flour tortillas. Or use it make a big pot of Tex Mex Sloppy Joes for the weekend by adding more tomato sauce to thin the mixture out.

  • Chili powder.
  • Paprika.
  • Ground cumin.
  • Ground coriander.
  • Cayenne pepper.
  • Salt.
  • Corn starch. Optional, but adds a little thickener in case you need it.

Taco seasoning ingredients on a white plate.

How to make Turkey Tacos:

  1. First, soften the chopped onion in a skillet with a little oil, over medium high heat. When the onions are translucent and soft, add the minced garlic, taco seasoning, and dried oregano. Stir for about 30 seconds.
    Chopped vegetables in a black skillet.
  2. Next, add the turkey. Cook until mostly done, breaking up any big clumps with a wooden spoon.
    Turkey taco meat in a black skillet.
  3. Then add the brown sugar, vinegar, and tomato sauce and mix completely.
    Turkey taco meat in a black skillet.
  4. Let the turkey simmer for about 4 minutes, until it thickens up. Then taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
    Turkey taco meat in a black skillet.

Turkey Tacos in a Slow Cooker:

Game day, big parties, whatever you need--this recipe is perfect for a DIY taco bar! Get the recipe started on the stove up to step 2, then move it to the crock pot with the tomato sauce, vinegar, and brown sugar to finish up.

  1. First, sauté the onions in a skillet on the stove. Add the taco seasoning, garlic, and dried oregano.
  2. Then add the ground turkey and cook until almost done.
  3. After that, move the turkey to the slow cooker and add the sauce, brown sugar, cider vinegar, and tomato sauce.
  4. Cover and cook on HIGH for 2-3 hours or on LOW for 6-7 hours.

Taco fixings:

Add all your favorite healthy (or not so healthy) toppings-- whatever you love! I won't tell anyone. Also....

The best turkey tacos on a white platter.

Make turkey tacos even healthier:

  • Low carb. If you're counting your carbs, just wrap the turkey taco meat in lettuce or cabbage leaves! Turkey taco lettuce wraps = Paleo/Keto/Low-Carb perfection.
  • Add beans. Beans make everything louder. I mean, better. Boost the fiber by making a side of Chipotle Pinto Beans.
  • Add quinoa. Add cooked quinoa to the mixture to add nutrients to the meat.
  • Turkey taco salad. Add the cooked meat to a big salad with chopped lettuce, beans, tomatoes, scallions, and a creamy cilantro lime dressing.

How to freeze Turkey Taco meat:

This stuff freezes beautifully. Here's how.

  1. Once you cook the turkey meat according to the recipe, let it cool.
  2. Then transfer it to a freezer-safe bag and press flat to gently squeeze out the air from the bag as it seals. Label and date.
  3. To thaw, defrost the meat in the fridge overnight. Then reheat in the skillet with a little extra salsa or tomato sauce, if needed.
The best turkey tacos on a white platter.

The Best Turkey Taco Recipe

Ground turkey shows up where you least expect it, in the best Turkey Taco you've ever had. This recipe has a few tricks up its sleeve to make sure every bite is juicy and perfectly seasoned. Coming to tortillas near you in, oh, about 15 minutes. 
4.96 from 24 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 263kcal
Author: Meggan Hill

Ingredients

For the taco seasoning (see notes):

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional)

For the tacos:

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce (see notes)
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Corn tortillas or flour tortillas

Instructions

To make the taco seasoning:

  • In a small bowl, whisk together chlii powder, cumin, paprika, coriander, cayenne pepper, and salt to taste (I like 1/2 teaspoon), Whisk in cornstarch if desired. (Or, substitute one packet store-bought taco seasoning).

To make the tacos:

  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in taco seasoning, garlic, and oregano until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Add ground turkey and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost cooked through but still slightly pink, about 2 minutes.
  • Stir in tomato sauce, vinegar, and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Divide filling evenly among tortillas and serve with healthy garnishes such as shredded lettuce, diced tomato and avocado, scallions, and cilantro leaves.

Video

Notes

Nutrition

Calories: 263kcal
Tried this Recipe? Pin it for Later!Mention @CulinaryHill or tag #CulinaryHill!

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  1. Jody Simms

    These were AMAZE!5 stars

  2. Clare M venet

    A big hit in this home and everyone enjoys the taste.5 stars

    1. Meggan

      What fantastic news! Thanks Clare! -Meggan

  3. Lucy

    These were delish! Thank you!5 stars

  4. Bailey

    I absolutely love this recipe, the only thing I omit because I don’t like the taste of is the coriander & apple cider vinegar. Also, I do use the corn starch that is listed as optional. Also, I use canned sauce, not jar sauce for this recipe. I don’t eat red meat anymore, so this is a great alternative if you don’t either. Also, since tacos are one my favorite meals this is a keeper in my recipe book.5 stars

  5. Ellen

    The seasonings are great. Turkey tacos have never tasted so good! This will go on our favorites list! (There was no need for cornstarch either.)5 stars

  6. Monya Hoerner

    This THE most delicious turkey taco recipe I have come across….I did only use 1 can of tomato sauce with two lbs. of ground turkey it was the consistency I like, I did double everything else.5 stars

  7. Patty

    My family absolutely loves this recipe. This is our GO-TO for Taco Nights. My kids devour them!!! Thank you so much for this delicious recipe.

  8. Megan Lindsay

    I’m not sure if it’s a cultural thing, but my family really did not care for the flavors of this meat. When I read the recipe I thought the addition of cider vinegar and brown sugar was strange, but decided to try it anyway. However it simply didn’t taste authentic. It was more like a cheap Americanized version of Mexican flavors–like adding ketchup to tacos. Having lived in Arizona our whole lives we’ve grown up with some of the best Mexican food in the country, and tacos are a way of life. Don’t think this one makes the cut, unfortunately.

    1. meggan

      Hi Megan, I have traveled to Mexico monthly for years, so I certainly have a grasp on Mexican food. The minute you saw “turkey tacos” you should have been tipped off that this wasn’t authentic. This is absolutely a riff on Americanized tacos, like the ground beef version but made with ground turkey. I don’t really feel like I have to apologize because if you “know Mexican food” you should have known this wasn’t it. I know Mexican food but I still like these. Anyway, I hope you follow your gut in the future and don’t make recipes that appear on the face of them to not meet your standards, as this one didn’t. This was never going to be authentic, and it isn’t trying to be. There is no “authentic ground turkey taco.”

  9. Amy Leigh Kennedy

    Turned out great, will definitely make them again!! Thanks5 stars

  10. Joy

    One of the best recipes I ever made. Fabulous. Can I use this recipe with shrimp? Will it go?

    1. meggan

      Hi Joy, I’m SO GLAD you loved the turkey tacos! I made them today too. I just love them. I have never tried them with shrimp. I’m happy to test it out and report back; it’s just going to take me a few days. But I’ll find out! I feel like it would be good. How could it be bad? I know it’s going to be amazing. I’m really excited to try! Thanks for the idea! -Meggan

  11. Alane

    MUST MAKE! I am not a beginner, however, this recipe is great for everyone from the novice cook to the advanced. I followed this exactly as written, used the tomato sauce and did not need corn starch. The flavor so DELICIOUS and moist! I couldn’t stop eating!5 stars

  12. Ashti Roodal

    This recipe was sooo good! Definitely will keep and try again!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Thank you so much Ashti! I really do make these every week. Or almost every week. I just love them! Thanks again! I hope you have a great day. -Meggan

  13. Karen

    Delicious! Meat was so moist and flavorful. I reduced the tomato sauce by half Because don’t like it too wet, but otherwise followed recipe exactly. Served with healthy refried black beans and it was a huge hit with the family. Won’t make turkey tacos any other way. Thanks so much for a great recipe.5 stars

  14. Jim

    II am not a good cook. It took me a great deal of time to make this, as with everything else that comes out of my kitchen. Most of the time was searching for spices. However, the end result was worth the effort. Terrific. Thank you.5 stars

    1. Meggan

      Wow, thank you so much Jim! This just makes my day. I’m glad you liked them. -Meggan

  15. Elizabeth Sazdanoff

    Oh…my…wow. Love it! I had to double the recipe so we could include my boyfriend’s roommate, and I’m glad I did, because with the inevitable leftovers…I’m thinking nachos tomorrow! I can’t get enough, I loved this dish! I did use the corn starch and the tomato paste+water options, and boy is it rich and juicy! And, very easy to meal prep with. I got the spices mixed up and veggies chopped ahead of time, so all I had to do was toss it on the stove when people were ready to eat!5 stars

  16. Tina Bourgeois

    I made this recipe because I needed something quick to do with ground turkey I thought tacos would be easy enough. My son is fairly picky, and I was scared he wouldn’t like the ground turkey so I turned to Google just see how I could treat it differently than ground beef. My son loved them! He actually liked them better than what I usually make.. Thanks!5 stars

  17. Shelly

    These are the best turkey tacos I’ve ever made! Definitely a keeper. Thank you also for the “jump to recipe” feature. I was pressed for time and using my phone in the kitchen, so this was the most convenient feature.5 stars

  18. Tami Harrah

    so good. Thanks you. Moist and flavorful5 stars

  19. Karen

    Love this recipe! I made a few adjustments because my husband is a crazy picky eater. I used your tomato paste suggestion but reduced it to about 3 tablespoons. I was out of Apple Cider Vinegar so used white wine vinegar. My husband though it was a pan of sloppy joes & I thought oh oh. But…. the taste was amazing. The meat was crazy tender. It was a hit and I’ll definitely make this again.5 stars

    1. Meggan

      That’s amazing! Thanks for letting me know Karen!

  20. Elizabeth

    Very easy and tasty. The family loved it!5 stars

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