The Best Turkey Tacos

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Ground turkey shows up where you least expect it, in the Best Turkey Tacos 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 about 15 minutes.

The best turkey tacos on a white platter.


 

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

Ground turkey is a great alternative to ground beef if you don’t eat red meat or just want something a little lighter (but it still has a lot of protein which we love!). Taco recipes in general are great for meal prep because the meat can be used for salads, bowls, and wraps in addition to tacos.

Recipe ingredients

Labeled turkey taco ingredients in bowls.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Taco seasoning: Ingredients for homemade taco seasoning are right in the recipe card in the amount you need. Or, substitute one packet of store-bought taco seasoning.
  • Ground turkey: Look for 93% lean ground turkey. If you get the 99% fat-free ground turkey breast, your meat is going to be dry.
  • Brown sugar: Leave this out if it sounds weird to you.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together chili powder, cumin, paprika, coriander, cayenne pepper, and salt to taste (I like ½ teaspoon), Whisk in cornstarch if desired. (Or, substitute one packet store-bought taco seasoning).
A bowl of homemade taco seasoning.
  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Chopped vegetables in a black skillet.
  1. Stir in taco seasoning, garlic, and oregano until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add ground turkey and cook, breaking up clumps with a wooden spoon, until almost cooked through but still slightly pink, about 2 minutes.
Turkey taco meat in a black skillet.
  1. 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.
Turkey taco meat in a black skillet.
  1. Serve the meat hot with the tortillas and all your favorite taco toppings like lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, cheese, and diced avocado.
The best turkey tacos on a white platter.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes about 4 cups (1 quart) of delicious Turkey Taco meat. That’s enough for 4 servings, 1 cup of meat each, enough to make 3 or 4 tacos per person.
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Freezer: Cool the cooked meat, then transfer it to a freezer-safe bag and press flat to gently squeeze out the air from the bag as it seals. Label, date, and freeze up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator (never at room temperature). Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.
  • Slow cooker:  Sauté the onions in a skillet on the stove. Add the taco seasoning, garlic, and dried oregano. Add the ground turkey and cook until almost done. Transfer the turkey to the slow cooker and add the sauce, brown sugar, cider vinegar, and tomato sauce. Cover and cook on HIGH for 2-3 hours or on LOW for 6-7 hours.
  • Dried spices: Cooking out of the pantry? Substitute ½ teaspoon garlic powder and 1 tablespoon onion powder or 3 tablespoons dried onion flakes for the fresh garlic and onion.
  • Taco toppings: Load it all up! Try lettuce, tomato, avocado (or avocado sauce), guacamole, shredded cheese, sour cream, black olives, minced white onion, cilantro, and minced jalapeños.
  • Salsa: Try mild tomato salsa (pico de gallo), hot salsa, green tomatillo salsa, or corn salsa.
  • Crunchy taco shells: Fry corn tortillas until crispy on the stove or in the oven.
  • Lettuce wraps: This taco meat is delicious on butter lettuce or romaine leaves.
  • Taco salad or bowl: Add the cooked meat to a bowl with chopped lettuce, cooked black beans, tomatoes, scallions, and a creamy cilantro lime dressing. Add cooked brown rice to make a hearty turkey taco bowl. Serve with tortilla chips.
  • Add quinoa: Add cooked quinoa to the mixture to make it more filling or stretch it further.
  • More ground turkey recipes: Turkey Meatloaf and Turkey Chili are tasty way to eat more ground turkey, and Turkey Meatballs are one of the most popular recipes on this site.
  • Ground Chicken Tacos: Easy Ground Chicken Tacos are juicy, perfectly seasoned, and perfect for hectic weeknights. They are also lightning fast, ready in about 15 minutes!

Frequently Asked Questions

Are turkey tacos healthier than beef tacos?

Ground turkey is lower in cholesterol and saturated fat than ground beef, so by that measurement, it’s healthier. Lean beef can be enjoyed in moderation depending on your goals.

Is turkey a good substitute for beef?

There are many recipes where ground turkey is a fantastic, maybe even preferable, substitute for beef. Meatloaf, meatballs, tacos, spaghetti sauce, and chili are some of the best ways. You won’t even miss the beef!

What fat to add to ground turkey?

Olive oil and avocado oil are two great fats to consider when cooking with ground turkey.

More easy dinner ideas

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The best turkey tacos on a white platter.

The Best Turkey Tacos

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 about 15 minutes. 
Prep Time 3 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 4 servings (1 cup each)
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Mexican
Calories 212
4.99 from 403 votes

Equipment

Ingredients 

For the taco seasoning (see note 1):

For the tacos:

Toppings for serving:

Instructions 

To make the taco seasoning:

  • In a small bowl, whisk together chili powder, cumin, paprika, coriander, cayenne pepper, and salt to taste (I like ½ 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.

To serve:

  • Serve the meat hot with the tortillas and all your favorite toppings like lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, cheese, and diced avocado.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Taco seasoning: Ingredients for homemade taco seasoning are right in the recipe card in the amount you need. Or, substitute one packet of store-bought taco seasoning.
  2. Ground turkey: Look for 93% lean ground turkey. If you get the 99% fat-free ground turkey breast, your meat is going to be dry.
  3. Brown sugar: Leave this out if it sounds weird to you.
  4. Yield: This recipe makes about 4 cups (1 quart) of delicious Turkey Taco meat. That’s enough for 4 servings, 1 cup of meat each, enough to make 3 or 4 tacos per person.
  5. Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 cup meatCalories: 212kcalCarbohydrates: 7gProtein: 22gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 84mgSodium: 116mgPotassium: 368mgFiber: 2gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 932IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 60mgIron: 3mg
Did you make this recipe?Tag @culinaryhill on Instagram so we can admire your masterpiece! #culinaryhill
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Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.

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Comments

  1. This recipe worked very well for me. It got many compliments and was easy. I made it ahead of time and reheated and served it in my crock pot.

  2. Meggan, Thank you for this delicious recipe. It’s easy even making the spice seasoning mix. I had 1-1/2 lb of turkey so I adjusted the ingredients accordingly except for the cayenne because I’m a sissy and can handle the heat.5 stars

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed them! And I’m so glad you know your limits so you could make them enjoyable to eat instead of painfully spicy 😉 -Meggan

  3. Made this tonight for the first time — everyone loved it! This will be our usual taco recipe from now on. Served with pico de gallo, cheese, and sour cream. Yum!5 stars

    1. Hi Steve, I’m so glad you loved the turkey tacos! I just tried the recipe recently with beef too, it blew my mind, I don’t know why it took me this long to try it. Turkey might still be my favorite though. Thank you so much and take care! -Meggan

  4. Dear Meggan, Thank you for your yummy turkey taco recipe! We enjoyed the flavor and texture, and I look forward to making them again.5 stars

    1. Thank you so much for this lovely comment! I love the taco recipe too, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thanks again and have a great week. -Meggan

  5. Thanks Meggan!! Question for you, do you think it’s important to add the spices to the onions, as opposed to the turkey, once it’s browned? (Big debate between me and my BF 🙂 )5 stars

    1. You’re welcome! I prefer to do it this way, so the flavors have a chance to develop and season the turkey well. Take care! – Meggan

  6. Thanks Meggan! Question do you think it’s important to add the taco seasoning to the onion and not after the ground turkey is already browned?5 stars

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