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 23 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
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  1. Cara

    This has become our favorite taco recipe ever! I have already made them three times! :) The homemade taco seasoning seems to be the key!5 stars

    1. Meggan

      Wow! Thank you so much Cara! This makes my day! :D -Meggan

  2. jessica johnston

    I tried this recipe but swapped out the tomato sauce for about half a can of diced tomatoes, and added cumin, cayenne pepper, chilli pepper, and chipotle seasoning. It was delicious and I will definitely make it again!4 stars

  3. Crystal

    I made these tonight since ground turkey was on a great sale last week and they’re very good. Sauce is a new interesting take on taco filling though. I made Spanish rice and had black beans on the side. 5 stars

  4. Christina

    These were delicious. I forgot the onion but they still turned out great. My husband was super sceptical when he heard “turkey tacos” but after eating them he’s won over. These are great paired with corn and green chilies as a side cooked in the cast iron skillet, instead of the regular Mexican rice side.5 stars

  5. These do sound absolutely delicious! Perfect for mid-week meals.

  6. thomas

    great recipe! only thing i would’ve left out is the tomato sauce cause it taste like sloppy joes with it. Next time I’ll just do the taco seasoning and maybe add a little cumin and chili powder to taste. Also if you’re on paleo diet try hearts of romaine or butter lettuce instead of tortillas, very delicious!!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hey Thomas, sorry you didn’t love the tomato sauce. For whatever reason it works for me, but yeah, SO easy to leave it out! I’ve eaten this turkey meat on butter lettuce a zillion times, it’s so good! So good. Good call. Thank you so much for leaving a comment! Take care.

  7. I do like turkey tacos and yours look and sound amazing.  I also don’t choose turkey as my first choice for meatloaf!  Too dry in my opinion.  I like your husbands junk food tip, something my husband would totally do :)5 stars

  8. Hhhmmmm…. Turkey tacos? I never thought I’d utter those two words in the same sentence! But I must admit, I think you convinced me to give them a try. The do look delicious! 

    1. meggan

      I hope you do, because I too shun ground turkey foods! LOL! Except for these. This is my one exception, and they are really good. You may have to get over the mental block of “I’m eating ground turkey” but if you can just take one bite, I think you’ll be convinced. :D

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