Ground Turkey Tacos

June 30, 2021

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Turkey Tacos – includes a filling of lean ground turkey that’s seasoned with fresh salsa and plenty of spices, then it’s layered into warmed tortillas and finished with all the best classic taco toppings!

Photo: 7 ground turkey tacos in a row shown on a white oval platter from above. Tacos are filled with meat, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese and red onion.

Easy Ground Turkey Tacos Recipe

Weeknights usually call for quick recipes, like these simple turkey tacos.

They have a quick prep and can be ready in 30 minutes! We even simplify with a store-bought salsa to save time, and you could also go the pre-shredded lettuce and pre-shredded cheese route for more short-cuts.

Or just assign help with toppings to a family member or friend if they’ll get to enjoy the meal too and you can have dinner ready in a flash!

These healthy turkey tacos are definitely an upgrade from your standard taco seasoning packet tacos. The secret is to add some freshness (bright salsa, garlic, cilantro) and your own blend of spices.

It’s a recipe destined to become a regular on the dinner menu!

Wondering what to serve with tacos?

Here are a few classic options:

Photo: Ingredients for turkey tacos. Includes ground turkey, corn tortillas, salsa, chili powders, cumin, salt, pepper, garlic, cilantro, tomatoes, cheese, lettuce and olive oil.

Turkey Tacos Recipe Ingredients and Possible Substitutes

  • Olive oil: Vegetable oil will work fine too.
  • Lean ground turkey: I use 93% lean but 85 or 90% will be fine too. Just drain of excess fat as needed.
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper: Start light and add more later when you can taste it once the meat is cooked.
  • Garlic: In a pinch, 1/2 tsp garlic powder will work here too, just add with the other spices.
  • Chili powder: Use mild chili powder.
  • Ancho chili powder: If preferred, you can use more regular chili powder. Keep in mind sometimes ancho chili powder can be a little spicy.
  • Cumin: If you are out, try using ground coriander as a replacement, it also has a nice earthy flavor.
  • Paprika: This is optional just to cut back on ingredients if you don’t have it. You can use smoked or the standard sweet paprika.
  • Fresh salsa: You can usually buy this in the produce section or you can make it homemade. Just be aware they usually come in different heat intensities so check the package label.
  • Cilantro: This isn’t critical to the recipe since there should be some in the salsa, so if you don’t have any on hand you can omit.
  • Tortillas: Corn or flour tortillas can be used. I recommend corn and I’ve listed how to heat the corn tortillas in the recipe below.
  • Toppings: I use tomatoes, cheese, lettuce and Mexican hot sauce.

Collage of six photos showing steps to making turkey taco meat in skillet, then final image showing finished assembled taco.

How to Make the Best Ground Turkey Tacos

  1. Preheat skillet: Heat oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet (I like this skillet and this skillet) over moderately high heat.
  2. Brown turkey: Add turkey season with salt and pepper and let lightly brown on bottom, about 3 minutes.
  3. Break up turkey and cook through with garlic: Reduce heat slightly, turn turkey, add garlic. Break up turkey and let just barely cook through.
  4. Add spices, saute: Chili powder, ancho chili powder, cumin, optional paprika and saute 30 seconds longer.
  5. Simmer with salsa: Pour in salsa and toss. Reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer for a few minutes.
  6. Serve filling over tortillas with toppings: Serve turkey mixture over individual tortillas topped with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and optional hot sauce.

Photo: Ground turkey taco meat in a large black skillet shown from above.

Variations

  • Use lean ground chicken or beef in place of ground turkey.
  • Try with 3/4 cup salsa verde in place of the red salsa.
  • Make the filling spicy by adding cayenne pepper to taste.
  • Use the filling for a turkey taco salad instead of individual tacos.
  • Make taco lettuce wraps. To cut carbs you can serve in lettuce leaves instead of tortillas.
  • Finish with other taco toppings you love. Diced avocado, guacamole, radishes, pickled red onion, sour cream, cilantro lime crema, etc.

Helpful Tips

  • Use a hot skillet and cook turkey without disturbing over a moderately high heat for a few minutes first to let it brown and boost flavor.
  • Only stir occasionally for continued browning.
  • Break up meat into fine crumbles when stirring for better texture. I use these bamboo spatulas.
  • Note that every salsa is different if mixture is a little dry you can add a splash of chicken broth or water to the turkey at the end for more moisture.
  • Filling can be kept in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or frozen up to 3 months. Thaw in fridge overnight before reheating.

Photo: Hand holding a turkey taco shown from the side very close up.

More Favorite Taco Recipes to Try

 

Photo: 7 ground turkey tacos in a row shown on a white oval platter from above. Tacos are filled with meat, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese and red onion.
5 from 4 votes

Ground Turkey Tacos

Includes a filling of lean ground turkey that's seasoned with fresh salsa and plenty of spices, then it's layered into warmed tortillas and finished with all the best classic taco toppings!
Servings: 4 servings (2 tacos each)
Prep20 minutes
Cook10 minutes
Ready in: 30 minutes

Ingredients

Ground Turkey Taco Filling

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb. 93% lean ground turkey, broken into chunks
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika (smoked or sweet, optional)
  • 1 cup fresh salsa store-bought fresh or homemade
  • 3 Tbsp chopped cilantro

For Serving

  • 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed (see notes)
  • 3/4 cup shredded monterey jack or cheddar cheese
  • 2 small roma tomatoes, (or 1 cup grape tomatoes), diced
  • 2 cup shredded romaine lettuce or iceberg lettuce
  • Mexican hot sauce, such as Cholula or Tapatio, optional

Instructions

  • Heat oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet over moderately high heat.
  • Add turkey season with salt and pepper and let lightly brown on bottom, about 3 minutes.
  • Reduce heat slightly, turn turkey, add garlic. Break up turkey and let just barely cook through.
  • Add chili powder, ancho chili powder, cumin, optional paprika and saute 30 seconds longer.
  • Pour in salsa and toss. Reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer for a few minutes. Note that every salsa is different, if mixture is a little dry you can add a splash of chicken broth or water as needed.
  • Serve turkey mixture over individual warmed tortillas topped with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and optional hot sauce.

Notes

To heat tortillas (optional method)
  • Heat about 1/2 Tbsp of olive in an 9-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat (additional oil not included in nutrition estimate).
  • Add tortilla then flip with tongs to coat each side lightly with oil.
  • Cook tortilla until just lightly golden brown in spots on each side.
  • Transfer to paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
  • Alternately you can brush each tortilla lightly with oil then cook 3 at a time in a 12-inch skillet.
Nutrition Facts
Ground Turkey Tacos
Amount Per Serving
Calories 418 Calories from Fat 189
% Daily Value*
Fat 21g32%
Saturated Fat 7g44%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 4g
Monounsaturated Fat 8g
Cholesterol 103mg34%
Sodium 707mg31%
Potassium 749mg21%
Carbohydrates 31g10%
Fiber 6g25%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 31g62%
Vitamin A 3065IU61%
Vitamin C 10mg12%
Calcium 271mg27%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition values are estimates only. See full disclaimer here.