With these juicy and oh so delicious Leftover Turkey Tacos, you won’t dread having leftover Thanksgiving turkey around the house.
Put those Thanksgiving leftovers to use! Long gone are the days of endless turkey sandwiches or turkey soup after the holidays. Refresh your leftovers with these irresistible leftover turkey tacos.
Packed with flavor, veggies, and exciting toppings, this is a recipe the whole family will be begging you for…even after the holidays.
If you’re looking for more Thanksgiving leftover recipes, give this Cranberry Baked Brie a try, too!
Turn Thanksgiving leftovers into delicious Turkey Taco carnitas
Tis’ the season to have leftovers. I don’t know about you, but it seems like every time you make a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, there are always lots of leftovers. With leftovers always comes Turkey Chili or turkey sandwiches that never seem to end.
There are so many different things that you can do with leftover turkey, and this year, we are making tacos.
So say goodbye to a weeks worth of sandwiches and say hello to Taco Tuesday with a turkey twist!
We’re going to take all that leftover turkey and mix it with a blend of spices, like cumin, paprika, and garlic powder, and turn it into turkey carnitas, making it perfect for tacos.
Don’t have any turkey leftovers or don’t particularly enjoy turkey? Leftover (or fresh) chicken or rotisserie chicken will also work well for this recipe!
Turkey Taco Recipe ingredients
For Turkey Taco carnitas
Herbs and Spices: to pack these turkey tacos with all the right flavors, we will need paprika, cumin, garlic powder, and light brown sugar. You can add some chili powder for a little heat if you like.
Turkey: for this recipe, I used leftover turkey (both white and/or dark meat work). If you don’t have turkey, you can also use shredded chicken meat.
Fruits and veggies: you will need an orange (or orange juice) and a white onion (a yellow onion will work too). Together they will give you perfectly juicy and tender meat with amazing flavors.
Oil: I prefer using the fat drippings from the turkey because it enhances the flavor. However, you can also use 3 tablespoons of olive oil instead.
For The Tacos
Tortillas: I used flour tortillas because they are my favorite. However, if you are looking to keep tacos authentic, grab some corn tortillas when you are at the store. You can also serve these in hard taco shells.
Toppings: there’s nothing better than the perfect topping on delicious turkey tacos. I recommend using diced red onions, fresh cilantro, and cotija cheese.
How to make Turkey Tacos
1. Make the seasoning. In a small bowl, combine the paprika, garlic powder, cumin, and sugar.
2. Season the turkey. Slice or shred the leftover turkey and place it in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the orange juice and seasoning mixture. Discard the orange and mix until combined.
3. Heat the turkey meat. Heat oil in a large pot (I use my dutch oven) over medium-low heat. Add in the seasoned shredded turkey meat and sliced onion. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turkey meat should become soft and tender. Shred into smaller pieces, if needed, before pan-frying.
4. Fry the turkey meat. Heat a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat until oil is shimmering. Combine turkey and onions and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Cook until turkey is browned and crispy, about 12-15 minutes, turning once every 5 minutes.
5. Prepare the tacos. Divide the turkey carnitas between tortillas and top with red onions, cilantro, and cotija cheese. You can also add black beans, sour cream, or a squeeze of fresh lime juice if you like!
Serve and enjoy!
What to Serve With Turkey Tacos
Taco night is never complete without a fresh homemade guacamole! Sometimes I like to make a salsa board for tacos with pineapple salsa, mango salsa, and a homemade chunky salsa. You can even drizzle some of this cilantro lime sauce over your tacos! If you want to make a veggie to serve with your turkey tacos, I recommend giving this air fryer broccoli or this chopped vegetable salad a try.
Tips and Tricks for Leftover Turkey Tacos
Tip: if you still have the turkey carcass, you can use it to make homemade turkey stock.
How Do I Make My Turkey Moist Again?
Butter and broth will help bring dry turkey back to life. Mix a cup of chicken or chicken broth and a few tablespoons of butter for every 2 cups of turkey.
Place the turkey in a baking dish. Then pour the combined broth and butter liquid over the turkey. Make sure the liquid isn’t too thick though.
Next, cover the turkey with foil. Then, put it in the oven for no longer than 15 minutes at 200 degrees.
What Can I Do With Leftover Tough Turkey?
Check out my recipe for Mexican street corn white chicken chili. Substituting leftover turkey breast in for the chicken will work great for this recipe.
Also, my recipe for Simple Chicken Pho will work great. Once again, substitute the turkey in for the chicken and it will work fine!
Storing Turkey Meat Tacos
How long do Turkey Tacos last?
If you store your turkey in the fridge in an airtight container, it will be good for 3-4 days.
If you want to store it for longer, you can keep it in the freezer for 3-6 months. If you keep it in too long, though, it will begin to lose flavor.
How to Reheat Turkey Meat Tacos?
- If you plan on reheating leftover turkey tacos, you need to be careful reheating the meat since it’s already been reheated and you don’t want to dry it out.
- To reheat the turkey taco meat, place it in a shallow bowl and cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave it in 30 second increments until it’s warm. It won’t be as crispy as it was before, but it will still taste delicious!
More Taco Recipes You’ll Enjoy
- Cilantro lime spicy shrimp tacos
- Air Fryer Flank Steak Tacos
- Slow cooker pulled pork tacos
- Crispy crockpot carnitas
- Barbacoa Tacos
- Hawaiian Shrimp Taco Bowl
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Leftover Turkey Taco Recipe
For the tacos
- 6 flour tortillas
- 2 tablespoons finely diced red onion
- 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
- 2 tablespoons cotija cheese
- In a small bowl, combine the paprika, cumin, garlic powder, and 1 tsp of brown sugar.
- Slice or shred the leftover turkey meat and place it in a medium sized mixing bowl. Add the orange juice and seasoning mixture. Mix until combined.
- Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large pot (I use my dutch oven) over medium-low heat. Add the seasoned turkey and sliced onion. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turkey meat should be soft and tender. Shred into smaller pieces if needed before pan frying.
- Heat a large cast iron with 2 tbps of olive oil on medium-high heat until oil is shimmering. Add turkey and onions and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Cook until turkey is browned and crispy, about 12-15 minutes, turning once every 5 minutes.
- Divide the turkey carnitas between tortillas and top with red onion, cilantro, and cotija cheese.