Ground Turkey Tacos
on Jan 02, 2022, Updated Nov 20, 2023
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These old-school hard shell tacos made with ground turkey will become a much-loved part of the weekly rotation.
I often get asked what my family’s favorite meal is, and as you would expect, that’s a hard question to answer. But if forced to pick JUST ONE DISH, this would probably be it. My older son loves them the most, but there is not a person in the family who isn’t excited to see this old-school hard-shell taco recipe for dinner.
Yeah, taco Tuesdays are a thing in many people’s homes — at our house, tacos might show up any day of the week. These first appeared in my first cookbook The Mom 100 Cookbook. I’ve written about these tacos for Cooking Light, Food Network, and even The Today Show. Let’s just say they are a true obsession in our house.
There is something festive and fun about a hands-on, interactive meal. If you’re looking for a dinner to counterbalance a cranky day, this is the one. I love to serve these tacos up with Salsa Ranchera, Guacamole, and a fresh side dish like this Romaine Salad with Queso Fresco. If ground turkey isn’t your favorite protein for tacos, be sure to try out classic Ground Beef Tacos or these fun Shredded Chicken Tacos.
Table of Contents
I often get asked what my family’s favorite meal is, and as you would expect that’s a hard question to answer. But if forced to pick JUST ONE DISH, these Ground Turkey Tacos would probably be it.Tweet This
Turkey Tacos Ingredients
Easy to pull together from the pantry and spice cabinet, just a few ingredients are required for this turkey tacos recipe.
- For the taco seasoning – The spices called for are ones that many cooks have on hand: onion powder, kosher salt, chili powder, cornstarch, ground cumin, garlic powder, dried oregano, sweet paprika, ground black pepper, pinch cayenne or red pepper flakes. I have certainly been known to reach for a package of pre-made taco seasoning at times, but with an extra few minutes, you can make a homemade seasoning blend that tastes amazing, and the sodium level isn’t through the roof.
- Ground turkey – We often go with ground turkey for our tacos. Get the 85/15% ratio — it’s much juicier than the extra lean. If you can’t find that, or you are looking to cut back even further on fat, get the 93/7%, but avoid the 99% fat-free or extra lean versions, which don’t have a lot of flavor and can be a bit dry.
- Taco shells – Crunchy! Soft! Flour! Corn! Whatever taco shell your heart desires, it will be delicious. For ground meat tacos, we tend to lean into hard taco shells.
- To serve (choose your family’s favorites!) – You can top these turkey tacos with any of your favorite taco toppings. Some of my favorite options to lay out for my family are shredded lettuce, salsa or taco sauce, shredded cheese, sour cream, diced tomatoes, and/or diced avocados.
How to Make Ground Turkey Tacos
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix the taco seasoning.
- Cook the turkey: Stir in a skillet until browned and crumbled. Drain. Add the spice mixture and stir for 1 more minute so that you can smell all of the spices. Add ¾ cup of water, and stir until the water is mostly evaporated and the meat is evenly coated with the spices.
- Heat the taco shells and serve: Place the taco shells on a baking sheet or the oven rack for about 5 minutes. Put any desired toppings into small individual bowls. Transfer the meat to a serving bowl, place the shells on a plate covered with a napkin or clean dishtowel to keep them warm, and set out with the bowls of toppings. Let everyone serve themselves.
It’s often assumed that turkey is healthier than beef, but when you look at the fat and protein contents of each meat, they’re actually pretty similar (via Healthline). So, your turkey tacos may not be healthier than beef tacos. The key is actually in the leanness of the meat. For a good balance of wellness and flavor, choose a meat that has less than 10% fat (e.g., 93/7 or 85/15) — remember that fat adds flavor, so it’s not always a bad thing!
It’s true that turkey has a lighter flavor than beef, and that can be difficult for some people to get used to when making the switch. However, in recipes like these turkey tacos, the seasoning takes care of it and adds tons of flavor. Unless you tell them, no one will know the difference between the two meats.
One common complaint about ground turkey is that it can become dry when cooked. This can be caused by overcooking or not adding enough liquid to the pan (many recipes add oil to prevent that). For these turkey tacos, the meat ends up perfectly moist because it absorbs the water that’s added along with the seasoning. With any ground turkey dish, just remember that a little liquid helps a lot!
Pro Cooking Tip: How to Brown Ground Turkey
Browning ground turkey is very simple, and it just takes 5 to 7 minutes for a couple of pounds of ground turkey. If your pan is nonstick, you’re all set; if not, you may want to give a spray of nonstick cooking spray.
Heat a large skillet or pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the turkey. Stir the turkey periodically, breaking up the meat into crumbles. Don’t stir it constantly; you want to give the meat a bit of time to sit in contact with the hot pan so that it browns.
Keep stirring until it is all browned and crumbly. Drain the meat in a colander.
Leftovers and Storage
Leftover taco meat can be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave or in a skillet over medium heat, stirring often.
What to Serve With Ground Turkey Tacos
More Ground Turkey Recipes
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Ground Turkey Tacos
For the Taco Seasoning:
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Pinch cayenne or red pepper flakes (optional)
For the Ground Turkey Tacos:
- 2 pounds ground turkey
- 12 Taco shells (approximately)
To Serve (Choose Your Family's Favorites):
- Shredded lettuce
- Salsa or taco sauce
- Shredded cheese (such as cheddar, Monterey Jack, or a Mexican blend)
- Sour cream (low-fat or regular)
- Diced tomatoes
- Diced avocados
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- In a small bowl or plastic container, mix together the onion powder, salt, chili powder, cornstarch, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, cumin, paprika, black pepper, and cayenne or red pepper flakes, if using. Blend well.
- Spray a large skillet with nonstick spray and place over medium-high heat. Add the turkey, and cook, stirring and making sure to really break it up into small crumbles, until it is browned throughout, about 5 minutes. Drain off any liquid. Add the spice mixture and stir for 1 more minute so that you can smell all of the spices. Add ¾ cup of water, and stir until the water is mostly evaporated, and the meat is evenly coated with the spices, and there is still a little bit of liquid in the pan.
- Meanwhile, heat the taco shells on a baking sheet (or right on the rack, whichever you prefer) in the oven for 5 minutes until warm and toasty. Place any desired toppings into small individual bowls. Transfer the meat to a serving bowl, place the shells on a plate covered with a napkin or clean dishtowel to keep them warm, and set out with the bowls of toppings. Let everyone serve themselves.