Leftover Turkey Tacos Recipe: Thanksgiving leftovers

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Easy Leftover turkey tacos are a delicious way to enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers. Here’s a simple and tasty recipe to make the best-ever leftover turkey tacos! Ready in less than 30 minutes. We love it with our fresh cranberry relish.

This recipe also works for leftover Chicken. Serve with Mexican Fruit Salad.

platter of leftover turkey tacos with cranberry relish and other toppings.
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Easy Leftover Turkey Tacos Recipe

Transform your turkey dinner into a completely new recipe! This fabulous leftover recipe won’t leave you feeling like you ate the same meal twice.

These leftover Thanksgiving turkey tacos are a perfect blend of sweet and savory, with a bit of spice from the seasonings and jalapeños. They’re a great way to reinvent your leftover Thanksgiving turkey and enjoy a different twist on traditional flavors. Enjoy these delicious turkey tacos!

If you love Mexican food, you will also enjoy these recipes: Pollo Asado and tacos Al Pastor. You can also use leftover turkey for White Turkey Chili.

Simple Ingredients

This simple recipe delivers tasty tacos with little effort. It’s the perfect way to use those Thanksgiving dinner leftovers.

For the Turkey Filling:

  • Leftover cooked turkey (shredded or diced)
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Ground cumin
  • Chili powder
  • Paprika
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Leftover gravy (optional)

For Assembling Tacos:

  • Taco-sized tortillas
  • Leftover cranberry sauce
  • Shredded cheese (e.g., cheddar or Monterey Jack)
  • Lettuce or cabbage
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Sliced jalapeños (optional)
  • Sour cream or Greek yogurt (optional)
  • Lime wedges

Feel free to add any additional favorite taco toppings.

See the recipe card for quantities.

How to Make Turkey Tacos Recipe Step-by-Step Photo Instructions

These Thanksgiving tacos are a quick recipe and an easy way to make leftover shredded meat taste amazing!

Prepare the Turkey Filling: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet or cast iron skillet. Add the chopped onion and garlic, sauté for a few minutes until softened. 

Mix the ground cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

Add them to the onion and garlic and cook for another few minutes to toast the spices.

Add the shredded turkey to the skillet and toss to coat it with the spice mixture. Pour in the chicken broth and lime juice and cook, covered, for 10-15 minutes until the turkey absorbs juices.

Remove the lid and drizzle the remaining olive oil over the turkey. Cook until turkey is browned and crispy, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Assemble tacos with fresh cranberry relish and more of your favorite toppings!

Variations

Leftover turkey tacos are versatile, and you can get creative with variations to suit your preferences. Here are some ideas for variations and additional ingredients you can use:

  • Cranberry Salsa: Instead of plain cranberry sauce, make a cranberry salsa by mixing cranberry sauce with diced red onion, cilantro, lime juice, and a pinch of cayenne pepper for a tangy and spicy topping.
  • Guacamole: Add a dollop of homemade or store-bought guacamole to each taco for a creamy and flavorful twist.
  • Pickled Red Onions: Make quick-pickled red onions by soaking thinly sliced red onions in a mixture of vinegar, sugar, and salt. They add a tangy and vibrant crunch to your tacos.
  • Salsa and Hot Sauce: Offer a variety of salsas and hot sauces for people to customize the heat level of their tacos. Salsa verde, pico de gallo, and hot sauce options are great choices.
  • Roasted Vegetables: Include leftover roasted vegetables from your Thanksgiving meal. They can add extra flavor and texture to your tacos. Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, or butternut squash work well.
  • Avocado Slices: Add slices of ripe avocado for a creamy, buttery element in your tacos.
  • Sour Cream or Greek Yogurt: If you didn’t include it in the initial recipe, offer sour cream or Greek yogurt as a topping for those who enjoy creaminess in their tacos.
  • Different Tortillas: Use corn tortillas for an authentic touch, or try whole wheat or spinach tortillas for a healthier twist.
  • Turkey Gravy Drizzle: If you have leftover turkey gravy, consider drizzling a small amount over the tacos for extra moisture and flavor.
  • Cilantro Lime Rice: Serve your leftover turkey tacos with a side of cilantro lime rice for a complete meal.
  • Fruit Salsa: Make a fruit salsa with diced mango, pineapple, or apple for a sweet and refreshing topping.

Storing

To store leftover turkey tacos:

Components Separately: Disassemble the tacos, keeping the turkey filling, tortillas, and toppings in separate airtight containers.

Refrigeration: Store in the refrigerator within 2 hours of cooking. Leftover turkey tacos can be kept in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Freezing (optional): If you want to freeze the turkey filling, place it in an airtight container or freezer bag and label with the date. It can be frozen for up to 2-3 months.

How to Reheat Turkey Meat Tacos

Reheating: Reheat the turkey filling separately before assembling fresh tacos when you’re ready to enjoy them again.

To reheat:

  • Microwave: Place a damp paper towel over the tacos to prevent them from drying out. Microwave on medium power in 20-30-second intervals until heated through.
  • Oven: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Wrap the tacos in aluminum foil and bake for 10-15 minutes until hot.
  • Skillet: Reheat the turkey filling in a skillet over medium heat and warm the tortillas separately in a dry skillet. Assemble the tacos once everything is heated.

Make rice bowls or turkey taco salad to use the leftover turkey taco meat!

You can also use a leftover pot roast for a different variation of this taco recipe!

Top Tips for Best Results

Here are some top tips to achieve the best results when making leftover turkey tacos:

  • Use Fresh Ingredients: Start with fresh tortillas and toppings. Even though it’s leftovers, using fresh components can significantly improve the overall taste and texture.
  • Reheat Carefully: When reheating the turkey filling, do it gently to prevent drying it out. Use the microwave on medium power or a stovetop skillet with a bit of moisture (broth or water).
  • Customize Toppings: Offer a variety of toppings and let everyone customize their tacos. This way, each person can tailor their taco to their liking.
  • Balance Flavors: Ensure a balance of flavors in your taco, including sweetness from cranberry sauce, creaminess from cheese and sour cream, and freshness from cilantro and lime.
  • Don’t Forget the Seasonings: Season the turkey filling generously with spices like cumin, chili powder, and paprika. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed to enhance flavor.
  • Warm the Tortillas: Warm the tortillas just before serving. You can do this in a dry skillet or oven for a few seconds to make them pliable and enhance their flavor.
  • Moisten with Gravy: If you have leftover gravy, add a bit to the turkey filling for extra moisture and flavor.
  • Layer Ingredients: Layer the components strategically. Start with a small amount of cranberry sauce on the tortilla, followed by turkey, cheese, black beans, and fresh toppings. This helps prevent the tortilla from becoming too soggy.
  • Offer Variety: Consider offering various tortilla options, including soft and hard shells, so your guests can choose their preferences.

By following these tips, you can create flavorful, moist, and delicious leftover turkey tacos that everyone will enjoy.

FAQ

How to make turkey moist again

Broth and butter (optional) will make the dry turkey moist again. To moisten the turkey, place it in a microwave-safe dish, add a small amount of chicken or turkey broth, cover it with a damp paper towel, and microwave in short intervals until warmed through. Be careful not to overheat to avoid drying it out further. A cup of chicken or chicken broth and a few tablespoons of butter for every 2 cups of turkey. 

How long will turkey tacos last?

When properly stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container the leftover Turkey taco recipe can last 3-4 days.

Can I use any type of leftover turkey for turkey tacos?

Yes, you can use any leftover turkey, whether roasted, smoked, grilled, or even ground turkey. Just shred or chop it into small, bite-sized pieces for tacos.

Can I use other types of leftover poultry, like chicken, instead of turkey?

Yes, you can substitute leftover chicken for turkey in your tacos. The same principles apply, and chicken can be just as delicious in this dish.

Looking for other recipes like this? Try these:

What to Serve with Leftover Turkey Tacos

Popular side dishes include Mexican rice, refried beans, corn on the cob, guacamole, or a simple salad with a citrus vinaigrette. These sides complement the flavors of the tacos nicely.

Make sure to leave a ⭐️star rating on the recipe card and comment below if you make the recipe. I love to connect with you through my recipes.

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Easy Leftover Turkey Tacos Recipe

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These leftover turkey tacos are a perfect blend of sweet and savory, with a bit of spice from the seasonings and jalapeños. They’re a great way to reinvent your Thanksgiving leftovers and enjoy a different twist on traditional flavors. Enjoy!

  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 46 servings 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale

For the Turkey Filling:

  • 2 cups leftover cooked turkey, shredded or diced
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • Juice of 1 small lime

For Assembling Tacos:

  • 8 small taco-sized tortillas (either corn tortillas or flour tortilla with options of hard taco shells or soft taco shells)
  • 1 cup leftover fresh cranberry sauce
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, Monterey Jack, or your favorite)
  • Sliced lettuce or cabbage
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Crumbled Cotija cheese
  • Sliced jalapeños (optional, for heat)
  • Sour cream or Greek yogurt (optional, for topping)
  • Lime wedges (for serving)

Possibilities for toppings are endless so customize with your favorite taco toppings. 

Instructions

  1. Prepare the Turkey Filling: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet or cast iron skillet. Add the chopped onion and garlic, sauté for a few minutes until softened. 
  2. Mix the ground cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add them to the onion and garlic and cook for another few minutes to toast the spices.
  3. Add the shredded turkey to the skillet and toss to coat it with the spice mixture. Add the chicken broth and lime juice and cook, covered, for 10-15 minutes until the turkey absorbs juices.
  4. Remove the lid and drizzle the remaining olive oil over the turkey. Cook until turkey is browned and crispy, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Warm the Tortillas: Heat the tortillas in a dry skillet or microwave for a few seconds until they are warm and pliable.
  6. Assemble the Tacos: Lay out the warm tortillas on a clean surface.
    Spread a spoonful of cranberry relish on each tortilla. Add a generous portion of the turkey filling on top of the cranberry sauce. Sprinkle shredded cheese over the turkey.
  7. Add Fresh Toppings: Top each taco with sliced lettuce or cabbage, chopped fresh cilantro, crumbled cotija cheese, and jalapeño slices if you like a bit of heat.
  8. Serve and Enjoy: Serve leftover turkey tacos immediately with lime wedges on the side.
    You can also offer sour cream or Greek yogurt as optional toppings for extra creaminess.
  • Author: Elena
  • Prep Time: 5 min
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Savory
  • Method: Mexican
  • Cuisine: American

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About Elena

My dream is to share delicious wholesome recipes that you will share around the table with all your loved ones. The memories surrounded by food are the heart and soul of CucinaByElena.

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