Get ready for a fiesta in your mouth with Granny Smith's Tex-Mex Turkey Tacos—a fam classic for transforming that leftover turkey into a flavor-packed sensation! Picture this: tender shreds of turkey drenched in a savory sauce, snugly rolled in corn tortillas (enchilada style), and then crowned with crunchy lettuce and creamy avocado slices. It's a taste explosion that'll make your taste buds do the salsa!
I love Thanksgiving for the leftovers. Yep, that's me. The leftover queen of Thanksgiving. After the "second" dinner, I love to make Turkey Bird Sandwiches, Turkey Soup, Turkey Pot Pies, and Turkey Enchiladas with Homemade Chili Gravy.
But my husband's family always had Granny Smith's FAMOUS brown recipe box Tex Mex Turkey Tacos.
Granny Smith's Tex Mex Turkey Tacos, the History
Turkey Tacos is a recipe that is a traditional meal for using up Thanksgiving leftovers in my husband's family home created by his Tex-Mex cooking Granny Smith who lived in the late 1800s.
I'm not sure why they called them "tacos" as they are really more enchilada-like, but my best guess is in the day any rolled tortilla that held meat inside was called a taco. And the shredded iceberg lettuce seems more taco-like. And the lack of cheese makes them more taco-like.
So I'll stick to the family name of turkey tacos.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Leftover turkey meat - Granny Smith's Tex Mex Turkey Tacos are best when made with dark meat, although some white meat could be included. I have also made these using ground turkey with good success when I don't have any leftovers to use.
- Aromatics - Onion, garlic
- Spices - Chili powder, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper
- Diced Tomatoes - I use regular diced tomatoes that I break up a bit with either my potato masher or in my food processor. Fire-roasted diced tomatoes could be used for a deeper flavor.
- Chicken Broth - Homemade or low-sodium preferred. Or you could use turkey stock. Or a combination of both.
- Corn Tortillas - You could use small 6-inch flour if you insist. If using flour, skip the softening method needed for corn.
- Shredded Iceberg Lettuce
- Sliced Avocado
- Sour Cream (optional)
- Salsa or Taco Sauce (optional)
Video - How to Soften Corn Tortillas
What's in a Chili Powder?
She was a true Texan and insisted there is "no substitute".
But in all honesty, and with apologies to my MIL, I have used other brands and the results have always turned out fine.
That said, you must use chili powder in this, not fresh ground chili, as the other ingredients in the powder add additional flavor.
Chili powder is a combination of chilies (generally a mild chili-like California or New Mexico, and garlic powder, with a touch of cumin and oregano.
The main variances you will find will be the type of chili pepper used, so I have found some to be darker and richer than Gebhardt.
Because of these variances, I recommend you find a brand you like and then use that for consistent results.
If you should decide to use ground turkey, buy regular ground turkey not just breast meat to get a fuller flavor. Cook the meat until it's no longer raw then proceed with the recipe as written.
Yes. While I think corn tortillas add flavor, you could use flour if desired. If using flour you do not have to soften them, simply let them come to room temperature for ease in rolling.
Generally speaking, tacos, as we know them, with hard shells, are not what you would find in many places. Tacos are rolled tortillas filled with meat, then topped with salsa, lettuce, tomatoes, and other cold toppings. Enchiladas are generally meat or cheese inside a tortilla, with sauce poured over, and baked.
Because these "tacos" are filled with meat, rolled, and sauced, but not baked, then topped with iceberg lettuce and avocado, I say they qualify as a taco.
Iceberg lettuce is neutral in flavor and adds a nice crunch to the taco. I think there is no substitute for it.
This turkey taco meat freezes beautifully. I generally make more than I need so I can freeze some for later in the year when I have that "I need a Thanksgiving leftover fix".
Put into a storage container for up to 3 months in the freezer, or use a vacuum sealer for storage for up to a year.
Granny Smith's Tex Mex Turkey Tacos
- 6 cups leftover turkey meat preferably dark meat
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 14- ounce can diced tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- 3 - 4 cups chicken stock or use a combo of chicken and turkey stock
- 1 - 2 tablespoons chili powder preferably (for you Gail) Gebhardt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano or to taste, crushed between your fingertips
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin or to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- 12 corn tortillas
- 2 - 3 cups finely shredded iceberg lettuce
- 1 ripe avocado peeled and thinly sliced
- 6 tablespoons sour cream optional
- Salsa or Taco Sauce optional
- Shred the turkey; set aside.
- Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet; add the onion and garlic; saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour; saute for a few minutes; add the tomatoes and half the stock, stir well. Add the spices and simmer 10 minutes. Add the turkey and enough stock to cover; simmer 15 minutes. Taste; adjust seasonings. Add additional stock, if necessary.
- Meanwhile, brush the tortillas with some olive oil; place on a cookie sheet and set in a 325°F oven until they become pliable, about 2 - 3 minutes. Dip a tortilla into the simmering sauce; place on an individual warmed plate. Using a slotted spoon, fill with a portion of the turkey mixture; roll the tortilla to resemble an enchilada, continue, filling, and rolling (2 - 3 rolled "tacos" per plate). Once all the tortillas are filled, spoon additional sauce and turkey over the top. Top with shredded lettuce, avocado slices and a dollop of sour cream, if desired.