Spice up your holiday leftovers with these vibrant leftover turkey tacos and bring a little sunshine to your winter table! My leftover roast turkey taco recipe uses mouthwatering spices and gives an authentic Mexican street food flavour.
Using ready cooked turkey means this taco recipe can be made in minutes, giving you a welcome break after all that holiday cooking. Perfect for a fast weeknight supper or lunch. Serve with all your favourite toppings.
Leftover Roast Turkey Tacos
I love a traditional roast dinner, and the big holiday dinners are among the best. In the UK, we eat mostly eat turkey at Christmas and sometimes at Easter, the bigger bird working better for extended family gatherings. In the US and Canada, of course, there’s the iconic Thanksgiving meal too.
Since everyone over-caters for these big occasions, you can usually rely on having plenty of leftovers to see you through the following days. If you usually end up eating turkey for too many days at time, however, then freeze some instead for busy week day meals. Ringing the changes will avoid jaded palates and make ensure that a treat doesn’t turn into a chore.
In fact, there’s no reason not to eat turkey more often and make the most of the benefits of a bigger roast throughout the year. Turkey is a lean meat that is pretty good for you compared with some of the alternatives, so why make the most of the occasional roast all year round? With sensible planning, it can see you through a week of economical and healthy meals.
We love experimenting with leftovers and have plenty of great cooked turkey recipes. We often use our leftover turkey in spicy recipes, such as turkey curry and turkey biryani, or these Thai spiced croquettes, all of which contrast nicely with the plain roast. I’ve recently added these colourful, zingy turkey tacos to our repertoire, and we love them!
Using cooked turkey makes this recipe so easy. All you need to do is add some spice and reheat the meat. Then warm up the tacos and set out your favourite toppings.
I’ve got a couple of great ideas to make this even speedier, to help with any time you need to get food on the table in a hurry. Prepare ahead by making the most of your holiday leftovers and all you have to do is reheat the ready-cooked spiced turkey and warm the tacos.
Soft Tacos or Hard Tacos?
Obviously this comes down to personal preference, but I prefer small soft wheat flour tacos for my turkey tacos. These are the sort you will find in Mexico for most street food, so I like them for an authentic version of this vibrant recipe.
If you don’t have tacos, you can use ordinary wraps, but they aren’t as soft. I find they can become dry and brittle once heated. If you can, find proper soft tacos that are designed to be warmed through.
If you like the texture, hard corn taco shells are great, but are they are more awkward to eat. Invariably I find that some in every box will be broken, which makes them poor value. If you like the crunch, you can always add a handful of tortilla chips.
Why you will love this leftover turkey taco recipe
- Who doesn’t love tacos? Bursting with spice and colour, they are the sort of food that really lifts your mood.
- They are very easy and entirely fuss free. This is the ideal recipe when you have had a busy day.
- Tacos are fun! Put out an array of toppings and let everyone find their favourite combinations.
- Using ready cooked leftover turkey makes this recipe super fast.
Leftover Turkey Tacos Ingredients
- Leftover roast turkey – White or brown meat, they both work fine. Chop, dice or shred it as you prefer.
- Spices – I like a dash of smoky chipotle chilli (ground or paste) and some cumin, but you can vary the spices to taste.
- Tomato paste – Use a good rich brand for preference. If you don’t have it, you can can use some ketchup instead.
- Tacos – I prefer soft wheat street tacos. Allow 2–3 per person depending on appetite and the size of the taco.
- Oil (not shown) – I recommend an unrefined olive oil.
- Lettuce or other leaves to serve. (not shown)
How to Make Leftover Turkey Tacos
Step One – First, gather your ingredients. Put your pizza stone in a hot oven to heat up, ready to warm the tacos.
Step Two – Chop, dice or shred your roast turkey. Put it in a bowl or plastic box, together with the spices, tomato paste and a glug of oil. Squeeze the lime juice in and mix everything up. Alternatively, you can put the lid on and give it a shake.
Fuss Free Tip – Prep Ahead
Freeze the seasoned leftover turkey if you prefer, ready to eat another day. When you want it, defrost either for a few hours in the fridge, or for 30 seconds in the microwave. Instant tacos!
You can use this trick for any meat that needs marinating. Mix it all up and freeze in a suitable container.
Step Three – Put the seasoned turkey into a frying pan, add a tablespoon of water and warm it through over a low heat, stirring all the time.
Step Four – Remove the hot pizza stone from the oven, and lay out the tacos on top to warm. Top each with shredded lettuce and the cooked turkey.
A hot pizza stone holds heat well and will heat the tacos and keep them warm while you are eat. It will not overheat them or dry them out. This is my preferred way to warm up flatbreads and wraps.
If you don’t have a pizza stone, I recommend getting one. Not only is it great for cooking homemade or shop pizzas, but it will restore a take-away pizza to just-out-of-the oven freshness. We also bake on ours and use it to keep other food warm.
Step Five (not shown) Serve with you choice of toppings.
Best Taco Toppings
One of the things I love about this leftover turkey taco recipe is the chance to load them up with lots of toppings. Here are my ideas, but let me know what you like!
- Chopped avocado or guacamole, as spicy as you like it!
- Tomato and onion relish
- Sour cream, with or without a sprinkle of paprika or freshly chopped herbs.
- Thinly sliced red onions and chillis if you like them.
- Grated cheese
- Squeeze of lime
More Roast Turkey Recipe Ideas
If you are looking for more recipes to make the most of your leftover roast turkey, why not explore these suggestions?
Turkey, ham and mushroom pasta bake – comfort food at its best
Creamed pea soup with leftover turkey – a seasonal spin on a classic soup
Leftover turkey frittata – simple and easy
Leftover turkey and ham filo pie – cooked turkey and ham pie is a classic leftover recipe in the UK and this filo version is light and easy to make.
Christmas turkey muffins – anyone who reads this site regularly knows I love a savoury muffin for brunch. Impress your family with this easy bake.
Last of the leftovers turkey pies with stuffing crust
My leftover turkey recipes roundup has many more easy and delicious ideas for leftover turkey
Leftover roast turkey tacos
- 1 cup leftover roast turkey
- ½ tsp smoky chipotle (ground or paste)
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp tomato paste
- ½ lime (juiced)
- 1 dsp olive or other oil (I always try to use unrefined oils)
- 2–3 soft tacos per person
- ½ cup shredded lettuce
- taco toppings (Your choice)
- Gather the ingredients. Warm a pizza stone in an oven set on a high heat – at least 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.
- Cut, chop or shred the turkey – 2 cm / 1" cubes are about right. Place in a plastic box with a lid, or in a bowl. Add the spices, tomato paste, oil and lime juice. Shake the box or give it a good stir to coat the meat in the spice mixture. At this point you can freeze the taco turkey pieces to eat another day.
- Heat a frying pan on low. Add the turkey, and a tablespoon of water. Stir gently, so as not to break up the meat.
- Take the warmed pizza stone from the oven. Place the tacos on top to warm through.
- Top the tacos with shredded lettuce and the warmed through turkey. Add your favourite extra toppings, roll up and enjoy!
- This recipe is 6 Weight Watchers points per portion.