Turkey “Carnitas” Tacos | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

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Turkey “Carnitas” Tacos

A twist on the classic pork tacos made with leftover Thanksgiving turkey meat

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Cooking or even eating may be the last thing on your mind right now. The Thanksgiving holiday usually means a lot of time in the kitchen for some of us and quite a bit of eating for most of us as well. So this week’s recipe is quick, easy and a good way to use any leftover turkey you may have. I call it Turkey “Carnitas” Tacos.

Carnitas means “little meats” in Spanish. Pork is the traditional meat used in carnitas; it’s slow cooked in oil or lard until tender and then the heat is turned up and the meat is crisped on the outside edges. It’s then shredded or chopped into small pieces and served in tacos or other dishes.

In this recipe, leftover turkey meat is substituted for the pork. Instead of slow braising, the turkey meat is simmered for a short time to bring out more juiciness and then shredded and fried in oil until crispy. If the only thing you have left over is the dark turkey meat that’s all the better, as the dark meat makes for even juicier pieces.
You can serve your turkey carnitas with whatever fixings you like – onion, salsa, guacamole, refried beans, cilantro or anything you prefer. Tortillas can be flour or corn or any other type. You can even skip the tortillas and serve the turkey bites in a bowl with all the toppings. The point is to use what you have on hand and use up some more of those proverbial leftovers.

If you want to skip the simmering part of this recipe, that’s OK. You can just pull the turkey meat off the bones and then go to the next step of frying it in oil. It will still be delicious, just not quite as juicy. Keep in mind that the point of simmering the meat in water is to bring out a bit more flavor and add moisture but it’s not mandatory to get nice results.

Leftover Turkey “Carnitas” Tacos

-Any amount of leftover turkey meat (on the bone is fine)
-1 yellow or white onion, chopped
-1-2 bay leaves
-1 orange, peeled and cut into pieces
-Olive oil or lard
-Kosher salt, as desired

Place leftover turkey meat (and meat on the bones) into a large pot. Cover with water and add chopped onion, bay leaves and orange. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for 35-45 minutes. Carefully remove meat from the water and drain. Remove all bones and then shred or chop the meat into bite-size pieces.

Heat a large nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add a few swirls of olive oil or if you want to go traditional, use a couple tablespoons of lard instead.

Once the oil is hot, add the shredded meat. Cook on one side until nicely browned. Then turn and brown on the other side. Continue turning and browning the meat until you get it to your preferred crispiness. Add salt to the meat while it’s still in the skillet. Remove to a large plate or bowl. Serve with warm tortillas and toppings of your choice.

Taco Topping Recommendations

-Diced onion
-Salsa
-Diced tomato
-Guacamole
-Chopped cilantro
-Lime squeeze
-Refried beans or black beans
-Shredded cheese of choice or cotija cheese
-Sour cream
-Tortillas of choice

About The Author

Donna Britt

Food writer, food stylist, recipe tester, cookbook editor, podcast producer/host are a few of the creative hats Donna Britt wears. Donna loves to hike, paddle board and spend quality time with family and friends. Oh, and she also collects cookbooks and cast iron cooking vessels.

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