Turkey Tacos Picadillo

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 hr
  • Prep: 25 min
  • Cook: 35 min
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Forget regular taco seasoning — these turkey tacos are filled with a spiced stew (reminiscent of American chili) that will make you rethink your even your best taco recipe. Picadillo is a dish that has roots in Cuba, the Caribbean and all Latin America. It’s often made with ground beef and stewed with tomato, spices, raisins and olives. The spicy, sweet-and-salty combination is completely addictive. These version of the filling skips the raisins and olives (though you can absolutely add them) and uses ground turkey, onion, garlic, jalapeno, chili powder, cumin, canned tomatoes, chicken broth and cilantro for a similar flavor. Now that you know a bit about picadillo, it’s time to make some homemade tacos! For these turkey tacos, we recommend using ground poultry that has a higher percentage of fat, if possible. It will be moist and have more flavor than leaner versions. Next, make crunchy homemade taco shells from scratch (they're easier than you think). Simply fry corn tortillas in oil — a pair of tongs and a metal spatula help make that iconic open shell shape. Not up to the task? You can use store-bought crunchy taco shells or flour tortillas (to make soft tacos) instead. Your turkey tacos will still be delicious! Top with crunchy, shredded lettuce (like Romaine or Iceberg), tomatoes, avocado, cheese and sour cream. A squeeze of fresh lime juice and a few dashes of hot sauce make the perfect finishing touch. To make them extra special, top with homemade pickled red onions as well. Here’s how: Thinly slice half a small red onion and transfer to a medium bowl. Combine 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar, 2 teaspoons kosher salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, whisking, until the sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Pour the hot pickling mixture over the onions, stir and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Picadillo doesn’t have to stop at tacos — you can easily double this recipe and make a big batch so that you have lots of leftover for other uses. Cool and freeze small batches in zip-top storage bags for up to one month. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight for a quick and tasty meal. Here are some clever, weeknight ideas that go beyond tacos: top with shredded cheese and sour cream and serve with rice and beans, use it as an enchilada or lasagna filling, buy prepared pie dough and fill rounds with the cooked turkey (and a little cheese) to make empanadas, serve over cooked spaghetti for a twist on Cincinnati chili or eat it with a big piece of cornbread and a dollop of sour cream. Yum!

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2 tablespoons corn oil

1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 to 1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced

1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup chopped canned tomatoes

3/4 pound ground turkey

1/3 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

Oil, for frying

12 (5-inch) corn tortillas, preferably white, or prepared taco shells


1/4 head romaine or iceberg, thinly sliced

3 ripe medium tomatoes, cored and diced

1 to 2 Hass avocados, diced

1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

Sour cream, for garnish


  1. Put the oil, onions, garlic, jalapeno, and spices in a medium skillet, season with salt and cook over medium to medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until tender, about 10 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the tomatoes and boil to thicken, about 2 minutes. Stir in the turkey and chicken broth, adjust the heat so the mixture simmers and cook until the turkey is cooked through and the mixture thickens but is not dry, about 12 minutes. Stir in cilantro and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl and cover.
  2. To make the taco shells: Pour enough frying oil into a small skillet so it's about 3/4 of an inch deep; heat over medium to medium-high. Holding 1 edge of a tortilla with tongs, lay the other half in the oil, keeping it flat with a spatula. Cook until crisp, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Flip the tortilla over and repeat with the other half, holding the first side of the tortilla at an angle to make an open shell, cook for about 1 minute more. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
  3. Put the fixings and meat in individual bowls and the taco shells on a platter. Serve, encouraging your diners to build their own tacos, with meat in the shell and the fixings on top.