Spicy Turkey Tacos

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Recipe Of The Month

I don't know about you, but I seem to be incapable of ever judging what size turkey to buy so that I don't have a massive amount of it left after our traditionally Irish Christmas dinner. This year was no exception, the 14 pound bird was indeed too much, so I was left with about 5 pounds of cooked turkey! Now there's only so much turkey sandwiches you can eat and after two days, I have to fight the urge to choke it all in the bin.

So, today I set myself the task of finding a way to use my leftover turkey in a wise way. Turkey used like this will make a lovely filling for and it will taste fantastic in , which is what I did with mine last year, but it is also incredibly good spooned in corn tortillas with some black refried beans as quick taco super. So go on, do something different with your turkey and avoid the turkey going bad.

A quick note on the two dried chilies we're using here. Cascabel, which literally means ‘rattle’, are little round dried chilies slightly smaller than a golf ball. They are of a dark ruby colour and full of small loose seeds which if shaken, make a rattling noise. They have a slightly bitter flavour and are quite mild in heat.

Pasilla dried chilies are very mild as well, but long, wrinkly and black with a red tint to their flesh. The name literally means 'little raising' and they are wonderfully fragrant with a subtle grape flavour, a bit like a raising, which I reckon is the reason for their name. Like with most dried chilies, one must be careful handling them. Use gloves if this makes you feel more comfortable, otherwise make sure to wash your hands well a couple of times once you’re finished handling them.


Clean the dried chilies by taking the stalks and all seeds out. You can use your fingers or a knife and spoon to do this. Don't worry if the chili breaks, just keep all the bits of flesh and give them a quick rinse in cold water.


Put the clean chilies in a small pot and cover them with plenty of water. Turn the heat on and bring the chilies to a boil. Lower the heat slightly and let them simmer for about 20 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the chilies rest in the water for a further 10 minutes. This soaking will make the chili skin very smooth and velvety and they will turn a beautiful red colour.


Drain the chilies and put them in the blender or food processor, add the garlic cloves, the pepper, cumin, oregano and water and blend them into a paste or thick sauce; you can add a little bit more water if you feel the sauce is too dry.


Heat the oil in a non-stick pan big enough to hold the paste & the turkey. Add the onion and cook it until soft and translucent, approximately 2 minutes. Pour the chili sauce into the onions making sure to use a little extra water to rinse out any sauce from the blender or food processor. Cook the sauce at a gentle heat for about 3 minutes. At this point, add the chopped turkey and mix it well. Cook everything for about 8 minutes or until the meat is warmed through and fully coated with the chili sauce.


While the spicy turkey finishes cooking off, get on with the rest of the preparations. Warm your corn tortillas in a dry, non-stick pan for about 40 seconds on each side. Heat some tinned refried beans and set the table. When everything is ready, put the spicy turkey mix, the bowl of beans and the tortillas on the table and get people to make their own tacos! It's dead easy: Spread some refried beans on the tortilla, spoon some of the turkey mixture on top and fold them!


This is a dead easy and great way to use up your leftover turkey (or indeed chicken). If you can, make this dish in advance as letting it rest for a few days/hours before using it allows the meat to soak up all the flavours of the sauce; it truly tastes better as the days go by and it is perfect for freezing.