30-Minute Meals to Make with Ground Turkey
From burgers to Bolognese, rice bowls to wraps, here are the easy ground turkey recipes you’re craving
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I keep a running list of all-stars when it comes to versatility for weeknight dinners, things I stock in my pantry on the regular. Think dried pasta, rice, eggs, canned tomatoes, tuna, and beans, nut butters, tortillas, and ready-made broth. That list wouldn’t be complete without ground turkey, several pounds of which are always in my freezer. Here’s why:
It defrosts quickly, so even if I haven’t planned ahead I can still use it for a last-minute dinner. (More on that below.)
It lends itself to virtually every cuisine, thanks to a naturally mild flavor that works with all kinds of spices and sauces.
Healthy ground turkey recipes come together with minimal effort, since this meat is naturally lean.
Unlike a larger piece of meat, ground turkey cooks fast — usually, all it takes is a quick spin in a skillet.
Ground turkey works in almost any recipe that calls for ground beef.
Now all we need are some simple ground turkey dinner ideas. The ones that follow deliver in about half an hour!
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Ground turkey FAQs
Have you filled your freezer with this versatile ground meat? Here’s how to use it.
What to make with ground turkey
In any recipe that calls for ground beef or ground chicken, ground turkey makes an ideal substitute. Nutritionally, lean versions of ground turkey and ground beef — at least 93% lean, 7% fat — are more similar than you might think. Both are lean protein, naturally low-carb. Turkey has a little less saturated fat, but otherwise they line up pretty evenly. The big difference is in flavor. Ground turkey tastes mild, almost bland, while beef has a distinctive, well, beefiness. For me the best ground turkey recipes are ones with plenty of other things going on, like turkey tacos, turkey shepherd’s pie, or turkey lasagna.
How long does ground turkey last?
According to the USDA, raw ground turkey can stay in the fridge for one to two days — after that, bacteria may reach levels that can make you sick. Stow it in the freezer, and it’ll stay safe indefinitely — but after three to four months, quality starts to decline.
Ground turkey food safety tips
Ground turkey has more bacteria than a whole turkey, because the process of grinding takes whatever germs might be on the surface and spreads them throughout. Cold can keep the bacteria from growing further, so refrigerate or freeze ground meat as soon as you get it home. Ready to use it? Always cook dishes with ground turkey until a meat thermometer reaches 165°F.
How to defrost ground turkey
The USDA recommends three methods for defrosting ground turkey.
Ideally, you’ll remember one day ahead of time and transfer the frozen meat to the fridge, where it can defrost slowly and safely.
Need something quicker? Submerge a tightly-wrapped package in cold water, and change the water every 30 minutes until thawed.
When you’re really in a hurry, microwave it. Remove all packaging and place the meat in a microwave-safe dish. Give it short spins in the machine, stopping to break it up and remove any thawed portions as you go. With this method, you must use the turkey meat immediately — uneven temperatures can encourage bacteria growth.
Classic ground turkey recipes (with or without a twist)
Ground turkey lends itself beautifully to some favorite comfort foods. Check out these dinner recipes.
The mildness of ground turkey gets a boost from canned green chilies, spices like cumin and chili powder, and fresh cilantro and scallions. The patties get run under the broiler (or on the grill), then served with a zippy chipotle-lime mayo. The extra sauce is perfect for dunking sweet potato fries or chips.
When I want to believe it’s bright and sunny despite gray skies, this lemony burger does the trick. Thanks to its pops of feta, red onion, garlic, and dill, this turkey burger whisks me away to the Greek islands.
My standard ground turkey meatloaf recipe bakes for over an hour. On a busy weeknight, I don’t have time for that — but thanks to this clever recipe, we can have turkey meatloaf for dinner whenever we want. Instead of making one large loaf, you divide the mixture into a muffin pan. Any extras freeze beautifully, too.
Saucy and messy (dare I say “sloppy”?), this recipe delivers everything you’d expect from a sloppy joe — onion and bell pepper, Worcestershire sauce and ketchup — but using lean ground turkey makes it a smidge healthier. Making it in the Instant Pot gets dinner on the table in a jiffy.
Italian-American ground turkey recipes
Our collection of best ground turkey recipes would not be complete without some mighty fine Italian food.
Because ground turkey is so lean, it can cook up on the dry side. Mixing ground turkey meatballs with shredded zucchini not only gets more veggies into your family, it also keeps the meat moist and tender. I like to serve them tucked inside a roll, topped with marinara and mozzarella, and broiled until the cheese is melty — a quick meatball Parmigiana.
This recipe isn’t ready in 30 minutes. Instead, you’ll spend a few minutes on prep in the morning, then put ground turkey and turkey sausage, chopped veggies, tomato sauce, and canned tomatoes into a slow cooker, and walk away. You’ll come home to an outrageously delicious dinner in no time.
My husband adores lasagna, but it’s not exactly an everyday dish. This turkey lasagna recipe uses a handful of tricks to make it weeknight-friendly. Instead of cooking lasagna noodles and layering them with meat sauce and ricotta cheese, then baking the whole thing, you make everything on the stovetop, in a single skillet. Now that’s what I call an easy dinner.
Italian wedding soup is one of my favorites — I love the combo of garlicky ground meatballs, tender greens, and rich broth. These turkey meatballs are larger than normal, which makes the soup almost feel like a stew. Be sure to sprinkle on some grated Parmesan and dunk some good, crusty bread.
Tex-Mex ground turkey recipes
Ground turkey just loves a lot of seasoning, and Tex-Mex cuisine delivers.
Forget taco Tuesdays — my family could eat tacos every night of the week. Sometimes, though, all those moving parts can feel a bit fussy. Which is why this skillet meal, which includes all the flavors we expect from ground turkey tacos plus quinoa, black beans, and corn, is so amazing: No assembly required.
I know some chili purists insist bean chili is all kinds of wrong, but I love the extra heft. This ground turkey chili recipe calls for three different kinds — pinto, white, and black beans — so it’s extra hearty. Serve it with all your favorite toppings, like chopped avocado, jalapeño, sour cream, and cilantro.
With just 10 ingredients, five of which are spices, these ground turkey stuffed bell peppers are a fantastic, easy dinner with tons of flavor. Seriously, the recipe is so simple, you can pretty much memorize it the first time you cook it.
A tasty filling of ground turkey, onions, garlic, and green chiles gets rolled up in tortillas, doused with spicy enchilada sauce, topped with cheese, and baked. So easy, and so rewarding. Want to save a few minutes, to get the recipe in at 30 minutes? Swap prepared enchilada sauce for the homemade.
Asian-style ground turkey recipes
These stir-fries, lettuce wraps, and noodle bowls make the most of good-for-you ground turkey.
With practically no prep — you’re just measuring out ingredients for the sauce — this sweet and salty, umami-rich meal comes together in a flash. For a boost of nutrition, serve it with brown rice and some steamed veggies.
Ground turkey lettuce wraps are a deliciously light, easy to cook (and eat) weeknight dinner. These get tons of flavor from hoisin, soy, and sriracha; crunch from carrots and water chestnuts; and zing from plenty of fresh ginger.
I love, love, love a recipe that uses coleslaw mix. You get a hearty serving of vegetables, and you don’t have to chop a thing! Here, you’ll be using your Instant Pot to make an egg roll bowl with ground turkey. It’s like eating the filling from an egg roll, without the wrapper. (I know, I know, that crispy wrapper is good, but I don’t see myself futzing to assemble individual egg rolls. Or frying them on a weeknight.)
Dan dan noodles — noodles topped a spicy sauce with ground pork — are a popular Sichuan dish. This recipe tweaks the formula, substituting ground turkey and making the sauce more of a spiced-up broth. With scallions, bok choy, and cucumber matchsticks for a cooling garnish, it’s a complete meal in one very tasty bowl.
Ground meat for the weeknight win
In these next articles, explore more crowd-pleasing recipes featuring convenient ground meat.