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Leftover Turkey Tacos Are A Reason To Give Thanks

Corn tortillas are a perfect choice for wrapping Thanksgiving leftovers. Credit: iStockPhoto

Corn tortillas are a perfect choice for wrapping Thanksgiving leftovers. Credit: iStockPhoto

What’s all the fuss over turkey sandwiches on squishy white bread? Been there, done that. This year, go a different route and try the big day’s leftovers on wonderfully warm, healthful corn tortillas.

Get yourself a package or two of corn tortillas for a post-holiday meal. They’re absolutely heavenly with cooked turkey that’s shredded, Mexican taco-style, rather than sliced for sandwiches.

For a side dish, look to the Native American cranberries, an old standby once eaten by sailors to prevent scurvy. They’re not only loaded with vitamin C, but downright exciting when the cold sauce is kicked up with a few tablespoons of sweet agave syrup and minced, spicy green jalapeño or serrano chiles.

When reheating stuffing or yams, mix in a few finely chopped, canned chipotle chiles for an out-of-this-world, smoky flavor boost. Crunchy green beans, even green bean casserole, benefit from a small, chopped white onion, chopped fresh chile and handful of fresh cilantro leaves sprinkled on top before serving.

A perfect addition to your relish tray (and don’t we all love an old-fashioned, ice-cold relish tray on Thanksgiving?) is peeled jicama cut into sticks the same size as your carrot and celery sticks. For a little more flavor, dust spicy chile powder on the slightly sweet jicama, which has a crunch like water chestnut.

The easiest of all post-holiday meals — the Thanksgiving taco — is made from your cold leftovers with a squirt each of fresh Mexican lime (aka Key lime) juice and a Mexican hot sauce such as Tapatío or Búfalo brand for the right flavor profile. Fold up the warm tortilla and take a bite. I told you so.

Leftover Turkey Tacos

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

Yield: Makes 1 to unlimited


1 (or more) package(s) of corn tortillas

Leftover Thanksgiving foods

Lime juice

Hot sauce

Mayonnaise if desired


1. Heat the tortillas by laying as many as can fit in one layer on a medium-hot, ungreased griddle. After 30 seconds, flip over and heat through another 30 seconds. Pile into a napkin-lined basket to keep warm and moist. Continue with the others.

2. Pass the basket of warm tortillas, bowls of Thanksgiving leftovers, mayo if you must, Mexican hot sauce and lime wedges for make-your-own tacos.

Main photo: Corn tortillas are a perfect choice for wrapping Thanksgiving leftovers. Credit: iStockPhoto

Zester Daily contributor Nancy Zaslavsky is an author, cooking teacher and culinary tour leader specializing in the foods of Mexico. She wrote the James Beard Award-nominated "A Cook's Tour of Mexico" and "Meatless Mexican Home Cooking." Motivated by ongoing research into the cultural and culinary history of Mexico, she is the vice president and program chair of the Culinary Historians of Southern California. Based in Los Angeles, she is also a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and International Slow Food Movement.


  • Beryl 11·26·14

    As far as my taste goes, there is no special treat more appetizing than leftover turkey with
    Cranberry sauce !!

  • kathleen 11·26·14

    Great idea and easy to follow your guiding light, Nancy! Love the corn tortilla idea with this. The whole concept is refreshing. Thank you!!!

  • kevin 11·26·14

    Nice! We like to turn our leftovers into quesadillas on the forman grill. This sounds better 🙂

  • EJC 11·26·14

    great idea, problem solved,
    will skip the mayo and add spicy cranberry salsa!

  • Helene 11·26·14

    Thanks Nancy! I like those ideas!

  • Susan 11·26·14

    What an easy way to use some of that left over turkey! I also like the idea of adding the jicama to my vegetable tray. Great ideas, Nancy, keep them coming.

  • Steve Smith 11·26·14

    I love it when you tell us so–and so right on, as always! Thanks for the fabulous tips!

  • RM 11·26·14

    Great idea for the day after!

  • Barbara Hansen 11·26·14

    All these ideas fit so naturally with the leftovers that the turkey becomes a great new dish. I love the taco idea.

  • Donna V 11·26·14

    Another …. Good to the last bite moment !!

  • beth 11·26·14

    Great idea! Wish I had some right now.

  • Laurie 11·27·14

    Sounds amazing!! Thanks again for more brilliant and yummy ideas. Can’t wait to try this one. Corn tortillas are always delicious.

  • Florine Sikking 11·28·14

    As always, your suggestions are tasty and timely. Thanks. fcs..

  • Grace 11·29·14

    Ummmmm think I’ll fix some Turkey Taco’s for breakfast.
    And, maybe even cook another turkey!!

  • David Latt 12·2·14

    Love your article. Years ago I produced a pilot for a TV show. One episode was about using after Thanksgiving turkey. The shredded neck meat made great tacos. I was told by a set decorator that in order to make the finished hard-tacos more photogenic, I should put a tissue underneath the lettuce, turkey and tomatoes to keep the ingredients at the top of the taco. The tacos looked beautiful. We were doing a second pilot episode that day. While I was scrambling to set up the food for that demonstration, the crew descended on the tacos. They devoured them in a second. Tissue paper and all. ‘Guess that after-Thanksgivng turkey was that good! Have a great holiday.

  • Marcia 12·2·14

    Nancy – I always enjoy reading your pieces and recipes…abrazos, MM

  • Marina McLeod 12·9·14

    Delicious! What a great idea! Thank you!