Five ideas for cooking with ground turkey

Published July 25 2017

I rarely cook with ground beef. Ground turkey became the go-to ground protein in my kitchen years ago. As meats go, it's pretty ideal: not a ton of raw meat juices, easy enough to cook in a pinch, more flavor than ground chicken. I sub turkey in for just about any recipe that calls for ground beef, except on those occasions when I'm craving a juicy cheeseburger. Turkey burgers are in constant rotation on my weeknight dinner list, however, along with the other recipes here.

Michelle Stark, Times food editor

White Cheddar Turkey Burgers

Lots of cheese helps keep these turkey burgers moist throughout. To make, add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is warm, add ½ small red onion that has been finely diced, black pepper, salt, 1 teaspoon cumin and ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes. Cook until onion is soft, about 4 minutes. Scoop mixture into a large bowl, then add the following to the bowl: 1 pound ground turkey , ¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese, half of a finely diced jalapeno and ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro. Knead ingredients together by hand until well combined. Form into 4 patties. Wipe out skillet used to cook onions and place back on medium-high. Once the skillet is hot, add a splash of olive oil, swirl to coat the pan, then add turkey patties. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until browned, about 4 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until browned and cooked through. Top with more shredded cheese. Place the burgers on toasted buns of your choice and serve immediately.

Sriracha Turkey Skewers

This a simple yet different and fuss-free way to cook what are essentially large turkey meatballs. To make them, heat your oven to 400 degrees. Dice a medium red onion. Add to a large skillet set over medium-high heat, along with a splash of olive oil. Cook until onions are soft, about 4 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon coriander and ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes. In a bowl, combine 10 ounces ground turkey, ¼ cup panko bread crumbs, cooked onion and 2 teaspoons sriracha sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Mix to combine, then form mixture into 4 large meatballs, flattening them slightly then threading each into its own skewer. Oil a baking sheet or cover it in parchment paper, then place skewers onto sheet and cook for about 12 minutes, or until cooked throughout. Remove from oven. To serve, drizzle skewers with more sriracha and squeeze fresh lime juice over the top. Serve with cooked jasmine rice. Recipe adapted from HelloFresh.

Thai Turkey Lettuce Cups

You can trick yourself into enjoying lettuce cups by making sure what's inside is super flavorful. To make such a filling, add 1 ¼ pounds ground turkey to a large skillet, cooking over medium-high heat until cooked through. Drain most of the liquid from the pan, then return pan to burner. Season turkey with salt and pepper to taste. To the pan, add ¼ cup chopped green onions, 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons fish sauce, 3 tablespoons peanut butter, 2 teaspoons garlic, 1 teaspoon sugar and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring to incorporate all of the ingredients. Remove mixture from heat, then place in a serving bowl. Rinse about a dozen Bibb lettuce leaves, pat dry, then build your wrap: Scoop some of the mixture onto a leaf, then top with some shredded carrots, chopped peanuts and a big squeeze of fresh lime juice. Repeat with remaining wraps. Recipe adapted from

Red Bean and Turkey Chili

Chili need not be a seasonal food. When made with ground turkey and a bunch of beans, the easy-to-make, easy-to-eat dish is low in calories and high enough in fiber that it will keep you full for a long time. Sounds like a perfectly respectable work lunch all year round. To make this version, chop 1 small white onion and add to a large pot set over medium-high heat along with a hefty pour of olive oil. Season onions with salt and pepper, and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add 1 clove minced garlic and cook for another minute. Add 1 pound ground turkey and allow that to brown for at least 5 minutes, stirring to break up the meat. Next, add 1 (15-ounce) can dark red kidney beans, 1 (15-ounce) can light red kidney beans, 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon chili powder, ½ teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon cinnamon and more salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and allow chili to cook for about 10 minutes, then lower to a simmer, cover and cook for at least another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with cheddar cheese.

Turkey Sloppy Joes

Growing up, we ate a lot of Sloppy Joes, so the flavor of the ketchup-y sauce clinging to ground beef has a nostalgic hold over me. I was delighted when I came across this recipe, which coats ground turkey in a from-scratch sauce that conjures the same comforting effect. To make, add 1 tablespoon canola oil and 1 pound ground turkey to a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add 1 chopped onion and 1 minced garlic clove and cook until the meat is browned, breaking it up so it browns evenly, about 5 minutes. Add 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce, ¼ cup dark brown sugar, ¼ cup barbecue sauce and 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then reduce heat a bit and allow mixture to simmer until thick, about 4 minutes. Now, make a coleslaw to go with your Joes: In a bowl, mix ⅓ cup sour cream or Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, a handful each thinly sliced green and red cabbage and 2 grated carrots. Stir to combine, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide turkey mixture among 4 hamburger buns and serve with coleslaw. Recipe adapted from Real Simple.