Crispy Fried (Leftover) Turkey Tacos

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One of the best things about hosting Thanksgiving at your own house is leftovers…leftover turkey especially. The last several years, Tony and I have gone to Sonoma to celebrate the holiday with our daughter-in-law’s family (see last year’s post here), which is so much fun and so much delicious food, but no leftovers!  This year, plans got all discombobulated and we are ending up staying in town with Tony’s family, which is great, but still no leftover turkey.

So last weekend we decided to roast a turkey breast, just for the two of us, so we could have leftovers.  Of course, we’ve done the mandatory BLAT sandwich, but still had more.  I recalled years ago going to Tony’s Jacal, a Mexican restaurant in Solana Beach that’s been around since 1946, where I had a turkey taco.  A deep-fried, crispy turkey taco.  It’s like their “signature” dish.  And it was one of the best things I’ve ever had.  (Which actually begs the question, “why haven’t I made them before now?”  Well, I guess because we usually only make a turkey for Thanksgiving, which, in and of itself, is dumb.  Every year, after T’giving, Tony says, “we should really make turkey more often.” And I agree.  And we never do.)

Okay, again I digress.  I had a general idea of how to do this (I mean, I can’t remember the last time I deep fried a taco…we’re all about soft tacos, right?) but decided I’d pull out the (very) old, tried-and-true HPBooks Mexican Cookery cookbook I’ve had for years and years and sure enough, instructions for “how to make & fill taco shells…you can fry tacos after they are filled.”  Bingo!

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HPBooks Mexican Cookery, circa 1980. And those chicken enchiladas verde on the cover are muy delicioso!

I couldn’t remember what toppings Tony’s Jacal served with their turkey tacos, but we decided on shredded jack cheese, avocado, white onion, cilantro and salsa.  They were muy bueno.  I mean, really really muy bueno.  Not sure what it is about the combination of turkey and deep frying the tortillas, but it is wonderful.  Really worth it.  No soft tortillas here!

I promise now I will be roasting a turkey more often, if only just to have leftovers for these tacos.  (I’m actually hoping I’ll be able to pilfer some of the leftovers from my in-laws on Thursday so I can make these again!!!)

And the tacos were delicious accompanied by one of our favorites, Pati’s Chop-Chop Salad.

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Crispy Fried (Leftover) Turkey Tacos


Corn tortillas (you’ll probably want 2 or 3 per person)

Cooked turkey, shredded or cut into small pieces (you’ll need about 1/4 cup per taco)

Vegetable oil for frying

Your favorite accoutrements – we used shredded jack cheese, avocado, white onion, cilantro (I like to chop the white onion and finely chop the cilantro and mix them together in a small bowl for serving) and salsa.


Heat each tortilla on a griddle until softened.  Place about 1/4 cup turkey on each warmed tortilla and fold in half.  Fasten securely with wooden picks.

Heat oil in a large skillet to 365° (don’t have a thermometer?  The easiest, and safest, method is to stick the end of a wooden spoon into the oil. If you see bubbles form around the wood and they start to float up, your oil is hot enough to cook with).

Fry a few tacos at a time in hot oil until they are crisp, turning as necessary.  Drain tacos on paper towels.  Before serving, remove the wooden picks and add your favorite accoutrements.