Tacos were pretty much an every-week staple at my elementary school growing up.  And I remember this being a crazy popular lunch day but I don’t remember eating them at school.  In hindsight, my brother and I were lucky kids; our mom was a work-at-home mom (almost unheard of in the 80s) and she had the ability to be there every morning to make our lunches.  Once a week, she gave us money to buy lunch at school and I picked carefully: either deli day (Thursdays) or pizza day (Fridays, naturally).  I don’t think my mom was ever exposed to tacos and refried beans until we were at a Girl Scout jamboree camping trip circa 1988 so until then, we never ate them at home either.  I couldn’t tell you if that was weird for the time but I can tell you tacos soon became a revolutionary meal in our house.

In our house now, you’ll see tacos show up on our menu at least twice a month and while Kyle and I love to make them traditionally with my homemade taco seasoning, we’re not against trying other varieties either.  These turkey tacos are a little different from the norm.  There’s a little brown sugar and cider vinegar added, both of which add a tiny hint of sweetness to the turkey and boost the flavor of the tacos exponentially, especially with the contrast of a little heat from the chili powder.  I’ve been heating up the leftovers for lunches this week along with the leftover refried beans I made to go with the tacos and either for lunch or dinner, these tacos are already a mainstay on our menu – we’ve made them 3 times in the past 6 weeks!

Healthy Turkey Tacos

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings


  • ¼ ½
  • For the tacos:
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 ¼ lbs (20 oz) ground turkey (not 99% fat-free)
  • ½ cup canned tomato sauce
  • ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • For serving:
  • 8 corn tortilla shells
  • Shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Diced avocado
  • Chopped red onion
  • Sour cream
  • Lime wedges


  1. In a 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder, garlic, oregano, and tomato paste and stir for 30 to 60 seconds, until the tomato paste is evenly distributed.
  2. Add the turkey and cook for 3-5 minutes, breaking up the turkey with a wooden spoon into smaller pieces as it cooks; the turkey should be cooked through but still slightly pink.
  3. Stir in the tomato sauce, chicken broth, vinegar, and brown sugar and bring the mixture to a simmer; simmer until thickened, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper before serving hot in taco shells. Stuff your tacos as desired.


source: adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook by the editor’s of Cook’s Illustrated