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Ask The Readers {Cooking With Ground Turkey}

A few weeks ago I received an email from Michele that I knew would be perfect for an Ask The Readers question. You see Michelle asked me about cooking with ground turkey, but the problem is I have not done a lot of cooking with ground turkey.

We raise hogs and buy half a beef each year from a local rancher. I buy a little chicken throughout the year, but besides that I buy very little other meat. So, I have not bought or cooked ground turkey in a long time.

So, I am hoping you all can help Michelle. Here is her question.

I’m a new follower of your website, and I love it! I’m a SAHM of two little girls and also am trying to serve wholesome meals. I have been trying to convert from ground beef to ground turkey, but the taste is just off to me and my family, no matter what the dish is – lasagna, spaghetti, etc. I was wondering if you have any tips on seasonings I can add to help?


I can’t wait to here what tips you have for her!

Lynn's Kitchen Adventures


  1. Start by replaces only part of the ground beef with the ground turkey maybe 1/4 turkey, 3/4 ground beef. As your family adjusts to that than replace more of the ground beef with turkey until you are using all turkey. Also increase your seasoning since turkey is mild in flavor.

  2. I guess I have the same question. I’ve tried ground turkey many times, and I’m always disappointed with the flavor and consistency. It seems to have an slight, almost bitter aftertaste that I can still taste no matter what kinds of seasonings I use to camouflage it. I love using turkey breasts, and you can’t be baking a whole turkey for great tasting, economical meat. But I’ve just never been happy with ground turkey.

    • I know this reply is long past the original comment date but we cooked roast turkey this week and it had a faint bitter after taste. Turns out it was caused by the olive oil I used. It was very fresh, extra virgin olive oil. The bitter flavour fades as the oil ages. Its the antioxidant flavinoid polyphenols in the oil that are bitter and peppery. Apparently it is a sign of extra virgin fresh oil. Makes me wonder about the quality of all the non bitter oil we have purchased in the past.

  3. We sub ground turkey for anything that uses ground beef and I guess I’ve just become used to the taste. Tacos, lasagna, spaghetti, chili, taco soup, meatballs, etc. all seem to be flavorful enough to not taste “off,” but maybe it’s just a matter of personal preference. Maybe add a little beef flavoring with it like ‘better than bouillon’ or something.

  4. I make turkey sausage that we use for breakfast dishes by adding sage, cayenne, and ginger. The taste is a bit different than pork sausage, but the spices still make it good.
    I also think you’re better off using turkey in things where the meat is not the “star” of the dish. For example, chili is good with turkey because the flavor is more dependent on the spices and the beans rather than the meat. If the dish relies on the flavor of the meat (meatloaf for example), then turkey is not a good choice. I also sometimes mix turkey with beef half and half. That way you’re still getting the benefits of the beef, but cutting the fat.
    I had someone tell me recently that they mix a tablespoon of olive oil in with ground turkey to help the flavor by adding a bit of fat to the meat. I’ve not tried this yet, but it might be worth a shot.

    • beingjennifer says

      I like the Olive oil idea. We use EVOO quite a bit. It might help to season the turkey meat before you add it to the chili too. Then it has a chance to soak up the seasonings.

  5. We love ground turkey — but I grew up eating it. When I brown it, we always brown it with onion and garlic and enjoy it!

  6. We love ground turkey at our house. Seasoning seems to be the key- the turkey itself can be a little bland. Like Sno, we usually brown it with onion and garlic.(If you have picky eaters at your house, grate the onion and garlic into the mix so you get the flavor but not the chunks.) I generally bump up the amount of any dried spices a recipe calls for when I use turkey instead of beef.

  7. We use ground turkey from Whole Foods. I choose the kind WITH the dark meat in it. Makes it not so dry! Also, I just made stuffed peppers with it. They were delicious! I am planning on doing stuffed eggplant with it as well.

  8. Oh, yeah! Adding a little olive oil helps the dryness!

  9. Jessica W says

    I realized that I do like turkey burgers and turkey sausage, but I do not like ground turkey mixed with any kind of tomato base. Maybe we have matching taste buds! Try sticking to recipes that don’t call for tomato sauce, juice, etc.

  10. You might try it in dishes like stroganoff. I had bought a bunch of ground turkey on sale and used it with some potatoes stroganoff and stroganoff with noodles. I thought it tasted good, but it does take a little getting used to. I wasn’t as much of a fan of it in red sauce dishes, like spaghetti, but I really liked it with cream sauces.

  11. My husband and I eat ground turkey more than beef, but in burgers, we make it with half beef and half turkey. It seems to hold up pretty well, specially since he loves to add gouda cheese to the mix of ground meat, onions, garlic, and other assorted spices. 🙂

  12. I’m not a fan of trying to disguise food as something it’s not. If you are having turkey–celebrate the turkey-ness. We like turkey burgers with cranberry sauce and jalapenos. I think some of the problems with ground turkey is that we expect ground beef and it just isn’t the same. Your taste buds are smart, embrace something new and don’t try to fool them.

  13. liquid smoke/kitchen bouquet works.

    So does adding a little worcestershire sauce.

    If all else fails, cook it in some beef boullion maybe?

  14. Lisa Burke says

    I would like to point out something important. What kind of ground turkey are you using? A lot of the standard ground turkey is not good for you, it can be just as good as ground beef. When purchasing ground turkey, make sure it is low in fat, ususally a 97/3 mix is the best otherwise you are not really helping. We love ground turkey in everything. I hope that you begin to like it because it is really good for you when you have the right kind.

    • Shannon W says

      @Lisa Burke, I agree there is no point in using ground turkey if you are still using a kind that is very fatty. The main reason I switched from beef to turkey is because the leaner turkey is actually cheaper. Otherwise 97/3 beef isn’t less healthy just much more expensive.

  15. Make sure you aren’t using the all white ground turkey breast. It is great for burgers but the darker meat will give you more of the taste you are looking for I bet. I buy the cheap roll in the freezer section at my store and we have been using it for years! Good luck!

  16. Shannon W says

    I use ground turkey for everything that I would have used beef for. There is a difference, but not too much. In fact my husband prefers turkey burgers over beef burgers now

  17. Personally, I add cumin. That spice always has a “beefy” smell to me. 🙂

  18. We don’t like ground turkey, but we eat a lot of ground chicken. My husband bought it one day on a whim and I was very surprised by how much everyone liked it. In fact, we all agreed that we liked it better than ground beef for our taco skillet recipe. So, if you find ground turkey tastes “off” you might want to try ground chicken as a ground beef substitute.

  19. I, contrary to others *laugh*, find that when I buy ground turkey it makes AWESOME meatloaf. But, whatever you do, don’t try to make it like a beef meatloaf or you’re destined for disappointment. I do something like this…

    1 lb tube of ground turkey (I buy the Jeannie O tubes from Wal-Mart when cheap)
    1 egg
    1 good squirt of ketchup
    1 good squirt of your preferred mustard
    A couple GOOD palmfulls/Tablespoons of your favorite grill seasoning (you’ll need it as turkey it pretty mild flavored).
    A good palmfull of italian herb mixture (I buy mine in bulk from Costco)
    Then add some fresh ground nutmeg (watching 30 minute meals taught me that one). I usually shoot for about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon (eyeball it while you’re microplaning).
    A good heaping palmfull of parmesan cheese (if you use fresh grated you can use less)
    Mix in bread crumbs until your consistency is right and will form a good sized loaf (I usually end up adding I’d say about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup depending on the bread crumbs)

    I also like to add some pureed veggies to the mix to “sneak” in some added nutrition past my veggie hating daughter and husband (believe it or not, mashed up butternut squash gives it a slightly sweet but not bad flavor). You’ll have to add added bread crumbs/cheese to the mix to get your consistency back where it should be at that point though :).

    Once you’ve formed it into a loaf and stuck it into your pan, here’s a tip to make it moist (my mother-in-law taught me this one). Punch your fingers down into the loaf to make your surface crater-like on top of the loaf (be sure not to punch ALL the way down, you’re just looking to get to about the center of the loaf). Then pour milk down into the holes before you bake. Bake at 375 degrees for about an hour and voila! Awesome meatloaf!

    You can also use the same types of seasonings when making turkey burgers (to a lesser degree on the seasonings of course :). My husband, who doesn’t like to eat much more than something that has come off of a pig or a cow even like the meatloaf and turkey burgers.

    Also, google Rachel Ray Turkey Meatball Soup (it’s on the food network site). She gives you a recipe for making great tasting meatballs and while the soup SOUNDS somewhat weird, it’s really awesomely tasty and I make it as soon as the weather starts getting cold :).

    Good luck to you!

  20. Here’s how we made the switch – first like another person said, start by mixing in ground beef. I started @ 50/50 for a few months and then did 75/25, but you could always start 25/75. I’m just not very patient and turkey is cheaper 🙂 The other thing I do is I have a basic recipe for ground meat that I store in 1 cup portions. I’m never really sure how many will be here for dinner so 1 cup works best, that way I can quickly grab as much or as little as I need. It can be frozen for up to 3 months or refrigerated for up to 3 days. It has very basic seasonings but we think it complements most any dish and uses the seasonings others have mentioned.

    For every lb you need:
    1 onion, chopped
    1 tblsp bottled minced garlic
    1 tblsp worcestershire sauce
    Brown turkey or turkey/beef mix with onion until cooked through; drain. Stir in seasonings and let cool then store in freezer or refrigerator.

    This will work with any ground meat (turkey, beef or chicken)

  21. I buy seasoning packets to help season the meat such as taco seasoning, Italian seasoning, etc. Lawry’s & McCormicks make them 🙂

  22. Buy a different brand of ground turkey! The ONLY brand I’ll eat is Shady Brook Farms. Jennie O, Perdue, all that other crap I won’t touch. I’ve tried those and they taste like old day after thanksgiving turkey…Shady Brook Farm’s doesn’t. I MUCH prefer SBF’s, and I use it in place of any recipe that calls for ground beef…tacos, lasagna, meatballs, etc. I’d love to be able to buy my ground turkey at Sams club but they don’t carry the right brand and I REFUSE to eat what they have.. I wouldn’t be adverse to trying what Sams has but I’m not going to buy 5 lbs of it only to find out it tastes like expired turkey!

  23. Veronica D says

    I use turkey burger in my tacos , chili, spaghetti sauce etc, The trick that i use is to season as I am cooking. For example if it is for spaghetti, I season with garlic, Italian seasoning, Oregano, basil, etc. For Chili i add cumin, chili powder, garlic etc. And it takes more than if you were seasoning beef.
    My kids will not eat turkey burgers, but they rave about my chili , nachos etc HEE HEE if they only knew

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