Giving new life to leftover turkey–Nachos!!!

Do you remember that movie from a few years back, The Ice Harvest? No? It was starring John Cusak. Jog your memory? Of course…

It was a pretty forgettable movie except for the role Oliver Platt played of John Cusack’s ex-wife’s sloppy drunk and portly new husband. My favorite line from the movie is when he shows up at his mother-in-law’s, who has invited him for dessert. He says “Screw the pie, you old harpy. We’re here for dinner. Turkey lurkey!”

I had so much turkey leftover from both mine and my mom’s Thanksgiving bird, but also from the Hub’s parents’ Thanksgiving spread, which included two 18-pound smoked turkeys.

Turkey lurkey, indeed.

This week, we’ve eaten turkey every day. In every way. One of my favorite things to make with leftover turkey is soup. I had a fresh carcass to make stock out of, so why not? I’ve posted about my love of homemade chicken (turkey) soup before here.

Seriously, bone broth is practically a super food. It’s anti-inflammatory, which is why they always say to eat chicken soup when you’re sick. But not from a can. The real-deal homemade stuff with bone broth is what will cure what ails ya. Bone broth is rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and other trace minerals, that absorb easily into our system because of the slow simmering process of turning bones into a delicious and healthy broth. (Here’s the source with some more info on the benefits.)

Brown baggin' turkey leftovers.

Brown baggin’ turkey leftovers.

This week, instead of adding pasta to the turkey soup, I used some wild rice I had in the pantry. We have been eating it all week. And I still had the better part of a gallon zip-top bag full of turkey left.

So I did what anyone would naturally do with their turkey leftovers, right? I made nachos!

I’m kind of a nachos connoisseur. They are my comfort food. Cheesy, crunchy, warm and salty goodness. I like to try them at different establishments, but I also like to make them at home. One place I ordered them which I can’t remember now, really impressed me by making them double-layered. A layer of chips on the bottom with toppings, then another layer of chips and more toppings. I have only seen those once, but it’s genius! That way all the chips had some of the toppings on them. Sometimes if it’s a big pile, the chips on the bottom are just… well, chips, not nachos. So, that’s how I made these. Cheesy goodness for all!


Turkey Lurkey Leftovers Nachos (serves 4, but really serves 2)

  • half a bag of tortilla chips (I used yellow corn rounds)
  • 1 1/2 cups of chopped up roasted turkey
  • 1/2 an onion, diced
  • 1 Tb minced garlic (3ish cloves)
  • 2 Tb extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tb butter
  • 2 Tb flour
  • 1 cup milk (plus more as needed)
  • 4 oz. queso fresco
  • 2 Tb taco seasoning (recipe follows)
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • a pinch of smoked paprika
  • garnishes for nachos such as lettuce, tomato, sour cream, diced avocado and salsa


In a large skillet, heat the oil on medium heat. Add diced onion and garlic. Stir well and cook until onion is softened, 3-4 minutes. Add the turkey and the taco seasoning.You want the turkey to get slightly golden brown so that it no longer has that slimy cold leftover turkey quality to it. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent it from burning. Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan, melt the butter and add the flour. Stir well so that it resembles paste. Add the 1 cup of milk, whisking to get the lumps out. Bring to a boil and let thicken about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Crumble the cheese (or diced it into 1/2 inch pieces. It mostly crumbles when you try to cut it anyway) and add to the milk mixture.  Stir well with the heat on medium-low until the cheese has melted. I could not get mine as smooth as Mexican restaurants somehow do. It still had some lumps and chunks of cheese, but it was fine. Add the pinch of cayenne and smoked paprika. Stir well and remove from heat. Turn the broiler on the oven to high. Spread about half of the chips out on a platter, top with half the turkey and half the sauce. Repeat with another layer of chips, turkey and cheese. Broil on high until the cheese starts to get browned and bubbly, about 3 minutes. Check it periodically to make sure it doesn’t burn. While it’s in the oven, get the rest of your toppings together. I had lettuce, tomato, avocado, sour cream and salsa, but you could add black olives, jalepenos, or whatever you like on nachos. Enjoy!

Also, please don’t buy taco seasoning. I guarantee you already own all the spices that it’s made of. It takes you less than five minutes to make a batch, and you’ll have it ready next time you need it. Making it at home saves money, and helps you use up those spices that they say you should throw every six months. With the price of them, I certainly don’t throw them out after six months, but I do try to use them up. This is a great way.

Taco Seasoning (makes enough for one pound of meat–easily doubled or quadrupled)

  • 1 Tb chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika (I used smoked paprika)
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin

Mix all together in a jar and shake. Add to meat. Or quadruple it and store it in a small jar with a tight lid with your other spices for future use.

These turkey nachos were so, so good. The Hubs and I “gobbled” them up. (Haha.) The smoked paprika gives these a little hint of unexpected smokey flavor. And this recipe makes plenty of cheese. Probably too much, but no one ever said, “Man, there’s just too much cheese on this…” You really wouldn’t guess they were made from Thanksgiving turkey leftovers, and it’s a nice way to change up the regular rotation for leftovers–usually including turkey soup and turkey salad.



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