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Wild Turkey Carnitas Recipe

Making wild turkey carnitas is a good way to use up turkey legs that are otherwise difficult to eat.

Wild Turkey Carnitas Recipe

Pile turkey carnitas into a soft tortilla and top with cilantro, diced onions, and a squeeze of lime. (Holly A. Heyser photo)

Print Recipe

Carnitas – if you've never ordered the pork carnitas at Chipotle, you are missing out. It's a Mexican dish of braised meat that's pulled off the bone and crisped up on one side in a pan. That combo of crispy with meltingly tender meat is the perfect answer for an otherwise difficult meat to eat – turkey legs.

I prefer my turkey carnitas in soft tacos, with the traditional accompaniments: limes, onions, maybe some hot sauce, roasted chiles, and cilantro or parsley. Once you braise the meat and pull it off the bone, it will keep in the fridge for a week.

Serves: 4-6
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 2-4 hours


  • 2-4 turkey legs plus wings or thighs
  • Salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 3-5 dried small chiles
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ cup lard or vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Juice of an orange


  1. Put the turkey in a large lidded pot, add all the herbs, spices and enough water to cover the meat. Cover and simmer gently for 3-4 hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone.
  2. When the turkey is tender, remove it from the pot and let it cool. Pull it to pieces with two forks or your fingers. Discard the bones, skin and any tendons. You can store the meat for a few days at this point.
  3. To finish, melt the lard in a large pan and lay the shredded turkey on it on one layer. Brown it until one side is nice and crispy, about 4 minutes on medium-high. At the very end, pour the orange juice over the meat and sprinkle the sugar on top. Serve in tacos or burritos, on sandwiches or as a topping for rice.

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