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Ground turkey (Recipe: turkey-escarole soup)


When I was a child, I thought I was one of a kind -- the kind of person who loves chicken, but doesn't love turkey.

My mother indulged my taste in poultry, and instead of insisting I make a meal out of side dishes, for every holiday she'd cook two main courses. Turkey and brisket. Turkey and meatballs. Turkey and....

As I've grown older, my tastes have grown up. I still don't love roast turkey, but I love ground turkey and always have some in my freezer.

Without the skin, turkey is naturally low in fat, and a good source of folic acid, vitamins B, B1,B6, zinc and potassium. Its neutral flavor accepts all variations of seasoning, from Mexican to Italian to spicy Asian.

Ground turkey 

I substitute ground turkey in Asian recipes that call for pork -- favorites like ma po tofu and Szechuan green beans -- and I love to try different incarnations of turkey meatballs, meatloaf and burgers.

In the supermarket, look for ground white meat turkey (extremely lean) or ground dark meat, which has a bit more fat and flavor. Of course you can grind your own, if you have a meat grinding attachment for your Kitchenaid mixer.

I love roast chicken, but not roast turkey -- and ground turkey, but not ground chicken. Go figure.

Turkey-escarole soup

Judging by the number of people who've written to tell me they've tried this recipe, this is my all-time #1 best soup. It started, as many great soups do, as "fridge dump". Substitute spinach for escarole, or ground chicken for ground turkey, but don't omit the parm rind; it makes all the difference. Serves 6-8.


2 tsp olive oil
1-1/2 lb ground turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
2 zucchini, chopped
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 tsp dried thyme leaf
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 large head escarole, washed, roughly chopped (or 2 small bags of baby spinach)
6 oz ground or chopped canned tomato, or fresh tomato
4 cups chicken stock (low-sodium store-bought, or homemade)
1 cup water, if needed to cover
1/4 cup small pasta (orzo, pilaf noodles, spaghetti broken into small pieces, etc.)
Rind of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (the secret ingredient) -- any size you have


In a stock pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat, and sauté ground turkey until no longer pink. Add onion, zucchini and mushrooms, and sauté until onions are translucent. Stir in pepper flakes, thyme and black pepper. Add escarole or spinach, and stir to combine. When the escarole is just slightly wilted, add tomato and stock, water if needed, pasta, and the cheese rind. After the escarole has cooked down, add a cup or two of water, if the soup seems too thick. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. If you used homemade chicken stock, you may wish to add salt and more pepper, to taste.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Turkey tacos
Turkey-green-chile chili
Turkey meatloaf with fig gravy
Spicy turkey rolls
Turkey meatballs with pasta

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I don't really see turkey very often at our supermarkets here except in December (for xmas)... If I see any ground turkey in Dec, I would like to substitute it with ground pork for some of the dishes like you did to try the taste :)

Lydia, you're too funny! I have also used ground turkey for Mapa Tofu and was reprimanded by my Chinese friends. Whatever! I still tastes great and it's more universally enjoyed by my (Jewish) friends. Soup recipe does look great, too.

I like the idea of substituting ground turkey for pork, and it would make the recipes much more diet-friendly for me (not that I've been paying too much attention to my diet lately while I've been visiting you! But I do have to get back to reality when I go home!)

Great sounding soup. Escarole in soup is just divine!

I've never had turkey & escarole soup, which is pretty weird, because I love both turkey & escarole... Hmmmm... That's so cute about your Thanksgiving meals. Making a meal of just the sides would have been a dream for me as a kid!! They're still my favorite part. Mmmm... stuffffffiiiinngggggggg!

I've had this soup a lot and it's one of my favorites!

MM, I'm getting a pastured turkey from a local farm. I plan on grinding it up and freezing it. This will be perfect!

I however will be grinding up skin & all, for pastured poultry has healthy fats in it.

I think I have always liked turkey. At least I don't remember a time not liking it. However, I made chicken this Thanksgiving (we have it in October in Canada), but that was mostly because the guests I had over were turkeyed out from the previous two days.
Otherwise I would have been making turkey soup for the next week or so. As it is, I will make one batch of chicken soup.
Anyway, next time I see ground turkey on sale, I will grab some. You have inspired me!

I like using ground turkey as a substitute for ground beef, in chili, tacos, lasagna I feel like you can barely tell the difference.

I eat roast chicken and roast turkey equally, but for some reason I don't like deli-sliced chicken. I love turkey sandwiches but chicken as deli meat just doesn't do it for me.

Sounds delicious. I love soup -- especially with greens and lots of other veggies. So satisfying and healthy at the same time. I used lean ground pork in lots of things, and more recently, a combo of different ground meats. I don't often purchase ground turkey, although I enjoy it whole or otherwise.

I love chicken and like turkey!

"I love roast chicken, but not roast turkey -- and ground turkey, but not ground chicken. Go figure."

I agree COMPLETELY! (Phew, for some reason, it makes me feel better knowing that I'm not the only person who feels this way.)

Can I make this with my huge turkey carcass? :)
I can see why it's your number one soup. We're having perfect soup weather right now; wish I could dip into a bowl.

Looks delicious . . . I am salivatingmyself sitting here looking at your dish!

So you're picky about your poultry, eh? I love the idea of substituting ground turkey for pork in Asian recipes. And, I'm a turkey meatloaf connoisseur.

guess i'm still a bit of a child because i haven't come around to turkey yet. and this thanksgiving i will be making a meal out of the sides. although, i'm more of a pickle and homemade rolls kinda gal.

i just braised up escarole for a dinner side tonight. it's on super sale here in upstate ny. might be time for a fridge dump up in here too...

I like to use ground turkey as well. This soup sounds healthy, hearty and tasty.

I love the idea of using ground turkey in soup...this looks fabulous. I've been out of control making soup lately, but my freezer will be fully stocked for winter!

Saw you at BlogHer and so glad I got to hear you talk! I'm loving your blog :)

Noobcook, you could make this with ground pork, or ground chicken, or even ground beef, too.

Julia, I always imagine that ground turkey and ground pork taste the same, though I couldn't tell you for sure! I've always substituted turkey for pork -- and I'm sure my Jewish grandparents are smiling down on me for that!

Kalyn, I really love escarole in this soup -- tempers the bitterness of the greens for me. It's almost as good with spinach, too.

Ann, don't tell, but even today I could make a meal of stuffing and green beans.

Rupert, I'm so glad, because you know that I'm addicted to it!

Susy, I've never done that but can only imagine that this soup will be wonderful with such a great ingredient.

Erik, ground turkey is perfect for avoiding the Thanksgiving turkey overdose! It comes in small amounts, and you can cook it in many different ways. True, you can't have endless sandwiches made from the leftovers, but that could be a good thing!

Maris, same here -- I don't eat sliced turkey or chicken from the deli. I think it's often injected with something (water?) to make it "plump".

Kellypea, for me this time of year is all about soups. That's how this recipe came about, two or three years ago, and all of my friends have been making it ever since.

Kelly-Jane, Sandie: in the cosmic chicken-turkey universe, you two balance each other out!

Aimee, sure you can. Instead of ground turkey, just use shredded turkey meat from the carcass.

Big Boys Oven, thanks -- on a cold day this soup makes my nose run (but then again, I put lots more red pepper flakes into it when I make it just for me!).

TW, I've got one great turkey meatloaf recipe but would always love to try something new. Share???

Renee, if you're lucky enough to find yourself at a Thanksgiving feast with great side dishes, that's the way to go. My favorite meal: stuffing (made with something spicy); cranberry chutney; green beans; mashed potatoes. The meat is secondary.

Kevin, it's all that and more -- it's easy to make, too.

Sues, there's no such thing as too much soup in the freezer. If I had more freezer space, I'd have more soup! So glad you came to BlogHer Boston -- wasn't it fun?

A wonderful, hearty soup and I'm delighted to learn of your most excellent hostessing with Kalyn in town.

I'm always intrigued by how much difference that parm rind can make! Lovely soup.

Lydia, ground turkey is an excellent replacement for ground beef - so many possibilities!

I actually cooked up some ground turkey (for the first time in a long time) last night. It really is so versatile but a little ho-hum. I like your recipe... it makes it seem sophisticated somehow :)

You know, I've never tried turkey mince but my (American, of course!) husband raves about it! I think he just likes him because of the sleepy-chemical and all that but perhaps I'll try it in our next meatloaf!

I have always been a little afraid of ground poultry... Maybe it's time to try it out. This recipe sounds great, and I'm a big soup eater/maker!

I love turkey too and used to love making a taco filling with ground turkey that was just delicious. Since becoming a vegetarian it's something I missed, especially at Thanksgiving! So for now, I will live vicariously through you. This look delicious.

Peter, this is really a great winter soup. And yes, Kalyn and I had a ball!

MyKitchen, I wish I'd known the parm rind trick years ago. I throw those rinds into every kind of soup and stew.

Patricia, many times I really prefer the lighter taste of the turkey -- and it takes very well to spicy seasonings, too.

EB, ho-hum, yes, on its own. But add some red pepper flakes and it can really zing!

Freya, you can mix some ground turkey with ground beef -- or try the ground turkey meatloaf recipe I posted here last year.

Nicole, as with all poultry, know and trust your source. Ground turkey is really handy to have in the pantry.

Ari, I do taco filling with turkey, too. It's become one of our family favorites. Of course you can make these recipes with soy and tempeh products, too!

I love turkey mince, too. It is so flavourful and really does make a great sub for pork in many dishes. (Ground chicken, on the other hand, is vile!)

Angela, you are a woman after my own heart! Why ground chicken and ground turkey should taste so different I really don't know, but they surely do.

Ground turkey is a great substitute for ground beef. You can make every dish that calls for beef with ground turkey. Thanks Lydia!

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