Mark my word, on November 23rd, I’m going to be faced with a serious dilemma. It’s not going to be whether to get bundled up at 4am to go stand in some line for 50% off a new TV. Nope, it’s going to be about the fact that I all I want is a turkey gobbler sandwich or maybe some turkey ‘n stuffin’ hash but instead I’ll be eating some sort of diner breakfast and then sitting in a car for 6 hours to return to my Thanksgiving-leftovers-less home. While I look forward to and relish the time spent with family during our holiday travels, I can’t help but  miss one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving!

I know the obvious solution: cook up a turkey dinner just for the heck of it, to enjoy the leftovers as I please. And maybe I’ll get around to it, someday, but the hustle ‘n bustle all month long never leaves any time. (Although this year, I really hope to get to it because I have some fun Thanksgiving dishes I’d like to try out and be able to share with you before the holiday.)

This season, the cravings came on too fast and too furious to plan for Thanksgiving dinner. So I took a different route, and threw a few of my favorite components in the slow cooker and immediately re-constructed them into Thanksgiving Leftover Tacos. Which are really just Cider Braised Turkey & Squash Tacos, since no Thanksgiving dinner was actually enjoyed in the process.

And, I have a little confession to make. While I’m usually 110% sure that the ingredients I decide to toss together will “work”, I was a little befuddled about the avocado. I felt like it needed to be there, for a little creativity, just so that this was more than simple squash, turkey and cranberry sauce piled on a tortilla. But I wasn’t sure it really belonged – until I took the first bite. That creamy flesh was just the right compliment to the savory turkey and sweet cranberries, and the spiced pepitas on top were the “icing on the cake”, so to speak, adding the necessary “crunch” factor. We served these on my super easy, hot-off-the-skillet quinoa flour tortillas, but I imagine any tortilla – corn, wheat, or otherwise – will do. And if this isn’t enough of a good use of “leftovers” I even recycled these ones into a pita pizza the next day, topped with melt-y smoked Gouda cheese.

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Cider Braised Turkey & Squash Tacos

Yield: 4-6 servings


Turkey and Squash
1lb boneless turkey breast
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 cups (1 1/4 - 1 1/2lbs) peeled, cubed butternut squash
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
1 cup apple cider
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Cranberry Sauce

2 cups fresh cranberries
2/3 cup apple cider
3 packets stevia, or to taste

Additional ingredients for serving
sliced avocado
spiced roasted pumpkin seeds


Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Mix together the sage, thyme, garlic powder, salt and pepper and rub all over the turkey breast. Place the turkey in the skillet and cook until browned on all sides, about 2-3 minutes per side.

Toss the squash and onions in the slow cooker and nestle the turkey in the center. Pour in the cider and chicken broth. Cover and cook for 3 - 3 1/2 hours on high or 6-7 hours on low.

Place the cranberries, cider and stevia in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 10 minutes, until cranberries are broken down. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Remove the turkey from the slow cooker and place on a cutting board. Slice or shred into large chunks. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the squash and onions to a medium bowl. Coarsely mash and stir in cinnamon. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, spread a layer of the squash mixture onto warmed tortillas and top each with some of the turkey, cranberry sauce and avocado. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.

Cara Lyons,