Thanksgiving Taco Ideas: Not Just for Leftovers (But Can Be)

Kon-Tiki Taco Written by 

Post-Turkey Day taco meals are not new and entirely delicious. But there’s nothing that says you can’t make turkey tacos for Thanksgiving Day itself.

It’s pretty easy to find turkey leftover taco recipes on the Internet. You don’t need taco caterers to make a southwestern-flavored turkey taco (use chili powder, dried oregano and ground cumin), a diet-themed turkey taco (substitute iceberg lettuce for the wrap), or even a gourmet turkey taco (the secret is to use fresh cilantro).

All well and good. Adding a spiced-up cranberry relish makes for an awesome salsa, so have at it. It’s not at all hard to imagine a mobile taco cart catering company offering these during the holiday period.

But one of the most enriching and affirming aspects of the uniquely American way of celebrating Thanksgiving is how the holiday is not tied to any religion or ethnic group. The Norman Rockwell dinner table might be the tradition of millions, but the diversity of the country can be found in kitchens and on dinner tables from sea to shining sea in late November.

For example, Italian Americans have included tomato sauces in their Thanksgiving for many generations now. German Americans manage to slip in a sweet-sour cabbage. And Irish Americans might serve up colcannon, a creamy mashed potato mix with cabbage, onions and bacon.

So why not try Thanksgiving tacos? Mexican Americans may or may not serve them, but tacos have become so universal that they hardly can be tied to any heritage. The advantage of tacos – well known to taco catering firms that serve meals for hundreds of event attendees – is that they are easy to eat in large group settings. The hand-held nature of tacos allows for service without flatware. That works just as well with the adults as it does at the kids’ table.

The possibilities of a Thanksgiving taco are almost endless. Thin slices of turkey are the main ingredient, of course. But adding roasted sweet potatoes, cranberries, pecans and even a little sour cream makes for a tasty dish. Wrapped in a corn tortilla (flour will do, too) it’s a meal worthy of Myles Standish.

Part of the reason for this – spoiler alert, this is about to get scientific – is that the basic foods found in traditional New England-style Thanksgiving dinners contain complementary aromas. The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) claims that 80% of the pleasure of meals and feasts are the smells of cooked dishes. The professional organization says that flavor compounds (tiny particles that are aerosolized and float in the air to meet the nostrils of hungry diners, right before the meal) of root vegetables, onions, potatoes, the squash family, cooked apples, cranberries, honey and turkey simply go together. Including in a taco.

So would a margarita bar, white wine or eggnog be better with that meal? The IFT doesn’t say. Perhaps a little more experimentation is needed on that.

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