12 Ways To Upgrade Your Canned Turkey

can of meat and bread
can of meat and bread - Olesya_sh/Shutterstock

Canned foods often get a bad reputation. Quite frankly, we find that unfair. There's a lot to be celebrated about the humble can of this or that that's been sleeping at the back of the cupboard for the past goodness-knows-how-long. Canned food is cheaper and lasts longer than its fresh counterpart. Plus, that fear of BPAs you've been holding onto is so last year. The government has been working to get rid of the chemical from the canning process for over a decade, meaning that 95% of canned foods are now produced with different, safer methods.

There's no doubt that canned fish has been having its moment in the spotlight recently, with social media going wild for "girl dinners" tucking into anchovies and crackers or gym bros getting excited about the nutritional value in a can of tuna. But what about turkey? If you choose your brand carefully, you can get high-quality meat that's free of any artificial extras, is low in calories, and high in protein, which sounds pretty good to us.

And, okay, we'll admit that canned turkey can sometimes be a little bland. There's no denying that the textures can be funky ... but there are ways to get around that. All you need is a can opener and an adventurous mind. So dust off those cans of turkey, because it's time to get cooking.

Read more: Ingredients To Take Your Scrambled Eggs To The Next Level

Add Cranberry And Crackers

cranberry sauce in bowl
cranberry sauce in bowl - Carey Jaman/Shutterstock

Peanut butter and jelly, cheese and wine, turkey and cranberry: Some things just work. As the saying goes, if it ain't broke ... So let's start simple. This one requires minimal ingredients, time, and kitchen skills, and you've most likely got everything lurking in your cupboards already.

This simple snack hack requires just one can of turkey, mixed with a good dollop or two of that cranberry sauce you still have leftover from Thanksgiving. Find a crunchy cracker to plop it onto and you've got a flavorful, easy snack that's high in protein and will keep you satiated much longer than you would be if you'd reached for the cookie jar.

Of course, if you want to get a little more chef-y, there are ways of doing that, too. This turkey salad recipe needs a few more ingredients (pecans, mayonnaise, seasonings, green onions) and a bit of chopping, but is still pretty simple. Just sub out the shredded turkey for canned and you'll have a delicious cracker topper or sandwich filler ready in no time.

Turn It Into A Dip

bowl of buffalo dip
bowl of buffalo dip - NSC Photography/Shutterstock

Another easy way of upgrading your canned turkey is to turn it into a delicious dip. When game day hits and you're suddenly scrabbling for appetizers to serve your guests, it's time to crack open the cans and whip up an easy buffalo turkey dip. This easy buffalo chicken dip recipe is the perfect crowd-pleaser, and all you need to do is switch the shredded chicken with canned turkey. The spices from the buffalo sauce, the punchy addition of blue cheese, and the creamy, cheesy base mean that there's no room for blandness in this dip. Your guests will be licking the bowl clean.

But there's no need to keep it classic. Make the cream cheese base the same way, then get adventurous with the spices in your turkey dip. Suddenly the world is your oyster. Add a cup of salsa and jalapeños and you've got a dunkable, Mexican-inspired bowl. Jump on the "marry-me chicken" trend with sundried tomatoes and enough cheese to sink a ship for one of the most moreish dips you could have on a chip. Or go off-piste and find your own blend. You won't go back to regular chicken after you've given this one a go.

Make A Pot Pie

chicken pot pie being served
chicken pot pie being served - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Pot pies can be fiddly time-suckers. There's pastry to contend with, vegetables to dice, and don't even get us started on the gravy. But when the hankering hits there's nothing better than a big, bubbling pot pie, so here's a way of making it easy. Using canned turkey in place of the usual shredded rotisserie chicken means you're on your way to a quicker, cheaper pie.

It's surprisingly easy to make a whole pot pie out of cans so while you're in the right aisle at the grocery store you might as well pick out some other bits for your meal. Canned vegetables like carrots and green beans are perfect, and you can even stick a can of gravy in the basket, too. Clang and clink your way home and all you need to do is assemble the ingredients, stick your crust of choice on top and that's your pot pie cravings sorted.

Make A Pasta Bake

golden pasta bake
golden pasta bake - Tatiana Bralnina/Shutterstock

Speaking of comforting foods, here's one that will make you feel warm and cozy. A pasta bake is a carby, cheesy, hug of a dinner, but by itself it's not incredibly nutritious. You know what your pasta bake is crying out for? You guessed it, a can of turkey. Make your favorite pasta bake recipe as you usually would or check this 5-ingredient broccoli mac and cheese recipe for some inspiration and, instead of faffing around with having to roast a chicken ahead of time, use your canned turkey instead. Your body will thank you for that extra hit of protein from the lean turkey meat.

If you're really looking to upgrade your canned turkey and want to get a little more creative in the kitchen, a stuffed shell pasta bake is a great option. You'll need some big shells of pasta filled with a mix of turkey meat, cream cheese, and mozzarella. After just 30 minutes in the oven, you'll have a dish that looks as impressive as it tastes.

Make It Into Burgers

turkey burgers with salad
turkey burgers with salad - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Turkey burgers are a delicious option when the grill is fired up. They're the lean, macro-friendly BFF of the classic beef burger that never fail to hit when the sun is shining. What's to say you can't make your own? Put down those premade frozen burgers and pick up the apron instead, because it's surprisingly easy to turn a can of turkey into your favorite patty.

A really simple turkey burger just needs a binder, like eggs, and the seasonings you like. That's it. Plus, if you use canned turkey meat then you won't have to worry about handling fresh meat or having an undercooked, raw center. Because, honestly, who wants to be eyeing the BBQ like a hawk when there are friends to talk to and beers to drink? Not us. Of course, just turkey, eggs, and seasonings might be a bit bland so again, this is your moment to get creative with spices and fix-ins. Blitzed mushrooms will not only add in some hidden vegetables, but they'll also help keep your burgers nice and juicy, too. Burger perfection is just a good squirt of ketchup and some American cheese away.

Make A Turkey Cobb Salad

colorful filled bowl of salad
colorful filled bowl of salad - artem evdokimov/Shutterstock

Crunchy from lettuce, fresh-tasting from tomatoes, creamy from ranch, salty from blue cheese, filling from hard-boiled eggs, and delicious from bacon ... The great thing about a Cobb salad is that it's a salad you actually want to eat. An added bonus is that it's full of satisfying nutrients that your body will thank you for later. But though usually it's topped with grilled chicken, canned turkey is a great substitute.

One of the best things about turkey meat is that it's known for being incredibly lean, and because of that healthy eating and turkey go hand in hand. If eating a good diet is at the forefront of your mind, then trying out turkey in place of chicken when you next make a salad is a great idea. Aside from that, you won't have to go to the effort of grilling the chicken yourself. All you need to do is crack open that can of turkey and you'll have that nutritious, delicious salad on the dinner table with minimal fuss. It's a great way of making eating healthy a little easier, and the flavors of blue cheese, ranch, and bacon will make your canned turkey taste like a real treat.

Turn It Into Stuffing

casserole dish of stuffing
casserole dish of stuffing - Bhofack2/Getty Images

In American culture, turkey is synonymous with Thanksgiving. It's the main event in of one of the biggest feasts of the year and, if you're a turkey fan, then why restrict the turkey action to just the roasted bird? Why not sneak it into your side dishes, too? Turkey stuffing is a hearty, flavorful way of doing just that. This recipe for a one-pan chicken and stuffing casserole takes boxed stuffing, canned soup, and some vegetables, and turns it into a casserole-like dish that anyone would love on the side of their plate come November. It's laced with chunks of pre-cooked chicken, but if you're in the mood to really ham up the turkey content, switch that out for the can of turkey you've got in the cupboard.

Even better is that this recipe really does use the odds and ends you've most likely got lying around and it's full of carbs, protein, and vegetables, which makes it a good, quick meal as it is. But, if we're honest, some turkey-laced stuffing alongside some roasted turkey for Thanksgiving is exactly the kind of Thanksgiving that we'd want to be invited to.

Try It In Meatballs

turkey meatballs with sauce
turkey meatballs with sauce - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Meatballs and spaghetti has got to be one of the most comforting meals out there. But what happens if you're not in the mood for red meat? Beef can be expensive, and it's higher in saturated fat and calories than turkey by a fair amount. So when you next want a big helping of meatballs and spaghetti, it's time to turn to the canned turkey, because this is a great way of upgrading your canned meat.

The best thing about this turkey meatball recipe is that it's as flexible as your yoga teacher. Just switch out the ground turkey for canned and then all you'll need are eggs, breadcrumbs, and a handful of the seasonings that you like. Because meatballs generally get smothered in a chunky tomato sauce and a boatload of cheese, we'd recommend turning to classic Italian herbs like oregano, parsley, and rosemary alongside the classic heavy dose of salt and pepper. If you haven't got those in your cupboard, then use whatever you've got.

Use It As A Protein Boost For Chili Or Soup

bowls of chili with cheese
bowls of chili with cheese - Rudisill/Getty Images

A steaming bowl of chili is a tasty way to get a balanced meal in. It's packed with spices, vegetables, and a richly savory tomato sauce. What's not to love? Serve it over rice and you've got a filling, hearty meal. A three-bean chili is not only a very good way of using store cupboard staples like cans of beans, chopped tomato, and a jar of salsa, but it's also full of protein without calling for an ounce of meat. But here's the thing. While you're using up all those cans in your cupboard and chili is on the menu, then it's also the perfect moment to put that can of turkey to good use. Just crack it open and throw it in at the end. Not only will you be adding an extra bit of protein to an already protein-filled meal, but you'll have cleared out the cupboards, too. Win-win.

The same goes for soups. Soups can often lack that protein oomph that leaves us feeling satiated, so if you want your liquid lunch to keep you fuller for longer, then your tinned turkey is your hero on a white horse. It'll go with practically any soup (just stir it in at the end) but we'd recommend a vegetable-heavy one, like this spicy vegetable soup, for a seriously upgraded lunchtime.

Add It To Nachos

nachos with condiments
nachos with condiments - Gmvozd/Getty Images

If you haven't thought about doing this one yet, then you're welcome. Adding your can of turkey to a pile of cheesy and spicy nachos is a surefire way of upgrading your long-forgotten can. If you want to keep it simple, then this 15-minute nacho recipe is perfect for you. Instead of using rotisserie chicken, mix your canned turkey with salsa, which will give it an immediate flavor boost and turn it into the tastiest consistency to hide between layers of chips and cheese.

Or, if you've got more time on your hands, then go all out! Make your own nacho cheese sauce, try your hand at some homemade salsa, and make this quick and easy guacamole. Get inventive with all the other fixings, too. Jalapeños, refried beans, and some grilled corn are all great ingredients to jazz up nacho night in your home. But there is one rule: Don't forget the canned turkey.

Use It In Curry

two bowls of pumpkin curry
two bowls of pumpkin curry - Kiian Oksana/Shutterstock

Because of its mild taste, canned turkey would be a great addition to any meat in your favorite, spice-heavy, bold-flavored curry. But because there's so much turkey talk around in the fall, those cooler months are the perfect time to get inventive with your turkey creations at home. What else is good in the fall? Pumpkins, of course. So this pumpkin curry sauce is not only a great way of celebrating the season, but it's also begging for the addition of its seasonal pal, turkey.

This is where this recipe gets so good. You don't have to roast and purée your own pumpkins, and don't worry about saving any turkey leftovers from Thanksgiving. You can use canned pumpkin purée for the sauce and, of course, throw in a can of turkey right at the end. It'll not only add a protein boost but the heat from the curry spices and sweet pumpkin flavor will give that can of turkey a new, delicious lease on life. Even though this is a warming curry that would be perfect for the fall, because of all of those canned ingredients going in, you can make this one all year round, whenever the cravings hit.

Add It To A Pasta Salad

colorful bowl of pasta salad
colorful bowl of pasta salad - Kritchai7752/Shutterstock

It's all very well and good making cozy recipes that will see you through fall and winter, but what happens when you come across the neglected can of turkey when you're rummaging in your cupboards on a summer's day when it's too hot to leave the house? If you're looking to upgrade your canned turkey in the dog days of August, then turn to that favorite hot weather food: a pasta salad. Combining the tin with pasta of your choice and whatever mix-ins you've got in the house is a great way to make a delicious, protein-filled summer meal.

It seems that everyone has their own pasta salad recipe that they return to every summer, and if that's you, then we're not here to mess with your traditions. Do your thing. But if you're looking for inspiration or want to change up your usual, then these pasta salad mix-ins are a good place to start. Tinned turkey can handle a lot of seasoning, so don't be shy with the herbs. Big flavors like pickle juice and pesto are also great ideas. If you'd prefer to stick to a recipe, then an easy, grilled summer vegetable pasta salad would be even better with a can of turkey mixed in.

Read the original article on Mashed