Chipotle Turkey Salad

published Sep 26, 2021
Turkey Salad Recipe

Transform your leftover turkey into a classic deli turkey salad tossed in a mayo-based dressing.


Makesabout 3 cups

Prep15 minutes

Cook5 minutes to 8 minutes

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turkey salad made with leftover turkey, wrapped in a lettuce leaf, with sliced radishes, on a ceramic plate, on a marble countertop.
Credit: Meleyna Nomura

Whenever I have leftover turkey, it’s likely from a holiday meal, and I probably have a bunch of other heavy side dishes crowding the fridge. While I do love a celery- and dried fruit-studded turkey deli salad, I wanted to veer a bit from tradition and go a little lighter and brighter here. Thinking about other classic turkey dishes I could pull inspiration from, my mind immediately wandered to Mexican turkey mole.

I wasn’t about to whip up a complicated mole for this quick lunch dish, but I did like the idea of Mexican flavors. I reached for a can of chipotle in adobo instead, spooning some of the chopped chiles into a cool and creamy base of mayonnaise and sour cream. I opted to shred the leftover turkey instead of cubing it. The uneven texture holds onto the sauce better than straight-sided cubes.

With the two main components sorted out, I was still looking for some additional mix-ins. I borrowed a few ingredients from mole’s extensive ingredient list: pepitas, almonds, and sesame seeds. They’re typically blended into mole sauce to thicken it, but I left them whole here for toasty crunch. I brightened the whole thing with some chopped cilantro and scallions. Who knew leftover turkey could be so good?

Is There a Difference Between Chicken and Turkey Salad?

Deli salads are typically a protein tossed with a mayo-based dressing. You can use either chicken or turkey. Because turkeys are so much larger, there’s often quite a bit left over. This recipe is the perfect way to use that leftover turkey, but can also work with chicken.

How Long Does Leftover Turkey Last?

It’s recommended to eat leftover turkey within three to four days. I recommend making this salad a day or two after it was originally served so that it’s safe to snack on if you don’t eat it all the first day. Otherwise, freeze the leftover turkey for up to three months then thaw and proceed as written.

Credit: Meleyna Nomura

How Do I Serve Turkey Salad?

Turkey salad can be served as is, but it’s also a wonderful filling.

  • Tuck it between two slices of bread or into leftover rolls for a sandwich.
  • Roll it up in a tortilla for a cold wrap. 
  • Spoon it into crunchy romaine or tender butter lettuce leaves.

Turkey Salad Recipe

Transform your leftover turkey into a classic deli turkey salad tossed in a mayo-based dressing.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 5 minutes to 8 minutes

Makes about 3 cups

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 1 tablespoon

    avocado or canola oil

  • 1/4 cup

    shelled pumpkin seeds

  • 1/4 cup

    slivered almonds

  • 2 tablespoons

    white sesame seeds

  • 1/2 bunch

    fresh cilantro

  • 3

    medium scallions

  • 1

    large (or 2 small) canned chipotles in adobo sauce

  • 1/2

    medium lime

  • 1/4 cup


  • 1/4 cup

    sour cream

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 16 ounces

    cooked and shredded turkey (about 4 cups)


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon avocado oil in a small frying pan over medium-low heat. Add 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds and 1/4 cup slivered almonds to the pan. Cook and stir until the pumpkin seeds start to pop, 1 to 3 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds. Cook, stirring often, until the sesame seeds start to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

  2. Finely chop 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro until you have 1/4 cup. Thinly slice 3 medium scallions (1/4 cup).

  3. Finely chop 1 large or 2 small chipotles in adobo sauce until you have 2 tablespoons and place in a large bowl. Squeeze the juice from 1/2 medium lime (1 tablespoon) into the bowl. Add 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 cup sour cream, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and whisk to combine.

  4. Add the cilantro, scallions, cooled nuts and seeds, and 2 cups cooked and shredded turkey. Use a spatula or large spoon to coat the turkey in the dressing.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftover turkey salad can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.