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On the face of things, a recipe for easy turkey salad might not inspire joy. Leftovers are often the kind of thing we make into what I call guilt dinner. We know we shouldn’t waste the food but aren’t interested in eating it for the second (or third, or fourth) meal in a row.
Today I’ll change that by sharing a favorite way to use cooked turkey or chicken. This easy turkey salad recipe with noodles and Vietnamese dressing is something that’s poles apart from how your meat was served up the first time around. And that is a good thing.
I don’t want to rain on the roast turkey parade. A big, glorious bird with gravy, roasted vegetables and sides is a very special dinner. But once you’ve eaten it two or three meals running, it can get a bit, well, stodgy. Sometimes you need to shake things up.
This noodle salad is everything a roast turkey isn’t, in the best possible way. It’s vibrant and colorful, crunchy, fresh, and full of South East Asian flavors. The lime and chili dressing hums with a great balance of sour, spicy and sweet and it’ll take uninspiring leftovers and turn them into something you want to eat over and over.
Using leftover turkey or chicken in salads
Once you’ve had your fill of Thanksgiving roast and you’re still faced with poultry every time you open the fridge, it’s time for leftover turkey salad. For some, a handful of shredded meat tossed through a green salad is enough to change things up, and that’s fine.
I want more, though. More comes in the form of a salad hearty enough to not need anything else on the side, and vibrant enough to make me feel lighter than a full roast and sides do.
The lovely thing about this salad is that whether you’re left with dark meat, white meat or a random combination, you can slice or shred it however you like and it’ll work. I don’t put the skin in because I don’t love it cold, but apart from that anything goes.
Vietnamese dressing for easy turkey salad
This Asian style dressing is one of my favorites. Full of lime, chili and garlic, it’s easy to make and wonderful poured over everything from steamed fish to grilled meatballs. In this recipe it marinates the meat and coats the noodles with plenty of flavor.
You’ll see this dressing calls for fish sauce. If you’re unfamiliar with it, fish sauce is a fermented sauce commonly used in South East Asian cooking. It’s especially popular in Thai and Vietnamese dishes. Fish sauce is inexpensive and readily available online and from Asian supermarkets.
Alone, fish sauce is stinky. But if you mix it with lime juice, sugar and chili it turns into something delicious, salty and savory which can’t be replicated with any other ingredient. And the smell, which I really dislike, disappears. If you really can’t get on board with the fish sauce, a light soy sauce can be substituted, but the depth of flavor won’t be the same.
If you don’t like things spicy, remove the seeds from your chili so you’ve got some flavor but not too much heat.
Preparing your salad
The prep for this turkey salad recipe is mostly just washing and chopping, and soaking rice noodles in hot water.
If you need to prepare ahead, the dressing can be made and stored in the fridge for up to a few days. Slice or shred the meat and chop the vegetables up to a day ahead of time. For the noodles, I prefer to do them just before assembling, as they take on the dressing more easily.
I hope if you’ve got chicken or turkey leftovers hanging about that you’ll try this salad. It’s a great simple meal and if you love it as much as I do, you’ll be cooking a chicken or turkey breast every now and then just so you can use it in this dish!
Happy cooking, see you here again soon.
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Turkey Salad with Vietnamese Dressing
For the dressing
For the salad
- 1 lb cooked turkey cold; cut or shredded into bite sized pieces (or use chicken)
- 7 oz rice vermicelli noodles dried (glass noodles also work here)
- 2 cups beansprouts
- 1 cucumber medium, sliced (peel if skin is tough)
- 1 red bell pepper capsicum, small, sliced
- 3 scallions spring onions, finely sliced
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- ½ bunch fresh cilantro coriander, leaves picked
- ½ bunch fresh mint leaves picked
- 2 oz roasted peanuts or cashews, chopped (optional)
Make the dressing
- Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, using the lesser amount of fish sauce. Mix in ¼ cup water and taste to check the balance of salty, sour and sweet. Add more lime juice or fish sauce to taste if necessary.
Make the salad
- Prepare the noodles according to packet directions (the ones I use just need a 5-10 minute soak in boiling water, then a rinse in cold water). Drain well and cut into shorter lengths if they seem too long.
- Mix half of the dressing with the turkey and set aside while you assemble the other ingredients.
- Put the drained noodles, beansprouts, cucumber, bell pepper and scallions into a bowl with the dressed turkey and the sesame oil. Toss to combine, then taste and add more dressing as required.
- Mix through the herbs, then pile the salad onto a serving platter. Scatter the nuts over the top and serve immediately.
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