Skip to content

What's the Difference Between Cooking With Ground Beef vs. Ground Turkey?

Can you really substitute ground turkey for ground beef? We look at the specifics behind these go-to meats.

There are quite a few food and fitness bloggers out there that say you can substitute ground turkey for ground beef, but does it really work that way? Ground beef and ground turkey are two different kinds of meat, despite how similar they may look packaged in the grocery store. We decided to take a closer look at these two meats to determine if substituting ground turkey is versatile enough to substitute for ground beef.

Where does ground beef and turkey come from?

The cut of meat used for ground turkey is pretty simple. It's a mixture of light meat and dark meat ground up together. The more dark meat used in the mix creates a higher percentage of fat, while a mixture with more light meat will create a leaner cut of ground turkey.

While ground turkey comes from two types of meat, ground beef can be made with a variety of cuts. According to Cook's Illustrated, ground beef usually has a higher percentage of fat content. It's a mixture of primal cuts and beef trimmings. Ground beef usually contains a max of 30 percent fat content, and it's common to find other fat percentages of the beef. You can also find other types of ground beef out there, such as ground chuck (which ranges from 15 to 20 percent fat), ground sirloin (7 to 10 percent fat), and ground round (10 to 20 percent fat), which are ground up of specific cuts of meat.

Is there a taste difference?

Given that they are two different types of meat, yes, there are taste differences. While you can substitute out ground turkey for ground beef in some meals, be warned: The taste won't be the same. Because ground beef typically has more fat content, the meat will be softer and juicier. The fat is what gives ground beef its flavor, so if it's taken out (or drained), then the meat will be chewier to eat. Ground turkey is already chewier, and, of course, tastes like salty turkey. It has a drier texture, and without as much fat content, not enough flavor. You can also spruce up the taste of ground turkey by adding extra spices to the meat, or even some diced vegetables like onion and bell peppers.

150+ recipe ideas that get you lean for life.

Can I substitute ground turkey in ground beef meals?

Because ground beef meals are developed for a juicier meat, it may be wise to choose a higher fat percentage ground turkey. You can look for 85 percent ground turkey at a store, meaning that there's more fat content from the dark turkey meat. While the taste would be different, you'll still have some fat to work with in a meal.

Final verdict

Long story short, yes, you can substitute, but at your own risk. The taste may be sacrificed for that meal, but if you're looking to add in leaner protein sources into your diet, using ground turkey may be a great option for you.

Kiersten Hickman
Kiersten Hickman is a freelance health and nutrition journalist. Read more about Kiersten
Filed Under