These tacos are always a big hit. I use three different kinds of meat in my taco mix, and the sausage really adds zing. And it’s easy to throw together.–Lulu Powers


Yup. As author Lulu Powers—no relation to Austin—asserts above, there’s zing in these here tacos. It’s not just the intriguing interplay of citrus and spice that makes these tacos compelling, though that has quite a lot to do with it. What else entices us is the sassy and savvy nature of how she sets up all the requisite fixings. Each taco is completely customizable by each guest, with no two exactly alike. It couldn’t be simpler to make a seemingly sophomoric supper from childhood take on spectacularness. Talk about zing!


Yes, you mostly can. Get the meat all done the day before–cooked, cooled, and stored in the fridge. You can even shred and chop most of the toppings, with the exception of that easily browning avocado, and store them for up to 24 hours. Gently reheat the meat when you’re ready for dinner and get the avocado (or guacamole) ready.

Three sweet and spicy tacos on a white plate with wedges of lime alongside.

Sweet and Spicy Taco

4.75 / 4 votes
These sweet and spicy tacos are made with ground turkey, chili powder, and orange juice. Its unusual spice is perfect for a DIY taco party.
David Leite
Servings10 to 12 servings
Calories765 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time30 minutes


  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or unsalted butter
  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, (or substitute more turkey or beef and a little more oil or butter)
  • 2 bunches scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons Lawry’s Seasoned Salt or fine sea salt, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon store-bought or homemade Tabasco sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 jalapeño pepper, minced
  • 2 1/2 cups orange juice
  • One (4 1/2-ounce) package 6-inch (15-cm) corn tortillas, warmed
  • 4 tomatoes, chopped, or cherry tomatoes of assorted colors, halved
  • 2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped or thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • Guacamole or avocado slices
  • One (12-ounce) package shredded cheese
  • One (16-ounce) carton sour cream


  • In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the onion and garlic in the oil or butter, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Add the ground turkey, beef, and sausage and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon to crumble any large chunks, until the meat begins to brown but isn’t cooked through.
  • Add the scallions, half the cilantro, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, Tabasco, cayenne, jalapeño, and orange juice and cook until the liquid has evaporated, about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the skillet from the heat.
  • Set out the meat, tortillas, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, guacamole, cheese, sour cream, and remaining cilantro and let guests assemble their own tacos.
Food to Flowers

Adapted From

Food to Flowers

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Serving: 1 tacoCalories: 765 kcalCarbohydrates: 31 gProtein: 50 gFat: 50 gSaturated Fat: 22 gMonounsaturated Fat: 19 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 176 mgSodium: 2120 mgFiber: 6 gSugar: 11 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2010 Lulu Powers. Photo © 2010 Stephen Danelian. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Taco night! Growing up, I remember having tacos at least a couple of times per month. However, you know which tacos I mean. We bought a pound of ground beef and a spice envelope to mix into the cooked beef and voila. This recipe for sweet and spicy tacos was original and very tasty. I loved the use of turkey, beef, and Italian sausage—what a delicious mixture that really lent itself to all those wonderful spices.

The reason I was intrigued to make this recipe was the last-minute addition of orange juice. That sweet taste really played well with the overall spiciness of the dish. I halved this recipe, seeing that the original feeds 10 to 12 people and my husband and I are looking forward to the leftovers.

I used olive oil instead of butter to sauté the onion and garlic and we used soft tacos instead of hard shells. Lastly, we ended up just slicing an avocado for each plate instead of making guacamole. As a delicious side dish, we did fennel and sliced radish salad. A wonderful meal. This great recipe may have started a new taco night tradition in our house. Yum!

An unusual and very tasty recipe for tacos. Despite a daunting list of ingredients, I found that this came together quickly and with ease. I used just under 2 cups of orange juice. I was surprised to see OJ in the ingredient list, but it was just a sweet background note in the overall taste.

I’d definitely make this again, perhaps adding some fresh chilies for a little more heat and fresh chili taste. I did add the cilantro just before serving to keep the taste fresh. I served this with a fresh pico de gallo, guacamole, shredded Monterey Jack, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Delish!

This is a really nice recipe for old-fashioned tacos, which is what most people would remember as their first experience with “Mexican” food. I was a little skeptical with the orange juice thing, but essentially the tacos are made from things you have around the house and are nicely spiced with a little sweetness.

After completing it as written, I did add some things—2 tablespoons tomato paste, a little water, and more chili powder. In trying to be healthful, I left out the sausage and I didn’t really miss it, but I did have to increase the olive oil to 3 tablespoons since I was using just lean ground meat and ground turkey breast.

Next time I will leave out the seasoned salt, substitute chili powder for it, and add my own salt so I can control the sodium. My husband LOVED it and I’ll make it again. And we loved the sweetness that the orange juice added—surprise surprise! I actually ended up needing to add more OJ to make the taco mixture less dry.

This is a great assemble-your-own-meal for a crowd. We liked the use of Italian sausage—a unique twist. Prefer hot Italian sausage? Go for it. We’re talking about tacos here, so there’s definitely room for flexibility.

The orange juice was yet another unusual ingredient, and to my pleasant surprise, it didn’t make the meat taste fruity. It evaporated, leaving just a subtle sweetness behind. One thing I did differently was instead of adding the cilantro to the meat while it was cooking, I topped the finished meat with the fresh herb. It was prettier and more fragrant that way.

This is a crowd-pleaser. It’s easy to do and feed a bunch of hungry teens or for a quick summer neighborhood get-together. I used four sausage links and a blend of Monterey Jack and aged Cheddar cheeses.

I added the cilantro after I took the dish off the heat. The dish turned out very flavorful with the blend of meats. I used both soft and hard shell tacos and both worked well.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    This was a really nice recipe my family loved it. I used fresh corn tortillias and made a roasted corn/ poblano salsa to go with. Love your web site 🙂