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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

A quick skillet turkey dinner you’ll make over and over

Spicy skillet ground turkey and snap peas. This easy Melissa Clark recipe, inspired by the zesty, pungent flavors of larb, turns unassuming ground turkey into a star. Food styled by Cyd Raftus McDowell. (Christopher Testani/The New York Times)

By Melissa Clark

Bunches of fresh mint and piles of sugar snap peas are still weeks away from showing up at my local farmers market, but April’s lengthening days and warming temperatures already have me craving that classic spring pairing. Luckily, they can also be foraged right now at the supermarket down the street.

Usually, I toss my mint and sugar snaps into a big, ebullient salad, but I was more in the mood for something substantial that could be rounded out with a protein. So, I also picked up a package of ground turkey to turn everything into a satisfying and colorful skillet dinner.

Ground turkey is ideal for all manner of impromptu cooking. Not only is it economical and convenient, it’s also mild and adaptable, a chameleon-like ingredient that blends in wherever you use it. It can anchor almost any skillet meal when you sear it until golden and crisp, especially if you throw in enough vegetables and vivid seasonings to bring out its best.

Still, I wanted a pungent sauce to spark the sweetness of the peas and the easygoing turkey, blazing them out of their quiet complacency. For that, I borrowed some of the zesty, spicy flavors of larb.

Popular in Thailand and Laos, larb is at once crunchy and soft, fiery and cooling. It’s a dish of thrilling contrasts that shift from bite to bite — just the thing to perk up a turkey and snap pea meal.

As the turkey sputtered and crisped in the pan, I mixed together a simple larb-inspired sauce of lime juice, fish sauce and chile flakes, which I drizzled onto the meat once it was browned. Then I added the sugar snaps and covered the pan so they could steam in those savory juices.

Not wanting to add a step to my dinner, I skipped toasting and grinding rice into a powder (which is typical of most larb recipes), and finished the dish instead with some chopped roasted nuts to add richness and crunch. Then I folded in the mint.

In Thailand and Laos, larb is considered a hot-weather dish. But mint and sugar snap peas make this larb-inspired meal perfect for the chilly spring nights that herald their arrival.

Spicy skillet ground turkey and snap peas

Inspired by the bold and zesty flavors of a Thai larb, this easy skillet meal pairs nuggets of golden ground turkey with sugar snap peas and a mound of fresh herbs. The sauce, a combination of fish sauce, lime juice and red-pepper flakes, makes everything taste both bright and deep, while an optional sprinkling of chopped nuts adds richness and crunch. Serve over rice or rice noodles, or with flatbread.

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 35 minutes


3 tablespoons olive oil

1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced into half-moons

1 pound ground turkey

Salt, as needed

1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes), more to taste

2 tablespoons fish sauce (or coconut aminos or soy sauce), more to taste

1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

1/2 cup torn mint leaves, more for topping

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro or basil, more for topping

3 scallions, thinly sliced, dark green parts saved for topping

1 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed

2 tablespoons chopped roasted cashews or peanuts (optional)


1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high. Add the oil and red onion slices to the skillet and cook until soft and deeply brown, 7 to 10 minutes. Crumble in the ground turkey and a pinch of salt, breaking up the meat. Cook until crisp and dark brown, about 8 minutes.

2. While the turkey is cooking, whisk together the lime juice, fish sauce, red-pepper flakes, torn mint leaves, cilantro and scallion whites and light green parts. Pour the sauce into the skillet and add the sugar snap peas. Toss until combined. Cover and let the snap peas steam until tender and cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Taste and add more fish sauce, salt and lime juice as needed to make everything bright and savory. Stir in the chopped cashews or peanuts, if using. Top with more torn mint leaves, chopped cilantro and dark green scallion slices.

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