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Ground Turkey vs Ground Beef? Things You MUST Know

Ground turkey vs ground beef – is one healthier than the other? When you compare ground turkey to ground beef, it is a matter of personal preference and reading the labels. Read on to learn more and don’t give up on that ground beef just yet!

Cheeseburger with lettuce and tomato - graphic for Pinterest.

I can still remember standing in the meat department looking at the reportedly healthier choice – ground turkey. I had been buying ground beef for years and loved everything about red meat. But, I wanted to consider my heart health and fat intake.

I wanted to be a better mom by feeding my kids healthy food, but the ground turkey didn’t look appealing nor did it sound tasty. A ground turkey burger? The old-fashioned ground beef burger cooked medium well over a charcoal grill is what I grew up on!

It isn’t always easy to put the ground turkey in my grocery cart and I wondered, do I have to?

Is Ground Turkey Healthier than Ground Beef?

The USDA reports four ounces of ground turkey has 170 calories and 9 grams of fat. 

Butterball ground turkey has 230 calories and 17 grams of fat, which is 65% of its calories from fat!

Four ounces of ground beef that is 80/20 (80% lean / 20% fat) has 284 calories with 22 grams of fat. But four ounces of ground beef at 90/10 is 200 calories with 11 grams of fat.

Surprised? I sure was.

So this is the deal… you have to read the labels. Not all ground turkey or ground beef is created equally.

Ground Beef vs Ground Turkey Calories

Let’s compare 93/7 lean ground turkey vs lean ground beef.

  • Ground beef calories: 162 for a 3-ounce serving
  • Ground turkey calories: 176 calories for a 3-ounce serving

Wait, what? Lean ground beef actually has fewer calories than lean ground turkey!

  • Ground beef fat and protein: 7.5 grams of fat / 22 grams of protein
  • Ground turkey fat and protein: 9.7grams of fat / 22 grams of protein 

Beef wins again. Though the lean ground beef does contain more saturated fat (3.1g vs 2.5g in the turkey). Again, it’s important to read labels and eat for your goals. If heart health is a concern, you may want to choose ground turkey more often for its lower saturated fat content. 

Nutrition chart comparing ground beef vs ground turkey.

Ground Turkey vs Ground Beef: It’s Your Choice!

As you can see, ground beef is not as evil as it is often portrayed. Ground beef can have a place in your diet, and you can also use ground turkey when it works for you.

The American Heart Association prefers lean beef and we should avoid types of ground meat with higher fat content. As long as you choose the leanest ground beef, and have it sparingly, there is no need for guilt! 

So when you are trying to decide turkey burger vs beef burger, choose the one that will make you happy and satiated, as long as you know it’s lean meat and you’re not eating it every day.

This information levels the playing field! Imagine my joy when I found out I did not have to give up on the summer taste of a perfectly grilled ground beef cheeseburger and now you won’t have to either.

Does Ground Turkey Taste Like Ground Beef?

I will often substitute ground turkey for ground beef in a recipe. For picky kids who think they don’t like ground turkey, there are a lot of recipes where you can substitute ground turkey and they won’t even realize it. 

Recipes with a lot of seasoning is the best way to disguise ground turkey for ground beef. Try it in foods like turkey meatballs, spaghetti or pasta sauces, stuffed peppers, tacos, and one of my favorite recipes, Seasoned Turkey Burgers (recipe below).

There are recipes when ground beef tastes much better than the turkey does. This is especially the case where the main ingredient is just the meat without many other ingredients, like hamburger patties.

Can you cook ground turkey and ground beef together? Yes you can! And that might be a great option for those who are a little more taste conscious, cooking a half and half mixture might help the picky eater in your life enjoy the recipe.

We usually only eat ground beef on occasion. Moderation is the key, right? Eating ground beef every meal or every day isn’t a good idea for any diet.

Is Ground Turkey Considered Red or White Meat?

It depends on the product. That’s where you have to be really careful in choosing the ground turkey. For the leaner ground turkey, it should be all white meat or the leanest dark meat.

You are probably thinking what I thought… ohhh yeah, of course, there is dark meat and fat, even on turkey. We can’t assume the ground turkey is from the leanest part of the turkey.

Package of ground turkey.

Whole Foods grinds their own turkey for great quality of 85 calories, less than 1 gram of fat by using white lean meat and/or lean dark meat.

Another great option to consider is grinding your own turkey breasts in a food processor instead of buying it already ground at the grocery store. It only takes a couple of pulses and – viola! – lean ground turkey breast. You should add about a tablespoon of olive oil per pound or it will be very dry once cooked. By adding the olive oil, you will only be adding 4 grams of extra fat per serving.

My Favorite Seasoned Turkey Burgers

Ground turkey burger on a roll with cheese, lettuce and tomato.
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground turkey
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp chili powder (can adjust for preference)
  • 2 Tbsp dried chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp ground cumin

Mix all together and cook until done. Top with favorite condiments.

This is my favorite recipe for ground turkey burgers or ground beef. Such a quick and easy recipe with so much flavor! It is great with or without a bun!

So which is the better option? Ground turkey or ground beef? Both have a place at your table when appropriate!

The best option, unless your choice is for health reasons, may depend on the recipe you are cooking. Sometimes the leaner turkey has a bland flavor and can make a huge difference in the outcome.

The bottom line is the nutritional value of ground beef versus ground turkey is not all that different when tracking macros and they can both be part of a healthy diet.

Check out these additional Fit Found Me recipe ideas using lean ground beef or lean ground turkey:

Turkey burger with cheese, lettuce and tomato.

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100 USDT

Tuesday 6th of February 2024

Your point of view caught my eye and was very interesting. Thanks. I have a question for you.

Kate from OneBagger

Thursday 8th of June 2017

Considering the ingredients you need to add to ground Turkey in order for it to taste good seems to pack on a lot more calories. ex: eggs, bread, oil, etc. I also noticed the amount of cholesterol in ground turkey. People keep raving about it being such a better substitute... maybe in it's native form, but it's so bland it's like drinking black coffee until we add in all the cream & sugar. What are your thoughts?

Stephanie Miller

Thursday 26th of July 2018


I think it depends on the ingredients added to the ground turkey. I do agree it takes more seasoning for ground turkey, but chosen wisely, it won't add fat or empty, unnecessary calories. Have you tried the recipe above for turkey burgers? Even my picky teenagers like those. :)

Melissa bridges

Tuesday 16th of May 2017

My husband completely doesn't like the turkey, I always say it's so much better for us and the granddaughter. Now looks like he's right. I'm from west Texas we love our red meats, but I once in while enjoyed the turkey too. Thank you so much for sharing this with me.

Stephanie Miller

Thursday 26th of July 2018


Yes! It's great to know we have more freedom and flexibility than once thought. :)


Friday 8th of April 2016

I have low iron. My doctor tells me to eat red meat. Imagine that. I am a happy girl,.

Stephanie Miller

Friday 8th of April 2016

Karen, I too, love red meat occasionally! Good lean red meat is a great part of nutrition! My body will definitely let me know when I'm in need of a juicy steak!

Stephanie :)


Thursday 17th of September 2015

Wow! Thank you for sharing. These facts are things I never would of guessed! I will be looking more closely at the labels from now on

Stephanie Miller

Wednesday 23rd of September 2015

Dia, So glad this was helpful for you!

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