Shedding Some Light on Dark Meat Poultry

turkey_legEnchiladas with smoked chicken thighs. Pulled turkey leg pot pie. Turkey and black bean empanadas. Is your mouth watering yet? The common thread these recipes share is the use of dark meat chicken or turkey, rather than breast meat. From a culinary perspective, dark meat poultry is juicier and tastier than white meat. And from an operational standpoint, it’s a better value! Today I want to share some of the benefits of using dark meat poultry across the menu, along with some easy menu ideas to get you started.

Industry research shows that patrons are warming up to dishes that utilize all parts of the bird. Mentions of pulled meat have increased significantly in recent years, commonly showing up in barbecue sandwiches, soups and macaroni and cheese. Globally inspired twists on menu items that lend themselves to being made with dark meat poultry—such as meatballs, sausage and tacos—are all showing steady growth, too.


Datassential Menu Trends, menu penetration growth 2012-2016.

Thinking about the ways you can incorporate more dark meat on your menu? Don’t limit your creativity to any one daypart. Here are some of my favorite recipe ideas to get you started.


  • Power Protein Bowls, featuring turkey meatballs with maple glaze or pulled chicken, served with quinoa and eggs


  • Roasted Turkey BLT Grilled Cheese, with roasted turkey breast (skin-on!) and turkey bacon, oven-roasted tomatoes, sliced Honeycrisp apple and melted brie on a pretzel bun.
  • Savory Chicken Salad, mixing pulled dark meat chicken with citrus aioli or herbed mayonnaise


  • Pulled Turkey Nachos, with cranberry-honey BBQ sauce and a drizzle of jalapeño-lime sour cream


You may not have the operational resources to break down birds back-of-house but don’t worry, West Liberty Foods is here to do the hard work for you! We offer such items as pre-shredded and even pre-sauced/seasoned turkey and chicken, fully cooked IQF turkey meatballs and breakfast sausage. Versatility is key, and you’ll find that our value-added formats mean that a single SKU can be used across the entire menu.

– Chef Aliza