Raise the Flag :: This Easy Leftover Turkey Recipe Will Bring You Right Back to Pancho’s

As so many living in the Greater New Orleans area did back in the day, my family used to “raise the flag” at Pancho’s.

For those unfamiliar, Pancho’s Mexican Buffet had restaurant locations in Metairie and Chalmette. Think of it like the love child of Taco Bell and Piccadilly — an all-you-can-eat buffet of Tex-Mex food that starts off with you pushing a cafeteria tray down a steam table line and ends with complimentary soft-serve ice cream. As a child (or even as an adult), the best part was “raising the flag” — you’d “hoist” a tiny Mexican flag on your tabletop as a signal to the waitstaff that you were ready for more food. It was as amazing as it sounds.

While the Chalmette restaurant had shuttered years earlier, the Metairie Pancho’s was open until Katrina. It made a brief comeback in the Metairie area a few years post-K but didn’t survive. A pair of former managers opened their own very similar version called 2 Amigos in Kenner several years ago, but it closed late last year after struggling through the pandemic.

All that to say: my favorite item from Pancho’s ever since I was a child was their flautas. I don’t actually know what was in them, but I believe it was turkey.

Over a decade ago, I came across a recipe for turkey flautas while searching for ways to use up leftover turkey. I hand-wrote the recipe because my printer was on the fritz and made them with flour tortillas instead of corn tortillas since that’s what I had on hand. Immediately, I was taken back to tabletop Mexican flags and plastic baskets of warm sopaipillas because they tasted just like the flautas I’d remembered from Pancho’s!

I’ve been making them for years now because they fit great into my freezer-cooking way of life. For best results when freezing them, undercook them slightly during the frying or baking step (nothing in the filling is raw, so it isn’t unsafe) so they can brown fully when reheated. Cool completely and place in a freezer bag. No need to thaw before reheating in the air fryer or oven.

Since we’re entering the season of leftover turkey, this is a great time to give this recipe a try! Or, if you’re looking to try it but find yourself without leftover turkey, try my turkey breast recipe for the Instant Pot.

Turkey Flautas

2 cups shredded cooked turkey
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
1/4 cup mayo
1 tablespoon dried minced onion
1 tablespoon hot water
1 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon oregano
Flour tortillas (this recipe makes enough for 24 street taco size tortillas or 12 soft taco size ones — we prefer the smaller street taco ones)
Toothpicks if deep frying
Cooking spray for air frying or baking or choice of oil for deep frying
Warm the tortillas so they are pliable and set aside.
In a small bowl or mug, mix the minced onion with the water and set aside to rehydrate.
Place the turkey, mayo, onion, spices, and cheese in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the consistency of chicken salad. Stir to combine.
Fill tortillas with filling mixture, roll up, and place seam-side down. Secure with a toothpick if desired. Cook according to your method of choice below. (I usually oven-bake and reheat leftovers in the air fryer.)

To Oven Bake: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place flautas on foil-lined baking sheet. Spray rolled tortillas with cooking spray and bake for 20-25 minutes until the ends are lightly browned.

To Air Fry: Preheat air fryer to 380 degrees. Spray rolled tortillas with cooking spray and bake for 8-10 minutes until the ends are lightly browned.
To Deep Fry: Working in batches, fry each one in hot oil until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
Serve with pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream, or queso. Enjoy!
Joey Yearous
Joey is a New Orleans native, Dominican alum, and LSU grad who joined the ranks of motherhood in the summer of 2019. She and her Colorado born-and-raised husband, Phil, left their Mid-City apartment for a house on the Northshore about ten days before they welcomed their son, Sam, into the world. A short 19 months later, their daughter Sloane arrived and their caboose Nicholas completed their family 17 months after that. Though she’s always had a passion for writing, it’s her work in whole-home generator sales that pays the bills. Her 3 kiddos keep her busy, but when she’s got a free moment, you can find her cooking, trying new restaurants, and listening to true crime podcasts. A consummate Pinterest fanatic, she’s always looking for her next DIY project or recipe to try. She believes good senses of humor and random acts of kindness make the world go ‘round.


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