Mom’s Turkey Soup

Every Thanksgiving my mother takes what’s left of the turkey carcass and makes a delicious turkey soup that we enjoy for days.

The first step is to make the stock, which you can get started on right after dinner.

Mom’s Turkey Soup Recipe

The amounts shown are a guideline. Improvise at will depending on the ingredients you have on hand and how much soup you are making.



For the stock:

  • 1 turkey carcass, leftover from carving a whole turkey, including any leftover drippings or giblets (not the liver) if you have them
  • Cold water
  • 1 medium to large yellow onion, quartered or cut into thick wedges
  • 1 to 2 carrots, roughly chopped (can include tops)
  • Several sprigs of fresh parsley
  • 1 to 2 sprigs of thyme, or a teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 celery rib (roughly chopped) and some celery tops
  • 5 to 10 peppercorns
  • Salt
  • Pepper

For the soup:

  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups each, chopped carrots, onion, and celery
  • A few sprigs of fresh parsley, leaves chopped (about 2 to 4 Tbsp)
  • A couple cloves garlic, minced
  • Seasoning  - a couple teaspoons or more of poultry seasoning (to taste) or a combination of ground sage, thyme, marjoram, and/or a bouillon cube
  • 2 cups or more of leftover chopped or shredded cooked turkey meat
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Egg noodles or rice (optional, skip egg noodles for gluten-free version)


Making Stock

1 Remove all the usable turkey meat from the turkey carcass to save for making sandwiches later or for adding to the soup once the stock is made.

add turkey carcass to pot and cover with an inch of cold water add onions, carrots, parsley, celery, bay leaves, peppercorns

2 If you are working with a large turkey carcass, you may want to break up the bones a bit so they fit better in the pot. Place the turkey carcass, neck (if you haven't cooked it with the turkey), leftover skin and bones from dinner, into a large stock pot (at least 8 quart or 12 quart depending on the size of the turkey), and cover with COLD water by an inch.

Add any drippings that weren't used to make gravy, and any giblets (not the liver) that haven't been used already. Add thickly sliced onion, some chopped carrots, celery and celery tops, parsley, thyme, a bay leaf, and some peppercorns to the pot.


3 Bring to a boil on high heat and then lower the heat to keep the stock to a bare simmer. Skim off any foamy crud that may float to the surface of the stock. (Note in the photo that even though the stock is at a bare simmer, it looks like it is boiling because of the foam that is beginning to come to the surface.)

4 Add salt and pepper to the pot, about 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper. It sort of depends on how big your turkey is. You can always add salt to the soup later.

Cook at a bare simmer for 4 hours

5 Cook for at least 4 hours, partially uncovered, occasionally skimming off any foam that comes to the surface.

turkey-stock-5 turkey-stock-6

6 After 4 hours of a low simmer, use tongs or a large slotted spoon to remove the bones and vegetables from the pot. Then strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve or strainer. If you have a strainer but it isn't a fine mesh strainer, you can line it with cheesecloth or with several layers of dampened paper towels and strain the stock through that.

7 If making stock for future use in soup you may want to reduce the stock by cooking it longer, uncovered, to make it more concentrated and easier to store. (We usually do this step at a rolling boil, and reduce the stock by at least half. When you boil stock it will make it cloudy, but the taste is great so we don't care. If you want to reduce stock and keep it relatively clear, you'll need to do that slowly and a bare simmer, and it will take much longer.)

Makes 3 to 4 quarts or more of stock, depending on the size of the turkey carcass, and how much water you added to cover it.

Making the Turkey Soup

Prepare the turkey soup much as you would a chicken soup.

1 In a large soup pot, heat some butter or olive oil (or turkey fat rendered from the stock) on medium high heat. Add chopped carrots, onions, and celery in equal parts. Cook until the onions are softened, about 10 minutes. Add a couple cloves of garlic, chopped, and cook for a minute more, until the garlic is fragrant. Then add the stock to the pot. Add some parsley and seasoning—salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, sage, thyme, marjoram, and/or a bouillon cube.

2 Bring to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are just cooked through. Add rice, noodles*, or even leftover mashed potatoes (skip all of these if you are cooking low-carb).  Take some of the remaining turkey meat you reserved earlier, shred it into bite sized pieces and add it to the soup. You may also want to add some chopped tomatoes, either fresh or canned. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sometimes a dash or two of Tabasco gives the soup a nice little kick.

*If cooking gluten-free use gluten-free noodles.


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Showing 4 of 101 Comments

  • Heidi

    When making turkey soup, I pretty much put many parts of the leftovers in – roasted potatoes, mashed squash, some of the gravy, even some stuffing. I then add sautéed mushrooms, and all of the other ingredients Elise mentioned. A little white wine never hurts. This makes a thicker soup than the clear broth one.

  • Jan

    Thanksgiving is over, and it was a big success. I just put on my pot of Turkey Soup and I am going to sit down with a nice glass of wine. But first I have to give Thanks, I have learned a lot from your blog during the past year that I have been reading. Your recipes have been the first I turn to when I need some inspiration. This year for the first time I cooked my Turkey upside down, only for the first 1/2, my husband and I flipped it for the second 1/2. (I am a sucker for that golden brown skin.) It was the best turkey ever.
    I always make your green beans with walnuts, they were a huge hit today too. So today I take a moment to say thank you. Thank you, Elise. Your website has made me a better cook, my family thanks you too.


  • Steve

    Definitely add any stuffing left in the cavity. You’ll need to strain the stock, but the flavor is worth it. Remove what you can (bones, veggies, etc.) with a slotted spoon, let it settle, then pour the warm stock into a bowl or another stock pot, leaving the fine solids behind. Let the new pot settle, then pour it SLOWLY back into the first pot (which you rinsed or washed). Again, leave behind the stuff that settled. Mmmmmm

  • Andrea

    I want to echo the sentiments of Jan’s comment: I am very thankful for all the creativity and love you put into this site, Elise! The family recipes make it truly personal.

    Your turkey soup recipe is pretty much identical to mine, so I know it’s good. I usualy throw a bay leaf into the stock pot too.

    One comment: I have been taught not to boil the stock, as it causes proteins and fat to release which can cloud the stock. Perhaps bringing it to a boil but quickly down to simmer, as your recipe suggests, is sufficient to avoid that problem. (Maybe I worry too much about that, in other words). Also, is it really good to have skin in the stock? Once I wound up with a very greasy stock that was inedible, but my best stocks created a kind of gel when cold (the proteins from the bones, I think) that added lots of good flavor to the stock. Is there an optimal amount of skin?

    Note from Elise: Hi Andrea, you’re right, boiling the stock makes the stock cloudy. Though bringing it a boil for a brief moment initially will bring up the impurities that you want to skim off. That said, it really depends on what you are after. If you want a clear, fresh tasting stock, then you don’t want it to simmer. If you want a hearty stock, into which you are going to put a lot of different things (even mashed potatoes, as some do), then simmer away if you want. The taste of cloudy stock is fine, it’s just not consommé. Regarding the skin, most of the fat is rendered out when you cook the turkey, and there is a lot of flavor in the skin. We keep it in, but you could leave it out if you wanted.

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