Turkey Soup with Lemon and Barley

Like turkey soup but want to change things up a bit this year with your turkey leftovers? Now here’s a detour from tradition, a riff on a classic Middle Eastern lemon chicken soup.

The strong flavor of turkey meat holds up beautifully to the acidic lemon and bright turmeric, cumin, and ginger spices. The addition of barley gives the soup body.

We used turkey stock from the carcass of a roast turkey, but you could easily use chicken stock.

Turkey Soup with Lemon and Barley

Turkey Soup with Lemon and Barley Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6

If you are cooking gluten-free, use rice instead of barley.



  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, grated or minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Juice of a lemon (about 3 to 4 Tbsp)
  • 6 cups turkey stock or chicken stock
  • Strips of lemon zest, from one lemon*
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup barley (more barley will yield a thicker soup)
  • 2 cups chopped cooked turkey
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (can sub with more parsley)

*Use a vegetable peeler to peel strips of zest from a lemon. Use a sharp knife to scrape out and discard any of the white pith that still remains on the inside of the zest strips.


1 Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add the grated onion and cook until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and cook another minute, then mix in the turmeric, cumin, ground ginger and a generous pinch of salt.

2 Pour in the lemon juice and turkey stock and add the strips of lemon zest. Bring to a simmer, then add the barley. Simmer gently until the barley is cooked, about 20-30 minutes.

3 When the barley is cooked through, add the chopped cooked turkey, the parsley and cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook gently just until the turkey is warmed through, about 3-5 minutes. Remove the lemon zest strips before serving.

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Another version of Turkey Barley Soup, from Kalyn's Kitchen

Turkey Avgolemono Soup, from The Kitchn

Turkey, Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup, from Brown Eyed Baker

Turkey Soup with Lemon and Barley

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Showing 4 of 35 Comments

  • Judy

    Oh Elise, this looks delicious! We love the avgolemono soup at our favorite Greek restaurant. Can’t wait to try this with our leftover turkey carcass.

  • mantha

    Yes, I was thinking that’s going to be something like avgolemono, my favorite of all soups after New England clam chowder. Looks delicious — and the gorgeous photos look like the decor of my fave middle eastern restaurant.

  • Zelda

    My mom used to make the most tasteless turkey soup from the turkey carcass that would turn into a gelatinous mess when refrigerated, i can only remember that she added parsley and carrots. I don’t think there were any seasonings. I have hated turkey soup ever since but this reads like it will be wonderfully tasty. I can’t wait to try it.

  • Little Kitchie

    What a beautiful soup!! I love the flavor profile. Yum!! :)

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