Turkey Soup with Lemon and Barley


Turkey soup made with chopped leftover turkey, onions, garlic, barley, herbs, turmeric, cumin, and ginger.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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.

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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 tablespoons extra virgin 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
  • 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
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 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 Sauté the onion, garlic, spices: 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 Add stock, zest, bring to simmer then add barley: Pour in the 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 Add cooked turkey, lemon juice, parsley, cilantro, salt, pepper: When the barley is cooked through, add the chopped cooked turkey, lemon juice, 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

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

47 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Sonia

    I made this wonderful recipe and it was delicious. My husband and son applauded after the meal! They loved it. I made it with homemade turkey stock. I did not have any turkey to put in it, but it did not even need it. I did sauté a little carrot and celery to add and it worked very well. This is a keeper!


  2. Michelle

    The first day, the lemon rind was a bit bitter, the next day, the soup was lovely


  3. Alex Stailey

    This is so Yummy,~~My Fav soup ! I made in my xl pressure cooker,so I had to adjust the recipe cooking time. ,it was delicious ! I did not use cilantro,but did add carrots.
    Used 1 whole cup instant Barley .

    Show Replies (1)
  4. Johng

    Your 30 minute cook time for the barley is way off! Took about 65 minutes using pearled barley.
    Other than the barley cooking time error, the soup was very good.


  5. 2pots2cook

    Beautiful twist ! Keeper for Christmas since it is our ” turkey time ” :-) Thank you !

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