Turkey Soup with Lemon and Barley

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

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


  • 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
  • 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 Tbsp 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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  • 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.


  • 2pots2cook

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

  • Mary

    I loved this soup! It was a refreshing change from the usual turkey noodle soup. My husband liked it more than the turkey casserole I made last night!


  • Eva

    Excellent and easy. I made this with broth and meat from a turkey carcass and added diced carrot for color. The lemon is a fresh take on turkey. Delicious!


  • Nadya

    Made it twice – great recipe with the leftover turkey or chicken!


  • Jean

    I made my own stock by cold smoking thigh bones and adding it with water. It’s still simmering on the stove as I type this… took a taste test of the broth and decided that this recipe will stay in the family forever. :))

  • Ellen

    Wonderful soup recipe. I put the zest in a tea ball so I could fish it out and it worked beautifully!


  • Nancy Rohr

    We thoroughly enjoyed it! Terrific! I used 1 T each fresh grated lemon rind, ginger and turmeric, 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice and 2 big sprigs of fresh thyme. I also added diced celery and carrot, used 8 cups freshly made turkey stock and 1/4 cup,of dry cooking sherry. Fantastic!

  • Carrie Gee

    I NEVER leave comments, but this recipe is delicious! We have made it twice now; first after Thanksgiving and most recently after Christmas. I made bone broth from the turkey carcass (and some frozen chicken bones) to use in the soup both times. The second time I added a parmesan rind in step two for a kick of umami which had the desired effect. Amazing! This is now our “go to” post turkey recipe.

    • Elise Bauer

      I’m so glad you like it Carrie, it’s one of my favorites.

  • Barbara

    Terrific soup!!!!! We love it. Even better the second day.

  • Creativeme

    Very tasty! Not usually a fan of Turkey soup, but this one is truly special. I substituted the barley with diced sweet potato, and the result was very nice. Lots of flavour! The lemon just made it all come together.

  • Mary Anne

    This soup did not work for me. I made a delicious turkey stock as a base, I used rice instead of barley and I had trouble fishing out the lemon peel, distinguishing it from the onions and the flavor was on the bland side. My husband liked it, so that was a plus, but I won’t make it again.

  • George Casler

    Left with two drumsticks and wish for something completely different , I tried this one. After the palates of my wife and I removed the prejudice of more than 50 years of Leftover Turkey Soup, we agreed that this “has the stuff!” Thank you.

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi George, I’m so glad you tried this recipe! It’s one of my favorites and it doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves in my opinion.

  • Jen

    This recipe is easy — especially if you have a juicer and food processor:-) — and delicious. After this (and a successful cheesecake), my new-ish boyfriend thinks I’m a master in the kitchen. I am not:-) This soup is awesome and the perfect solution to my post-Thanksgiving nothing-left-but-turkey situation. Thank you!

    Thanks especially for the lemon zest instruction (otherwise I would have been lost). I didn’t know how to tell if the barley is cooked, so I just simmered 30 minutes, which seemed to work.

    The chicken stock came in a 4-cup box, so I used that and a can of chicken broth. This worked fine.

  • Karen

    Just made the soup! Delicious… complex flavor. The taste finishes in such a way that I just want more to hit my palate!

  • Jen

    Your mom was probably making turkey stock & all
    that gelatin is very good for you. The gelatin helps replenish
    collagen on your body & the stock has lots of minerals. She probably
    just needed a good recipe like this to put that yummy stock to good use :)

  • kurliegirlie

    Delicious. Used about 3 cups turkey, 1 cup barley, 8 cups broth, grated fresh ginger, Thai seasoning to augment what little cumin and turmeric I had, and fine strips of zest from 1/2 small lemon, which disintegrated into the soup. I will buy turkey to have leftover to make this soup and I am not a huge soup fan.

  • Mark L.

    Elise, there’s a major error in the recipe. Serves 6? It’s so good three of us wiped out a whole batch in one sitting!


  • JustJenna

    This one hits it out of the ball park! I live in Japan; as barley is pretty much unavailable here, I substituted brown Basmati rice. A match made in heaven! Most of my leftover turkey was dark meat, so that and the rice hit it off perfectly.

    I intend to try this with thick Japanese buckwheat noodles – although my Japanese friends slurped up the rice version, it’s always fun to experiment!

    • Meg

      Barley is widely available in Japan. Look for “mugi” sold near the rice (it’s commonly added to rice, especially in school lunches — mugigohan).

  • Audrey

    Wow, this was good! On the second day, I added some red curry powder, what a kick! Thanks for the recipe!

  • Karen

    This is a wonderful recipe, Elise. Thank you for the inspiration. I didn’t have barley, so substituted orzo. Also, I added about two cups shredded swiss chard with the parsley. I also threw in two frozen NM chile peppers that were in the freezerMy husband had two bowls for dinner and there might be some left for his lunch. Although I was initially a little hesitant about the spice combination (especially with the chile peppers), it turned out great and we be having it again in some variation or another. Thanks again.

  • Elise Bauer

    Thanks for the feedback everyone! I’ve adjusted the recipe to give a range for the barley – 1/2 cup to 1 cup, depending on how thick you would like the result to be.

  • Carol

    I made some of this with our leftover turkey and homemade turkey stock-it was delicious!

    I am going to cut back on the barley the next time though because the 1 cup drank up most of the broth when it sat overnight-I had to add chicken broth when I reheated it. That’s OK though-the flavor was still there. My husband and I both loved it.

    Thank you Elise…….

  • Caroline

    I made this with leftover Thanksgiving turkey and liked it a lot. The barley pairs so well with the turkey and the lemon. I found it required more liquid than the recipe calls for (I just used water) but maybe I just like my soups brothier than you do. Strangely, the lemon flavor diminishes after a day or two, so I recommend squeezing some fresh juice into the bowl if you’re eating it as leftovers.

  • Sarah @ Family. Food. Fiesta.

    I love this leftover turkey soup recipe! It looks absolutely divine and to use lemon, turmeric, ginger, and barley…talk about antioxidant central! Love it!

  • Deb S.

    Looks interesting. I’ll be subbing lentils for the barley and leftover turkey (I have no leftover meat!) and completely omitting the cilantro (tastes like dish soap to me).

  • Lisa

    Thanks so much for this recipe! I replaced the cilantro/parsley with kale and it was amazing! This is going in my Thanksgiving folder as a recipe to make every year with left over turkey.

  • Erika

    I made this soup yesterday and it is wonderful! What a nice change from the traditional soup I usually make after the holiday. Thank you!

  • Teri

    Very good! I did cut back on the barley. I used Medium Barley and decided to only use about 1/3 cup barley based upon the package directions. Probably could have used just a bit more though I will see how it thickens up after a night in the refrigerator. This would be good with chicken thighs.

  • Lesterk

    I loved it. I was nervous when I tasted the broth before adding the turkey and fresh herbs. But it really came together at the end. I can’t wait to eat leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

  • Shirley

    I made this soup today at my mother’s. I thought it was okay….maybe a little bit too overbearing on the lemon. The concept of flavors intrigued me so I couldn’t wait to try it. I think if I made it again, I’d just use the juice and not the peel.

  • Lisa

    Umm, no. I didn’t care for this at all. I definitely could have done something wrong, but the flavors just didn’t blend for me, and a full cup of barley was too much. Sorry to say that my husband tossed the rest of the soup away.
    First time I’ve been disappointed though, Elise!

  • melissa

    Yum, yum yum! It was delicious. I was a little nervous that my rather-picky husband wouldn’t like it (mainly because of the color) but he loved it. Went back for a second bowl and said to add the recipe to my “Glenn says I Can Make This Again” notebook. Thanks for a great leftover recipe that doesn’t taste like the original meal.

  • Angela

    I just made this soup for my husband and sister. We loved it.
    Used homemade chicken broth. Added a little more salt at the end and omitted the parsley in favor of more cilantro. Great lemony taste. Will make again using leftover chicken. Thank you
    very much.

  • Jane Murphy

    I am sorry to say I really didn’t care for this soup, which was disappointing, as all the recipes I have tried on this site before (which have been many) have been excellent. The premise sounded good, but it just didn’t appeal to me at all. Perhaps different seasoning?

    • McMaggieMom

      Better with tabasco, curry powder & coconut milk. Went from disappointing to Yummy. I love this site for usually great recipes !

  • Carol

    Goodbye turkey noodle soup. Hello turkey lemon soup!!! This soup is delicious and easy to prepare.

  • Linda Hester

    This soup is absolutely delicious! Made it this morning and had for lunch. The lemon gives it such a fresh taste. I had to substitute saffron for the turmeric and used brown rice instead of barley. This will be my go-to soup recipe for leftover turkey. Will also use this one to take to sick relatives or friends. Thanks!

  • Foodjunkie

    Well I just finished this wonderful soup for my supper. It is light and fresh tasting and all around good. Thanks for sharing this one. I love soupd and this gives me something very different to put in the rotation.