Making a turkey carcass soup is a beloved Thanksgiving day tradition in my family. Turkey bones, slowly simmered, make a rich, flavorful broth.
Once you have your rich broth, you can add sauteed vegetables and leftover turkey meat for a wonderfully satisfying meal.
Having a hot, comforting bowl of soup for a late dinner on Thanksgiving is something I look forward to every year. I admit it: We eat our Thanksgiving meal early partly to make sure we get to enjoy this tasty soup that same night!
This leftover turkey soup is so rich and delicious. We always save the turkey carcass after carving, plus any skin we're not interested in eating, and often the wings too. Turkey bones with some attached meat and skin, slowly simmered for several hours, make a rich, flavorful broth. 🍲
Here's an overview of what you'll need to make this tasty soup. The exact measurements are included in the recipe card below.
For the basic broth:
- Bones from a 10-12-lb. turkey. If some meat is still attached to the bones, that's even better and will make for a richer, more flavorful soup.
- Water: Enough to cover the bones.
- Seasonings: I like to use kosher salt, black pepper, dried thyme, and a bay leaf.
For the soup:
- Olive oil: I love cooking with this delicious oil. But if you'd rather use an oil with a higher smoke point, you can use avocado oil instead. Another tasty option is to use butter or ghee.
- Vegetables: I use sliced carrots, sliced celery, and chopped onions.
- Cooked turkey meat: Either white or dark - both work, though I tend to use white. Be sure to remove the skin.
It's easy to make turkey carcass soup! Scroll down to the recipe card for detailed instructions. Here are the basic steps:
Simmer turkey bones in water with some spices for three hours, then strain the rich broth and discard the bones.
Cook some vegetables (onions, celery, and carrots) in olive oil or in butter.
Add the strained broth and diced cooked turkey meat, and cook just until heated through.
It's up to you if you'd like to skim the fat layer off the top of the soup. I actually prefer not to, since the fat adds so much flavor.
If you decide to skim it, it's easier to allow the broth to cool completely in the fridge. The fat will float to the top and harden, and it will be very easy to remove. Then you can reheat the broth and proceed to make the soup.
Frequently asked questions
Yes! If you don't want to make the soup right away, you can freeze the carcass for up to four months. Let it cool completely, then wrap it in cling wrap and then in foil.
When it's time to make the soup, you can simply add it frozen to your stockpot.
I don't recommend it. That meat has been cooked for hours. It will be very dry. In my opinion, it's best to discard it. There shouldn't be a lot of it anyway.
Yes! Simply stir in half a cup of heavy cream to the strained broth, then add it to the saucepan with the sauteed vegetables and proceed to gently heat the soup for a few minutes, taking care not to bring it to a boil.
I usually serve this soup as our main dish. So rather than serve cups of it as an appetizer, I serve generous bowls, and then it makes the perfect after-Thanksgiving dinner - relatively light, but flavorful and comforting.
Since this soup contains meat and vegetables, it makes a complete and very filling meal. But f you'd like to add something on the side, try thick slices of almond flour bread (great for dipping in the soup!), cornbread, or perhaps these tasty biscuits.
Variations and substitutions
I love this soup just as it is! But in case you'd like to change it up, here are a few ideas for varying the basic recipe:
- If you're out of turkey meat but still have some turkey stock, you can add these turkey meatballs.
- Serve the soup with condiments such as hot sauce and soy sauce (gluten-free if needed) in case anyone wants to add extra flavor to their soup.
- Change up your veggies. Small cauliflower florets work well, and you can also add a teaspoon of minced garlic when you cook the vegetables.
Leftovers keep well in the fridge, in an airtight container, for about 3 days. I reheat bowls or mugs of this soup in the microwave, covered, on 50% power.
You can also freeze individual portions in mugs. Seal their tops with a few layers of plastic wrap.
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Turkey Carcass Soup
For the basic broth:
- Carcass of a 10-12-lb. turkey
- 3 quarts water
- 1 tablespoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
For the turkey soup:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup sliced carrots
- 1 cup sliced celery
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2 cups cooked turkey breast skinless, diced (10 oz)
- Place the turkey carcass in a large stockpot and cover it with cold water. Add the kosher salt, black pepper, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Skim the foam off the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low so that the stock is at a gentle simmer. Cook, partially covered, for 3 hours.
- Remove the bones and the bay leaf and discard. Strain the stock through a strainer. Measure how much liquid you have - you should now have about 2 quarts of soup. If you have less, add enough water to get to 2 quarts. Wipe the stockpot clean with moist paper towels.
- In the clean stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender-crisp. You want the onions golden, not browned. If the bottom of the stockpot becomes too dry, add a splash of water.
- Skim the fat layer from the top of the broth if you wish, then add it back to the stockpot. Add the turkey meat. Bring back to a simmer and cook just until heated through, about 5 more minutes.