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Plan Ahead for Leftover Turkey Noodle Soup

November 21, 2014


We enjoyed an early Thanksgiving on November 1. Hey, if our Canadian friends can have Thanksgiving the 2nd Monday in October, why not celebrate Nov. 1. We’ll have another next Thursday of course (with not quite everyone here), but these days, whenever the kids can come home, or the family can get together, make it work. I’ve heard of some families celebrating Christmas in late January.

So, I had a leftover turkey breast carcass, meat picked off the bone, and broth. I also had saved pork sausage broth in the freezer and sweet red peppers from the garden. Would all of that make a good soup?

I had everything but the noodles. I waited an extra day to avoid making a trip to town, and cooked up a hearty and satisfying soup with the approximate quantities found in the recipe below. That, of course, is the grace of most soups: you can cheat or add and improvise to your tummy’s content. I especially liked the rich flavor the sausage broth added. We love Mild Gunnoes Sausage, a regional (Virginia and West Virginia) brand that is high quality ground sausage, seasoned well but not too spicy.

While leftover turkey soup recipes abound online especially this time of year (here and here are two to compare), this was something my mother never made when I was growing up because she never cooked a turkey that I can recall. She didn’t really like turkey—the old complaints about it being too dry. That was before cooking a turkey in an oven bag made it SO easy, which also helps to keep the bird juicy. I can’t imagine not cooking turkey for our family—to the extent that if we’re invited away and won’t have a leftover turkey sitting around, I often do cook a breast just to have the leftovers and all the turkey broth goodness.

P1060795Turkey Noodle Soup

Turkey breast carcass*
2 cups cooked leftover turkey or chicken pieces, shredded or cut up to smallish size
2 cups turkey broth
1 10-oz. can chicken broth
1 cup sausage or pork broth
2 cups medium (or small) dry noodles
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
½ sweet red pepper, chopped
2 carrots, chopped, quartered (approx.)
Salt and pepper to taste (try ½ tsp. each), and other spices as you like (curry, cumin, poultry seasoning, bay leaf)

Boil turkey carcass to create broth by adding enough water to cover carcass in 5 quart (or similar) size pan. Add salt, pepper, and a handful of celery leaves (cut from celery stalks) to mixture as it cooks. Cover and simmer for one hour or so.

Remove carcass from broth. Cool at least ten minutes. Pick off any remaining meat to add to the leftover turkey pieces you have on hand.

Leaving broth in the pan, add chopped turkey, other broths according to how liquidy you like your soup, noodles, celery, onion, red pepper, carrots plus seasonings. Bring to boil. Turn to simmer and cook for about ½ hour.

*Quantities would differ if using a larger size whole turkey carcass. Here’s another cook’s pictorial on how to cook off broth.

Freeze extra quantities in lunch sized containers for quick and hearty lunches in January!



What do you like best for Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, ham, oysters, salmon? I’ve heard of families where all these various traditions are enjoyed. For fun, take my poll:



For a variety of recipes for favorite family holiday foods, ways to use leftovers, and other recipes, see my book Whatever Happened to Dinner  available here.



From → Family Life, Food, Recipes

  1. Sounds good to me, Melodie. Our whole family likes turkey, and I always make broth with the carcass. The ingredients in the soup vary somewhat depending on what vegetables are in the fridge. I like the idea of adding red pepper. And I’ll also be looking for that sausage!

    We’ll be celebrating in New Jersey this year as our family all assemble at our son and daughter-in-law’s house. Maybe, inspired by this post, I’ll volunteer to make soup.

  2. Yeah, I just happened to have the red pepper. Too late I thought of “oh, I should have added my home frozen corn”! Soup like this turns out differently almost every time.

    In Mennonite Recipes from the Shenandoah Valley (Good Books) I saw a neat tradition from one congregation which says they always have a congregational Thanksgiving meal, save & freeze all the turkey carcasses and leftovers, and then throw together a big soup lunch for congregational meeting time in January. I liked that idea too.

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family.

  3. You are really grabbing the bull by the horns with this pre-emptive post. (Sorry, wrong animal!) We have turkey soup, turkey sandwiches, even a turkey chef salad when the supply runs low.

    The amount of meat we have to work with has changed though since daughter Crista has had Thanksgiving at her house for the last 4-5 years. No longer are we left with the carcass, but take home a smaller amount which we enjoy for days after.

    Your voting machine is so cool! Thanks for the timely post, Melodie.

    • Grabbing the turkey by the comb doesn’t quite have the same feel to it, does it?

      Yeah, I debated waiting til next week but I think and hear from others who enjoy the leftovers as much as the meal. (A comment from the Living More with Less Facebook group. Are you in that group, Marian?)
      And it is nice not to have to deal with a carcass! We’re going to my daughter’s mother-in-law’s house who lives nearby, so I’m fine with that!

  4. Athanasia permalink

    We always make turkey soup though not necessarily right away. I make the broth and put in quart or 1/2 gallon containers in the freezer for later. Red peppers do not sound good to me, but that is me. They must be popular as they show up everywhere now. We stick with celery, potatoes, carrots and onion, a bay leaf, and wild rice, a little salt and pepper. Nothing fancy or new.

    I always strain the broth through a sieve. I don’t like bits of bone or cartilage being left behind.

  5. What a great idea to strain the broth through a sieve. I messed up big time one year when there were bits of bone/cartilage that made it into the soup. Not good! I should note that the red peppers were of the sweet (not hot) variety and they mostly added some nice color, not that different in the way of taste. But why add them if you don’t want them! Thanks for your comment.

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