Traditional Turkey Noodle Soup

turkey noodle soup

Do you make turkey noodle soup from the bones of a turkey? I’m always amazed at the fact that I’m in the minority when it comes to making turkey noodle soup with the Thanksgiving turkey, at least in my family. I even buy turkey when it’s not a holiday if it’s on sale – not only for the meat but also to be able to make this soup. It’s pure comfort in a bowl.

However, I didn’t grow up watching anyone make soup with the bones- we mostly just threw the carcass away. But when I reached a certain age (read: paying for my own food…), it seemed like such a waste. I mean, I could see there was still some meat on those bones! So through trial and some error (alas, before the Internet…) I found out how to make a comforting, flavorful bowl of turkey noodle soup.

If you grew up like I did and haven’t a clue as to what to do with poultry bones, here’s a short tutorial along with the recipe at the end. I promise you’ll be asking for the family’s turkey bones at the next holiday, too.

turkey carcass

1. Okay, my apologies to any vegetarians out there, but we should start at the beginning. This is what you’ll usually be left with after all the meat has been carved from the turkey. The first step is to break the carcass into smaller pieces to be able to fit your largest pot (I use a 12-quart stock pot). Add any liquid from the roasting pan or leftover gravy that you may have, as well.


2. After all the meat is in the pot, add water to completely cover the bones and throw in some onion, carrot, and celery trimmings. I didn’t believe when I first tried to make turkey soup (or any stock from bones for that matter) that the vegetables would make a difference, and since I’m cheap frugal I would only add water. I just couldn’t put perfectly good vegetables in there to just throw away with the bones. And the soup was just sort of blah. I mean, we ate it, but it didn’t seem terribly flavorful.

Then I read (probably in Tightwad Gazette) that I could keep the ends and trimmings of vegetables in a baggie in the freezer to use for making homemade broth. Well, you can imagine how I felt about this- whoo, hoo- using not only what you have, but what you were going to throw away! And what a revelation for the broth, too. Both Brian and I noticed right away the difference in the soup made with the broth cooked with vegetables. The flavor is deeper, more pronounced, it’s well…it’s just better.

3. Bring the contents of the pot to a boil, turn down the heat and let it simmer for 1-2 hours until the meat is falling off the bones and the broth is golden.

turkey soup bones

4. Let the broth cool a bit, then use a large strainer to separate the broth from the bones and meat. And always remember to put a pot under the strainer to catch all that wonderful broth. But please don’t ask how I know to emphasize this. This is the part where I know I lose most people with “I just don’t have time to deal with those bones” or ” I just don’t want to deal with all those bones.”

Here’s what I’d say if you fall into that camp:

  1. I timed it and it only took 8 minutes to separate the meat from the bones.
  2. And you don’t have to deal with the bones if you don’t want to. Just pick the large pieces of meat out that you see and leave the rest to the bones. You’ll probably have plenty for the soup and you can spend the other 7 minutes livin’ it up.

But you’ll have to see perfectly good meat go into the trash…

refrigerated turkey stock

5. At this step you now have wonderful, super-nourishing bone broth. You can continue on to make soup right away, or you can put the both into the fridge for a day or two until you’re ready for soup. The broth pictured was refrigerated and before I made the soup, I skimmed the fat from the top with a spoon (update: I’ve since read that the fat from making bone broth is good for you, so feel free to leave it if you like – I confess that I still skim it if it’s been refrigerated...)

For those who’ve never made broth from bones, it will be jell-like when cold. It’s from the natural gelatin found in the marrow of the bones and is one of the reasons this homemade stock is so nourishing. It will liquify again as it reheats.

vegetables for soup

6. Whether starting immediately or waiting a day, at this step you need to heat your broth in the pot you’ll make the soup in and add the vegetables you’ll eat in the final soup: diced carrots, onions, and celery. A couple cloves of minced garlic is optional, which I usually choose to add.

7. Then bring to a boil again and cook at a simmer until the vegetables are soft, usually about 15 minutes.

8. Add a bag of noodles and some frozen peas, bring to a low boil again, and cook until tender before adding salt and pepper to taste. And you will need to salt it – remember we’re starting with unsalted, homemade broth.

traditional turkey noodle soup

That’s all there is to enjoying a warm and wonderful bowl of turkey noodle soup.


Traditional Turkey Noodle Soup

  • turkey carcass and/or bones
  • carrot, onion, and celery trimmings
  • pan juices and/or leftover gravy (optional)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 c. diced carrot (about 1 lb.)
  • 1 c. diced celery (4-5 stalks)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
  • 8 oz. egg noodles
  • 1 c. frozen green peas
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Break up the bones of the turkey carcass and add it to a large pot (12 qt. or bigger is best) along with carrot, celery, and onion trimmings and any optional pan juices you may be using. Cover all with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat and simmer 1-2 hours (longer if you can – it makes better, more nutritional broth the longer it cooks) until the meat is falling off the bones and the broth is golden.
  2. Let the broth cool a bit, then pour the contents of the pot through a large strainer to separate the broth from the bones and meat that’s been set over a soup pot (or large bowl) to catch all the broth. Separate the meat from the bones and refrigerate the meat.
  3. Heat the strained broth (or refrigerate it to make the soup the next day) and add the diced vegetables and garlic before bringing to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are crisp-tender.
  4. Add the noodles, meat from the bones that you set aside earlier, and peas and bring to a boil again. Cook for about 8 minutes more until the noodles are tender.
  5. Salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Want to change it up a bit? Make Turkey Vegetable Soup by adding potatoes instead of noodles and a few more vegetables. And if you want creamy noodle/vegetable soup, add some cream.


Find more recipes at $5 Dinner Challenge and Balancing Beauty and Bedlam’s Tasty Tuesdays.


  1. Jenelle says

    I had to laugh when I checked your site and saw this today. That’s what I made last night! I love turkey noodle soup too. And last night is was cold an rainy here in So Cal, so it was just perfect.

    I always knew it was cheep, but wow, I never did the math and realized it was quite that inexpensive. Just one more reason to love it, right?

  2. Renee says

    I always make Turkey soup with the carcass–but I just boil the whole thing (minus the big pieces of meat)so it’s really a mess! I’ll try this more “genteel” method. We weren’t home for Thanksgiving, so I’m looking forward to my own turkey and soup! Have a wonderful Christmas!p.s. Did you know there are cheap flights between Eugene and Phoenix?

  3. says

    YEAHHHH I am not the only one who has dumped all the broth right down the drain! What a horrible feeling to get all done and realize you have a strainer full of bones and a sewer full of broth!

  4. Jami@ An Oregon Cottage says

    Renee- Yes, Brian’s brother flew in and out this last summer on some of those flights- he was really stoked about it. My sister just took one down to Sedona about a month ago, too. Maybe we’ll get a chance to be on a flight there soon…

    D of Zion- glad to know I’m not the only one, either! Yeah, not the greatest feeling…

  5. says

    If you are really feeling motivated, make your own egg noodles! Homemade egg noodles are super delish and you will qualify as the “best mom ever!” Frozen egg noodles are good too and much less work.

  6. Kris from Michigan says

    Good Morning, Jami! Hope your family had a wonderful Christmas!

    I’m trying to print some of your older recipes this morning and am unable to get the “print” screen to pop up – I’m just taken back to the original posting instead of a print screen with just the recipe. I’m finding this on most of the older recipes, not the newer ones. Was able to print Monkey Bread recipe, which I am taking to my father-in-law’s this morning! Have others noticed this? Just trying to figure out if it is something on my end …


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>