Making turkey noodle soup from the leftover bones and meat has become one of my favorite parts of cooking a turkey – it’s so delicious! Not to mention full of bone-broth goodness and using up all parts of the bird (and even vegetables). Once you try this, I think it will become a part of your turkey tradition, too.
Do you make turkey noodle soup from the leftover bones after roasting a turkey? I find I’m in the minority when it comes to making turkey noodle soup with a holiday turkey, at least in my family. But I love it – everything from using up the bones, to smelling the broth simmer, to eating a yummy bowl.
I even buy more than one turkey during sales and roast the extra when it’s not a holiday – not only to have cooked meat (to use in all recipes like this you’d use chicken for) but also to be able to make this soup. It’s pure comfort in a bowl.
I didn’t grow up watching anyone make soup with roasted turkey bones – we mostly just threw the carcass away. But when I reached a certain age (um, 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 (this is what you did before the internet, lol) I learned 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, just like I do.
How to Make Turkey Noodle Soup From Bones
1. Prep the bones.
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 have) as well.
2. Add vegetables and water, then boil and cook.
After all the meat is in the pot, add water to completely cover the bones and throw in some onion, carrot, and celery trimmings.
Why add vegetables?
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. But the finished soup was just sort of blah. I mean, we ate it, but it didn’t seem terribly flavorful.
Then I read (probably in the 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- woo-hoo! Using not only what you have, but what you were going to throw away? I’m all for that.
And what a revelation it was 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, and it’s well…it’s just better.
Update: studies have shown that many of the good vitamins and nutrients in bone broth come from the added vegetables, so one more reason to always add them!
To Cook: 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.
3. Strain the broth and remove the meat from the bones.
Let the broth cool a bit, then use a large strainer to separate the broth from the bones and meat. Note: always remember to put a pot under the strainer to catch all that wonderful broth (ask me how I know this…).
Ugh, what if I don’t want to take the time to remove all the meat?
This is the part where I know I lose most people with “I don’t have time to deal with those bones” or ” I just don’t want to deal with them.”
Here’s what I’ll say if you fall into that camp:
- I timed it and it only took 8 minutes to separate the meat from the bones (for this 14-lb turkey).
- And you don’t have to deal all 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 living it up.
But you’ll have to be okay seeing perfectly good meat go into the trash.
4. Prep the stock/bone broth.
At this step you now have wonderful, 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. I often like to get the bones cooked right away, then refrigerate the broth to make the soup the next day.
The stock pictured above 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, know that it will be jello-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.
5. Make turkey soup.
Whether starting immediately or waiting a day, at this step you’ll 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 always add.
Bring to a boil again and cook at a simmer until the vegetables are soft, usually about 15 minutes.
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.
That’s it – you’ve made a warm and wonderful bowl of turkey noodle soup! And don’t you feel so good for using up food, too? Bonus!
Traditional Turkey Noodle Soup Recipe from Leftover Bones
- turkey carcass and/or bones
- carrot onion, and celery trimmings
- pan juices and/or leftover gravy optional
- 1 large onion diced
- 1 cup diced carrot about 1 lb.
- 1 cup diced celery 4-5 stalks
- 1-2 cloves garlic minced (optional)
- 8 ounces egg noodles
- 1 cup frozen green peas
- 1 tablespoon salt or to taste
- 1-2 teaspoons black pepper
Make bone broth (stock):
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Salt and pepper to taste before serving.
- Turkey Vegetable Soup: add potatoes instead of noodles and a few more vegetables. We really like green beans, spinach, and/or kale.
- Creamy Turkey Noodle or Vegetable Soup: add 1 cup of cream before serving.
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