Mom’s Turkey Soup Tradition

Happy mid week between Christmas and New Years. I’m sorry to be late with this post. The holidays have been rather hectic this year. Then again, when aren’t they 🙂

I hate to admit it, but holiday traditions were something I paid little attention to until I grew up and had a family of my own. Only then, when making the holidays special for my own children, did I fully appreciate all the wonderful things my parents did for me and my brother. It’s really amazing, but whenever I get together with one of my cousins, we always talk about the great times we spent at each other’s houses while growing up and what fun we had doing the simple things like singing songs, crafting homemade Christmas tree ornaments, and, of course, eating incredible meals that included Auntie June’s secret recipe cranberry sauce and Grandpa’s spiced tomato soup cake.

My mom was a great cook. I often wish I’d inherited her skill. One of her many talents was taking leftovers and turning them into something different for the next meal. She didn’t just reheat all the various food containers, she created brand new and delicious meals. One of my favorites was her turkey soup. The secret, as she told me many times, was to have no specific recipe. Just put in some of this and a little of that. Whatever is in the refrigerator. I’ve been told that’s often what the best cooks do.



So, here’s how I make my mom’s turkey soup. As best I can put it down in writing. And don’t forget to add a little love all during the cooking process. Oh, and a heads up. This is entire afternoon project for me, so allow yourself plenty of time.


1 turkey carcass
Chicken or vegetable stock (two cans or one box)
1 small to medium onion (white is best)
1 green pepper (or red or yellow or orange, it doesn’t matter)
1 large or two medium tomatoes
1-1/2 cup chopped celery
1-1/2 cup diced carrots

Any other vegetables you have around. Some nice additions are corn, peas, diced mushrooms, broccoli or spinach (both will disappear in the cooking but add flavor), diced green beans and cubed zucchini.
Egg noodles – as much or little as you want. I use about 2 cups. Can also substitute other pasta, like elbow macaroni or broken up spaghetti. Rice is another option, I use about a cup. Also, cube potatoes or barley for a different starch. Or, you can leave out the starch altogether for a low-carb version.

Seasonings to taste. Some examples are salt and pepper, garlic powder, poultry seasoning, a bay leaf, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. Be creative and always taste as you go.

Cook the turkey carcass fully submerged in a large pot of stock and water. Add the finely chopped onion about thirty minutes in. Continue cooking the carcass until the meat is falling off the bone. At that point, remove the carcass and set it aside on the counter to cool. Remove any bits of bone, gristle, etc. from your pot of stock until what’s left is clear. Small bits of meat are fine. Some people let the stock cool and blot off the fat for a healthier version. I don’t, preferring the flavor added by the fat.

Add all the remaining chopped vegetables that you sliced and diced and chopped while the carcass was cooking to the stock. Start seasoning, slowing at first as seasonings will become stronger during the cooking process. Bring to a simmer (small bubbles). When the carcass is cooled, remove all the meat. Separate good meat from the bad and being careful to avoid small bones. Add the all the lovely choice meat back into the vegetables and stock.

At this point, add your pasta or rice and continue cooking for another hour or so until everything is super tender. Continue to taste and season.

I can still picture my mom standing over the stove, stirring the turkey soup, taking a taste, and adding a dash of something. I never make a pot without thinking of her and appreciating the traditions she lovingly passed down.

What are your holiday cooking traditions? I would love to hear them. Sharing a meal is such a lovely way to bring people together.

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Cathy McDavid has been penning Westerns for Harlequin since 2005. With over 50 titles in print and 1.5 million-plus books sold, Cathy is also a member of the prestigious Romance Writers of America’s Honor Roll. This “almost” Arizona native and mother of grown twins is married to her own real-life sweetheart. After leaving the corporate world seven years ago, she now spends her days penning stories about good looking cowboys riding the range, busting broncs, and sweeping gals off their feet — oops, no. Make that winning the hearts of feisty, independent women who give the cowboys a run for their money. It a tough job, but she’s willing to make the sacrifice.

22 thoughts on “Mom’s Turkey Soup Tradition”

  1. HI! I made leftover soup after Thanksgiving. The best ingredients I added were a cup or so of green bean casserole, and a couple of cups of mashed potatoes. Made a really thick and flavorful soup. That’s in addition to the turkey, Better than Bouillon, water, fresh potatoes with the skins on, peas, carrots and corn, plus a little barley. Really yummy!

  2. We do the same with the turkey carcass and with chicken when we have it. Nothing beats a good homemade soup for comfort food. Turkey usually gives lots of stock and meat bits, so I often freeze half of it to make a soup later. I have found the stock freezes better than the soup plus it takes up less room in the freezer. I love leftovers, so repeats of the turkey dinner are fine with me. Of course turkey sandwiches with lots of mayo are looked forward to. There is usually enough left over meat for casseroles like turkey tetrazzini (which I don’t make often because it is so rich). I prefer fruit pies, so any leftovers there make good breakfasts any time of the year.
    Thanks for a peak at your family traditions. I hope you had a joyous Christmas and have a wonderful 2022.

    • I’ve frozen half the stock, too. And you’re right, frozen turkey soup doesn’t defrost that well. I have made turkey tetrazzini in years. Will have to break out Mom’s recipe 🙂

  3. Here in Finland most people still eat ham, though I think turkey has become a bit more popular in recent years. In my family we tend to make pies from what is left of the ham.

  4. Hi, both my husband and I have made Turkey soup with the carcass and it turns out delicious! My husband just made some yesterday from Christmas Day’s turkey dinner. Your turkey soup sounds delicious , thank you for sharing your recipe. And yes the main ingredient in everything I cook is “Lots of Love” For New Years we always have Black eyed peas with a meat on the side and I always bake a Rum Cake. May you and your family have a Very Happy and Blessed New Year.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing. I will be fixing my aunt’s sausage, noodle and saurkraut casserole for New Year’s Day. God bless you. Happy New Year.

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