Beans-n-Bones Turkey Soup

beans & bones turkey soup
Beans & Bones Turkey Soup served with corn muffins.

This recipe was supposed to be a stock—but something happened along the way. So, let’s start at the beginning. When I decided to make a stock out of my leftover turkey, I made a decision: pretty much everything goes into the stock. The leftover carcass goes in. (A later rule is that if I spatchcock, the spine goes in, too.) I usually cook my dressing / stuffing outside the bird, so I stuff my turkey with apple and onion pieces or apple and orange pieces. I put these into my broth as well to infuse flavor.  Finally, after I use the neck and organ meat to make stock for gravy, I set them aside to use in my stock, too.

That would have been the end of it … a nice turkey stock recipe to make full use of Thanksgiving leftovers. But then, I saw how much meat cooked off of that turkey…. And I got an idea, an awful idea … I got a wonderful, awful idea. (Oh, wait. That’s the Grinch, stealing Christmas.) I wondered if I could take that meat and make a soup. With beans. And that is how Beans & Bones Turkey Soup came to be. It’s a rather messy job, at least parts of it, which is not so great if you don’t like to get your hands dirty but wonderful if you’re into the tactile side of food prep. Either way, it’s worth the effort.

Worth it, because it tastes pretty good. Even after eating the turkey dinner and some leftovers and the Black Friday Gumbo, Beans & Bones Turkey Soup is just different enough to keep that leftover turkey fresh and interesting. And it freezes well, so I save some for wintry days when all I want is a hot soup to remind me how warm November was, comparatively speaking. (In November, I think it’s miserably cold and I’m thankful for September’s warmer days. I’m perpetually thankful for warmer days, even if it’s in retrospect.) 

You can eat this soup plain or add toppings like a melty cheese or bacon bits. Add red pepper flakes for a little spice. Or toss in a few goldfish crackers. However and whenever you choose to eat it, you just might do so with an attitude of thanksgiving.

A note for my vegetarian and vegan followers: I promise, more plant-based recipes and dishes with vegetarian options are coming soon.

“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”

—W.T. Purkiser



Turkey carcass and other meaty turkey bones still remaining from Thanksgiving dinner (neck, organ, spine, wings, etc.)

1 to 2 apples and oranges cut in pieces (can take from stuffed turkey or fresh)

12 C water 


6 C turkey stock

2 1/2 C cooked (and drained) pinto beans (navy beans would also work)

2 C turkey meat (leftover and/or culled from strained broth)

1 medium onion

3 sweet peppers

1 clove garlic, minced

2 TBSP finely chopped celery (up to equal amount of onion, to taste)

1 tsp ground cilantro

1 tsp ground thyme

1/2 tsp salt (more to taste)

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Prep time: about 1 1/2 hours for stock, about 1 hour for soup                                       

Yields: about 11 cups



Break turkey carcass into moderately sized pieces. Place turkey carcass and any other bones along with neck and organ meat into 12 C water, or enough to cover the top of the pieces. Bring to a boil, reduce to low, cover and simmer for about 2 hours. (You can also use Instant Pot stock setting to speed up this step.)

Strain liquid and reserve portion for use in soup. Store remaining stock. 

TIP: stock freezes well. Pour into ice cube trays and place cubes in a marked container or bag.

Set aside strained turkey for use in soup.


Chop onion, sweet peppers and celery. Mince garlic.

Cull meat off of turkey bones and sort through strained stock, grabbing only tender turkey meat. Most meat will fall right off of the bones. 

Pour oil in bottom of heavy stock pot and heat. 

Add onion, peppers, celery, garlic and seasonings and sauté until onions become translucent.

Add turkey meat and beans.

TIP: This soup is quick and easy to prepare in rice cooker on heat & simmer setting or in instant pot in soup mode (you can also use sauté mode before that, and make it a one-pot dish).

Add 6 C of broth to stock pot.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about a 1/2 hour.

beans & bones turkey soup at a glance
Beans & Bones Turkey Soup at a glance.

Serving Suggestions

Serve warm with a side of bread or vegetable of choice. Pairs well with traditional Thanksgiving leftover sides such as dressing, mashed potatoes and green beans.

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