An Almost Free Meal: Compost Heap Turkey Soup

Okay, so maybe not the most appealing name, but it fits the bill. The key to delicious homemade turkey (or chicken) soup is the stock. In this recipe, I use scraps from veggies that would’ve otherwise gone in the trash (or the compost heap if I had one, lol. Someday).

homemade chicken soup

I grew up with my dad always making turkey soup after Thanksgiving, so this is a particularly fun meal to make. I love the smell of it simmering on the stove for hours and I have delicious memories of enjoying it for days after, simply made with carrots, celery and little bow tie pasta. I enjoy making it myself now, putting my own twists on it.

I wish I could take credit for the idea of using scraps, because truly, it’s awesome, but I first read about it on Living on a Dime back when I was still working and researching everything frugal in preparation for being a stay-at-home mom some day. Most ideas were a little extreme for me, but this is one tip that stuck. Not because it’s frugal, but because it just makes more sense than wasting perfectly good food.

What you do is this: Every time you cook with an ingredient that you could use to make stock (onion, carrot, celery, leeks, cilantro–my not-so-secret ingredient), you save the parts that you might otherwise throw away. Since you’re saving the parts you don’t usually eat (like carrot peel), I would buy organic if you can. Put them in a freezer Ziplock in your freezer and add to it each time you have more scraps. You can even freeze herbs that you aren’t going to use up before going bad. By the time your have a bagful, you’re ready to make stock the next time you cook a turkey (or chicken, or just buy a roasted chicken at the grocery store). Make sure you have a good mix of veggies in your bag, so you’re not just using all carrots or something.

I usually eat off the turkey or chicken like normal for one meal and then use the carcass for the stock. It’s easy to just throw away the carcass, but using it to make soup is like giving yourself a free meal–especially if you’re using the leftover veggie scraps. Plus, there’s usually quite a bit of meat left on it that is hard to slice off, but comes off easily after simmering for awhile.

So once you have your bag of freezer veggie scraps and your turkey carcass, you’re ready to make soup. Follow the recipe below to make the best turkey soup you’ve ever made, promise. 🙂

Compost Heap Turkey Soup
*You will need a large stock pot that will fit the carcass enough so you can close the lid. You could also use a crock pot if you’re just using a chicken carcass.

leftover turkey soup simmering stock pot

*You will need fresh veggies for the actual soup. The frozen ones are just for the stock.

1. Cut off all the meat that is easy to slice off the carcass and set aside.

2. Place carcass in stock pot and dump bag of freezer veggie scraps in. Fill with water to just barely cover everything.

3. Bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for at least two hours or just leave in your crock pot on low all day.

4. While this is simmering, chop the reserved turkey meat and veggies you’ll use for the soup. I usually just use carrots and celery. Save the scraps from these veggies in a freezer bad for your next batch.

chopped celery
Chopped celery for soup, celery ends set aside for freezer bag

5. Remove turkey carcass with tongs (it will be falling apart) and set aside. Pick all usable meat off of it after it has cooled a bit.

6. Set a large bowl with a strainer in it in the sink and strain the stock into it. Rinse out the stock pot (or use a new one) and pour the strained stock back in. Be very careful as it will be very hot at this point.
*Some people like to strain this again (with a cheesecloth maybe?) but I don’t bother. You could also cool it at this point and scrape the fat off the top, but I usually do that with the leftovers and just eat it as is the first time.

7. Put chopped veggies and turkey meat in the stock and simmer until veggies are tender. If you want to add noodles or other pasta to your soup, you can cook it directly in the soup. Just know that it will absorb a lot of the broth, especially the leftovers. The pasta may also get mushy as leftovers, so you may want to cook it separately and add as needed. If you use rice, cook separately and add in.

8. Add salt and pepper to taste. Soup needs a lot of salt to taste good, so if it tastes like something’s missing, this is it. You won’t want to add too much, though, so keep adding and tasting, but it will need more than you think.

I like to add sliced jalapeno and chopped cilantro to mine at the end, but you can doctor it up however you’d like.

chicken soup with turmeric and spinach

And there you have it–an almost free meal, since the only thing that costs you additional money is the fresh veggies you add to it. I would post a picture of the batch I made tonight, but I made the mistake of cooking up black rice instead of wild rice and our soup turned purple, which was very unappetizing. Fortunately, I realized my error before adding it, so I only added it to the bowls we were eating and then later cooked up some brown rice to add to the rest of it.

Check out my list of recipes on the “Love Food” page.

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Comments 2

  • I executed your trick tonight. I chopped up veg for dinner (rack of lamb, yum!!) and kept the other stuff for a stock. Do you do anything with your carrot or fennel leaves?

    My time saving trick has been to chop the carrot and celery for multiple batches of mirepoix and store that in the freezer.

    • That’s a good trick too! You can cook up the carrot leaves (maybe fennel too), but I’m not a fan of the texture. Beet greens, however, I do like sauteed with garlic and olive oil.

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