Turkey Barley Soup

If you’re planning on cooking a turkey this holiday season, an excellent use of the leftover meat and bones is turkey soup.  Rather than disposing of the turkey carcass when the holiday meal is over, it’s really easy to simmer the bones in a big pot with some veggies to make delicious turkey stock, which will serve as the base for this hearty soup.  We’ve posted instructions on how to make turkey stock before, and although it takes time to cook, it is well worth the (minimal) effort.  Simply place the turkey carcass and other bones in a large stock pot full of water, then simmer on the stove (or cook in the oven at 200 degrees) for about 6 hours.  Add 2 bay leaves, an onion, 2-3 ribs of celery, 2-3 carrots (roughly chop the veggies into big pieces) and about a teaspoon of cracked peppercorns to the pot and simmer on low for about 2 hours.  Drain the stock through a fine mesh strainer and discard all the bones and veggies.  Refrigerate the stock until you’re ready to use it (you can also portion out some of the stock to freeze for later use), or use it right away for the soup.  If you don’t have the time or inclination to make homemade turkey stock (but we highly recommend you do!), then you can use its lesser, not-as-flavorful cousin, chicken stock.  The other ingredients for this soup are simple:  olive oil, onion, carrots, celery, bay leaves, barley, leftover turkey meat, fish sauce (or soy sauce) and parsley for garnish.  Despite its simplicity, this soup is rustic and filling with dominant turkey flavor and interesting texture from the barley.


If you refrigerate the stock before using it, you may need to skim off the top layer of congealed fat prior to heating the stock for the soup.


The stock gets a little gelatinous when it has been refrigerated, so the first step in making soup with refrigerated stock is to heat the stock and transform it back into liquid form.


Chop up the celery, onion and carrots.  (More specifically, the onion should be “diced” and the celery and carrots should be “chopped.”  Cooking jargon for cutting the onion into slightly smaller pieces than the celery and carrots.  Or cut the veggies into whatever size pieces you prefer in your soup.  If you like big pieces of onion and small bites of carrot, knock yourself out.  It’s soup — not rocket science!)


Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat to cook the veggies, starting with the onions.  If you’re using refrigerated homemade turkey stock, you can heat a tablespoon of the congealed turkey fat skimmed from the stock instead of olive oil.  Bonus turkey flavor!  Cook the onions until they begin to soften and become translucent — about 5 minutes.


Next add the carrot and celery and cook for another 3-4 minutes.


Add the stock, bay leaves, barley and turkey to the Dutch oven and heat the soup to a low boil.


Reduce the heat to low and simmer the soup until the barley is done — about 45 minutes to an hour.


You can tell that the barley is done when it puffs up a bit and has a tender and slightly chewy texture.


Add a little fish sauce (available in the Asian section of most grocery stores) or soy sauce during the last few minutes of cooking to brighten up the flavors.  Taste the soup and add salt & pepper if needed.  Remove the bay leaves and discard them before serving the soup.


Garnish the soup with chopped parsley and serve with a nice baguette.  Enjoy this comfort food as a healthy alternative to holiday indulgences, and pat yourself on the back for making good use of your entire turkey!

Turkey Barley Soup


  • 6-7 cups homemade turkey stock (or store-bought chicken broth)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1-2 carrots, chopped
  • 2-3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ cup barley
  • 2-3 cups cooked turkey, diced
  • 1-2 teaspoons fish sauce or soy sauce
  • chopped parsley for garnish


  1. In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, then add the onion and saute until the onion begins to soften — about 5 minutes. Add the carrot and celery and saute for another 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add the stock, bay leaves, barley and turkey to the Dutch oven and heat to a low boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the barley is tender and slightly chewy — about 45 minutes to an hour. During the final few minutes of cooking, add the fish sauce to brighten the flavors. Taste the soup and add salt & pepper as needed.
  3. Remove the bay leaves and discard them before serving the soup. Garnish with chopped parsley.

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