Turkey Tortilla Soup


It was three days before Christmas and I had just received a phone call from the church that my holiday food box was ready. Being a single mother on a tight budget, free food for my family was a real treat. The box included a 15 pound turkey, several cans of goodies, pumpkin pie, broth, bread and some fresh vegetables. It was like Christmas, before Christmas!

To my surprise, the church called me the following day to say that one of the food boxes had not been picked up and they had extra. If I wanted it, come and get it!!

Of course, I was thrilled to get the extra food, so went to the church right away. My children, on other hand, were not as excited. As you can imagine, everything we ate for the next 3 weeks was made from turkey. We had turkey sandwiches, turkey omelets, turkey and rice, turkey noodle soup, shredded turkey tacos, and turkey casseroles.

Because I didn’t have much money, I saved every bit of those turkeys, including what I could take from the bones. I broke down each turkey carcass and boiled them until all the meat fell off, discarded the bones and bagged what was left. I had enough broth and shredded turkey to make 6 pots of soup…

I scanned my pantry and refrigerator to see what I had. Then a feeling came over me from when I was a child. My dad and I would stand in the kitchen and make stew with the vegetables he had just harvested from his garden. We would throw in a little of this and a little of that, whatever we had on hand.

As I thought about those times, this amazing recipe was born. It’s creative and versatile, packed with flavor. It can be frozen for a later meal. It’s budget friendly, full of nutrition and its comfort food on a cool wintery day. Practically the perfect meal!

Turkey Tortilla Soup

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


  • Turkey carcass
  • Can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup chunky spicy salsa
  • Can cooked lentils
  • One bunch of cilantro chopped
  • Large onion diced – yellow, white or shallots
  • Two corn cobs – corn cut off the cob
  • 1 cup celery chopped    * use the center of the stalk including the leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • Tablespoon chili powder
  • Teaspoon paprika
  • Teaspoon garlic salt
  • Teaspoon Cajun Spice
  • Bay leaf
  • Shredded cheddar
  • Tortilla chips, broken pieces   * this is a perfect way to use up the crumbs in the bottom of a bag instead of throwing them away
  • Sour Cream
  • Salt & Pepper


  1. Put the carcass in a large soup pot. Cover meat with water by two inches. Cover pot with a lid and boil until the meat falls off the bone. Pour broth and bones/meat into a strainer with a large bowl underneath to catch the broth. Remove the meat and set aside. Discard bones.
  2. Let the broth cool in the refrigerator until fat layer on top is hard. Scoop off the fat for a healthier soup.
  3. In a large soup pot, sauté the celery, garlic and onion until tender. Add the bay leaf, cilantro, spices, meat chunks, diced tomatoes, salsa and broth to the soup pot. Pour the broth back into the soup pot and cover with a lid. Bring to a boil then simmer on low for 45 minutes.
  4. Add the can of lentils and simmer for 10 more minutes. Taste test and season with salt and pepper if necessary.
  5. Ladle soup into a large soup bowl, top with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle crumbled tortilla chips and shredded cheddar.



When you make this soup remember a few things:

  • Don’t fret if you’re missing some of the ingredients. The soup is just as tasty with a few of them missing. In fact, no two pots will ever be the same. Each time I make it, I’m missing an ingredient or I add something extra that needs to be used from my refrigerator.
  • If you can make a double batch or you have extra ingredients, add them because the more the better. Remember, you can freeze this soup.


  • Chicken carcass for the turkey (cut the rest of the ingredients in half)
  • Stewed or fresh garden tomatoes for the can of diced tomatoes
  • Any kind of bean for the lentils (navy, garbanzo, kidney, etc.)
  • Box of frozen corn or a can of corn if you don’t have fresh
  • Garlic powder instead of fresh
  • Taco or chili seasoning packet instead of the chili powder
  • Crushed red pepper instead of the Cajun spice
  • Any kind of cheese works!!!
  • Plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream

Be creative and make this recipe your own

  • For a creamy soup, add a can of cream of chicken soup.
  • Garnish with diced avocado and lemon wedges.
  • For an extra spicy soup, add a tablespoon of Sriracha sauce.
  • To make this soup go a little farther, add a cup of left over rice when you add the lentils. Or you can add a half cup of uncooked rice at the beginning.
  • Add some chopped collard greens, carrots or broccoli.
  • Add black olives or green onions as a garnish.

“Cooking is like art. No two paintings or sculptures are ever the same, just like no two pots of soup can be identical. Let love be the main ingredient and your soup will be perfect.” Rene’