Wild, Wild West Thanksgiving Leftover Soup 

Jump to the InstaRecipe if you’re in a rush and/or don’t want any Dad Advice! 

November 30, 2021.  Dear Kids This recipe has wagon wheel pasta and a turkey carcass, which seems very much of the wild west to me, so there you go- Wild, Wild West Thanksgiving Leftover Soup.  It’s also a dish Mom insists upon each year to end the Thanksgiving eating season- a treasured and comforting memory from her childhood Thanksgivings.

Making this soup is also a labor of my love for your Mom since those wagon wheels are getting harder and harder to find- our first year in Canada, it took trips to four different markets to find them and the best I could find this year back in the states, after a few trips to different markets, was a mini version of the wheels.  I’m sure you kids are thinking- the internet- duh?!  Well, cyber searching is not what’s called for when you are paying tribute to the past or your wife. 

Coincidently, Mom also has a long standing love for another childhood Thanksgiving staple from her house that’s also hard to find- Birdseye Frozen Creamed Onions.  I haven’t found these in years in the supermarkets around us, so I have been making an easy homemade version for Mom the past several years.  True to Mom’s nature, I was told my first attempt didn’t taste the same as Birdseye’s, which didn’t surprise me since I used just heavy cream, a splash of sherry and salt and pepper for my cream sauce, while Birdseye’s concoction consists of “Skim Milk, Water, Half And Half (milk, Cream) … and Less Than 2% Or Less Of: Modified Food Starch, Onions, Sherry Cooking Wine (sherry Wine, Salt), Salt, Butter (cream, Salt), Corn Oil, Sugar, Cellulose Gel And Cellulose Gum, Onion Powder, Xanthan Gum, Natural Flavor (hydrolyzed Corn Gluten, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Dextrose), Garlic, Spices, Annatto Extract (for Color)”. In any event, Mom has come to accept and even enjoy my version these days, so love does conquer all.  

Diet:  Omnivore, Vegan Option (See Lecture)

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time:  30 active minutes for broth and soup  2-4 hours inactive time for turkey broth/1 hour for veggie broth (See Lecture)

Servings: 4-6


Turkey Carcass Broth.

  • 1 entire leftover turkey carcass (the bigger the carcass, the bigger the flavor)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot and/or 1 stalk of celery, chopped, optional
  • kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Soup Base.

  • canola oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, minced
  • 4 cups of leftover raw vegetables, cut or diced into bite sized pieces- carrots and celery are popular, but pretty much any leftover Thanksgiving veggie combo you like works here- cauliflower, broccoli, sweet potato, green beans, corn and/or peas, etc.
  • 2 quarts of homemade turkey broth from above 
  • 1 pound dried wagon wheel (“rotelle”) pasta
  • 4-6 cups of leftover turkey, torn or cut into bite sized pieces
  • kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup minced parsley or kale, optional
If you noticed I’m missing a couple of yellow onions in this shot, then 15 points for Gryffindor!


Play Wild, Wild West by The Escape Club and get to rounding up what you need to make this comforting and economical soup. 

1. Carcass Broth. Carefully pick your turkey carcass free of the last scraps of meat. Set pickings aside with any of the dark or other turkey meat your family has given up on, if needed, to get 4-6 cups of turkey.  Keep turkey in covered container and refrigerate until needed. Carefully break carcass into several pieces and add to 8 qt. or larger pot. Cover with water, add a chopped onion and carrot and/or celery stalk, if using, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer gently for 2-4 hours. Add more water if broth cooks down to a few inches below bones. You should have about 2 quarts of broth.

Broth cooked down after about four hours, with a bit of added, water. No need to peel the onions or carrots.

2. Strainer Things. Taste a cooled spoonful of broth every hour or so and when it’s as tasty as you like, take it off heat to strain out solids. Use tongs to carefully remove large pieces of bone into a scrap bowl.  Set large mesh strainer over a large bowl, carefully pour broth away from you and into strainer so remaining solids are contained in strainer while broth drains into bowl.  Cool broth a bit to skim off surface fat. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Quickly cool and refrigerate broth if not using right away to make soup. See details in The Lecture.

3. Soup Base.  Use now empty broth pot to preheat 2 tbsp. canola oil over medium heat and sauté a onion until it starts to soften. Add raw vegetables and once they start to soften, add broth to pot and simmer until veggies are cooked as you wish.  Add reserved turkey and simmer a few minutes to warm.  You can also use leftover, cooked veggies instead of or in addition to the raw, just dice and add to warm with the turkey so they don’t get mushy. Taste and adjust seasoning one last time.

4. Giddy Up With The Wagon Wheels.  Cook wagon wheel pasta in a separate large pot according to pasta package directions.  If you’re a planner, get your pasta water to a boil when you start the soup base and drop the pasta soon after that so it’s ready when the soup is finished. To serve, portions pasta wheels in serving bowl and top with soup and minced parsley or kale. 


The Carcass.  You are going to have to get your clean hands dirty when it comes time to breaking down your carcass for the soup. It’s relatively easy and safe to cut off the big pieces of meat that remain on the carcass, but once they are shaved off, it’s mostly hand picking from there. Make sure your hands are clean for this and especially if you go back to using a knife at any point after that because you can’t get a safe grip on a knife with greasy, turkey hands. Some of the most flavorful meat on the bird hides in the nooks and crannies of the carcass and your fingers are the best tool to uncover these hidden gems. As an added bonus, fingers easily ID and discard the tough skin, tendons and sinew and fatty deposits you don’t want in your soup. Once all the meat is cut and picked from the bones, you should be able to use your hands to separate and detach the bones at the joints and break the remaining carcass into smaller pieces; although, if you ever need a knife to do any of this, make sure your hands are clean and dry for the safest knife grip and cut carefully as you go.

Making Broth .

2-4 Hours- Really?!. Sure, you can by low sodium, store bought chicken broth to make this soup, but you will only do that until you make your own when you have a perfectly good turkey carcass already lying around. You will have decent homemade turkey broth after a few hours, but it’s even better after four- to judge for yourself, taste a cooled teaspoon of broth every hour to see how the flavor develops. Don’t let the long simmer time scare you off because it’s mostly unattended- a check or two at the start to make sure your heat gives you a gentle simmer- a few bubbles here and there on the surface- and then every hour or so to see if you need to add a bit more water if the broth drops a few inches below the bones in the pot.

Straining the Broth. Start by using tongs to fish out the big bones and other pieces to set aside in a bowl to cool- you can even harvest off a good amount of meat and tender bits if you have a dog or two or three in the house and are so inclined- they will love you even more if you do.

The big stuff fished out of the broth and set in a side bowl.

Then set up a large mesh strainer over a large bowl (at least 4 quarts) and carefully pour broth away from you to avoid an aggressive facial as you allow the remaining solids to gently fall into the strainer as the broth filters through to the bowl.

Get The Fat Out. Let broth cool a bit and use a spoon to skim off as much fat that rises to the top as you can. It’s easier to remove the fat if you quickly cool down the broth (see below), cover and refrigerate overnight. The fat will solidify on the top of the broth and can simply be scraped off with a spoon to be discarded or frozen until you need poultry fat for something. Also, if you’ve never made homemade broth before, don’t be afraid of the broth/soup jelly that results when refrigerated- that’s the sign of a good broth and something you’ll never see with store bought broth.

See how the fat solidified on top after the soup after it was in the refrigerator for a few days?

Make and Cool Broth Ahead.  You can make the broth ahead, but it’s safest to cool it quickly like the pros do with an ice bath and store it in a covered container in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for a few months. Use stainless steel bowls- a large one filled with ice and a smaller one to hold the broth that you will place in the larger ice bowl. Stir the broth every five minutes or so, making sure to secure the bowl as the ice beneath melts, until at or below room temperature, to be stored in fridge or freezer as noted above.

Wild, Wild East Vegan Thanksgiving Leftover Soup.  Even you vegetarians and vegans have Thanksgiving “carcasses”- don’t you?  Perhaps the remains of a head of celery or garlic or a bag of onions or carrots, stubs or chunks from cutting up onions, carrots, cauliflower and/or mushrooms.  If you do, use what you have to make a vegetable broth or use two quarts of quality. store bought vegetable broth or like Orrington Farms or Better Than Bouillon.    Wild, Wild East Vegan Thanksgiving Leftover Soup InstaRecipe.  For the Veggie Carcass Broth. Preheat a few tablespoons of canola oil in an 8 quart pot and then add in 8-10 cups of a variety of leftover chopped vegetables that should include a few onions, carrots and celery stalks and 4-8 garlic cloves- and perhaps a cup or two of mushrooms and/or fennel and a few bits of parsley if you have any of that in the fridge. I would avoid bolder vegetables, like broccoli, turnips or brussel sprouts (but they would be perfectly fine in the soup base if you like). Also, there is no need to peel anything, just scrub any veggies that may contain grit. Sauté vegetables with a pinch of kosher salt and caramelize to your liking. Cover with about 4-5 quarts of water, season with more kosher salt and/or soy sauce or miso and bring to a gentle simmer until broth reduces to a few quarts- about an hour.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Follow main recipe for Soup Base and Pasta, swapping in 2-3 cans (15 ounces or so each) drained cannellini beans or, even better, leftover homemade beans if you have them, for the turkey.  

Bonus Mom’s Mostly Beloved Creamed Onion InstaRecipe. If you can find the frozen Birds Eye Creamed Onions, they take 5 minutes in a microwave or 10 minutes on the stove- not much longer than this homemade version really, but Mom will be super impressed if you surprise her with these one Thanksgiving. Almost as impressive to Mom (more impressive to me), would be If you made this quick and easy recipe- In a 2 quart saucepan, add a 14 +/- ounce package of frozen pearl onions, cover with up to 2 cups of heavy cream, season with salt, pepper and a splash of sherry, if you have it, to taste and bring to a gentle simmer until the cream reduces and thickens to sauce consistency, about 10-15 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning and serve.

Dad’s Best Friends, At Least When He’s Cooking. Here’s all the bone free, spent meat and other dog edible parts I harvested for the dogs from the carcass before and after the broth was made (about 3 cups)- they are very happy.

© 2021 All rights reserved.  Dad’s Dinner Diary

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