Instant Pot Day-After-Thanksgiving Turkey Carcass Soup with Lentil and Macaroni. An Italian style lentil and pasta soup, with homemade broth from a leftover turkey carcass.
My annual day-after-Thanksgiving tradition is to make a jumbo batch of turkey broth from the leftover turkey carcasses. (My family knows I want the leftover bones on Thanksgiving; nowadays, they have them wrapped up for me before I can even ask.) I use that broth to make a batch of my family’s Turkey Carcass soup - I am a traditionalist - but I also use the bounty of broth to try out a few new soups for the blog.
This year’s soup is an Italian-inspired lentil and macaroni soup. It’s a mix of a Pasta Fazool and a Lentil soup, with leftover shredded turkey thrown in for good measure. It’s a stick-to-your-ribs soup. The starch from the lentils and the macaroni give the broth a thick, almost gravy-like texture. It made a great dinner during an after-Thanksgiving snowstorm. And, this makes a lot of soup, so I have leftovers in the freezer in 2-cup containers, just waiting for the next day I need a bowl of soup to warm me up.
- Carcass from a roasted turkey, plus a little leftover meat
- Bay leaf
- Fine sea salt
- Olive Oil
- Dried thyme
- Red pepper flakes
- Diced Tomatoes
See recipe card for quantities.
Turkey Carcass: If you don’t have a leftover turkey carcass from Thanksgiving, you can make the broth with a few pounds of turkey backs or turkey wings. Or, substitute 2 roast chicken carcasses - or a store-bought rotisserie chicken.
If you don’t have turkey broth or a carcass, you can substitute homemade chicken broth. If you’re desperate, you can use store-bought low sodium chicken broth - but skip the 1½ teaspoons of fine sea salt with the broth, because store-bought broth is salty enough.
Lentils: You can use any type of lentil here; brown and green lentils are the typical ones at my local grocery stores. Umbrian lentils are a good, traditional, Italian choice, if you can find them. That said, French green lentils (lentils du Puy) are my favorite for this recipe, because they are firmer than regular lentils and hold their shape better in the soup. (I ignore the French-Italian mixup for firmer lentils.)
Onion, Celery, Carrot: I like a mix of all three vegetables in my broth, and also in the soup. For the broth, the only thing that is essential is the onion, to add a hint of sweetness, but the celery and carrot give the broth more flavor, if you have them. For the soup, I dice one carrot up to sauté with the onion and celery, and then peel a half-pound of carrots and cut them into one-inch lengths.
Butter and olive oil: I like the mix of flavors, but you can use all butter or all olive oil if you prefer.
Bay leaf: You can skip it if you don’t have it. I like the hint of herbal flavor it adds to the broth, but it’s not essential.
Dried thyme: I like the flavor of thyme in my soup; if you have fresh thyme, substitute a couple of sprigs of fresh for the dried thyme, or a sprig of fresh rosemary. Also, a dried Italian herb blend makes a good substitute for the dried thyme, if you want a mix of Italian flavors.
I like the hint of heat the red pepper flakes give the soup, but they’re not essential. Skip them if you want to avoid the heat.
If you don’t have leftover turkey, you can substitute shredded cooked chicken, or just skip it. That said, if all you have is the carcass, you’ll be surprised how much turkey you can pull that’s clinging to the meat. (That’s where I usually get my 2 cups of shredded turkey, because the rest of the leftover turkey is being used up for sandwiches.)
Macaroni noodles are also known as elbow noodles. Any small noodle shape will work here, from egg noodles to shells to bowties. I prefer small shapes that will fit in a soup spoon, but you can use whatever pasta you have at hand. And yes, I know that a cup of pasta doesn’t look like much when it goes into the broth, but it’s going to expand and suck up a lot of broth while it cooks. More noodles will tip this recipe from a soup to a noodle stew.
This recipe fits best in an 8-quart pressure cooker, so there. Is enough room to fit the carcass without having to break it down too much. That said, it can fit in a 6-quart pressure cooker, but you will have to break the carcass into smaller pieces to get it to fit.
This recipe is too big to double in a pressure cooker - break out the second Instant Pot if you have two carcasses. You can halve the recipe easily…on the soup side. Halving the broth is possible, if by some chance you only have half a turkey carcass, but to get it to fit in a 3-quart pressure cooker you are going to have to break the carcass down into some pretty small pieces. I’d just cook the full batch of broth, freeze the broth, and make the soup in smaller batches.
🤨 Soaking lentils?
I get the “to soak, or not to soak?” question all the the time. Don't soak lentils. They cook too quickly - if you soak them, they fall apart when pressure cooked.
💡Tips and Tricks
- Breaking down the turkey carcass is the key to this recipe. I use kitchen shears and brute force. And an 8-quart pressure cooker comes in handy, because it will fit the whole turkey ribcage and keel bone without needing much work. (I once broke a cheap pair of kitchen scissors trying to cut through turkey bones - they’re a lot stronger than chicken bones.)
- Defat the broth: Turkey is already pretty low-fat, but if you want to completely defat the broth, store the pot of strained broth in the refrigerator overnight. (In Northeastern Ohio in November, I leave the broth out overnight - most years it is cold enough.) The fat will rise to the top and solidify into a fat cap. Lift the fat cap off of the broth and discard, and voila - defatted broth.
- Straining the broth: Straining the broth is easy if you have a fine mesh strainer and a second Instant Pot inner cooking pot. Any other 6-quart or larger pot will do, but the spare inner pot is my go-to choice.
Turkey Carcass Broth (Makes about 4 quarts of broth)
- Carcass from 1 roasted turkey, with clinging meat on bones (From a 12- to 14- pound turkey)
- 1 medium onion, peeled and halved
- 1 rib celery, broken into pieces
- 1 carrot, scrubbed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 quarts of water (or to cover, or to the max fill line of the pressure cooker)
Turkey Soup with Lentil and Macaroni
- 8 ounces (1 heaping cup) lentils
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 rib celery, diced
- 1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1-inch rounds
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 8 cups of Turkey Carcass Broth (from above)
- 8 ounces carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch rounds
- 1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt
- 1 cup macaroni (aka elbow noodles)
- 2 cups of shredded leftover turkey meat (about 1 turkey breast)
- 14- to 16-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
- Minced parsley, for garnish
- Pressure cook the broth for 60 minutes with a Natural Release: Break up the turkey carcass so it fits below the max fill line on your Instant Pot or other pressure cooker. (Max fill on pressure cookers is ⅔ of the way up the pot.) Add the onion, celery, carrot, bay leaves, and salt to the pressure cooker pot, then add at least 8 cups of water - I go to the max fill line on the pot, about 12 cups of water, because I want extra broth. Lock the lid, and cook at high pressure for 60 minutes (Timing is the same for Instant Pots, electric PCs, and stovetop PCs). Let the pressure come down naturally, at least 30 minutes. (It takes a long time for all that water to cool off. If you’re in a hurry, let the pressure come down for at least 20 minutes, then quick release any remaining pressure.) Scoop the bones and vegetables out of the pot with a slotted spoon and discard. Strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer and discard the solids. Reserve 8 cups of broth for the soup, and refrigerate or freeze the rest for another use. (I portion it into 2 and 4 cup containers, and freeze for up to 6 months.)
- Rinse the lentils: Put the lentils in a strainer and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Let stand to drain while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
- Sauté the aromatics: Wipe out the pressure cooker pot. Add the butter and olive oil, and heat with Sauté mode adjusted to medium (medium heat in a stovetop PC) until the butter melts. Add the diced onion, diced celery, and diced carrot, and sprinkle with the thyme, red pepper flakes, and ½ teaspoon of salt. Sauté until the onions soften and start to turn translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Pressure Cook the lentils and carrots for 10 minutes with a Quick Release: Stir in the lentils, 8 cups of broth, carrot rounds, and 1½ teaspoon fine sea salt. Scrape the bottom of the pot with a flat-edged wooden spoon to loosen any bits of onion that stuck to the pot. Lock the lid and cook at high pressure for 10 minutes (“Manual” or “Pressure Cook” mode in an Instant Pot), or for 8 minutes in a stovetop PC. Once the cooking time is done, quick release the pressure in the pot. Unlock the lid.
- Simmer the noodles, turkey, and tomatoes: Set the Instant Pot to Sauté mode adjusted to high (medium-high heat in a stovetop PC). Cover the pot (use the non-pressure lid, or don’t lock the pressure lid), and bring the broth to a simmer. Stir in the macaroni, shredded turkey, and diced tomatoes. Simmer until the noodles are tender, about ten minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot. (Use the cooking time recommended on the macaroni noodle box as a guide.) Serve, sprinkling the bowls of soup with minced parsley as a garnish. Enjoy!
- Prep Time: 2 hours
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Category: Sunday Dinner
- Method: Pressure Cooker
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: Instant Pot Day-After-Thanksgiving Turkey Carcass Lentil and Macaroni Soup, Pressure Cooker Day-After-Thanksgiving Turkey Carcass Lentil and Macaroni Soup
This recipe makes extra broth on purpose - there is usually enough for a second batch of soup. I freeze any broth I’m not going to use immediately in 2-cup and 4-cup containers, usually canning jars. It will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months.
The broth can be made ahead before making the soup - refrigerate or freeze as I explain in the previous paragraph - and then start the recipe with the “rinse the lentils” step when you are ready.
The soup stores beautifully - refrigerate in 2-cup containers for a couple of days, or freeze for up to six months.
🤝 Related Posts
Pressure Cooker Day-After-Thanksgiving Turkey Carcass Soup
Pressure Cooker Day-After-Thanksgiving Vegetable Turkey Soup
Instant Pot Day-After-Thanksgiving Turkey Soup with Mashed Potato Dumplings
Instant Pot Day-After-Thanksgiving Turkey Tortellini Soup
My other Instant Pot and Pressure Cooker Recipes
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