Leftover turkey makes great chicken tortilla soup. Here’s a recipe
Plenty of work goes into preparing the Thanksgiving turkey, so it’s no surprise we want to gobble up every last tasty bit. Conventional recipes for leftover turkey are okay, but in my opinion, they’re overplayed. Turkey tetrazzini is great, but the cream-based casserole is heavy, which is not a characteristic we often crave after a day of feasting. Paninis, sandwiches and turkey salads make great use of what you have on hand, but don’t stray far from the flavor profiles you’ve already enjoyed. So this year, think outside the “turkey leftover” box.
In just minutes, you can transform Thanksgiving turkey into a tortilla soup that’s savory, satiny, can be made mild or spicy, and is totally different.
This soup features a chili and cumin broth, tomatoes, sweet corn, black beans, jalapeños and cilantro. It’s commonly made with chicken, but slow roasted turkey works great. Just before serving, top the flavorful broth with crunchy tortilla strips and set up a toppings station with things like avocado, cotija cheese, green onions and sour cream so everyone can customize their bowl.
The recipe couldn’t be easier, but I do have a few tips to ensure you get the best results.
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Use good quality chicken stock. Since chicken stock makes up the bulk of the liquid in this soup, choose a variety that delivers decent flavor. That doesn’t mean a pricey brand, just one with depth.
Yes, you can use chicken broth if that’s what you have handy. You can also choose low sodium.
Make tortilla soup spicy (or not)
Adjust the heat level with fresh jalapeño. This recipe calls for one jalapeño, which might be enough heat for you and your clan. Or it might be too fiery.
If you want a mild soup, use half the jalapeño or leave it out entirely.
If you have a mixed crowd — some like it hot and others not — leave the jalapeño out and serve the soup with hot sauce and fresh sliced jalapeños on the side.
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Watch the salt
To avoid over-salting, taste the soup before adding any salt at all and again before serving.
Since we’re using canned ingredients (tomatoes, beans, stock and corn), go easy on the salt in the beginning. The fresh lime juice will add a burst of fresh flavor and alter the taste somewhat, so season to taste with salt and black pepper after you add the lime juice.
Make this soup year round
If you don’t have turkey leftovers, use chicken. Rotisserie chicken works, as does any leftover chicken you have from a previous meal.
If your fridge and freezer are lacking cooked poultry, add about ¾ pound of boneless skinless chicken breasts to the pot when you add the broth and remaining ingredients. After the 25 minute cooking time, shred the chicken into the soup and finish with fresh lime juice.
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Recipe: Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Tortilla Soup
Just like the leftover bird, you’ll want to save every drop of this soup. Store your leftover tortilla soup without toppings. Transfer the soup to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. You can also freeze your soup in an airtight container for up to two months. Thaw your frozen soup overnight in the refrigerator before reheating on the stovetop.
Makes: 4 servings
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion, any color
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 jalapeño, seeded and diced, or more/less to taste, see note above
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 3 cups chicken stock, see note above
- 3 cups shredded or cubed cooked turkey or chicken
- 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 11-ounce can corn, white or yellow, or a combination, drained
- ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped and divided
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup corn tortilla strips, homemade* or store-bought
- 2 limes, 1 juiced and 1 cut into wedges for garnish
- ½ cup shredded sharp or mild cheddar cheese
- 1 avocado
- Black olives
- Chopped green onions
- Chopped red onions
- Sour cream
- Cotija cheese
- Fresh sliced jalapeños
- Pickled jalapeños
- Minced green chilies
- Hot sauce
- Preheat the oven to 325 F.
- Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and jalapeño and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the cumin and chili powder and stir to coat. Add the crushed tomatoes, chicken stock, turkey, black beans, corn, ¼ cup of the cilantro, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Bring to a simmer, partially cover, and cook for 25 minutes.
- Warm your tortilla strips*. One of the best features of tortilla soup is the warm crispy corn strips nestled on top. To ensure they deliver the crunch you desire, warm them before garnishing the soup. Spread your tortilla strips out on a baking sheet and warm in a 325 F oven for 5 to 7 minutes.
- Add the juice of one lime to the soup and season to taste with more salt and black pepper.
- Cut the avocado at the last minute. For the brightest, most vibrant green avocado garnish, slice it just before serving.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with cheddar cheese, avocado, warm tortilla strips and remaining cilantro.
- Serve with lime wedges and additional condiments on the side.
*Cook’s note: If you want to make your own tortilla strips, here’s how. Cut 6-inch corn tortillas into 12 strips each. Halve the longer strips. Working in batches, fry the strips in ½-inch of vegetable oil or canola oil heated to 340 degrees (any higher and the strips will burn). Cook for 30 to 60 seconds, until light brown and crisp. Remove the tortilla strips with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Immediately season with salt. Store leftovers in a paper bag for up to 1 week.