With cremini mushrooms, pancetta, and herbs, Creamy Turkey Wild Rice Soup is a hearty and delicious way to use leftover holiday turkey. Easy to make and a longtime family favorite.
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I’m always looking for new recipes to use the turkey I have leftover after a holiday dinner. As I’ve said in the past, there are only so many times I enjoy a repeat of “the dinner” in its original form, before I’m craving something new.
Creamy Turkey Wild Rice Soup is one of my family’s favorite recipes. This hearty, stew-like soup is great for warming up on a chilly day. I especially love to have a bowl for lunch or dinner when I’ve been outside putting up holiday decorations. (We always hit the ground running right after Thanksgiving with our decor transition to Christmas.)
What You’ll Need to Make This Soup
One of the problems I’ve run into with various Turkey Wild Rice Soup recipes I’ve tried in the past is that they’ve been a little bland. When I started developing this recipe, I turned to my Cream of Mushroom Soup and Rotisserie Chicken Gnocchi Soup for inspiration. Combining elements and techniques from both recipes created a full-flavored soup that has become a yearly tradition.
Ingredients and Shopping Tips:
- Leftover cooked turkey (or chicken). You can use breast or leg meat for this soup, shredded or cubed. I prefer to use shredded breast meat whenever possible.
- Pancetta. I love the flavor that diced pancetta (salt-cured, un-smoked pork belly) adds to the soup. Look for it in the charcuterie, deli, or meat sections of your grocery store.
- Fat. Olive oil and unsalted butter.
- Vegetables and aromatics: onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and cremini mushrooms. Be sure to slice or small dice the carrots and celery so that they cook through in the relatively short cooking time for this recipe.
- All-purpose flour. To create a roux to help thicken the soup.
- Liquids. Dry white wine (I use Pinot Grigio), chicken or turkey stock (opt for low sodium if using commercial to control the salt content), and heavy cream.
- Herbs. Fresh thyme leaves, fresh flat-leaf parsley, and dried Italian seasoning. (My favorite is the Italian Herbs blend from Savory Spice Shop.)
- Wild Rice. I like to use 100% wild rice in this soup, which I cook ahead of time. Wild rice cooks up with a bit of chew and holds its firmness well in soups, without disintegrating or turning mushy. If you’re unable to source 100% wild rice you can substitute a wild rice blend. Be sure to use plain rice, without any seasonings or seasoning packets. I don’t recommend using “black” or “forbidden” rice, as they can give the soup a purple hue.
Extra reading: Wondering how pancetta differs from other cured pork belly products? Check out What’s the Difference Between Bacon, Pancetta, and Prosciutto? from Kitchn.
Making Creamy Turkey Wild Rice Soup
While this soup is a great way to use up leftover turkey or rotisserie chicken, it does require a little planning ahead.
Pre-Cooking the Rice
Since wild rice takes about 40-50 minutes to cook, and this soup doesn’t need to simmer for anywhere near that long, I add it to the pot pre-cooked. I usually cook the rice in the morning on the day I’m going to make my turkey soup, but you can also cook it a couple of days in advance and store it in the refrigerator.
Building the Layers of Flavor
The process for making Turkey Wild Rice Soup is similar to my other soup recipes. I start this one by cooking the pancetta in a little olive oil, removing it from the pot with a slotted spoon when it’s crisp. Then, I sweat my aromatics and vegetables in butter and the rendered pancetta fat until they’re starting to soften.
I like to deglaze the pan with white wine to get up all of the delicious bits from the bottom of the pan (great flavor!), before stirring in flour to make the roux. Then, in go the stock and herbs, and the soup simmers for 10-15 minutes.
To create a velvety base for this hearty soup, I take a cue from my Cream of Mushroom Soup by pureeing a little of it in a blender or food processor and stirring it back into the pot. It’s an extra step, but it does so much for the flavor and texture of the soup!
Finishing the Soup
When the base is ready, I stir the shredded turkey, cooked wild rice, the reserved crisped pancetta, heavy cream, and fresh parsley into the soup and let it simmer for 5-8 minutes to heat through.
Before serving, season the soup with salt and pepper. The amount of salt you add is going to depend entirely on the sodium content in your stock, and how salty your pancetta is. Sometimes, I’ve had to add just a pinch, other times, a full teaspoonful. Adjust to taste.
Serving Your Creamy Leftover Turkey Soup
I love to add just a few drops of fresh lemon juice to the bowl when serving this soup. It adds a hint of brightness to balance to the richer flavors.
To garnish the soup, I often sprinkle it with a little extra crisped pancetta and a few grinds of black pepper. No one in my house has ever said “no” to a slice of crusty artisan bread on the side for dipping.
Note that as the soup sits (and particularly if you refrigerate it overnight), the rice will thicken its texture. Thin it back out to your desired consistency with extra stock, seasoning to taste as needed.
More Great Ways to Use Your Thanksgiving Leftovers
Creamy Turkey Wild Rice Soup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 ounces diced pancetta
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup thinly-sliced or small diced celery
- 1 cup thinly-sliced or small diced carrots
- 10 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms
- 2-3 cloves garlic minced or pressed through a garlic press (1 tablespoon)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (I use Pinot Grigio)
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 5 cups turkey or chicken stock (low sodium)
- 2-3 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 to 3/4 tsp dried Italian seasoning/herbs
- 2 cups cooked shredded or small cubed turkey
- 1-1/2 cups cooked wild rice (cooked according to package directions)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
- fresh lemon juice , for serving (optional)
- Cook pancetta in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until fat is rendered and pancetta is crisp, 3-5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove pancetta from the pot, drain it on paper towels, and set aside. You should have about 2 tablespoons of fat in the pan; if there's more, carefully drain it off.
- Add butter to the pot and melt until foaming subsides. Cook onions, celery, and carrots for 5 minutes. Stir in mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and black pepper. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until mushrooms are starting to brown around the edges, carrots and celery are beginning to soften, and the mushrooms' released liquid has evaporated.
- Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant. Deglaze the pan with white wine and simmer until almost entirely evaporated, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Stir in stock, thyme, and Italian seasoning. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
- Remove 1-1/2 cups soup from the pot and puree in a blender or food processor. Stir puree back into the soup.
- Stir in turkey, cooked wild rice, heavy cream, parsley, and reserved pancetta. Simmer for 5-8 minutes, until turkey is heated through, and the soup has thickened slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- If desired, serve with a small squeeze of lemon juice and crusty bread for dipping. The soup will continue to thicken as it stands (and especially when refrigerated overnight). Thin with additional stock, as needed.
- As written, this recipe makes a hearty, stew-like soup. If you prefer a thinner soup, increase stock to 6 cups.
- If you’re using leftover herb-roasted turkey, you might need to reduce the fresh thyme and Italian seasoning accordingly. Adjust the herbs to taste.
- Substitute leftover roasted or rotisserie chicken breast for Creamy Chicken Wild Rice Soup.