So, you've just finished your big Thanksgiving feast, you're bagging up the leftovers, and about to toss the turkey bones and carcass. Hold up — stop the music! Don't throw out that leftover bird. We'll show you how to make the best turkey stock and what to do with that yummy broth.

glass jars of turkey broth, from Shelf Cooking

Okay, we won't sugarcoat it. Turkey carcasses look pretty gross. It's tempting to toss that sucker and move on. But trust us on this: you want to save it.

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In the spirit of shelf cooking, let's explore all the ways to use up your Thanksgiving turkey leftovers — bones included! We're sharing how to make a homemade batch of turkey broth, plus what to cook with that broth, how to store it, and more. You know we're all about that baste!


If you've never saved a chicken or turkey carcass to make your own broth, you're missing out. Here's why:

  • Saves Money – You've already bought the bird, so you might as well make the most of it! The broth at the store doesn't come free, but the homemade stuff practically is. It literally costs pennies to whip up a batch.
  • Healthier – Storebought broths and stocks are typically loaded with preservatives and are high in sodium. When you make your own, you can control the fat content and ingredients.
  • It's Easy – We know it's tempting to do what's most convenient, and it sure is easy to grab a carton of chicken broth and go, but trust us. Making your own turkey stock is not hard. We're about to prove it.

Before we share the quick recipe with you, let's talk swaps and substitutions! If you're missing an ingredient or two, don't let it stop you from whipping up some turkey broth. There is always a way to use the food you have on hand!


pot of carrots and celery with broth, from Shelf Cooking

The good news is that making turkey stock requires very few ingredients! But if Thanksgiving dinner looks a bit different in your family than ours, know that you can still make a delicious batch of broth to enjoy later. Here are a few substitutions to keep in mind:

  • Use Chicken – Not eating turkey for your big dinner? This recipe works for the other bird, too. Use any leftover chicken carcass to turn your turkey broth into chicken stock instead.
  • Veggies – Out of carrots or celery? You can drop-in some diced onions or fennel.
  • Seasonings – Here's your chance to really make this recipe your own! Throw in some garlic, or use some fresh herbs you've been storing in the freezer. Thyme or basil are great options!

There's no wrong way to flavor your turkey stock, so do what feels right. If you like things spicy, try adding a dash of cayenne! One quick tip, though. In general, it's easier to make turkey stock from a roasted turkey than a fried one. It just packs more flavor!


gravy and mashed potatoes, from Shelf Cooking

Alright, you've got a big ‘ole batch of turkey stock, but what should you do with it all?! The possibilities are basically endless, but here are five of our fave ideas:

  • Chicken Broth Substitute – If you've got a recipe that calls for chicken broth, you can use turkey broth instead! Casseroles, soups, sauces, you name it! Turkey and chicken are pretty much cousins, so don't be afraid to use them interchangeably.
  • Gravy – Planning to serve mashed potatoes at some point? Use that turkey stock from the Thanksgiving leftovers to make a gravy that will impress the whole family.
  • Pasta Sauce – Instead of using water to make your own spaghetti sauce, try turkey broth instead. After one taste, you'll never go back.
  • Risotto – Speaking of swapping out water, the same advice applies to risotto. You won't believe how savory risotto tastes when you let it simmer in homemade turkey stock. YUM!
  • Soup – Throw all those leftovers in one big pot and make a hearty soup! Learn how to make your own soups from scratch.


If you'd prefer to use within a few days (we suggest three), just reduce the stock with salt and then refrigerate. Want a low-fat stock? Pop your bowl of turkey broth into the refrigerator and skim the layer of fat off the next day before freezing or using.

Freezing all that yummy goodness? When the turkey stock is lukewarm, pour it into freezer-safe food containers, and freeze. Be sure to label! In the freezer, your stock will last for about six months.

Pro Tip: Freeze your stock in ice cube trays and then transfer the cubes to a freezer-safe bag for quick and easy use! Pop an ice cube or two into your rice or in the pan when you're sautéing veggies. Those little blocks of broth make the perfect seasoning!


Now that you’re up to speed on all the necessary facts, let’s get to cooking! This really is SO easy. Grab a large pot, and let’s go!

glass jars of turkey broth, from Shelf Cooking

Easy Turkey Stock

Put that bird to work and make your own broth! It's yummy, quick, and oh-so-easy. The prep time is minimal, and this pretty much cooks itself.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Course Soup
Cuisine American
Servings 1 batch


  • Leftover bones or whole turkey carcass
  • Water
  • 2 carrots, chopped Optional
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped Optional
  • Seasonings to Taste (Try 2 Bay Leaves, 1 tsp Dried Thyme, and some Salt and Pepper)


  • When serving the turkey, take the meat off the bones (including the meat on the leg and wings). Serve the turkey, reserving the bones, cartilage, and skin, along with the carcass.
  • Remove all traces of stuffing and vegetables from the carcass. If you are not going to make the stock within a day, freeze the bones and carcass.
  • Break up the bones and carcass and put the whole lot in a large stockpot, soup pot, or dutch oven. Ensure there is no piece sticking out above the pot–if there is, break it or cut it further.
  • Fill the stockpot with enough cold water to cover the bones. Some skin and bones will float–that is fine. Add carrots, celery, and seasonings to add flavor and yummy-ness. 
  • With the heat on high, bring the water to a boil. Let the water boil on medium-high for about ten minutes, skimming off any white foamy scum and bits of food that rise to the top.
  • Simmer, partially covered, for two hours or longer. You can cook the stock overnight if you wish. Just make sure you turn down the heat and cover the stockpot tightly, so it doesn't lose too much water. Check once after about half an hour to make sure it's not boiling.
  • Strain it with a metal strainer once finished cooking, then let cool. You're done!


You can also use your slow cooker to make bone broth! Just drop your turkey carcass into the crockpot and let it cook on low for up to 24 hours. 

As you can see, the recipe is so easy peasy! You just need a little patience, and you'll net some pretty big, delicious, rewards!

And there you have it! Now you know what to do with all those turkey bones this Thanksgiving. What's your favorite holiday cooking hack? Drop us a comment and let us know!

Image with text that reads "how to make turkey stock with leftover turkey bones" from Shelf Cooking

Looking for more holiday cooking tips? We've got you covered!

Have a soup-er time making this recipe!