A 21st-century version of grandma's leftover turkey soup

  • A bowl of the new version of Grandma Mauer's turkey soup uses leftover turkey from Thanksgiving.

    A bowl of the new version of Grandma Mauer's turkey soup uses leftover turkey from Thanksgiving. Courtesy of Don Mauer

Posted11/19/2021 6:00 AM

As the firstborn grandson, I spent the weekend after Thanksgiving at Grandma Mauer's house helping Grandpa Mauer buy, set up and decorate three trees. One for the informal back living room, one for the bay window in the formal front living room and one for the screen porch. What an adventure.

Grandma Mauer always took apart the Thanksgiving turkey during that weekend, saving some meat for sandwiches and what remained for her soup pot.


Grandma Mauer's turkey soup included two unique ingredients that set it apart from others: cut okra, which is why I love okra in my soup today, and a special spice blend.

Special spice blend?


Spice Islands brand Spaghetti Sauce Seasoning. That product is no longer available, yet I still have a bottle. Its label states it's a blend of salt, sugar, onion, Dextrin (a sugar produced from starch), garlic, basil, dehydrated mushrooms, black pepper, marjoram, rosemary, summer savory, dehydrated celery, cloves, partially hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oils.

How that blend made Grandma Mauer's turkey soup work goes beyond my knowledge and palate. Simply stated: It worked.

After Grandma Mauer passed away over 40 years ago, I did my best to duplicate her soup since there was no written recipe, only my memory from spending time watching her make it.

When that Spice Island blend was still available, I used it to make grandma's soup, along with sliced okra, and it ended up close to hers.

To change things up this year, after Thanksgiving, I'm making a white bean turkey soup with leftover shredded turkey. It will be flavored like a white bean chili, with a souplike consistency.

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To test it out, I made it a few weeks ago using organic ground turkey, and it turned out so well it has the potential of becoming a new after Thanksgiving tradition.

Grandma Mauer made her own turkey broth, and for my test, I used organic free-range chicken broth. If you make this, you could make your turkey broth or use turkey broth available from your local supermarket. My soup doesn't use okra. Instead, it uses three different peppers: Poblano, jalapeño and sweet green pepper.

My new turkey soup also uses two seasonings that set my fresh white bean and turkey soup apart: Umami salt made from kosher flaked sea salt and shiitake mushrooms and Aleppo pepper. Neither was available for Grandma Mauer.

Wikipedia perfectly describes Aleppo pepper as having: "... a moderate heat level of about 10,000 on the Scoville scale, with some fruitiness and mild, cumin-like undertones." It seems made for this soup.


Once I got my new soup simmering, I couldn't wait to taste it. I served it dusted with grated Parmesan cheese. It was terrific; hard to stop after one bowl. Not Grandma Mauer's soup, no. More of a 21st-century version of homemade turkey soup with a Latin spin. Yum.

• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write to him at 1leanwizard@gmail.com.

Turkey, Peppers and White Bean Soup makes great use of leftover turkey from Thanksgiving.
Turkey, Peppers and White Bean Soup makes great use of leftover turkey from Thanksgiving. - Courtesy of Don Mauer
Turkey, Peppers and White Bean Soup

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large yellow onion, diced

1 teaspoon Umami salt or Kosher salt

8 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

2 poblano chiles, seeds removed and chopped

1 medium sweet green or red pepper, seeds removed, and chopped

1 jalapeño, seeds removed, finely chopped

1½ teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper + ¾ teaspoon sweet paprika)

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

3 15.5-ounce cans organic cannellini (white kidney) beans

1 quart organic chicken broth

12 ounces frozen organic leaf (or chopped) spinach

1 pound shredded cooked turkey (mixture of light and dark meat)

½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

For serving: grated or shredded Parmesan cheese

Place a 6-quart saucepan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil and butter. When the butter melts, add the onion and salt; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 8 minutes.

While the onions cook, prepare the garlic, poblano chiles, sweet pepper and jalapeño. When the onions are cooked, add the garlic and peppers along with the cumin, oregano, Aleppo pepper and smoked paprika and cook, stirring often until tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the beans with their liquid and broth and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to a low simmer. Taste and season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes. Add the spinach and shredded turkey and heat for 3 more minutes. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 8

Nutrition values per serving: 325 calories (32.8% from fat), 11.8 g fat (3.4 g saturated fat), 34.4 g carbohydrates (25 net carbs), 2.1 g sugars, 9.7 g fiber, 24.1 g protein, 60 mg cholesterol, 774 mg sodium.

SaltSense: Omitting the added salt reduces sodium per serving to 494 milligrams.

Don Mauer

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