Smoked Turkey Soup

Chef's notes:

The white bean soup that I grew up eating was always made with leftover baked ham. Which is why we always got a bone-in ham for Easter. The white beans were navy or great northern beans. We never bought cannellini beans; they weren’t Norwegian enough. Incidentally, I made this version of a family favorite with leftover smoked turkey legs. We’d been to the State Fair and got some smoked turkey legs to go, and a gallon of cookies, too. The cookies got eaten, as they must. But the turkey legs sadly went into the freezer to be forgotten about for a month, until one day . . .


  • 1 pound great northern white beans, about 2 cups
  • 6-8 cups cold water
  • 2 smoked turkey legs, 16-20 oz (you can substitute ham hocks)
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup onion, minced
  • 2 carrots, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 green onions, thin sliced
  • 2 sprigs parsley, minced
  • 1 sprig rosemary, minced
  • 1 bay leaf

Dried Great Northern Beans and Leftover State Fair Smoked Turkey Leg Soup Recipe: Herbs, Onion, Carrot, and Garlic

  1. Gather together the ingredients for the soup. The simplest recipe for white bean soup would be to cook the beans in a stock with a bit of herb. But, since that recipe would be kind of boring, we add some meat and vegetables to give this recipe a swift kick in the pants. The herbs I am adding are pretty standard fare. At the bottom of the page I suggest a few substitutions, if you’re interested.
  2. Cook the white beans with the smoked turkey legs. If you remember, soak the the white beans in 8 cups of cool water overnight. If you forget, don’t worry about it too much. Just boil the beans for an extra half hour or so. Wash the beans first, and make sure there aren’t any stones in them. Add the beans, water, and turkey to the pot, then add more water to cover the beans by 2 inches. Put the lid on and simmer for 1 ½ – 2 hours.
  3. After a couple hours the meat should be falling off the bone. The beans should be nearly done, just a little bit of crunch in the middle. Add the minced garlic, onion, carrot, pepper, and herbs. We add the herbs at the end because their delicate flavors would break down after 2 hours of cooking. Continue cooking until the beans are done, about another half hour.
  4. Cook the soup over low heat until it's done. After a half hour, the vegetables should also be done, providing that you minced them nice and small, or cut them into a thin rondelle. Remove the bay leaf and bones; you will have to search for all the long thin ones. Chop any large chunks of turkey into edible sizes. Lastly, taste the soup and adjust flavors if needed.

Tips & Tricks

  • Substitute fresh thyme for the fresh rosemary to get a gentler flavor profile.
  • You are making a quick and dirty smoked turkey stock at the same time you cook the beans. So I wouldn’t substitute chicken stock for the water–too much going on there flavor-wise. Also, there is a risk of over-salting the soup if you use store-bought stock.
  • You can remove the thin turkey bones before cooking, but the soup won’t be as rich in flavor because you will have less collagen (i.e. gelatin from the bones) in the makeshift smoked turkey stock.
  • If you don’t have smoked turkey legs available, you can use smoked ham hocks.