Great leftover meal: Bacon, Kale and Turkey Stew

Faith Durand/ Published November 28, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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I am normally the last person to look for leftover turkey solutions. I don’t usually cook a large turkey for Thanksgiving, and if there is any turkey left at the end of the meal, I send it home with other folks.

Last year, however, I was left with nearly half a leftover carcass, and after the bones and much of the meat were devoted to rich, savory turkey broth, I still had a big bowlful of shredded turkey on my hands. So I cooked up this soup, a quick kale and turkey stew, made more flavorful by bacon and onion, and simple enough to be simmered together in less than an hour of mostly hands-off time.

This recipe isn’t just an excuse to use up turkey. It’s an elemental yet satisfying winter meal, and it is a great recipe for any leftover poultry; you could throw in handfuls of leftover chicken instead of the turkey, or if you are very lucky, a bit of shredded duck. It’s just the sort of winter cooking I crave this time of year: wholesome, easy and satisfying.

One last note: This recipe is so simple — there aren’t a lot of ingredients here. With the exception of smoked paprika for a little color and depth, there aren’t any spices or extra flavorings. So this stew depends greatly on the quality of stock that you use.

Note on leftover turkey: The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends a three- to four-day maximum refrigeration time for cooked turkey.

Bacon, Kale and Turkey Stew

Serves 6


3 thick slices bacon, cut into small strips

1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced

4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 bay leaf

10 ounces kale, chopped into bite-sized pieces

Salt and pepper

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 to 3 cups shredded cooked turkey or chicken meat

4 to 5 cups turkey or chicken broth, ideally homemade

Gruyere or Parmesan cheese, to serve


Place a heavy 5-quart or larger pot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring frequently. When it has released much of its fat, but before it has gotten crispy, add the diced onion, minced garlic and the bay leaf. Cook, stirring frequently, for at least 5 minutes, or until the onion has softened and become golden.

Add the kale, handful by handful, stirring to coat it with bacon fat. If the kale won’t all fit into the pot all at once, keep stirring until it wilts down. Sprinkle the kale lightly with salt and pepper and the smoked paprika. When all the kale has been added, stir in the shredded turkey or chicken meat, and cook for an additional 5 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to make sure the kale is coated with the bacon fat and letting the onions and shredded turkey brown slightly.

Add the broth and bring to a simmer; then lower the heat. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until the kale has wilted and the soup is hot.

Serve with shredded Gruyere or Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Faith Durand is executive editor of, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit comments or questions to

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