Leftover turkey ideas: turkey pho!

It’s been 3 days since Thanksgiving, but do you find that you still can’t get rid of your turkey? I was joking with some friends that it’s never ending–for every slice you eat, it feels like two more pop up in its place. It’s baffling!

After being injected with cream and butter for several days now, my body is begging for something lighter and less fat-laden. Whenever I feel I’ve been eating terribly, I always like to reset by having some soup and salad. This recipe I want to share with you won’t include salad, but I can promise something light but full of flavor 🙂


Pho, arguably the most well-recognized dish of Vietnamese cuisine, is a simple, yet complex broth. Traditionally, pho is made with beef bones to make a flavorful soup, but the chicken variety has started to become more and more popular in the United States. The idea behind pho is very simple: bones, water, toasted spices, ginger, and onion simmered for several hours on stovetop to create a deeply flavored broth.


I have fond memories of eating pho as a kid–I ate the broth a LOT. When my mom made a big batch of beef pho, it’d be a feast for days. I’d have it with the traditional rice noodles, of course, but I also liked mixing the pho broth with white jasmine rice, as well as just having the broth by itself. I didn’t really get sick of it despite eating it so much, probably because of it’s simplicity. I also wasn’t a super picky kid 😉

Inevitably, Thanksgiving makes me think of home and home cooked meals. My mom is a genius when it comes to holiday leftovers, so I took a page out of her book for this recipe. Every Thanksgiving, after we had cut away all the meat from the turkey, we’d save the bones (including the body!) to make a broth, then use that broth to make something fancier. Mom made a lot of different things with this turkey broth–cháo (rice porridge), bún riêu (tomato-y seafood-y noodle soup), canh bún (another noodle soup), mì hủ tiếu (egg noodles with a combo of meats and seafood). The possibilities for turkey variations on classic dishes really seemed endless! Weirdly enough though, turkey pho was NOT one of my mom’s creations from turkey broth. So why turkey pho, you ask?


Simple, really. It reminds me of home. Despite the fact that we often eat pho at restaurants nowadays (because San Jose, CA is full of fantastic pho spots!), pho holds a special place in my heart as my childhood food love. I didn’t fly home this Thanksgiving, so to compensate, I’m filling my apartment with the smells of home instead.

Notes about this recipe!

This is not one of my just-for-one recipes since you really don’t usually make a single serving of pho. It’s just too time consuming for that. However, if don’t feel like having people over, you can certainly freeze the broth into portions and reheat it for later consumption. I’d say it tastes best if you eat it within 3 months.

Did you make a chicken instead of a turkey this year? Or maybe you just stumbled across this recipe and feel like making chicken pho? Go for it! The two birds are interchangeable in this recipe. Also, when you make the stock, you’ll find that a lot of turkey scraps that was left on the bone will easily fall off. Feel free to use this to serve, or if you’d prefer, feed these lean poultry scraps to your furry friend 🙂

How big should your stock pot be? The one I use is 26cm in diameter. After Googling some math equations I haven’t used since I was 12, I believe my stock pot holds about 2.5 gallons, so you should aim to at least have a pot that large.

Toast your spices! It seems like an annoying step that you can do without but don’t skip it! Toasting spices is very important in bringing out the flavors of each spice. When you heat spices, it brings out the oils inside the spices, which gives the spices a deeper, more nuanced flavor (which is what you want) than raw, un-toasted spices.


img_9925Last important thing! Don’t let your stock come to a rolling boil. Ever. You want to keep this broth on a simmer, but never a full boil. Why? A rolling boil will cause the stock to go cloudy. While a full boil is required for broths like tonkotsu ramen broth, you want your pho broth to always be at a light simmer. Throughout the broth making, you also want to keep a ladle handy so you can skim off any impurities you see that float to the top of the broth. This is most common during the beginning of the broth making process, but you see a little bit throughout the process. Make sure you do this because leaving the “foam” floating around will also cause your stock to go really cloudy. Random fun tidbit–not 100% sure on this, but I think the clear broth rule is a French food influence, similar to their consommé (but less fuss because no egg whites).

Last, last thing. Just a reminder that I currently reside in Denver, CO, so my cooking times may be a bit different from yours due to the altitude. It shouldn’t be that big of an issue for this recipe, but do make sure to watch your cooking carefully (especially with toasting things!) to make sure you don’t have any mishaps.

Now without further ado, the recipe!

Turkey Pho

  • Servings: 4-5
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print


    For the stock:
  • carcass from Thanksgiving turkey (mine was a 12-lb bird)
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 knob of ginger, about 2 inches long
  • 1 tsp whole star anise (about 5-6 stars)
  • 3/4 tsp whole coriander seed
  • 1 tsp whole cloves (~6-7 cloves)
  • 1-2 sticks of cinnamon (1 large or 2 small)
  • 1-2 whole black cardamom pods
  • salt to taste (I used about 1 tbsp, then sprinkles here and there)
  • 3.5 tsps pure fish sauce (I use Squid brand)
  • For serving:
  • leftover turkey slices
  • 1 lb fresh pho noodles (or 1 package of dried pho noodles)
  • lime wedges
  • hoisin sauce
  • Sriracha
  • bean sprouts
  • herbs (Thai basil, culantro)
  • green onion and cilantro, chopped (will be soup garnish)


  1. Place your turkey carcass in your stock pot and fill the pot until it covers your turkey. Put stock pot on stove on high heat to heat up the water quickly.
  2. While your stock is heating up, toast your spices! You can do this on the stovetop or in a toaster oven. If you do it on the stove, medium-high in a pan and constant stirring. If you do it in the oven, 350F for about 4-5 minutes with the occasional stir. Watch your spices carefully so they don’t burn!
  3. Once your spices are toasted, place them in a tea steeper and add it to your stock pot. If you don’t have a tea steeper, a coffee filter tied with twine will work too!
  4. Bring your stock pot to just a boil. Once you start seeing it bubbling, lower the heat to medium.
  5. As the stock bubbles, you’ll see some foam and impurities float to the top. This is usually marrow from the bones, so they may look a little brown and foamy. Use a ladle to carefully skim the foam from the stock. Continually do this every couple of minutes.
  6. Once most of the impurities are gone (usually takes me about 10 minutes of watching and skimming), turn your stove down to low. Partially cover your pot with the lid and let the broth simmer for the next 4-5 hours. Check back every so often to skim off more things that float to the surface.
  7. After four hours, your broth should taste pretty flavorful. Take a sip to taste and add salt as needed. We’re adding salt near the end so you can make sure to taste the flavor of the pure broth before deciding whether or not you need a little or a lot of salt to season.
  8. About 5 minutes before you’re ready to take the broth off the stove, stir in the fish sauce. The fish sauce will give the broth the extra umami kick.
  9. When you’re ready to serve, prepare the rice noodles for the pho according to the packaging. Place the leftover turkey pieces into a ladle and dip it into the boiling water to heat up the meat. You can also dip it in the broth if you’d like.
  10. Portion the noodles into bowl and place the warm turkey pieces on top of the noodles. Ladle on the broth, then add a tablespoon of your chopped cilantro-green onion mixture.
  11. Serve with hoisin sauce, Sriracha, and all the herb fixings. Enjoy! 🙂



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