Sunday, November 24, 2013

Recipe for Slow Cooker Lemony Turkey (or chicken) Soup with Spinach and Orzo

Slow Cooker Lemony Turkey Soup with Spinach and Orzo
If you have leftover turkey this year, make this Slow Cooker Lemony Turkey Soup with Spinach and Orzo!  You can always make the soup with chicken if you don't have any turkey.

I realize plenty of people haven't even started looking for Thanksgiving Recipes (and here are my Top Ten Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes if you need ideas.)   But in the crazy world of food blogging, if I want people to find my ideas for leftover turkey, I need to post them well before Thanksgiving so search engines will index them and they'll get shared on Pinterest.  And truthfully, this Slow Cooker Lemony Turkey Soup with Spinach and Orzo was so delicious I couldn't wait to share it.  I gave some of the soup to my sister Pam, and everyone at her house pronounced it to be a keeper; in fact Pam asked when the recipe would be on the blog.  Of course, if you're not going to be having any leftover turkey, you can certainly make this with chicken instead.

This is a soup where you simmer the stock, vegetables, and dried herbs in the slow cooker for quite a while and then add the orzo, diced cooked turkey (or chicken), and spinach at the end.  The long  simmering builds flavor, and you can simmer the soup all day while you're at work if you need that type of recipe, or do it for a shorter time on high, which is what I did.  Adding the cooked turkey towards the end of the cooking time eliminates that problem where the turkey meat shreds apart, and I thought this was a fresher take on the traditional turkey soups you see this time of year.

Cut up about 1 1/2 cups each of diced celery and onion.  I kept the pieces fairly small.

I like to use carrots that haven't been peeled for a more "rustic" look to the soup, so I'd choose organic carrots for this.

Cut up 1 1/2 cups carrots as well.  (Trick photography, truly there are the same amount of celery, onion, and carrots; this is just a closer shot.)

Put the diced onion, diced celery, diced carrots, homemade turkey stock (or homemade chicken stock or low sodium chicken broth in a can), poultry seasoning, dried thyme, and a little black pepper into the slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours (or 8-9 hours on low if you're not going to be home.)

Someone scolded me on Pinterest for using this product (and here are the ingredients if you want to check it out), but I like to add about one tablespoon of Penzeys Turkey Soup Base for extra flavor.  (The soup base is on the salty side, so use homemade stock without lots of salt or low sodium canned chicken stock stock if you're using this.)  No "food police" comments please; just leave this out if you don't want to use it.

After the soup has simmered for 4 hours on high or 8-9 hours on low, it's time to add the orzo.  I use my favorite whole wheat orzo, which is great for soup.  You might be tempted to add more orzo than 1/2 cup, but it expands quite a bit. 

Add the orzo to the slow cooker; then chop 3-4 cups of diced turkey and add that.

If you've been cooking on low turn the slow cooker to high and cook about 30 minutes, or until the orzo is soft with still a tiny bit of bite.

Then chop up a couple of handfuls of spinach leaves (next time I might use a little more.)

Add the spinach to the slow cooker and cook until it's no longer all floating on top (about 15-20 minutes.)  Stir in the lemon juice, cook 5 minutes more, and serve.

Slow Cooker Lemony Turkey Soup with Spinach and Orzo
(Makes 6-8 servings; recipe created by Kalyn)

I used a Crock-Pot 5-Quart Smart-Pot Slow Cooker, but a slightly smaller size will work.

8 cups homemade turkey stock (or homemade chicken stock or low sodium chicken broth in a can)
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
fresh-ground black pepper to taste
1 T Penzeys or Better than Bouillon Turkey Soup Base, optional (The soup base is fairly salty so it's important to use low-sodium stock if you're using it.)
1 1/2 cups chopped onion (chopped small)
1 1/2 cups chopped celery (chopped small)
1 1/2 cups chopped carrots, preferably organic carrots that don't need to be peeled (chopped small)
1/2 cup whole wheat orzo
3-4 cups diced cooked turkey or chicken (cut a little larger than the vegetables)
2-3 large handfuls spinach leaves (about 3 oz.)
2 T fresh-squeezed lemon juice (I used my fresh-frozen lemon juice)

Put the turkey or chicken stock in the slow cooker and turn it on to heat while you chop the onion, celery, and carrots.  Add the chopped veggies to the slow cooker, as well as the poultry seasoning, dried thyme, fresh-ground black pepper, and turkey soup base (if using.)  Cook on High for 4 hours or on LOW for 8-9 hours.

After the stock and veggies has simmered, add the 1/2 cup orzo (and turn the slow cooker to HIGH if you have been cooking on low.)  Chop the leftover turkey into pieces slightly larger than the vegetables, and add to the soup.  Cook about 30 minutes, or until the orzo is soft with still a slight bite to it. 

While the orzo and turkey simmers in the soup, pull stems off the spinach leaves (optional, but I don't like having a bite of stem in my soup), wash spinach in salad spinner, and coarsely chop the spinach.  When the orzo is nearly done, add the spinach and cook until it's done.  (At first all the spinach floats on top of the soup, but it's done when it starts to sink down in.)  Stir in the lemon juice and cook 5 minutes more.  Serve hot.

I'm guessing this freezes just fine, but we didn't have any leftovers to try it.

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South Beach Suggestions:
This soup is loaded with healthful low-glycemic ingredients, and would be suitable for Phase 2 or 3 of the South Beach Diet.

Nutritional Information?
I chose the South Beach Diet to manage my weight partly so I wouldn't have to count calories, carbs, points, or fat grams, but if you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you.

More Tasty Soups with Leftover Turkey:
(Recipes from other blogs not always South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
Soup, Stew, and Chili Recipes for Leftover Turkey ~ Soup Chick
Turkey and Cannellini Bean Soup with Sweet Potatoes and Rosemary ~ Kalyn's Kitchen
Creamy Mexican Turkey Soup ~ Recipe Girl
Turkey and Wild Rice Soup with Cabbage, Parsley, and Sage ~ Kalyn's Kitchen
Slow Cooker Gluten-Free Turkey Soup ~ Gluten-Free Goddess
(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)

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Posts may include links to my affiliate account at, and Kalyn's Kitchen earns a few cents on the dollar if readers purchase the items I recommend, so thanks for supporting my blog when you shop at Amazon!
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Posts may include links to my affiliate account at, and this blog earns a few cents on the dollar if readers purchase the items I recommend, so thanks for supporting my blog when you shop at Amazon!


  1. I am totally adoring this recipe!!

  2. Thanks Amanda. It was a big hit here, loved it!

  3. Yummy! Not a huge fan of poultry seasoning. I don't like the sage (I think) should I sub it for anything or do you think it'd be just fine without it?

  4. This looks great. Can you add something other than Orzo do you think?

  5. Hi Becca. We loved this soup (Pam and her family ate most of it!) If you don't like sage I'd use double the amount of thyme. Should still be good.

    Cozy in Texas, I think you can use brown rice, white rice, barley, or other small pasta shapes. Brown rice or barley will take longer to cook.

  6. Love this recipe. It has such wonderful flavor and yet it's so healthy.

  7. vphappy, so glad you like it. I just made it again last night for my brother and a friend who came over for dinner and it was a bit hit!

  8. Did you mean 4 hours on high or 8-9 on low?

  9. Oh no I switched the times; thanks for catching. Should say 4 hours on high or 8-9 hours on low. I will fix as soon as I get home.


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