Turkey Bone Gumbo, or Giving Thanks for Leftovers

brians-gumbo-and-potato-saladHere’s your chance to salvage the last of your Thanksgiving turkey and treat yourself to some real Louisiana gumbo. It’s called Turkey Bone Gumbo because it uses up the last of the foil-ensconced Thanksgiving turkey sitting in your fridge.  There’s enough meat on it to add to the gumbo, and the bones to make a wonderful stock – likely more than enough that is needed for the gumbo.   The extra stock will be a treasure in your freezer to use for soup during the cold months ahead.

This is a New Orleans (really Louisiana, maybe even all of the South) tradition to make turkey and sausage gumbo from leftover Thanksgiving turkey. It is the perfect meal to usher in the Advent Season. Imagine a pot of this simmering away on the stove while you are busy greening the house. Leftover turkey bone stock can be frozen and used throughout the season for quick soups. Advent Lessons and Carols services are always followed up with a pot of gumbo. Delicious tradition!

Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has long ago approved what you do. ~ Ecclesiastes 9:7

Turkey Bone Gumbo

The Stock  
Make the night before and chill in the fridge.


  • 2 or more bay leaves
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • The tops and bottoms of 2 ribs celery
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns

Pick the meat off of the turkey carcass, leaving a liberal amount of meat clinging to the bones.

If you have a cleaver, hack away at the bones and carcass.

Place the picked off meat in the fridge, and place the carcass in a large stockpot and cover with water.

Begin to bring it to a boil. (For smoked turkey, do not add the skin to the pot – discard it.)

Add to the pot.  Once near a boil, reduce the heat to very low and barely simmer for three hours.

Do not salt or stir the stock.

Strain the stock and cool it.  Discard the bones, meat, and vegetables in the strainer.

The Gumbo
Makes 6 to 10 servings


  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 3 or 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 lb andouille or other smoked sausage, such as kielbasa, sliced ¼ inch thick
  • Vegetable oil
  • ½ cup flour
  • 3 quarts of the stock, warmed
  • 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon Tabasco
  • A generous half cup chopped green onions (about one bunch)
  • A generous half cup minced parsley
  • Cooked white rice
  • Filé powder (if available)

Prepare the seasoning vegetables, diced ¼ to ½ inch each, and the garlic minced.  Place them all in a bowl and set aside to have ready once your roux is done.

Place the sausage and a little oil in a large Dutch oven and brown over high heat. Remove to a paper towel lined plate as browned.

Pour the fat into a measuring cup, then add sufficient vegetable oil to make ½ cup fat.  Pour the fat back into the Dutch oven and reduce the heat to low.

Add to the oil and stir constantly over low to medium heat to make as dark a roux as you can – preferably a milk chocolate colored one.

Stir the onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic into the roux, smell the love, and continue cooking and stirring for several minutes until the vegetables begin to wilt.

Add to the vegetables and the roux, stirring the stock into the roux until well blended before adding the other seasonings.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer for 1 hour.

Add a couple heaping cups of the picked off turkey meat, along with the sausage, and simmer for another hour.

Add to the gumbo and simmer a few minutes more.  Taste for salt and pepper.

Serve the gumbo in bowls over the cooked rice.  Pass the filé at the table, having guests add just a pinch.

Serve with potato salad (see recipe below), or a baked sweet potato.  French bread is a must for mopping the bowl.  A light (unoaked) chardonnay or a Pinot Grigio pairs excellently with this.

Submitted by: Brian Reid from St. George’s Episcopal Church, New Orleans. Brian has contributed recipes that have appeared in The Times-Picayune and other local publications. (With thanks to Karen Mackey, Communications Coordinator, The Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana.)

For a downloadable/printable version of this recipe and a bonus potato salad recipe, visit: www.episcopalchurch.org/Advent Lagniappe, y’all! A little something extra.

Tomorrow: Haitian Beans & Rice


One thought on “Turkey Bone Gumbo, or Giving Thanks for Leftovers

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