Cozy Left-Overs: Cheesy Turkey Tamale Soup, A South-Of-The-Border Inspiration

Tamale Soup

Let’s be honest, we’re all pretty “turkey-ed out” by now, aren’t we? Here a turkey, there a turkey, everywhere a turkey. But here’s the unavoidable issue: there’s still some left-over turkey in the fridge, mocking you, begging to be used in a creative, cozy and unique way. “Psst—hey!” It says, “Don’t forget I’m in here; do something with me!” What to do, what to do, hmm… . Well, as far as I’m concerned, after a nice, rich Thanksgiving Day meal, I’m looking for some lighter fare, some tasty grub with a bit of spice and lots of flavor. Something… different. Soup is the perfect thing right now; it’s comforting and soothing, simple and filling, and is a great one-pot meal where the leftover turkey can be deliciously incorporated. It can be used completely differently than it was used just a day or two before. And with the much-anticipated, scrumptious, home-made tamales now becoming a staple, pre-Christmas/Christmas goodie that comes courtesy of the richly vibrant Mexican-American community here in Southern California, I thought I’d pay homage to a favorite street-food treat by taking it’s warm, sweetly-spicy flavors and turning them into a thick and hearty soup, simultaneously making use of that demanding, left-over turkey in the fridge that desperately needs a new dish to call home.

Tamale Soup

A good friend of our family takes it upon her wonderful self to make her home-made tamales each year for her friends and neighbors. She makes it a point to start a little early, making huge batches and even freezing them to have to share during the next several weeks. Typically, tamales are prepared during times of festivities, the Christmas season being one of those times; and they’re lovingly offered to anyone that would enjoy partaking their lightly sweet-savory flavor and soft texture, utterly impossible to resist. And that’s where my inspiration comes from; I wanted all of the flavors and similar qualities of a tamale, but in a simple and quick-to-prepare soup. Tamale in a bowl, anyone? (And yes, turkey, yes, you’re invited into the mix. Geez, already!)

Tamale Soup

So here we are again, Black Friday looming, promptly followed by Cyber Monday. We find ourselves in the “in-between-holidays” time when the countdown to Christmas begins. Boy, where has the year gone? I certainly don’t want any of the coziness of the holidays to fly by in a blur this year, like it usually seems to. So I think I’ll just enjoy each day as it comes, each merry heart and warm smile that I encounter, and enjoy the national and international flavors, the yummy shared morsels, that this festive time of year provides. And with some Cheesy Turkey Tamale Soup in my bowl, things could get just a touch heated, and I’m all for it.

Taste what’s good and pass it on.


Tamale Soup

Cheesy Turkey Tamale Soup
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(Serves about 4-6)


2 tablespoons olive oil
3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 (1lb.) bag frozen, sweet corn, thawed
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon dry oregano
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes
2 tablespoon tomato paste
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
4 ½ cups chicken (or turkey) stock, hot
1 cup broken-up, yellow corn tortilla chips, plus more chips for garnish
1  cup shredded Mexican-blend cheese (Jack and Cheddar)
1tablespoon honey
• Pinch salt
2 cups (or however much you have) left-over roasted turkey, chopped/cubed, for topping soup


-Place a large pot over medium-high heat, and add in the oil; once the oil is hot, add in all of the ingredients from the celery through the red pepper flake, and stir to combine; next, add in the tomato paste, and stir in to incorporate; add the cilantro leaves, the hot stock and the broken-up tortilla chips, stir, and allow the soup the come to the boil; once it comes to the boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer the soup for about 20-22 minutes, until veggies are tender and the chips are pretty dissolved into the soup; after 20-22 minutes, turn the heat off, and using a hand-held immersion blender (or working in batches using a blender – be careful with hot liquids!), puree the soup until smooth; finally, add in the shredded cheese, stir/gently whisk to blend and melt in, and then finish with the honey and a pinch of salt, according to your taste; serve the soup garnished with the cubed/chopped leftover turkey, extra cheese and a few cilantro leaves, along with additional yellow corn tortilla chips.

{ 8 comments… add one }

  • julia November 23, 2012, 12:17 pm

    Wow this looks so yummy! I have never seen a soup like this out there and can’t wait to try!

    • The Cozy Apron November 23, 2012, 1:04 pm

      Thanks, Julia – this soup is truly an easy one, and if you like the south-of-the-border flavors, you’ll really like this filling soup; perfect for a main meal, too!

  • Chelsea November 23, 2012, 4:46 pm

    I love the how-to videos, I hope she starts making them again!

    • The Cozy Apron November 23, 2012, 6:32 pm

      Hi Chelsea, thanks so much for saying so! My hubby and I are a bit inundated with work at the moment, but we’re looking forward to shooting more again when time allows.

  • Kylee December 10, 2012, 4:50 pm

    Made this tonight! It smells delicious! I decided to make it with ground turkey and thought I was all smart “oh I’ll cook the turkey in the same pot before I start!” except I left it in with all the other stuff so now I can’t blend it!!! Guess mine will be a chunky soup instead!

    • The Cozy Apron December 10, 2012, 6:10 pm

      Kylee, too funny! Well, “how bad can it be?” as Ina Garten always asks. So it’ll be chunky…I suppose you could always blend the turkey in seeing as it’s ground anyway, but I think you’ll do just fine to leave it as is; it’ll just be chunky/brothy and your very own version! 😉

  • mrsblocko April 3, 2013, 9:50 am

    I made this soup and wrote about ithere. It really does taste like tamales in soup form. Thank you so much for sharing the recipe. It was a great way to use up leftover turkey!

    • The Cozy Apron April 3, 2013, 3:44 pm

      That’s great! Thanks for coming back to comment; I figured that people could always use a good recipe for the left-over turkey during the holidays, or anytime, frankly!

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