Turkey Pistou Stew with Pearl Couscous

Turkey Pistou Stew with Israeli Couscous
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It’s Thanksgiving for my neighbors to the south today. I’m sure most of them are absorbed in the pie-of-it-all right now. But once the wishbone is broken and the last round of coffee is served, they will be confronted with a new task – consuming all the leftovers. Now, this is one of those good problems to have to be sure. But being Canadian, I know how repetitive turkey day leftovers can be. Don’t get me wrong, I love a turkey sandwich as much as the next girl. But eventually, you start to miss the way you used to eat. Pasta, salads, noodles, and of course, soup. Luckily, a leftover, like turkey, can find a home in all of the above. But today we’re concentrating on this Turkey Pistou Stew with Pearl Couscous. Why? Because this soup is perfect for those final bits of the bird that aren’t exactly sandwich-worthy.

Blanching the basil

In my humble opinion, one of the most vital skills to learn is how to make a good pot of soup. It’s a deceptively simple task but as with most simple things in the kitchen, it comes with a lot of potential pitfalls. But once you learn how to make a solid soup, a whole world of meals opens up to you. Every soup calls for essentially the same method. There is variation when it comes to ingredients, of course, but the process of building a solid stock is essentially the same across borders both geographical or cultural. 

Basil Pistou in a bowl

The word “soup” implies a finished dish. Chicken noodle, pho, and minestrone are all meals unto themselves. But the word “stock”, well that’s a building block. Stock can be put to use in meals that are not soup. It can be transformed into a sauce like a velouté or gravy. It can marry with rice to create risotto or pilaf. Or it can act as a braising liquid for tougher cuts of meat. Stock is the backbone of so many recipes. And being able to make your own high-quality stock can instantly elevate your cooking. So in the process of learning to make soup, which as I mentioned opens the door to countless meals, you also learn how to make stock. And a good-quality stock is like liquid gold. 

Sliced celery on a cutting board

So with all this in mind, let’s tackle how to make this Turkey Pistou Stew with Pearl Couscous. Now, when I initially put this on my content calendar, I designed this recipe for Thanksgiving leftovers. But now, I want to use this soup as an example of how versatile a soup recipe can be. So I’m going to cover three ways you could make this stew. Let’s start with the leftover poultry method because that was what I originally intended to do.

Diced potato on a cutting board
Rutabaga cut in half and partially peeled on a cutting board

Making the Turkey Pistou Stew with Leftovers

Okay, so you have some turkey waiting in the fridge. Take the turkey out of the fridge and peel the meat from the bones. Place the bones, leaving the cartilage intact, in a large stock pot and transfer the meat to a bowl and return it to the fridge. To the pot add a halved onion, coarsely chopped carrots and celery, and a few crushed cloves of garlic. 

Adding turkey stock to a pot with vegetables

Yes, we’re making stock. Now, because we’re using roasted turkey bones, which are probably a little spent flavor-wise, it pays to bulk up your stock a little. I added some chicken backbones I had squirreled away in my freezer from past spatchcocking adventures. If you don’t have anything like that, you can add a little bouillon to the pot. It’s not ideal but it will work in a pinch. Simmer the stock for two hours before draining. From here you can either store the stock in the fridge or continue making the Turkey Pistou Stew as detailed below. 

Adding turkey meat and frozen peas to the stew

Making the Stew with Fresh Turkey or Chicken

Now, let’s say you don’t have any leftover turkey. Well, you have a few options here. You can poach a whole chicken with the aromatics I mentioned earlier. Shred the cook chicken meat and make the soup with that and the resulting stock generated by the poaching liquid. Or you can get some chicken or turkey parts and sear them in the bottom of the pot. This renders the fat and generates some caramelized bits to sauté your carrots, celery, and onion in. Then return the poultry to the pot, add some water, and simmer. Once the turkey or chicken is cooked through, shred the meat and return it to the pot. In this version, you may want to have some store-bought stock or bouillon on hand to enhance the flavor of the soup, since you’re not simmering a stock separately.

Turkey Pistou Stew with Israeli Couscous

What is Pistou?

Now that you know the many ways you could approach this Turkey Pistou Stew with Pearl Couscous, let’s talk about the pistou. The simplest way to describe a pistou is it’s the French answer to pesto. It doesn’t have nuts, it sometimes has tomato, and it only occasionally contains cheese, but other than that it’s essentially the same. The word “pistou” means “pounded”. This is a reference to the traditional way pistou is made with mortar and pestle. I’m a lazy millennial, so I made my pistou in a blender. It was a little too fine. So if you want it a little chunkier, I think the manual method might be better. Alternatively, you could make your pistou in a food processor and be conservative with your pulses.

Turkey Pistou Stew with Israeli Couscous

Finally, let’s talk couscous. Despite Pearl couscous appearing in the title of this recipe, it is very much optional. And I’m leaving it up to you because including the couscous does require dirtying another pot. I know, why can’t we just cook the couscous in the soup? Well, the short answer is, we could. But you don’t want to do that. And here is another soup-making lesson. Don’t cook your pasta in your soup. This goes for everything from ramen to chicken noodle. You don’t want the starch from the cooking pasta to quite literally muck up your soup. It will thicken the broth, make it cloudy, and just not as good. So cook the couscous separately and add it to the soup at the end.

And that’s everything (and then some) that you need to know about this Turkey Pistou Stew with Pearl Couscous. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone celebrating today!


Turkey Pistou Stew with Israeli Couscous

Turkey Pistou Stew with Pearl Couscous

This Turkey Pistou Stew is loaded with fresh veggies, chunks of turkey, and tender couscous topped with a drizzle of vibrant basil pistou and fresh celery leaves.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Course Main Course
Servings 8


  • 1 a large heavy bottom pot
  • 1 Food Processor


Basil Pistou

  • 100g (3.5oz) fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ cup olive oil

Turkey Pistou Stew

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion diced
  • 3 small carrots peeled and chopped
  • 3 stalks celery leaves removed and reserved, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 large yellow-fleshed potato diced
  • ½ rutabaga peeled and diced
  • 8 cups chicken or turkey stock store bought or homemade
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups cooked turkey**
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • ½ cup pearl couscous uncooked


For the Pistou

  • Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Take it off of the heat and add the basil. Quickly transfer the basil to an ice bath.
    100g (3.5oz) fresh basil leaves
  • Pour the basil into a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth and gently squeeze out the excess moisture. Place the basil in a food processor *** and add the garlic and salt. Turn the food processor to low and stream in the olive oil and lemon juice. Pour the pistou into a bowl and chill until ready to serve.
    2 cloves garlic, 1 tsp salt, 2 tbsp lemon juice, ½ cup olive oil

For the Stew

  • Pour the olive oil into a large heavy bottom pot over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering add the onions, celery, carrots, and a generous pinch of salt. Sauté until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme to the vegetables and sauté for a minute more.
    2 tbsp olive oil, 1 yellow onion, 3 small carrots, 3 stalks celery, 1 tsp dried thyme
  • Stir in the white wine and add the potatoes and rutabaga. Pour in the stock and bring the mixture up to a boil. Add the bay leaves and simmer for 1 hour.
    ½ cup white wine, 1 large yellow-fleshed potato, ½ rutabaga, 8 cups chicken or turkey stock, 2 bay leaves
  • Once the hour is up, add the turkey meat and peas. Simmer for another 15 minutes.
    2 cups cooked turkey**, 1 cup frozen peas
  • While the stew is on its final simmer, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and add the couscous. Cook until barely al dente. Drain the couscous and add it to the stew
    ½ cup pearl couscous
  • Take the stew off of the heat and remove the bay leaves. Ladle the stew into bowls and top with a drizzle of pistou and the reserved celery leaves.
    3 stalks celery


** You can make this soup with uncooked chicken or turkey parts. Just sear them in the bottom before sautéeing the onions and return them to the pot when you add the stock. Simmer until the poultry registers an internal temperature of 165°F on an instant-read thermometer. Shred the meat and return it to the pot in the last 15 minutes of the cook time. 
*** You can also use a blender or mortar and pestle to make the pistou. 
Keyword couscous, pistou, turkey

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