Tom Yum Soup aka Thai hot and sour soup, is one of the most flavorful, easiest and quickest soup recipes you’ll ever make! Light and boldly flavored, this authentic Tom Yum Soup recipe is made with tender shrimp and straw mushrooms in a clear broth infused with fresh lemongrass, fish sauce, Thai chilies, ginger and fresh lime juice!
Tom Yum Soup Recipe
This authentic Tom Yum Soup recipe aka Tom Yum Goong soup is definitely better than most of the versions sold at most Thai restaurants. I know because it’s been adapted from a recipe of one of the best (and nicest) Thai chefs in the world. If you read the 5-stars reviews here and on my social media channels, you’ll see that many people agree! This recipe is the best and will seriously knock-your-socks-off!
Tom Yum Soup is one of the most popular soups in Thailand and one of the healthiest Thai food recipes ever. This savory, salty, spicy and sour soup is layered with complex and balanced bold flavors from ingredients like kaffir lime leaves, shrimp stock or chicken stock, lemon grass, galangal, fish sauce, fresh cilantro and Thai chili paste.
Why You Will Love this Tom Yum Soup Recipe?
- Quick and Easy: This easy Tom Yum soup recipe is made in one-pot, doesn’t require a lot of prep and comes together quickly.
- Flavor: This delicious soup with its spicy, fragrant and sour flavors is one you will want to have on repeat.
- Healthy: This famous Thai soup is healthy, low-carb, low in fat and gluten free.
What’s Tom Yum Soup?
Tom Yum (ต้มยำ) is a type of hot and sour soup that originated in Thailand. This popular soup is a staple of Thai cuisine and is loved in many different countries. If you are wondering what does Tom Yum means, Tom means “boiling” and Yum refers to the “spicy and sour” flavor of the dish.
There are two different variations of Tom Yum soup:
- Clear Tom Yum Soup (Tom Yum Goong Nam Sai) which is featured in this post.
- Creamy Tom Yum Soup (Tom Yum Goong Nam Khon), the addition of evaporated milk (not coconut milk) turns clear Tom Yum soup into this rich and creamy version.
Tom Yum soup can be made with different proteins and even vegetarian. The most popular version among these Thai recipes is the one made with shrimp.
- Tom Yum Goon (Goon means shrimp) is made with a flavorful stock sometimes made with whole prawns or shrimp. The shrimp heads and shrimp shells add a lot of depth and robust flavor to the clear broth.
- Tom Yum Gai (Gai means chicken) is made with all the same aromatic ingredients and chicken broth.
Tom Yum Soup Ingredients and Substitutions
Be sure to check the printable recipe card below for the complete ingredient’s list and their exact quantities.
- Stock or Broth: Traditionally the stock is made with shell-on and heads-on whole shrimp or prawns which produces a strongly flavored shrimpy broth. To make this recipe a bit more approachable, I start with store-bought stock which I fortify and infuse with the fresh and vibrant flavors of aromatics and herbs commonly used in Thai cooking. An easier approach with lots of flavor! Store bought shrimp stock or chicken broth can be used. In a pinch, vegetable broth can do the job.
- Lemongrass: This is an essential ingredient in Thai cuisine. Fresh lemongrass can be found in the produce area of your grocery store. Fresh lemongrass flavor is a bit hard to describe. The pale yellow-green stalks have a wonderfully light and refreshing citrus scent. As for the taste, fresh lemongrass has a mild lemony flavor with hints of mint and a sort of pungency that reminds me of ginger. If you cannot find fresh lemongrass, lemongrass paste (sold in tubes, refrigerated, in the produce area of the supermarket) or frozen lemongrass can be used.
- Kaffir Lime Leaves (Makrut Lime Leaves): In my area, I can hardly ever find fresh lime leaves. Most of the time, not even my local Asian market carries them. Since the soup has lemongrass and cilantro, you can skip this ingredient altogether and still have amazing results. If you prefer, substitute the 5 leaves needed for this recipe with 1/2 teaspoon of lime or lemon zest.
- Galangal (or Ginger): Galangal is similar to ginger with a sharp peppery taste. This is another ingredient that is not available in my area but, that has never stopped me from making the absolute best Tom Yum soup! If you can’t find fresh galangal, use fresh ginger (not dried or ground).
- Thai Peppers: Known as Thai chiles or birdseye chiles. If you cannot find them, serrano peppers are a good substitute. Since the red curry paste is spicy, you can skip the fresh chiles without compromising flavor.
- Thai Red Curry Paste: This ingredient is available in the Asian section of the grocery store. A powerhouse of flavor, this paste is made with several herbs and spices that result in a savory and spicy paste. If you are a spicy food lover add a bit extra! If you prefer a milder taste, start by adding half of the amount listed in the recipe card.
- Straw Mushrooms: I use canned straw mushrooms. Other type of mushrooms like white button mushrooms or shitake mushrooms can be used also.
- Fish Sauce: This is a key ingredient in Thai cuisine. I promise the soup won’t taste like this sauce smells!
- Brown Sugar: The sweetness of sugar balances the savory, salty and sour flavors of the soup. Palm sugar can be used. Use granulated sugar as last resort.
- Shrimp: I always have frozen large shrimp (31/35 count) in my freezer. Extra large (26/30 count) or medium shrimp (36/40 count) can be used. Prawns are a great option as well.
- Lime Juice: Nothing compares to the flavor of fresh lime juice.
- Cilantro: I use fresh cilantro. If you don’t like cilantro, skip it.
How To Use Lemongrass?
Prep lemongrass by cutting off the bottom of the stalks and trimming 1-2 inches from the very top (trim the part that looks a bit dry). Peel off the greenish outer layers until you get to the whitish green softer layer. Lightly smash the stalks with the side of the knife (like crushing garlic) to bruise them or use a mallet then, cut each stalk into thirds.
How To Make This Tom Yum Soup Recipe?
Classic Tom Yum Soup is one of the best soups I’ve ever had.The best part is that it’s one of those easy recipes that don’t require a lot of steps and can be made quickly. For specific instructions please check the printable recipe card below.
- Infusing the Broth: In a large pot, bring the shrimp or chicken broth to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the lemongrass, Kaffir lime leaves, galangal or ginger and fresh chilies. Lower the heat and simmer covered, for about 20 minutes.
- Stir In Seasonings: Stir in the fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar and red curry paste into the broth. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add Mushrooms and Shrimp: Stir in the mushrooms and shrimp and simmer until the shrimp is just cooked through, about 3-6 minutes.
- Serve: Turn the heat off, and add the fresh cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning to your taste. Ladle soup into individual bowls and serve with additional fresh chiles and cilantro (optional)
What’s The Difference Between Tom Yum and Tom Kha Soup?
Tom Yum and Tom Kha soups are both very similar and made with some of the same ingredients such as lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf and galangal (the holy trinity of Thai cuisine). The main difference between the two soups is that Tom Kha also has coconut milk. The richness of coconut milk gives Tom Kha soup a creamier consistency and slightly sweet taste while keeping its spicy flavor. Tom Yum soup is a very light, clear soup with spicy hot and sour notes.
Is Tom Yum Soup Healthy?
Made with shrimp, fresh herbs, spices and aromatic ingredients, Tom Yum soup is considered one of the healthiest dishes in Thailand. Tom Yum is loaded with nutrients, has very few calories, is low-carb, low-fat and gluten free.
What Is the Taste of Tom Yum?
Tom Yum Soup (Thai hot and sour soup) is a very aromatic, well balanced spicy soup with sour notes and bold flavor (eating it is like an explosion of flavor in your mouth). Although is made with shrimp and fish sauce, it doesn’t have an overpowering fishy taste.
- Make this soup more filling by adding rice noodles or Soba Noodles
- Tomato cut into quarters. Add them at the same time you add the mushrooms.
- Sliced onions. Add them at the same time you add the mushrooms.
- Sliced scallions. Add them with the cilantro.
Make Ahead, Storing and Reheating
Make Ahead: You can make the soup 2 days ahead of time without adding the mushrooms and shrimp. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When ready, bringing the soup to a quick boil. Lower the heat, add the mushrooms and simmer for a few minutes then, add the shrimp and simmer until the shrimp is just cooked.
Storing: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 days.
Reheating: Remove the shrimp from the soup and set aside. This will prevent the shrimp from overcooking when reheating. Heat the soup in a pot on the stove top or in the microwave until heated through. Stir in the shrimp.
Can I Freeze Tom Yum Soup?
Yes, Tom Yum freezes well although I recommend freezing the soup before adding the shrimp and mushrooms. Shrimp overcooks quickly and reheating already cooked shrimp can definitely turn this delicate ingredient rubbery. The texture of mushrooms also changes when defrosted.
Thaw the soup in the refrigerator overnight and reheat by bringing the soup to a quick boil. Lower the heat, add the mushrooms and simmer for a few minutes then, add the shrimp and simmer for 2-4 minutes or until the shrimp is just cooked.
Tom Yum Soup Recipe Tips and Notes
- Intensify the flavor of the broth by making it with whole shrimp (heads-on and shells-on). You can find instruction in the recipe card below.
- Remove some of the outer layers of the lemongrass, cut it in half and pound it to bruise it so it releases its aroma.
- To make creamy Tom Yum soup, simply add evaporated milk and an extra spoonful of red curry paste.
- To adjust the taste of the soup, add additional curry paste for extra spiciness, additional fish sauce if you want the soup saltier, additional sugar if the flavor is too sour for your taste and extra lime juice if you feel you need tartness.
Take A Look At These Other Delicious Thai Recipes:
- Chicken Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce
- Pad Thai
- Thai Red Curry Chicken
- Jasmine Rice with Ginger and Lemongrass
- Larb Salad
- Thai Basil Chicken
- Mango Sticky Rice
Recipe adapted from 101 Thai dishes you need to cook before you die cookbook
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Tom Yum Soup Recipe (Thai Soup Recipe)
- 2 quarts (8 cups) chicken broth or shrimp or seafood stock
- 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, outer layers removed, bruised and cut into thirds. (see notes)
- 5 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 inch piece fresh galangal or ginger, sliced
- 2 Thai red chiles (whole or sliced) (see notes)
- 6 tablespoons fish sauce
- 6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 – 2 tablespoons red curry paste
- 1 (15-ounces) can straw mushrooms
- 1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined with tails on or off
- A handful of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Infuse the Broth / Making Thai Broth
- In a large pot, bring the chicken broth or shrimp or seafood stock to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the lemongrass, Kaffir lime leaves, galangal or ginger and fresh chilies. Lower the heat and simmer covered, for about 20 minutes.
To Make the Soup
- Uncover the pot and stir in the fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar and red curry paste into the broth. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste the soup and add additional curry paste for extra spiciness, additional fish sauce if you want the soup saltier, additional sugar if its a bit too sour for your taste or extra lime juice if you feel you need tartness.
- Since there's only a few pieces of lemongrass and a few kaffir lime leaves, I don't usually strain the broth but simply pick the lemongrass and leaves with kitchen tongs. It's one less step and less dishes to clean! If preferred, strain the broth and return it to the pot.
- Stir in the mushrooms and shrimp and simmer until the shrimp is just cooked through, about 3-6 minutes.
- Turn the heat off, and add the fresh cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning to your taste. Ladle soup into individual bowls and serve with additional fresh chiles and cilantro (optional)
If Making Broth with Whole Shrimp (Heads-on and Shells-on)
- Peel the shrimp or prawns. Place the heads and shells into a large pot. Reserve the meat. Add 7 cups of chicken broth + 1 cup of water. Add the lemongrass, Kaffir lime leaves, galangal or ginger and fresh chilies. Bring to a boil and then, lower the heat and simmer for about 10 – 12 minutes. Drain the broth and discard the solids. Return the broth to the pot and follow the rest of the recipe.
- Lemongrass: Substitute 2 stalks of fresh lemongrass with 1 tablespoon of lemongrass paste. Prep the lemongrass by cutting off the bottom of the stalks and trimming about an inch from the very top (usually that part is a bit dry). Peel off the dry outer layers until you get to the whitish green softer layer. Lightly smash the stalks with the side of the knife (like crushing garlic) to bruise them or use a mallet then, cut each stalk into thirds. When the soup is done, remove the lemongrass stalks. Unless they are processed (in a food processor) they are tough and not edible.
- Kaffir Lime Leaves: 2 Kaffir lime leaves can be substitute with 1/4 teaspoon lime or lemon zest. For this soup I use 1/2 teaspoon of zest total. Because the soup is made with lemongrass and cilantro, you can skip this ingredient altogether. I usually bruise the leaves by trying to crinkle them in my hand so it releases its aroma. Remove the leaves before serving.
- Galangal: Substitute with fresh ginger and a sprinkle or grind or ground black pepper. You don’t need to peel galangal or the ginger.
- Fresh Chiles: When using fresh Thai chiles, I add them whole so I can control the level of spiciness. You can skip them if not available.
- Fish Sauce: This stinky ingredient is a must to make this recipe. Fish sauce adds umami and saltiness to the soup. Although nothing can compare with the taste this ingredient adds to the soup, in a pinch, soy sauce or coconut aminos can be used. Please note that the soup won’t taste like authentic Tom Yum.
- Shrimp: You can use medium shrimp (36/40 count), large shrimp (31/35 count) or extra large (26/30 count). Prawns can also be used to make this soup.