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Tom Yum Gai Soup (Thai Hot and Sour Chicken Soup Recipe)

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Tom yum gai soup (Thai hot and sour chicken soup recipe) is THE BEST you’ll ever taste. A fiery red broth, lemongrass, galangal, and Thai chili paste – hello flavor bomb! Best part? This soup is so easy and delicious, you’ll forget it’s homemade, seriously.

Right side of bowl with tom yum chicken soup, garnished with green onions. There's also a wooden spoon and spices scattered around the bowl.

Can’t get enough of hot and sour? Try my Thai shrimp soup tom yum kung, my DIY tom yum paste, seafood filled tom yum talay, and even tom yum fried rice.

What is tom yum gai

Tom yum gai soup is a classic Thai dish beloved for its hot and sour flavors. Infused with aromatic herbs and spices like lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves, and cooked with chicken.

Difference between tom kha and tom yum

Both are classic Thai soups, but they differ in flavor and ingredients.

  • Tom kha has a creamier and sweeter profile, thanks to the base of coconut milk, and commonly features chicken (known as tom kha gai).
  • Tom yum, often made with shrimp, is well-known for its hot and sour flavors. With a clear, water-based broth, it’s often intenser, spicier, and less creamy than tom kha soup.
A wooden spoon lifting a spoonful of Thai tom yum soup over a bowl filled with the soup.

About spicy Thai chicken soup

The best of Thailand in a bowl! This authentic Thai tom yum chicken soup is so much better than takeout. It’s got all the traditional flavors you’d get in a Thai restaurant, and you can just chillax at home!

This hot and sour soup is not only delicious and easy-to-make, but also loaded with herbs and spices, super nutritious. If there’s one thing you can enjoy guilt-free, it’s this.

Top-down view of tom yum chicken soup in a soup bowl.

Trust me on this, a good tom yum broth isn’t hard to make. You just have to use fresh ingredients and hit the spicy and sour tones just right. If you’re new to Thai cooking, Thai soups are your best bet.

And hey, this spicy and sour chicken soup is perfect for cozying up in the winter, but it’s awesome in Thailand’s scorching sun, too. A little sweat never hurt anyone, right?

Close-up of Thai hot and sour chicken soup in a blue and white bowl with a wooden spoon.

5 Reasons to try this tom yum gai recipe

  • Simple and straightforward: Getting the ingredients is half the work. This recipe is easy to follow with simple instructions.
  • Customizable: Shrimp or chicken,, spicier, less sour, this recipe allows you to make this soup your own.
  • Nutritious: This dish is low-carb, healthy, light, and so delicious.
  • Meal prep: Make a big pot and enjoy this easy tom yum soup recipe over the next couple of days. It tastes even better the next day!
  • Versatile: This hot and sour soup can be served as an appetizer, a main dish, or lunch.

Ingredients

Ingredients can be sourced at Asian grocery stores and Asian markets.
The exact measurements are in the recipe card at the end of this post.


Bird's eye view of tom yum ingredients on a bamboo serving tray; chicken, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, green onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, shallots, Thai chili paste, palm sugar, lime juice, evaporated milk, and water.
  • Chicken – You can use chicken breast or chicken tenders.
  • Galangal – If you don’t have fresh galangal, you can opt for dried galangal, or use fresh ginger as an alternative.
  • Lemongrass – Lemongrass add a citrus flavor and aroma.
  • Kaffir lime leaves – You can purchase fresh makrut lime leaves online and freeze them for later use, or you can opt for dried kaffir lime leaves if fresh are not available.
  • Green onions For a pop of color and a fresh flavor.
  • Straw mushrooms – I used straw mushrooms, but you can use other Asian mushrooms as well.
  • Tomatoes
  • Shallots
  • Culantro / coriander – Adds a fresh flavor and fragrance.
  • Thai chili paste – Nam prik pao adds a smoky, spicy flavor.
  • Palm sugar – Palm sugar is a sweetener commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine, brings an extra caramel-like sweetness.
  • Fish sauce – Adds umami and a salty taste.
  • Lime – Fresh lime juice or tamarind paste is what makes tom yum sour. They interact with the spicy and umami flavors, creating that hot and sour flavor that the soup is known for.
  • Evaporated milk – In this recipe, I added a bit of evaporated milk for a subtle, creamy taste. If you don’t have evaporated milk, you can make a tom yum with coconut milk.
  • Water

Cooking instructions

  1. Prep vegetables, herbs, and spices

    Prepped vegetables, herbs, and spices on a bamboo dish.

    Finely slice lemongrass, galangal, and thinly slice chicken. Cut tomatoes, mushrooms, and shallots into bite-sized pieces. Chop green onions and herbs.

  2. Make tom yum gai soup

    Instructions for making tom yum in a cooking pot.

    1. Heat evaporated milk and water in a large pot over medium heat.

    2. Add chicken, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and galangal when boiling.

    3. Add tomatoes, mushrooms, shallots, chili paste, fresh lime juice, palm sugar, and fish sauce when chicken is cooked. Add green onions and optional herbs after mushrooms soften; remove from heat and serve immediately.

Kitchen tools

  • Cutting board and chef’s knife
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Large soup pot
  • Ladle

Variations

  • Vegetarian tom yum soup: Replace chicken with tofu or more vegetables. Use vegan fish sauce instead of regular fish sauce.
  • Tom yum seafood: Swap out the chicken for shrimp and squid.
  • More vegetables: While not traditional, you can totally add more vegetables like carrots, bok choy, or beans.
  • Spice it up: For more spiciness, double up on the Thai chili paste or throw in Thai bird’s eye chilies.

How to serve

Ladle into individual bowls or serve it up in a large pot, letting everyone ladle out their own portion.

My grandmother loves to pair Thai soups with jasmine rice or Thai sticky rice. Additionally, you can serve tod mun pla or spring rolls alongside, or this Thai vegetable stir-fry.

Garnishing options

  • Fresh coriander
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Sliced chilies
  • Lime wedge

How to store and reheat

Let the leftovers cool down, transfer to an airtight container, and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Freezing instructions: You can freeze this soup and store for longer. Just transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze. Thaw in the fridge overnight.

Reheating instructions: Reheat on the stove over low-medium heat until warmed through, or use the microwave.

Did you know?

  • Tom yum soup with coconut milk: Not traditional, but this recipe calls for a splash of evaporated milk or coconut milk as a sub. It takes this classic Thai soup from amazing to I-could-eat-this-everyday, trust me.
  • Tom yum soup when sick: This soup clears up sinuses in an instant. It’s a great remedy for when you’re feeling ill, packed with healthy ingredients like galangal and lemongrass. Some Thai people like to believe that eating spicy while sick will make you feel better, that’s definitely true for me!

Frequently asked questions

What is tom yum flavor?

Tom yum flavor is known for its hot and sour flavor profile, with fragrant herbs and spices. The sour flavor comes from lime juice or tamarind paste, and the spiciness from Thai chili paste or fresh chili peppers.

Is tom yum soup spicy?

Yes, tom yum soup is traditionally spicy. The spiciness comes from nam prik pao (a Thai chili paste) and sometimes from additional Thai chili peppers.

What does tom yum mean?

“Tom yum” is the name of a hot and sour Thai soup where “tom” refers to boiling, and “yum” refers to a spicy and sour flavor.

More Thai soups you’ll love

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Tom Yum Gai Soup (Thai Hot and Sour Chicken Soup Recipe)

Right side of bowl with tom yum chicken soup, garnished with green onions. There's also a wooden spoon and spices scattered around the bowl.
Make tom yum gai that rivals any Thai restaurant, right in your own kitchen!
Praew
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Cuisine Thai
Course Main Course, Soup
Serving Size 2 people

Ingredients

  • 10.5 ounces chicken fillets or tenders
  • 17 fluid ounces water
  • 3.4 fluid ounces evaporated milk
  • 3.5 ounces mushrooms
  • 2.8 ounces tomatoes
  • 3.5 ounces shallots
  • green onions for garnishing, or culantro, or coriander
  • 1 ounce galangal
  • 1 ounce lemongrass
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon palm sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chili paste

Instructions

  • Finely slice lemongrass, galangal, and thinly slice chicken. Cut tomatoes, mushrooms, and shallots into bite-sized pieces. Chop green onions and herbs.
  • Heat evaporated milk and water in a large pot over medium heat.
  • Add chicken, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and galangal when boiling.
  • Add tomatoes, mushrooms, shallots, chili paste, fresh lime juice, palm sugar, and fish sauce when chicken is cooked. Add green onions and optional herbs after mushrooms soften; remove from heat and serve immediately.

Notes

  • Use the nutrition card in this recipe as a guideline.
  • This soup can be eaten on its own, or you can pair it with rice or other Thai food.
  • Garnishing options: Fresh cilantro, lime wedge, fresh coriander, sliced chilies.
  • See recipe for more variations of this soup.

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