Easy Thai Tom Yum Soup With Chicken is a popular Thai sour and spicy soup with bold flavors from chicken broth, tom yum soup paste, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce, and fresh lime juice. It's healthy and delicious all in one bowl!
Tom Yum is considered the most popular soup in Thai cuisine. You can usually find Tom Yam soup in many Thai restaurants around the globe.
What is Tom Yum?
Tom Yum is a sour soup recipe with bold and delicious flavors from fresh Thai herbs and vegetables. The broth is infused with lemongrass, galangal kaffir lime leaves, and cilantro roots. The flavors are tamarind, fish sauce, and spicy chili paste, Nam Prik Pao. The vegetables used are typically tomatoes, shallots, and mushrooms.
Tom Yum soups are typically known for using large shrimp in the dish, and it's called Tom Yum Goong, but like many Thai recipes, you can easily adapt your protein. You can use seafood combinations like fish, shrimp, scallops, squid, and mussels.
For my Tom Yum recipe, I use chicken, which in Thai is called ‘Tom Yum Gai, meaning chicken. Though uncommon, you can use beef, pork, or duck. Any protein option will work.
Why You'll Love Tom Yum Soup
- It's a delicious soup full of flavors that explode in your mouth!
- The aromatic ingredients in the soup are extremely healthy and healing to the body—one of the best soups to have when you are sick.
- It's spicy from the use of Thai chili paste and Thai peppers. Perfect for spicy food lovers!
- Vegetarian versions are easily adaptable. Add tofu and tempeh, or add extra vegetables to the soup!
- The recipe uses a pre-made paste, making it super easy and fast to make Tom Yum soup!
Ingredients for Tom Yum Soup Recipe
- Chicken. My recipe uses boneless, skinless chicken breast. Chicken thighs will work!
- Thai bird's eye chiles. Use fresh or dry Thai chilies. Be sure to leave them whole, or your soup will get too spicy from the seeds of the peppers.
- Mushrooms. Many different types of mushrooms can be used in Tom Yum. Some of my favorites are Oyster mushrooms, Shimaji, and shiitake mushrooms. Enoki mushrooms are excellent, too, if you can find them. Traditional Thai recipes use straw mushrooms, but any fresh mushroom available at your local grocery store will work.
- Tomato. Cherry or Roma tomatoes work great for Tom yum soup.
- Fresh lemongrass. You'll be using large stalks of lemongrass to make the stock.
- Fresh galangal. Do not use fresh ginger for this recipe. It will not yield the same flavor.
- Kaffir lime leaf. Also called Makrut lime leaves, one of the key ingredients for Tom Yum soups. There's no good substitute for fresh lime leaves. They can be found in most Asian markets.
- Tom Yum paste. Use the store-bought paste to make this easy Tom Yum Soup recipe. If you can find Thai chili paste, grab it too and use it to add to the soup for an extra spicy flavor.
- Fresh cilantro. Use the stems for making the broth and the rest for garnishing.
- Stock. The traditional recipes use shrimp stock from large juicy shrimp shells, where umami flavors come from. But bone or vegetable broth works well. Plain water works, too, especially to help reduce calories. Add some fish sauce and lime juice to jazz up the flavors.
- Sugar. White, brown, or palm sugar.
A note on pre-made Tom Yum paste
I grew up eating Tom Yum soup made from scratch. It’s a bit of a process but not entirely too difficult. We made chicken broth from scratch, too—meaning we caught our free-roaming chicken from our yard and…made homemade broth from the unlucky chicken. I know I can't do it now after being in America for too long. (;
That was just how we lived back then. We then made the tom yum paste for the base from herbs and spices like Thai chili peppers, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and lemongrass, most of which we found in our yard. That paste was then combined with the broth, additional herbs, and meat, and we had a delicious meal.
Here in the US, I often buy pre-made tom yum paste. I also don’t chase any free-range chicken for my soup broth. I’ll wait for that the next time I go to Thailand to visit my Thai family. (;
For the Tom Yum paste, I recommend the brand pictured above; you can find it in most Asian markets near you. I also have used, love, and recommend this brand of Tom Yum paste. Always refrigerate your paste after opening. It will keep for 3-6 months or longer.
How to Make Tom Yum Gai
Step 1. Add the stock to a soup pot and boil on medium-high heat.
Step 2. Add Tom Yum paste and stir well until the paste dissolves.
Step 3. Add all the herbs (kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal, and cilantro stems) and stir. The Thai chilis are optional if you want more heat. Turn the heat to medium and let simmer for 5-8 minutes.
Step 4. Add the chicken, stir, and cook until done. It takes about 5-7 minutes.
Step 5. Add the shallot, mushroom, and tomato and stir. Cook for 3-4 minutes more.
Step 6. Add fish sauce and lime juice, cook for 1-2 minutes, turn the heat off, and remove from the stovetop. Taste the delicious tangy broth. And adjust as needed with more fish sauce and lime juice. Be careful here; the soup is still hot, so don’t burn your tongue.
Remove the lemongrass stalks before serving. Garnish with fresh cilantro and lime wedges. Enjoy your chicken Tom Yum Soup!
Helpful Kitchen notes
- Tom Yum soup can be eaten as a stand-alone dish. You can add cooked Jasmine rice to the bowl if desired. My Thai family and I often do so as it makes the soup more hearty. Rice also serves as a great buffer for the spicy flavors of the soup! (:
- You'll need to visit your local Asian market to get all the ingredients to make the most authentic tom yum soup recipe.
- If you have Thai chili paste, use it in addition to the Tom yum paste.
- Don’t forget to remove the chunky herbs before eating, especially the lemongrass, if you don’t want to eat them. They will not harm you, but they are pretty strong in flavor and hard to chew if you are not used to them.
- To make the creamy version of this sour chicken soup, use coconut milk instead of stock or water.
Tom Yum soup is very healthy! Some versions call for sugar and or coconut milk; mine has neither. I’ll share the version I make with coconut milk later. I’m sharing this very easy and quick Thai chicken soup that doesn’t call for coconut milk. This recipe will keep you warm all winter long!
This Tom Yum soup recipe uses Tom Yum paste. Click here for homemade Tom yum paste. Tom yum paste is typically made from hot Thai chili peppers, shallots, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and rind. These ingredients are then chopped small and pounded together to paste in a mortar and pestle or blended in a food processor.
Tom Kha is another well-known Thai soup that calls for almost the same ingredients as Tom Yum soup. The main difference is the use of coconut milk in Tom Kha makes the soup a tiny bit more creamy and slightly sweeter than the boldly sour and salty soup of Tom Yum. Try my authentic Tom Kha Gai recipe to see which you like best!
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