Tom yum is a deliciously savory Thai soup that’s full of flavor: spicy, salty, and a little sour. Made with classically Thai aromatics like lemongrass, ginger or galangal, and Thai chilis, this recipe brings Thai takeout to your house, and it’s so easy! This recipe is made with shrimp, but you can use tofu or chicken, too, and we offer substitutes to any ingredient that might be hard to find.
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A hot and sour soup from Thailand, tom yum is packed full of fragrant and delicious spices and ingredients, perfect for warming you up. Tom yum is super popular in Thailand, and there’s no question as to why.
What Makes This Recipe So Good
Lemongrass – Tangy, citrusy, and a little minty, lemongrass adds a light, bright lemon flavor.
Galangal or ginger – Galangal is also called Thai ginger because it looks so similar, but it’s really quite different! Galangal has more of a citrusy flavor, while ginger is sharper and spicier. If you can’t find galangal, ginger is a fine substitute.
Lime juice – Tom yum traditionally uses kaffir lime leaves, but a splash of fresh lime juice gives the same tart, sweet flavor.
Thai chilis – Deliciously spicy, Thai chilis help give this soup a major kick of heat.
Fish sauce – Full of earthy umami, fish sauce gives the tom yum a salty, savory flavor.
How To Make Tom Yum Soup
The full recipe & ingredients list are below, but here you’ll find a quick overview for making this recipe perfectly, along with useful tips and info!
Boil the lemongrass, chili, and galangal or ginger in the chicken stock.
Add the palm sugar and fish sauce to the stock. Taste the soup and add more fish sauce for more saltiness or palm sugar for complex sweetness. Add the mushrooms and simmer.
Add the shrimp to the stock and simmer until it’s warmed through.
Ladle into bowls and garnish with the cilantro and green onions. Add lime juice to each bowl.
Top Tips For Making
- You can use lemongrass paste instead of fresh lemongrass if you’d like. Typically, you’ll sub 2 teaspoons of paste for each stalk, so use 4 teaspoons for this recipe. You can also start with 3 teaspoons and add more to taste.
- Thai chilis are pretty spicy – about 50,000-100,000 Scoville heat units, making them about 15 times hotter than a jalapeño. If you’d like just a little heat, you can just add slices of the chilis or whole chilis to your soup as a garnish, but not eat them. If you’re brave, you can pound the chilis and add them to your soup for the full, hot experience! You can also use red chilis, which are less spicy.
- To use tofu in your soup, use a 1-pound block of firm or extra firm tofu cut into bite-sized cubes (either regular or silken is fine).
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Tom Yum Soup
- 32 ounces Chinese chicken stock
- 2 full stalks lemongrass bruised and cut into about 3 1-2″ pieces per stalk (See Notes)
- 6 ¼” slices ginger or galangal
- 1 ½ tablespoons lime juice plus more to taste
- 5-6 Thai chilis pounded, sliced, or left whole (See Notes)
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce plus more to taste
- 1 teaspoon palm sugar or light brown sugar or maple
- 12 medium shrimp
- 2 button mushrooms thinly sliced
- 1 green onion green part thinly sliced, for garnish
- cilantro chopped
- Boil lemongrass, chili slices, and ginger in chicken stock for 5-10 minutes. Add palm sugar and fish sauce. Taste and add more fish sauce for saltiness, palm sugar for complex sweetness.
- Add in mushrooms and simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Add in shrimp and simmer about 5 more minutes until shrimp is pink and no longer translucent.
- Ladle into bowls and garnish with cilantro and green onions. Add lime juice to each bowl to taste.
- Lemongrass paste: Sub 4 teaspoons for fresh lemongrass, or start with 3 and add to taste.
- Spice level: Use whole or sliced Thai chilis (do not eat!) for less heat, or crush chilis for very spicy. Can also sub with red chilis, which are less spicy.
- Tofu instead of shrimp: Use a 1-pound block of firm or extra firm tofu cut into bite-sized cubes (either regular or silken is fine).
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Cheryl Malik is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind the healthy, flavorful, family friendly recipes at 40 Aprons. She’s been a blogger for 10+ years and is known for her delicious recipes and detailed recipe instructions. Cheryl is a mom of three who lives in Memphis, TN.