Easy Tom Yum Soup Recipe, Step by Step!

  • 01 of 10

    Step 1: Measure Stock into Soup Pot

    Pouring out Broth for Tom Yum Soup
    Measuring Stock into Soup Pot. Copyright Darlene A. Schmidt, 01/18/10
    For a 1-page version of this recipe, see: Tom Yum Soup Recipe (1-page printable version).

    Step 1: Measure 6 cups good-tasting chicken stock into a soup pot (SERVES 2-3). Vegetarians/Vegans: substitute vegetable soup or faux chicken stock.

    For this recipe you will also need:

    • 1 stalk lemongrass , OR frozen prepared lemongrass (see step 2)
    • 3-4 kaffir lime leaves OR 1/2 tsp. grated lime zest
    • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
    • optional: 2 tsp. grated ginger (good if you have a cold)
    • 3 Tbsp. fish sauce OR 4 Tbsp. soy sauce if vegetarian
    • 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
    • 1 fresh red chili, OR 1/8 to 1/3 tsp. dried crushed chili
    • 12-16 shrimp OR 1-2 cups soft tofu
    • Vegetables: your choice of mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, bok choy, broccoli
    • 1/2 can coconut milk
    • 1/2 cup fresh basil and/or 1/2 cup fresh coriander/cilantro
    • optional: 1 tsp. brown sugar
    Continue to 2 of 10 below.
  • 02 of 10

    Step 2: Quickly Prepare Fresh Lemongrass (OR Buy Some Already Prepared)

    preparing fresh lemongrass
    Preparing Fresh Lemongrass. Copyright Darlene A. Schmidt, 01/18/10
    Step 2: Use 1-2 stalks fresh lemongrass for this recipe (available at Asian stores or markets). OR use 4 Tbsp. frozen prepared (minced) lemongrass, available in plastic tubs in the freezer section of most Asian/Chinese food stores.

    To Prepare Fresh Lemongrass: Pull off any outer leaves that are dry or overly fibrous. Cut off the bulb and discard. Now slice up the lower 1/3 of the stalk. For this version of Tom Yum, the lemongrass will not be eaten (this is usually the case in authentic Thai cooking), so you needn't slice it thinly - thicker pieces will be fine. Use the upper stalk as well by cutting it into 4-inch lengths.
    Add your prepared lemongrass to the stock (including upper stalk pieces, if using fresh lemongrass), and bring soup to a boil.

    Continue to 3 of 10 below.
  • 03 of 10

    Step 3: Add Lime Leaves

    Adding Lime Leaves
    Adding Kaffir Lime Leaves. Copyright Darlene A. Schmidt, 01/18/10
    Step 3: Add 3-4 whole kaffir lime leaves to the soup pot (available fresh or frozen at Asian/Chinese food stores). Note: if you can't find kaffir lime leaves, substitute the zest of 1 lime.
    Continue to 4 of 10 below.
  • 04 of 10

    Step 4: Add Fresh Garlic

    Adding Garlic
    Adding Fresh Garlic. Copyright Darlene A. Schmidt, 01/18/10
    Step 4: Reduce heat to medium, or hot enough for soup to simmer. Add 3-4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped/minced.
    Optional: At this point you can also add 1 thumb-size piece galangal OR ginger, grated.
    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Step 5: Add Fish Sauce and Lime Juice

    Adding Fish Sauce
    Adding Fish Sauce. Copyright Darlene A. Schmidt, 01/18/10
    Step 5: Add 3 Tbsp. fish sauce, 1 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed lime juice, and 1 tsp. brown sugar or 1/2 tsp. white sugar (note: sugar is optional). Fish sauce is available in tall bottles at Asian/Chinese food stores.

    Vegetarians/Vegans: Substitute 4 Tbsp. soy sauce (use wheat-free soy sauce for gluten-free diets).

    Continue to 6 of 10 below.
  • 06 of 10

    Step 6: Add Red Chili

    Adding Chili
    Adding Chili. Copyright Darlene A. Schmidt, 01/18/10
    Step 6: Add some red chili. Here I'm using both fresh and dried crushed chili, but feel free to use one or the other. Dried crushed chili is readily available in the spice aisle of your favorite supermarket. Add as little or as much as you like (here I'm adding 1 whole chili and 1/2 tsp. crushed dried chili).

    You can also use chili sauce instead - just make sure it is an Asian red chili sauce. Add as much or little as you prefer.

    Continue to 7 of 10 below.
  • 07 of 10

    Step 7: Add Vegetables

    Adding Vegetables. Copyright Darlene A. Schmidt, 01/18/10
    Step 7: Vegetables are optional in Tom Yum soup, but I prefer to add them, as they make the soup even healthier, plus they add flavor and texture.

    Here I'm adding 4-5 sliced shiitake mushrooms, plus 1 + 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, and about 2 cups chopped bok choy. Other vegetables that go well with Tom Yum: broccoli, baby corn, and red or green bell peppers. Feel free to experiment with your own favorite veggies!

    Continue to 8 of 10 below.
  • 08 of 10

    Step 8: Add Shrimp (or see below if Vegetarian/Vegan)

    Adding Shrimp
    Adding Shrimp. Copyright Darlene A. Schmidt, 01/18/10
    Step 8: Add 12-16 medium-size shrimp (here I'm using frozen organic shrimp that have been briefly pre-cooked). If using frozen shrimp, be sure to thaw them first (you can do this quickly by plunging them in a bowl of tempid water). Note that raw shrimp will cook in just 2-3 minutes.
    Vegetarians/Vegans: Substitute 1-2 cups soft tofu, sliced into cubes. Add the tofu at the very end of the recipe, just before taste-testing, or it will fall apart.
    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Step 9: Add Coconut Milk (or Evaporated Milk)

    Adding Coconut Milk
    Adding Coconut Milk. Copyright Darlene A. Schmidt, 01/18/10
    Step 9: Reduce heat to low. Add 1/2 can coconut milk OR 1/3 to 1/2 can evaporated milk. The latter is often used in Thailand, and is considered authentic for Tom Yum soup (strictly authentic Tom Yum with coconut milk is called 'Tom Kha', not 'Tom Yum'; however, these days most Thai restaurants don't bother with this distinction, given that coconut milk is really the ingredient that makes this soup sing!).

    Tip: Try to use a good-quality coconut milk (not 'lite') for your Tom Yum. The fat in coconut milk is a healthy fat and is actually good for your heart. If you are concerned about your health, buy organic coconut milk, as pictured here.

    Continue to 10 of 10 below.
  • 10 of 10

    Step 10: Taste-Test and Serve Your Tom Yum Soup!

    Tom Yum Soup
    Taste-test and Serve your Homemade Tom Yum Soup!. Copyright Darlene A. Schmidt, 01/18/10
    Step 10: Taste-test the soup. If too sour for your taste, add a little sugar. If not salty enough, add more fish sauce, soy sauce, or a shake of salt. If too sweet or too salty, add another squeeze of lime juice. Add more chili for more heat, or more coconut milk/evaporated milk if too spicy for your taste.

    Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a generous sprinkling of fresh basil and coriander.

    Tidbit: Be sure to tell guests who are new to Thai food they don't have to eat the lemongrass pieces or lime leaf. The first time I had Tom Yum soup, I chewed down half the lemongrass in my bowl before someone let me off the hook! ENJOY!!