A Thai Favorite: Tom Yum Soup

Thai Tom-Yum Soup

 The Spruce

Ratings (140)
  • Total: 22 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 12 mins
  • Yield: 3 to 4 servings

As a Thai chef, I've been making Tom Yum Soup for over twenty years now, tweaking the recipe to make it better and better. When I first sipped this incredible soup, I was overcome by the almost intoxicating flavors of lemongrass, garlic, lime, coconut milk and chili combined with a chicken stock base and topped up with shrimp.If you like spicy, I recommend either fresh red chilies or getting yourself a bottle of chili oil and adding anywhere from a few drops to a few teaspoons. Or leave the chili out for a terrific mild Tom Yum. Once you've made this special Thai soup, I promise it will stay on your family favorite list forever. As my husband says, "Put it in the rotation!"  


  • 12 to 14 medium shrimp (or 8 to 10 large, raw, shells left on or removed (see note below recipe)
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 stalk lemongrass (lower 1/3, finely minced)
  • 4 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 3 tbsp. onion (minced)
  • 6 tsp. galangal (or ginger)
  • 3 leaves kaffir lime (if you can't find them, use bay leaves)
  • 1 tsp. lime juice (or lemon juice)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 carrot (sliced thick)
  • 1 to 2 cups mushrooms (shiitake or your favorite mushrooms, left whole)
  • 1 small zucchini (sliced into half-moons)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes (sliced in half)
  • 1/4 to 1/3 can coconut milk (adding more or less to taste)
  • 1 tsp. chili oil
  • 1/3 cup coriander (fresh)
  • Optional: brown sugar (to taste)
  • Optional: crushed chili pepper flakes (to taste)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    The Spruce 
  2. Pour stock into a deep cooking pot and switch heat to medium-high. Add prepared lemongrass, including upper sections of the stalk you didn't mince. Boil hard 5 to 6 minutes to soften.

    Stock for tom-yum soup.
    The Spruce 
  3. Add garlic, onion, galangal or ginger, lime leaves (or bay leaves), lime or lemon juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, and carrots. Reduce heat slightly, cover, and continue lightly boiling 5 minutes.

    Add mushrooms and zucchini, and continue lightly boiling another 5 minutes. 

    Adding vegetables for tom-yum soup.
     The Spruce
  4. Add shrimp and cherry tomatoes. Cook 3 minutes, or until shrimp are pink and plump.

    Simmering tom-yum soup.
     The Spruce
  5. Turn down the heat to low and add 1/4 can coconut milk plus more fish sauce to taste. This is where the soup comes to its ​perfection. Taste-test for the most flavorful you can make it without tilting over into too-salty, adding more fish sauce until you're happy with the flavor. If you want spice, add the chili oil, fresh chili, or chili flakes. If too sour for your taste, add a little brown sugar. If it turned out too salty, add a squeeze of lime juice. Add more coconut milk if you want your soup richer/creamier, or if it's too strong for your taste.

    Homemade tom-yam soup.
     The Spruce
  6. Serve with fresh coriander sprinkled over, and enjoy! 

To Shell or Not to Shell? 

While they can be messy to remove while eating, leaving the shells on shrimp adds infinitely more flavor to the soup. In Thailand what cooks sometimes do is remove the shells but add them to the soup, removing just before eating. Either way, you get a boost more flavor. Give it a try!