Traditional Tom Yum Kung

Traditional Tom Yum Kung

The Spruce / Madhumita Sathishkumar

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 20 mins
Servings: 3 to 4 servings
Yield: 6 3/4 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
209 Calories
5g Fat
27g Carbs
15g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 3 to 4
Amount per serving
Calories 209
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 6%
Saturated Fat 1g 7%
Cholesterol 43mg 14%
Sodium 1597mg 69%
Total Carbohydrate 27g 10%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 15g
Vitamin C 5mg 27%
Calcium 63mg 5%
Iron 4mg 24%
Potassium 798mg 17%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Tom yum kung is the most famous of all Thai soups. Bold, fragrant, filling, and altogether the perfect lunch or dinner, it features all four of the famous Thai flavors: salty, sour, sweet, and spicy. Contrary to popular belief, authentic tom yum kung is made without coconut milk. It's found everywhere in Thailand, and it's one of the most widely available dishes in all Thai restaurants abroad. It's a soup that provides a pungent and zesty feast of flavors with every slurp and is thought of as an excellent remedy for a cold or flu bug, as it will instantly clear your sinuses and warm you up.

This soup recipe calls for shrimp or prawns and comes together quickly for a satisfying weeknight dinner. Despite the number of ingredients, once you have everything prepped and chopped, it's ready without a hassle. Great for a family meal, the soup is also perfect for a celebratory dinner, as shrimp adds an elegant touch. As with many dishes in Thailand, serving tom yum kung with a side of steamed rice is always an excellent choice, but if you'd rather enjoy the soup as is, it will still be an amazing main dish.

Our method offers the choice of adding coconut milk—which then makes the soup a tom kha—or leaving it out. If you'd prefer a richer-tasting soup, try adding it, whereas if you prefer a clearer soup, try it without. In Thailand, evaporated milk is often used instead of coconut milk when making tom yum kung. The soup is meant to be spicy, but if your spice-o-meter can handle more, add a dollop of nam prik pao chili sauce, either store bought or homemade, or serve it on the side so each guest can add some to taste.

"This is a wonderfully flexible soup. Adding whatever veggies you have on hand quickly kicks the soup up to a hearty all-in-one-bowl meal. It’s important to adjust the broth to your liking, finding just the right balance of Thai flavors that appeal to your specific palate." —Diana Andrews

Traditional Tom Yum Kung Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 6 cups chicken stock

  • 2 to 3 minced makrut lime leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon lime zest

  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass (from 2 stalks), prepared lemongrass, or 3 lemon slices

  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 teaspoon grated galangal, or ginger

  • 1 minced red chile, or 1 to 2 teaspoons Thai chili sauce

  • 1 handful sliced shiitake mushrooms

  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, more to taste

  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce, more to taste

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce, more to taste

  • 1 teaspoon sugar, more to taste

  • 12 medium shrimp, shelled and deveined

  • 1 cup broccoli florets, halved cherry tomatoes, or sliced baby bok choy, optional

  • 1/2 cup coconut milk, or evaporated milk, optional

  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, for serving

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather ingredients.

    Ingredients for traditional tom yum kung

    The Spruce / Madhumita Sathishkumar

  2. Place the stock in a large pot over high heat. Add the minced makrut lime leaves, minced lemongrass, and any leftover lemongrass stalks if you're using fresh lemongrass. Bring to a boil.

    Stock plus lemongrass and lime leaves in a pot

    The Spruce / Madhumita Sathishkumar

  3. When the soup reaches a bubbling boil, reduce the heat to medium or a steady simmer. Add the garlic, galangal, chile, mushrooms, lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar. Simmer for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    Add garlic, ginger, chile, mushrooms, lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar to the pot

    The Spruce / Madhumita Sathishkumar

  4. Add the shrimp and any other vegetables, if using. Simmer until shrimp are pink and plump, about 3 minutes. Remove and discard any lemongrass stalks, if used.

    Add shrimp and vegetables to the soup

    The Spruce / Madhumita Sathishkumar

  5. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the coconut milk or evaporated milk, if using. Taste-test the soup, looking for a balance of salty, sour, and spicy. If not salty or flavorful enough, add 1 additional tablespoon of fish sauce or soy sauce. If too sour, add more sugar. If too spicy and/or salty, add another squeeze of lime juice.

    Add coconut milk to the soup in the pot

    The Spruce / Madhumita Sathishkumar

  6. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve topped with a generous sprinkling of fresh cilantro leaves. 

    Serving traditional tom yum kung

    The Spruce / Madhumita Sathishkumar

Vegan Tom Yum

This tasty soup can easily be made into a vegan alternative. The bulk of the flavors come from the herbs and seasonings, so replacing the shrimp with extra-firm pressed cubed tofu will still give you a fantastic dish. We recommend using the optional vegetables to give the soup a hearty consistency and to add other vegetables like snap peas or other types of mushrooms. Their meatiness will bring a lot of flavor and texture. To make this soup a plant-based meal simply:

  • Replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock.
  • Replace the fish sauce with 1/2 teaspoon of dark soy plus 1 tablespoon regular soy sauce.