This Thai seafood soup is full of flavor and comes together in a matter of minutes. I first tasted a version of tom yum soup on a trip to Thailand and knew that I needed to try to recreate it at home. This version is my attempt at that, while using ingredients that are easier to find in the U.S.
It's bright and spicy thanks to lots of lime, chiles, and ginger. All of the big, bold flavor comes together in almost no time, making it perfect for a quick weeknight meal.
What Is Tom Yum Soup?
Tom yum is a traditional Thai hot and sour soup that is found all over the country. There are many variations of tom yum out there, from creamy versions with coconut milk to clear broths, or ones that vary based on the protein, from shrimp to chicken to pork.
This particular version has a clear broth and is made with shrimp.
Ingredients in Tom Yum Soup
Tom yum soup is typically flavored with Thai chiles, lemongrass, makrut lime leaves, galangal, lime, and fish sauce. Some sort of animal protein and mushrooms are also usually cooked in the broth, and then it's served with fresh cilantro.
This recipe includes lime zest instead of makrut lime leaves and ginger instead of galangal to make it easier to shop. The protein of choice in this recipe is shrimp, but you can use whatever type of seafood you want.
Thai chiles are small, skinny chiles that can be either green or red. And these little peppers pack a punch! They are pretty spicy, but that is exactly what you want for this soup. If you can't find Thai chiles in your local grocery store, serrano or jalapeño peppers would be a suitable substitute.
The Best Shrimp to Buy
When it comes to buying shrimp, you can buy it peeled and deveined. This certainly saves a lot of extra prep work, but if you do the work yourself, you can make a shrimp stock with the shells to use in this recipe instead of water.
To make a quick shrimp stock, sauté the shells in some oil for a couple of minutes, cover with water, simmer for a few minutes more, and then strain. You can also save the shells and make this shellfish stock to keep on hand.
If you’re not sure how to peel and devein shrimp, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Read our handy guide on How to Peel and Devein Shrimp.
- TIP! While this recipe calls for shrimp, you can explore as far as your tastes allow. You might want to try squid, mussels, or firm-fleshed fish like cod or halibut. Choose the seafood you like best.
What Is Lemongrass?
Fresh lemongrass is a long, tall grass with a thick stem. It's sometimes sold pre-cut in three-inch long pieces. The outer layers are very tough, so you'll want to make sure you have a sharp knife to cut through them. Peel them away and use just the inner part.
Lemongrass is readily available in my area, but if you can’t find it where you live, feel free to use a few lemon slices instead. It won’t have the exact same flavor as lemongrass, but it should be close enough.
Soy Sauce vs. Fish Sauce
And lastly, I opted for soy sauce instead of fish sauce because I have a fish allergy, but fish sauce is the typical ingredient for those without an issue. Feel free to swap the soy sauce for fish sauce.
What to Serve With Tom Yum Soup
Make-Ahead and Storing Tips
The soup will keep for a few days in the refrigerator. When the leftovers are reheated, you'll want to be sure to squeeze in some fresh lime juice to perk the soup back up.
I don’t recommend freezing this soup.
More Soups From Around the World
- Cambodian Coconut Shrimp Soup
- Puerto Rican Rice Stew with Shrimp and Pigeon Peas
- Moqueca (Brazilian Fish Stew)
Tom Yum Soup (Spicy Thai Soup with Shrimp)
It’s worth the extra time and energy to seek out lemongrass for its subtle nuanced citrus flavor. You can typically find it in Asian grocery stores. But if you can’t find lemongrass, you can substitute lemon slices.
- 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 stalks lemongrass (see Recipe Note)
- 6 cups water or shrimp stock
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Thai (bird's eye) chiles, sliced, or more to taste
- 1 lime, zested and juiced
- 1 cup sliced button mushrooms
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons soy or fish sauce, plus more to taste
- To serve:
- Cilantro leaves
- Lime wedges
Prepare the ingredients:
To prepare the lemongrass, cut off about 1 inch of the bottoms and 5 inches or so of the pointy tops. It should be about a foot long after you trim it. Peel off the tough outer layers until you reach the yellowish tender core.
Gently smash the lemongrass with the back of a knife, and tie each stalk into a knot to expose the various layers.
Make the soup:
Fill a medium pot with 6 cups water or shrimp stock. Add the lemongrass to the pot and cover. Place the pot over high heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the garlic, chiles, lime zest, mushrooms, ginger, sugar, and soy sauce (or fish sauce). Cook for 3 minutes.
Cook the shrimp and adjust the seasoning:
Add the shrimp to the pot and cook until pink and opaque, about 3 minutes. Add the lime juice.
Taste the soup and add more chiles, lime juice, and/or soy sauce as desired to adjust the spice, acidity, and saltiness, respectively.
4 Serve the soup: Divide the soup among bowls and serve with cilantro leaves, more sliced chiles, and lime wedges.