Tom Yum Soup (Spicy Thai Soup with Shrimp)

Let the spicy flavors of Thailand tempt your taste buds! Tom Yum Soup is a quick, easy, and healthy weeknight recipe. This brothy version is made with shrimp!

Thai soup with shrimp in a brightly patterned bowl and spoon. Cilantro, shrimp, peppers, mushrooms and a light broth are in the bowl.
Aaron Hutcherson

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.

Thai soup with shrimp in a brightly patterned bowl with a silver spoon inside. Sliced limes, ginger, peppers and cilantro stems suround the bowl of light broth, shrimp, mushrooms and cilantro. The bowl is on a marble counter with a blue striped linen to the left of the bowl.
Aaron Hutcherson

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.

Vertical view of brightly patterned bowl with a silver spoon inside. Tom yum soup with shrimp, cilantro and mushrooms in a light broth are in the bowl. Above the bowl are stems of cilantro and below the bowl is a blue striped linen.
Aaron Hutcherson

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.

Horizontal view of brightly patterned bowl with a silver spoon inside. Tom yum soup with shrimp, cilantro and mushrooms in a light broth are in the bowl. Above the bowl are stems of cilantro and below the bowl is a blue striped linen.
Aaron Hutcherson

What to Serve With Tom Yum Soup

This soup is brothy. If you feel like you need a more substantial meal, serve it alongside a bowl of rice or with this light and flavorful Thai Noodle Salad to balance the spiciness of the 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

Tom Yum Soup (Spicy Thai Soup with Shrimp)

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Servings 4 servings

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


  1. Prepare the ingredients:

    If not already cleaned, peel and devein shrimp. (Shells can be used to make shrimp stock to use in this recipe instead of water.)

    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.

    A raw shrimp is on a cutting board with a knife blade cutting the vein out of it.
    Aaron Hutcherson
    Stalks of lemon grass on a wooden cutting board. One stalk is tied in a knot for tom yum soup.
    Aaron Hutcherson
  2. 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.

    Sliced mushrooms are being added to a black pot on the stove for tom yum soup.
    Aaron Hutcherson
    Spices are being added to a black pot on the stove for thai style shrimp soup.
    Aaron Hutcherson
  3. 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.

    Tom yum soup simmering in a black pot on the stove.
    Aaron Hutcherson

    4 Serve the soup: Divide the soup among bowls and serve with cilantro leaves, more sliced chiles, and lime wedges.

    Thai soup with shrimp is in a brightly colored bowl with a silver spoon. A bunch of cilantro and halved limes are to the right of the bowl. To the left is a black pot of soup as well as a blue striped linen and a knob of ginger.
    Aaron Hutcherson