Tom Yum Gai Thai Spicy Chicken Soup Recipe

This is a classic, easy to make, Thai soup that goes very well as a part of a full Thai dinner.

The quality of the chicken is the most important thing for this dish. In Thailand, this would preferably be made with free range chickens. Thai free range chickens are scrawny little things that are constantly underfoot in just about any small village you’d pass through. They’ve very little meat, almost no fat at all and they’re far from tender – but they taste great. They taste like chicken should taste like...chickeny.

If you can, use free range chicken for this dish. If you use supermarket chicken, try to trim as much fat as you can from the chicken prior to cooking, to more closely replicate a Thai free range chicken. Do not try to make this with chicken breast – as the bones are essential to give the soup some body.

Thai Tom Yum Gai (Tom Yum Chicken)

  • ½ lb of chicken thighs or other bone in parts
  • 4 cups of water
  • 5 - ½ inch thin slices of galangal root
  • 3 stalks of lemongrass cut into 1 inch segments
  • 4 shallots - cut in half
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 2 Tbls of fish sauce
  • 5-15 small dried Thai bird chilies (the really small and spicy ones), depending on how spicy you like it
  • 3 lime leaves
  • 1 tsp of MSG
  • 2-3 Tbls of lime juice (or more to taste)


  1. Heat a little oil in a skillet or wok over medium. When hot, drop your chilies in and fry them, stirring constantly, until they have browned slightly, but not blackened – about 1 minute.
  2. Chop the chicken thighs up with a cleaver into segments.
  3. In a pot, mix in the water, the lemongrass, the galangal, the chilies, the shallots, the lime leaves, the salt, the fish sauce and the MSG. Bring the soup to a boil.
  4. Once boiling, add in the chicken parts and boil until the chicken has just cooked through, 5 minutes or so, depending on the size of your chicken pieces. (Thai cooks prefer to add the chicken in after the water comes to a boil to reduce the strength of the broth, which is different from how Western cooks traditionally make soup)
  5. Once the chicken has cooked through, turn off the heat and add in your freshly squeezed lime juice. Taste, and add more fish or lime juice to taste – it should be sour/salty and spicy!

Serve with steamed jasmine rice and enjoy.

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Comments 3 comments

emievil profile image

emievil 6 years ago from Philippines

Wow! I miss tom yum. My favorite is the seafoods tom yum (tom yum gun????). I first tasted tom yum back in college because in our university, there was a Thai couple who have a small restaurant featuring Thai food. Thanks for the recipe.

John D Lee profile image

John D Lee 6 years ago Author

Emievil, I think Tom Yum Koong (shrimp) is my favorite too - although this recipe with chicken is pretty good too!

Thanks for the comment.

sunbun143 profile image

sunbun143 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

Hi this sounds good...I just wrote a hub on Cambodian sour soup, like my mom makes and that I just learned how to make for myself. I think it's similar to tom yum gai but not spicy. Check it out! I also linked to a hub of yours in the article.

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