Tom Yum Soup (Spicy Thai Soup with Shrimp)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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Updated November 11, 2020 : We spiffed up this post to make it sparkle. No changes to the original recipe.