Hot and Sour Soup recipe from Macheesmo

Hot and Sour Soup

Hot and Sour Soup is a popular soup at American Chinese restaurants for good reason! My homemade version is packed with lots of spicy and savory flavors.


Hot and Sour Soup

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Betsy and I both came down with some sort of mild plague last week.

It was one of those annoying sicknesses that wasn’t completely debilitating, but just hung with you for days and days.

Eventually, I got fed up and decided to combat the thing the best way I know how:  Homemade soup.

One of my favorite soups when I’m sick is the Hot and Sour Soup that is very popular on Chinese takeout menus.  I’ve always wanted to tackle a homemade version, but I usually get dejected when I see the  list of ingredients.

I was ready on this day though.  After a quick trip to the closest Asian market, I had all the things I needed.  The soup itself was actually pretty easy to make and, as you might expect, way more flavorful and filling than the takeout version.

Hot and Sour Soup

Serves 6
Prep Time:
Total Time:
Hot and Sour Soup recipe from Macheesmo
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Hot and Sour Soup is a popular soup at American Chinese restaurants for good reason! My homemade version is packed with lots of spicy and savory flavors.

Chicken stock and soup basics adapted from a Tyler Florence recipe.


1 inch ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can bamboo stalks, sliced
6 dried black fungus, soaked and sliced
6 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked and sliced
1 block tofu, cubed
2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons cornstarch + 1/4 cup water
2 quarts Chinese chicken stock (recipe below)
1 egg, beaten
Pinch of pepper
Pinch of sugar
Scallions, garnish
Cilantro, garnish

Chinese Chicken Stock:

1 chicken carcass
2 inches fresh ginger, cut into coins
6 cloves garlic, halved
6 scallions
1 medium onion, quartered
20 black peppercorns
5-6 dried red chiles
3 quarts water


1) To make chicken stock, add all the ingredients to a large, heavy stockpot. Bring to a simmer, then turn heat down to low.

2) Simmer, partially covered, for about 3 hours. Strain out the solids and use the stock in the soup.

3) Add dried fungus and mushrooms to 3-4 cups boiling water. Let sit for 20 minutes. Strain mushrooms and slice thinly.

4) Drain and chop bamboo shoots and cube tofu.

5) In a large, heavy pot, add vegetable oil, ginger, garlic, and chili garlic sauce. Cook over medium heat until they ginger and garlic are very fragrant, but be careful not to burn them, about 3-4 minutes.

6) Add soy sauce and rice vinegar and stir to combine.

7) Add bamboo and mushrooms.

8) Pour in chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.

9) Make a slurry with the cornstarch and water until it’s a light mixture. Slowly stir the slurry into the soup.

10) Stir in tofu and continue to simmer. Season with a pinch of sugar and ground pepper.

11) Beat egg and drizzle egg into soup mixture.

12) Serve soup garnished with cilantro and scallions.

Hot and Sour Soup Stock

As with any soup, what takes this soup from just okay to excellent is the stock.

Even if you don’t make your own stock, take the time to simmer your store-bought stock with the ingredients for the chicken stock above.  That will infuse some much needed flavor and really help out.

For me though, I just tossed a chicken carcass that I had in the freezer in a large, heavy pot with the other stock ingredients.

Simmer for about 3 hours and you’ll have a really fantastic stock.  The ginger, scallions, and chiles give this stock a really unique flavor.

Don’t skip this step if you want a flavorful soup.

stock for hot and sour soup
Lots of good flavors in there.

Once the stock has cooled a bit, strain out the solids and use the stock for the soup later.

Dried Mushroom City

There’s at least one ingredient in this list that you’ll need to go to a real Asian market to find: Dried black fungus.

This is kind of weird stuff.  It’s not mushrooms really, it’s just strips of black fungus.

You could leave them out if you can’t find them and just double up on the other dried mushrooms, but they add a nice savory flavor to the soup so try to find them.

Plus, they are kind of fun to cook with.

mushrooms for hot and sour soup recipe
Stange ‘shrooms.

For the dried mushrooms and fungus, soak them in boiling water for about 20 minutes.  That will reconstitute them and then you can just slice them into strips.

The fungus should really expand in the water.  I think they about triple in size once they are reconstituted.

FUngus chopped for hot and sour soup
These will expand by a lot.

The other ingredient that might not be familiar to you is bamboo stalks.  These have a really mild, almost sweet flavor.  They come canned and are in these funny cone shapes.

They are really easy to dice up.

bamboo for hot and sour soup

Starting the Soup

Once you have all the pieces for this soup, it’s pretty straightforward to bring everything together.

Start by heating the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat.  Then add in the garlic, grated ginger, and chili garlic sauce.  Let this cook until it’s nice and fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Be careful not to burn the garlic and ginger though.

starting hot and sour soup
The start of something wonderful.

Next, add in the sliced bamboo and sliced mushrooms.

The mushrooms are one of the savory ingredients in this soup that gives it that really unique sour and savory flavor.

Don’t skimp on them!

Mushrooms for hot and sour soup, yum
So savory!

Next, add two ingredients that bring a lot of flavor to the Hot and Sour Soup: Soy sauce and rice wine vinegar.

soy for Hot and Sour Soup recipe
Umami city.

The rice vinegar is really important.  It gives the soup more of that great sour flavor.

Hot and Sour Soup: The Slurry

Once the rice vinegar and soy sauce are added, you can also add the chicken stock and bring the soup to a simmer.

Once it’s simmering, it’s time to thicken the soup a bit.  If you’ve ever had this soup from a takeout place, you know that it’s slightly thick and almost glossy.

Cornstarch will give you that consistency.

Whatever you do though, don’t just add cornstarch to the soup.  If you do, it’ll never dissolve all the way and just clump up.  Instead, mix the cornstarch with some water and then slowly stir that slurry into the soup.

slurry for hot and sour soup
Slurry it up!

Once the slurry is added, you can also stir in your cubed tofu.  The tofu doesn’t really need to cook, but it is nice to let it simmer for a few minutes so some of the flavors get infused.

tofu for hot and sour soup
Tofu is great in this soup.

The Final Step

The soup will be really good at this point.  It won’t need any salt most likely, but will probably benefit from a pinch of pepper and sugar.  The small pinch of sugar will balance out some of the sour flavors.

As a final step, just beat an egg until it’s scrambled and then drizzle it into the soup pot.  The egg will cook immediately and add these nice strands of egg.

Traditionally, this technique is for egg drop soup, but I like it in this soup also.

egg for hot and sour soup
One egg is just enough.

Once the egg is added, the Hot and Sour Soup is ready to serve!

I like to serve it with lots of chopped cilantro and scallions.

While some of the ingredients may be new to you, the soup itself isn’t that hard to make.

The recipe makes a ton and the soup keeps great and is easy to reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop.

As I said though, the most important part is making sure you start with a flavorful stock.  You can use store-bought, but simmer it with the stock ingredients to infuse flavor.

Give this a shot if you’re feeling adventurous.  It was one of my favorite soups I’ve ever made.

While this hot and sour soup recipe does take some time and love to make, it has some fun ingredients and is totally better than most restaurant versions. It makes a bunch and freezes well so it's totally worth the work!

20 Responses to “Hot and Sour Soup” Leave a comment

  1. I wonder if this would freeze well so that it’s ready for when I get sick. At least at the stage before you add the cornstarch and tofu. That way when black death comes knocking I’ll be ready!

    Even if it doesn’t this is going on my to make before winter is over list.

  2. Nick, I’ve been looking for a good hot & sour soup recipe for a long time. I used to get the best H&S soup from a Vietnamese restaurant and it closed a few years ago. I have not been able to find anything close to it since. Your version looks very interesting and I look forward to trying it. We do have a large Asian Market (a mall type place) that I have never been (kind of intimidating) but think I have a good excuse to go now.

    I hope the soup kicked the plague!

  3. This sounds like a great pick me up if you are not feeling on top of your game and a little under the weather. There are some ingredients I have not seen before – the bamboo stalks are an interesting shape.

    Hope you are both feeling better!

  4. Hi Nick, this looks so good! I want to experiment with Umami flavours and I got really excited about cooking (tasting) it and ran out and bought all the ingredients to make it, I am doing the stock tonight and make the soup and have it for dinner tomorrow night.

    As I have never cooked with tofu before I had no idea what kind of tofu to buy! There seems to be regular tofu and silky tofu, and they come in different grades: soft – firm.

    What kind have you used for this recipe? Does it matter which kind I use?

    Thanks Nick! I can’t wait to try this one, yum yum :)

    1. Hey Alicia! Glad you are trying it out. I think you’ll really like it. For the tofu, use a firm or extra firm variety.

      The silken kind is really good for smoothies and stuff but dissolves a bit too easily for things like soups.

      Brand doesn’t really matter, they are all pretty good, but make sure it says firm or extra firm.

      Let me know how the soup turns out!

      1. Mission successful! I made it last night and not only was it a fun dish to make (those mushrooms really do expand a lot!!) it was very tasty.
        I dry fried my tofu cubes before I added them as I have heard that this makes them soak up the flavours of the sauce and I also added a teaspoon of dashi to the soup (I know that’s kinda cheating but it did seem to add another level of flavour!)
        As I had made the stock the night before and refrigerated it, I was able to scoop off the fatty layer that formed on top which would made the soup even healthier and I used some of this to fry the garlic and ginger at the start.
        All in all I would recommend anyone to give this one a crack. There are a few steps involved, but it’s worth the effort. Thanks Nick :)

  5. My Spring allergies are in full bloom, just like the willow and bradford pear trees. Alexis and I went to our favorite Thai place for lunch and I had the hot and sour soup and a red curry.

    At the end of lunch, we agreed I needed to make my own hot and sour soup. Problem solved, I’ll just make yours!

  6. Winner! Best H&S soup I’ve made/had. I’ve been grinding all my pepper (spices and coffee beans occasionally) with my awesome mortar and pestle (Thank you from AK – perfect season for soup! :)

  7. I’ve been making homemade Hot & Sour Soup for many years and my recipe uses cooking sherry, red tobasco, rice wine vinegar & sugar to make up the hot & sour flavoring. It also has very small, thin strips of chicken breast (marinated in the hot/sour mixture, plus cornstarch) toasted sesame seeds, a touch of hot chili sesame oil & pieces of baby corn… garnished with sliced green onion. It doesn’t call for ginger, sliced onion or cilantro… So this is an entirely different approach– very different from my recipe… I can’t wait to try it to see the difference in flavors!! ~:D

  8. I have a recommendation — If you have a well stocked Asian grocery nearby, try using Chinese Black Vinegar instead of the rice vinegar. It has a greater depth of flavor.
    I like the Koon Chun brand.

  9. I have been looking fo a decent H$S soup recipe for over 15 years. This I must try. Unfortunately I have pneumonia at present but I have it on my list for my big shopping at the end of the month.. I am glad it will probably freeze. I will have to check on the tofu, I have not heard of it being frozen b4.

  10. This soup looks delicious but I have found if it sits more than a day or 2 the tofu gets really rubbery from the vinegar in the recipe. I would only make enough to use in a very short time. Can’t wait to try this one!

  11. I love Hot & Sour soup,also EGG Drop Soup,but (I call them noodles) that they serve in Chinese Restaurant.s) Do they make their own or buy them? If you have a recipe for them?

    1. Depends on the restaurant Rebie! Some do, but most probably buy them. I definitely have never made them although I’ve made other noodles.

      You could probably google around a bit and find a recipe if you’re feeling ambitious. :)

  12. I use your black fungus (fresh variety) all the time. Here in Thailand it’s called “mouse ear mushroom” Great stuff!

  13. I noticed you did not include beab sprouts in the soup. I’ve been to many Chines reataurants and not only did they all make H&S soup different most included bean sprouts.
    Hope I can try making this one day. Love the stuff.


  15. I made the soup this week. I did not have the dried mushrooms or fungus or bamboo stalks. That being said OMG it was so good!!!!!! I love the hot and sour soup that I would get at a local restaurant but it is inconvienient and expensive to go there so I haven’t had it in years. this soup was so close to what I remember, I can’t believe it turned out so well. I put it sliced white mushrooms just because it was there and some shredded broccoli to mimic bamboo stalks, for the texture. I did use some store bought stock but supplemented it with water and made the Chinese chicken stock. I used siracha sauce so I hope that is the chili sauce you refer to. My only complaint is that I should have made more to freeze!!! thanks for a great recipe and the inspiration to take on something that I never dreamed would have come out of my kitchen. I will definitely look for more great recipes here.

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