Samgyetang (Ginseng Chicken Soup)

Samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup) is a nourishing soup that’s made with a small, young chicken for its tender and tasty meat. The ginseng flavored meat is tasty and tender, and the broth is rich and delicious! 

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This boiling hot ginseng chicken soup, called samgyetang (삼계탕), is an iconic summer dish in Korea. Sam (삼) refers to ginseng (insam, 인삼), gye (계) means chicken, and tang (탕) is soup. It’s extremely popular as a nourishing food which helps fight the summer heat. As the Korean saying goes, eating the hot soup is “fighting the heat with heat.” 

On sambok (삼복) days, it’s a Korean tradition to eat foods that are healthy and restorative. Samgyetang is a popular choice. Sambok days are 3 distinct days that mark the hottest summer period. Based on the lunar calendar, they are chobok (초복, beginning), jungbok (중복, middle) and malbok (말복, end). Tomorrow is malbok, which means the summer is winding down!

Hope you get to enjoy samgyetang before the summer goes by. But, don’t worry about it even if you don’t get to, this ginseng soup is a nutritious, comfort food which you can enjoy all year around!

In this post, I’m updating my samgyetang recipe which was originally posted in August 2014 with new photos, answers to frequently asked questions and minor changes to the recipe. Here’s everything you need to know about Korean ginseng chicken soup!

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Ginseng for samgyetang

Ginseng is highly prized for its medicinal benefits, including boosting energy and the immune system. 

If you can’t find ginseng,  you can omit the ginseng from this recipe and still make a tasty chicken soup, although, without ginseng, it can’t be called ginseng soup. When I don’t have ginseng, I make another type of chicken soup called dak gomtang (닭곰탕). 

Korean markets around here sell fresh ginseng in the summer for samgyetang. I usually buy a pack and freeze the leftovers. You can also use dried ginseng roots after soaking in the water to soften.

Garlic, ginger, and jujubes (daechu, 대추) are other common ingredients. Jujubes are quite sweet, so do not use too many of them. Sometimes, other medicinal herbs such as milk vetch roots (hwanggi, 황기) are added as well as chestnuts and ginkgo nuts. 

For the convenience, you can find samgyetang kits in Korean markets. They usually contain dried ginseng, jujubes, dried chestnuts, sweet rice, etc. If you choose to use a kit, follow the package instructions to prepare the ingredients (such as soaking) before using. 

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How to stuff the chicken

Samgyetang is made with a small, young chicken (known as Cornish hen in America) for its tender and tasty meat. If you can’t find a Cornish hen, use the smallest chicken you can find, adjusting cooking time. If you need to feed more people, it’s better to cook two small chickens in a larger pot rather than one large one. It takes much longer to cook the inside if the chicken is big, which will cause the outside to be overcooked. 

The chicken is stuffed with soaked sweet rice (aka glutinous rice), chapssal (찹쌀). Some people stuff the chicken with ginseng, jujubes, etc., along with the rice, but I  boil them in the broth to draw out the maximum flavors. Be sure to leave enough room in the cavity for the rice to expand in volume as it cooks.

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How to make the soup more flavorful

In Korea, the restaurants specializing samgyetang are very popular. Some are also highly sought-after by tourists. Those restaurants usually feature a deeply flavored, thickened soup. They use all sorts of medicinal herbs and aromatic vegetables, and start with well-prepared chicken stock to boil the chicken. 

At home, we don’t generally go that far. But, if you like a deeper flavor, start with good quality chicken stock (commercially prepared or homemade). I sometimes make chicken stock with the roast or boiled chicken remains and use it as a base for samgyetang. 

To make the soup slightly thick, soak more sweet rice than the amount called for the stuffing and then add to the water or chicken stock while boiling the chicken. It would be even better if you blend the rice with a little bit of water for a creamier texture. The starch of the sweet rice will thicken the soup slightly and give a bit of sweetness to the soup. 

How to serve samgyetang

At restaurants, the whole chicken is served uncut as one serving, but it can easily be two servings. The soup is usually not seasoned while being cooked. It’s served with salt and pepper on the side, so each person can season the broth to taste and  use the remainder to dip the meat in.

The ginseng flavored meat is tasty and tender, and the broth is rich and delicious. Also, the sticky rice stuffing that’s infused with the chicken and ginseng flavors is to die for. If you’re trying it for the first time, samgyetang will be nothing like any other chicken soup you’ve had before.

More chicken soup recipes

Dak Gomtang (Korean Chicken Soup) 
Dak Kalguksu (Chicken Noodle Soup)
Chogyetang (Chilled Chicken Soup)
Dakgaejang (Spicy Chicken Soup with Scallions)
Slow Cooker Chicken Soup with Napa Cabbage
Pressure Cooker Nurungji Baeksuk (Boiled Chicken with Rice)

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Samgyetang (Ginseng Chicken Soup)

4.14 from 29 votes
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cornish hen (about 1.5 to 2 pounds)
  • 1 fresh ginseng root (or dried ginseng, rehydrated)
  • 3 tablespoons sweet rice (2 to 3 tablespoons more to boil with liquid if desired) -- soaked for 1 hour (yields about 4 tablespoons soaked)
  • 5 - 6 plump garlic cloves
  • 1 thin ginger slice (about 1 inch)
  • 2 to 3 jujubes, daechu (대추) (dried red dates)
  • 1 scallion white part
  • 5 cups of water (or good quality chicken stock)
  • 2 scallions finely chopped, to garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Clean the chicken. Do not cut off the neck and/or tail, if they are still attached. They help keep the rice inside the cavity. Place the cleaned chicken on a cutting board or a large plate. Clean the inside of the cavity with a paper towel to remove any blood. Fold the attached neck into the cavity to close the hole. 
    Samgyetang recipe 4 - Samgyetang (Ginseng Chicken Soup)
  • Stuff the cavity with the sweet rice and a couple of garlic cloves, leaving room (about 1/4 of the cavity) for the rice to expand as it cooks.
    Samgyetang recipe 5 - Samgyetang (Ginseng Chicken Soup)
  • To keep the rice inside the cavity while being cooked, use of one of these two methods: (1) Make a small cut through the thick skin part between one thigh and the cavity opening, but not too close to the edge. Then, use your finger to expand the hole enough to fit the end part of a leg. Bring the other leg over, and insert the end part through the hole to keep the legs crossed together, tucking the tail in to close the opening (see the photos above); or (2) Simply cross the legs and tie together with kitchen twine. Tightly close the cavity with a toothpick if necessary. 
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  • In a medium size pot, place the chicken and add 4 to 5 cups (or enough to cover most of the chicken) of water or chicken stock. Add the garlic, ginger, jujubes, and ginseng. If the chicken came with the neck that's been cut off, add to the pot. Also add the extra sweet rice to thicken the soup, if using. Blend the extra soaked rice with a little bit of water for a creamier texture, if desired.
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  • Bring it to a boil over medium high heat. Skim off the foam on top. Cover, and boil for 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low and boil, covered, for about 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken. See the note. 
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  • Serve piping hot with the chopped scallions and salt and pepper on the side so each person can season to taste.

Notes

This recipe is an update of the original recipe posted in August 2014.
You can also use a samgyetang kit (commercially packaged dry ingredients for samgyetang). Follow the package instructions to prepare the dry ingredients to use in this recipe. Usually soaking is required.
The minimum cooking time is for a chicken about 1.5 pounds. 
Tried this recipe?Mention @koreanbapsang or tag #koreanbapsang!

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Comments

  1. Do you cook it with all the skin? I would cut it off.

  2. Audrey-Rose Cheng says

    I was wondering if your putting two chickens do you just double the recipe? Including time?

    • Double everything but not the time. You’ll need to cook longer, but not as much as double the time. It’s best to check doneness by cutting a little through the thick thigh part or into the cavity if you stuffed it with rice and see if the rice is cooked. Hope this helps.

  3. Hi! Can this be done with Instant pot?

  4. When you say chestnuts does that mean the actual nut that is from the tree, or water chestnuts? And how much of the chestnuts or ginkgo would you put in the broth?

  5. Can I use slow cooker to make ginseng chicken?

    • It should work. Not the same, but see my Slow Cooker Chicken Soup with Cabbage as a ref. Also, samgyetang made with a small young chicken is quick to cook over the stove top.

  6. Hi! If I am using my instant pot would I have to rehydrate the ginseng?

    Thanks!

    • Sorry not sure. I’ve never tried the dry one in the instant pot. I’d soften it a little and then try it for the first time. And then, depending on how it turns out, you can see if you need to or not next time. Let me know how it turns out. It’ll be interesting to know.

  7. I’m from Sweden where can I buy ginseng root?somone know the website I can order from?

    • Is Amazon.com an option for you? Not sure how overseas shipping works, but there’s also Hmart.com. Sorry I’m just not familiar with European on-line shopping, but let’s hope to hear from other people here.

  8. Sung Kyong, Kim says

    Can I use the pictures and recipe?? I need for my app project. I am doing Korean recipe app.

  9. May I use the same ingredients in the samgyetang and cook them the Instant Pot using your
    Chicken with sweet rice recipe?

    • Definitely! I’ve done it. Please come back and let me know how you liked it. I know other readers will appreciate it too.

  10. I’m such a lazy cook. Can I make this in Instant Pot Pressure cooker? What would be the timing? Thanks.

  11. Thank you! I impressed by korean mother in law with this soup πŸ™‚ She did not believe I cook korean and was super worried her son starves! Everything I cook from your blog comes out great!

    • Haha Korean mother-in-law! I’m glad to hear my recipes help you feed your Korean husband. Thanks for visiting and leaving me comments. It means a lot to me.

  12. Lina Dewanto says

    thanks for.this recipe. i cant find ginseng in my city. what i use for replace the ginseng? i’m really curious the taste of this soup πŸ™ i hope can cook it…

  13. do you think it can be made in a croc pot?

  14. Hi! I’m really interested in trying this! How can I make the broth super milky white like the one I had in Korea? This looks sooo delish <3

  15. Byul Tara says

    Hello dear,
    Thank you so much for your recipe.
    I really want to try this recipe ‘couz it looks really delicious.

  16. Hi, just wondering what is sweet rice? Korean rice?

    • Hi Su – Sweet rice is glutinous rice, called chapssal in Korean. It’s much stickier than regular short grain rice. Hope this helps.

  17. can I check with you, can I cook this without the rice? will it taste different?

  18. I guess I would like this dish. Once in a while the Chinese merchant I use to buy at has fresh ginseng. I’m going to buy some next time and try this recipe. How exactly is it served? In a bowl from where everybody ladles broth into a personal soup bowl and some of the meat, rice and vegetables? Is there served additional rice?

  19. Hi, thanks for your recipe.
    I am just back from Korea and really enjoyed Ginseng chicken soup there (Tosokchon).
    I also brought some fresh ginseng home and would like to try with your recipe.
    But, is it safe for children under 10 to eat this chicken soup?

  20. Hello dear, thank you very much for sharing your Samgyetang recipe, but I wonder do you know any Korean restaurant in bay area, north ofCalifornia, cook this kind of dish? thanks again.

    • I am not familiar with northern California, but typed “samgyetang” on Yelp San Francisco and saw a few restaurants serving the dish. See if any is closed to where you live. Hope you find one.

  21. Hi. I’m wondering if I can I use normal rice instead the sweet rice to put inside the chicken?

    • You can, but the sweet rice is traditionally used because they stick together. Normal rice will mostly separate in the soup. It will be a little different but I am sure you can still enjoy it. Happy cooking!

  22. Hello, I love all your recipes, especially because they’re written in English for this Korean-American mom who has a hard time understanding written Korean. πŸ™‚ My question for you is: is sweet rice the regular Korean rice we get in the Korean markets? Is it something different? If so, what’s it called in Korean (so I can ask the Korean ladies at the Korean grocery store). Thank you!

  23. Thanks for the recipe! I used it and made my first sam gye tang today. SOO good! πŸ™‚

  24. Tried your recipe, came out fabulous! I couldn’t find fresh Ginseng in the Korean markets in Chicago, so I used dry and soaked per your recommendation.

    Also, next time, I would definitely not over-fill the chicken with the sweet rice. With the cooking times from the recipe, the rice wasn’t as cooked as I would have wanted it to be.

    The cornish hens had a plastic bag filled with the chicken innards. Make sure to check yours for that before boiling!

    • Glad to here it came out well for you! You’re right. Over-stuffing will take longer to cook the rice inside, which may overcook the chicken. Thanks!

  25. Love this! I’m so happy for these recipes…now I can have all my favorite Korean dishes when I leave Korea. So sad to be leaving..

    • That must be tough! Hopefully you can go back there soon. In the mean time, I’m glad you can cook some of your favorites using my recipes. Safe travels!

  26. oh thank goodness I found your blog! I’m stuck all the way out in the Czech Republic and getting desperate for recipes. I’m excited to try this recipe. Any suggestions on how to make this work in a slow cooker? Thank you Ms. Ro!

    • This doesn’t take that long to cook, so it will be best to be done over the stove top. I haven’t cooked this soup in a slow cooker, so not sure how long it will take this small chicken with stuffing inside to cook. Thanks for finding my blog! I hope you find many recipes to try.

      • I made the soup in a crock pot, cooked on low 6 hours. It was perfect. Delicious recipe.

      • 5 stars
        This soup was simply our favourite dish during our visit to Korea ,and me and my husband already missed the flavour. Thanks for sharing! I probably won’t be able to find ginseng though, I believe we will still enjoy the soup without it. Loves!

  27. My kids love the sweet glutinous rice so I usually stuff extra rice in a large Japanese tea bag and cook them together. Just rip the bag open and enjoy!

  28. Thank for your recipes, this soup look good

  29. Kindly share also korean beef stew. Thank you and God bless!

    • Are you talking about galbijjim? If yes, I have two recipes on the blog. Your can go to the Recipe index tab, Main dish, and click on the meat. If not, Can you describe it a little so I know which dish you are talking about. Thanks!