Ginseng chicken soup

Samgyetang 삼계탕

Ginseng chicken soup (in Korean, Samgyetang) is a hot, steaming, delicious dish that features a small chicken stuffed with rice, ginseng, garlic, and  jujube. You have to commit to eating a whole chicken all by yourself when you sit down for a bowl of samgyetang! But it’s totally worth it.

A while ago I ran into one of my readers in a restaurant here in New York. He was sitting at a table with his friend.

The first thing he said was: “Oh man, Maangchi!! I can’t believe I ran into you here!”

We talked for a while and I asked him what his favorite recipe of mine was. He answered “Samgyetang” and told me how he often made it for himself and his mother. I was very impressed!

My original video for samgyetang was one of my earliest videos, made all the way back in 2007! July is a good time to remake it in HD, because Koreans traditionally eat this dish during the hottest days of summer as a way to keep up their energy and to balance their body heat with the weather outside. We have a saying: Yi yeol chi yeol (以熱治熱: 이열치열), which means “fight fire with fire.” If it’s hot outside, you have to overcome it with hot soup!

Koreans designate the 3 hottest days of a year as sambok (3 bok: 삼복) and their dates vary from year to year but they usually fall in July and August. First is chobok (beginning), and then 10 days later is jungbok (middle), and 20 days after that is malbok (last).

During this time, well-known samgyetang restaurants will be lined up outside, and inside they are full of diners eating hot, steamy, ginseng-infused soup, with sweat trickling down their foreheads as they fight fire with fire! Housewives make samgyetang for all her family, too. I usually prepare samgyetang and cold watermelon. After finishing hot samgyetang, finish with cold watermelon. The contrast makes your body feel shocking cold.

So if you like to follow Korean tradition, you can join them in 2015 on July 13 (chobok), July 23 (jungbok), and August 12 (malbok). Let me know how it turns out!


  • 2 cornish hens. Each hen weighs about 1 ½ pounds, a nice portion for 1 person.
  • ½ cup short grain rice (or glutinous rice), rinsed and soaked in cold water for 2 hours
  • 2 fresh ginseng roots, washed
  • 2 large dried jujubes, washed
  • 16 garlic cloves, washed and the tips are removed
  • 2 to 3 green onions, chopped
  • salt
  • ground black pepper

fresh-ginseng (susam: 수삼) cornish-hens

For the sesame dipping sauce:

For  sweet sour soy dipping sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey (or sugar)
  • ½ a medium size onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 Jalapeno (or green chili pepper), chopped


Make the dipping sauces:

  1. Combine salt, sesame seeds, ground black pepper, and sesame oil in a small bowl and mix well. Set aside.
    sesame salt dipping
  2. Combine soy sauce, vinegar, and honey (or sugar) in another bowl. Mix well with a spoon. Add onion and jalapeno. Set aside.

Cook the chicken:

  1. Strain the rice.
  2. Remove the giblets from the hens and rub them with salt all over to clean them nicely. Rinse under cold running water.
  3. Put the hens on the cutting board, pat dry, and remove any extra fat around the body cavities with kitchen scissors. Cut off the tips of wings if you want.
  4. Stuff each hen with rice, 1 ginseng, 1 jujube, and 8 garlic cloves. Put any leftover rice in the pot.
  5. Place the hens into a heavy pot. Add 8 cups of cold water, cover, and cook over medium high heat for 30 minutes.Samgyetang making (삼계탕)
  6. Turn down the heat to medium and cook another 40 minutes until the chicken, ginseng, and rice turn soft. Open up the pot from time to time and ladle some broth from the bottom over top of the chickens. If the broth evaporates too much, add more water.
  7. Remove from the heat.samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup: 삼계탕)samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup: 삼계탕)


  1. Place each hen into 2 individual bowls and add the chicken and broth. Sprinkle with chopped green onion and ground black pepper. Serve with kimchi and the 2 kinds of dipping sauce.
  2. If you serve them in earthenware pots, preheat the pots with a little water inside (about 2 tablespoons) and add the chicken and broth. Let them sit in on the heat until the samgyetang starts to sizzle. Then remove from the heat and sprinkle green onion over top and grind some black pepper. Serve hot with the dipping sauce and kimchi. 


Other delicious stuff on maangchi.com:


  1. Kandracar Mesa, Arizona My profile page joined 1/15
    Posted August 13th, 2015 at 2:28 pm | # |

    hi maangchi i bought this package of dried veggies but i don’t know if is good to use it to make this dish, and is yes how to use it.

    See full size image

    • jaekoh Los Angeles, CA My profile page joined 11/13
      Posted August 25th, 2015 at 8:35 pm | # |


      My assumption is going to be that it should be fine to use this but since the veggies look like they’re frozen(?) they might not taste the same. This package does say it’s for the same recipe… but I always try to go for the fresh ingredient route.

  2. yenphin88 My profile page joined 8/15
    Posted August 7th, 2015 at 12:03 pm | # |

    hi Maangchi
    I don’t have a ginseng root..can i use a ginseng powder? And how many tea spoon does i need? Thank you before..

  3. pp_123 Hong Kong My profile page joined 12/14
    Posted April 11th, 2015 at 4:54 am | # |

    Maangchi I found out that my soup turned out to be kinda yellowish instead of having that beautiful white colour. Is it something to do with the chicken I used? The chickens we commonly eat here in Hong Kong are rather big in size and the chickens’ skin is kind of yellowish. My first attempt of following this recipe didn’t go so well. The taste was good but the soup somehow became very thick and it looked like some kind of chicken porridge lol. I think I must have cooked it for too long over high heat…

    • pp_123 Hong Kong My profile page joined 12/14
      Posted April 13th, 2015 at 4:39 am | # |

      Maangchi, your comment doesn’t sound like making samgyetang lol

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted April 13th, 2015 at 7:17 am | # |

      ” I found out that my soup turned out to be kinda yellowish.. ”
      I thought you talked about ox bone soup! lol
      It’s normal the color of samgyetang turns out a little dark because of ginseng and jujubes. Use less ginseng and skip jujubes (or use only 1) if you like to make yours milky.

      “the soup somehow became very thick.” I would add more water to thin it out before serving. Good luck! : )

  4. Lynlyn Sweden My profile page joined 10/14
    Posted October 21st, 2014 at 11:24 am | # |

    hi Maangchi

    Im just wondering is it necessary to have jujubes on the soap? because its hard to find jujubes here, and i really want to cook your Samgyetang,..

  5. nemeriza82 philippines My profile page joined 8/14
    Posted August 25th, 2014 at 2:52 pm | # |

    Hi just wanna ask if i could use other pot like stainless pot.since i dont have that kind of pot you are using. Thank you

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted August 26th, 2014 at 3:53 pm | # |

      yes, you can. Cook it in a large stainless steel stock pot and serve it in a ceramic bowl.

  6. Raymond Singapore My profile page joined 12/13
    Posted December 6th, 2013 at 1:04 am | # |

    Great video, easy to follow steps. First time making, the taste was great but not enough soup at the end and the chest meat was still not as soft as those Korean stall.
    Next time I need a bigger cooking bowl and cook it longer. :)
    The sweet rice was finger licking good.

    Thanks for the video.

  7. virulain United States My profile page joined 4/12
    Posted August 2nd, 2013 at 5:19 pm | # |

    I found a samgyetang “kit” with the sticky rice, dried jujubes, and dried ginseng in it at our small, local Korean grocery and remembered that I always see this in my Korean cookbooks and on your site, Maangchi! Tonight I will try to make it using your recipe as guidance, since I cannot read Korean well (yet). My husband is excited to try it; maybe 어머님 will be impressed when he tells her I made it, haha!

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