Ginseng chicken soup (samgyetang in Korean) 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.

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!

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!

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 1½ pounds, a nice portion for 1 person.
  • ½ cup short grain rice (or glutinous rice), rinsed and soaked in cold water for 1 hour.
  • 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
  • kosher 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 toasted 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, the 2 kinds of dipping sauce, and a small bowl of salt on the side for seasoning.
  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, kimchi, and a small bowl of salt on the side for seasoning. 


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  1. sanne Munich joined 8/14 & has 312 comments

    Happy 말복 (Malbok)!

    Now – what to cook today… ;-)

  2. Kimchiajumma Marengo, IL USA joined 7/18 & has 3 comments

    Hi Maangchi,

    In today’s markets, fresh ginseng can be quite expensive sometime. Not everyone can afford to buy it to make their chicken soup. I am well aware of all the benefits there are to cooking with ginseng. However, there are also people who cannot eat ginseng, due to hormonal issues. Therefore, is there a substitute that can be used for ginseng in this and other recipes?
    I would also like to mention, that I absolutely love your cooking. You are always my first go-to for all Korean recipes. Thank you for all that you have done. You are amazing.

  3. sanne Munich joined 8/14 & has 312 comments

    I’ve already made this twice this week plus we had/have leftovers the next day.
    Since it’s impossible to get fresh ginseng here, I use dried cut-up.
    The times we got small whole chickens worth the money are long gone, and since we prefer thighs anyways… The Turkish supermarket nearby has excellent chicken.

    My version:
    1/2 cup washed short-grain rice soaked together with 30 grams dried cut-up ginseng for 1 hour. Add 90 grams of peeled and cleaned garlic, 16-20 dried jujubes (we love them!), an onion cut-up lengthwise and 2-3 pounds chicken thighs, salt to taste, coarsely ground black pepper. Add enough water to generously cover the thighs.
    Bring to a boil, lower the heat and let it simmer for about half an hour.
    I use my cuckoo 10-cups rice-cooker for that…

  4. Donna O Alabama, USA joined 7/22 & has 1 comment

    You are adorable, and this looks delicious! But my goodness! Koreans must have fireproof mouths! How do you eat soup that is boiling and not burn your mouth?

  5. @mokor3@ Barcelona joined 10/21 & has 2 comments

    Te amo Maangchi, Gracias por tu tiempo!! I love you Maangchi, Thank you for your time !!

  6. @mokor3@ Barcelona joined 10/21 & has 2 comments

    Here in Barcelona, ​​Spain, I can’t find ginseng
    Aqui en Barcelona, España, no encuentro el ginseng.

  7. vtwk2020 MALAYSIA, KUALA LUMPUR joined 11/20 & has 1 comment

    Thank you Maangchi! Always love your recipe. I tried samgyetang today for lunch and it turns out perfect. I use pre package ginseng bought from K Mart and boiled the chicken for 1.5 hours. The chicken was soft and tender, rice (no soaking) was soft. Our family of 5 love it so much!

    See full size image

  8. ilovepastry Toronto, Canada joined 5/20 & has 18 comments

    Another delicious recipe executed. Thanks Maangchi~

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  9. Harissa Hudson Valley joined 11/18 & has 1 comment

    Hi dearest, no salt in the cooking broth?
    Thank you!

  10. Brown Coco Los Angeles joined 2/19 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi,
    Tried this recipe. Fir some reason the rice would not soften and I cooked my soup for 30 minutes extra. Made sure when was covered in broth…?
    Really liked the dipping sauces.
    Also I wanted to know what I can use Korean vermicelli cut noodles I bought at HMart for?

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    • svangc San Diego joined 3/19 & has 1 comment

      Have you soaked the glutinous rice for at least an hour? It has to be glutinous!!

    • Dysupes Montreal joined 2/17 & has 3 comments

      Those are galguksu noodles so you can make yourself some anchovy broth and then boil those separately and add the two together and bring to a boil and enjoy a simple noodle and broth. However, we like to add pre-boiled chicken torn into strips on top a little sesame oil, sesame seeds, and green onions for Chicken Galguksu. Enjoy!

  11. Dutchgirlme Sierra Nevada Mountains joined 2/19 & has 3 comments

    This recipe is so delicious. I added fresh ginger to the mix. It’s was hands down the best Chicken soup we’ve ever had.

    See full size image

  12. kulumanali Shimla, Himachal Pradesh joined 12/18 & has 1 comment

    delicious I want this

  13. Koreanfood4me Sierra Nevada Mtns joined 12/18 & has 2 comments

    Need heeeelp now for a dinner on Dec 27, 2018
    We are serving 16 who will have already eaten a lot of appetizers so I want to serve each person 1/2 a hen in their soup bowl.
    Can I
    Precut all the hens in half
    Tie each back together with butcher string and stuff
    After cooking cut the strings and separate the halves
    Thank you

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