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.

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. tspoke Wisconsin joined 4/12 & has 2 comments

    Great video! I love Korean Food, especially Samgyetang and kimchi chigae. Where can I purchase the pot you used in this video? What is it called? I live in Wisconsin, so I probably need to order it online. Please help! I need to make this!

  2. ZenMistress California joined 4/12 & has 7 comments

    This was really really delicious. Wonderful delicate flavored broth, thank you for this recipe. I was fortunate to find some fresh ginseng at the Korean grocery store, and immediately wanted to make your recipe. I made this with both a small chicken and cornish game hen! They were both really good. Thank you for sharing this truly traditional old world korean recipe. I remember my mom making this for my dad when I was growing up.

  3. Ange 창원시 joined 1/12 & has 1 comment

    I’m living in Korea, and just stumbled on this blog after a quick search for 삼계탕. My reaction? OMFG. I’m never going to a restaurant again! Or, at least, less.

    Thank you so much for making this website~~~<3!

  4. hapacalgirl California joined 7/11 & has 2 comments

    Hi Maangchi,

    I love your recipes! Lucky for me we have a Zion Korean Market in my city so finding ingredients is really easy. I have question, for the ginseng, do you need to peel it first or do you just put it in the hen as is? Thanks!

  5. Urahara Canada joined 8/11 & has 5 comments

    Hello Maangchi!

    I’ve been wanting to make Samgyetang for a while now, especially for my eomma’s birthday which is on sunday, but I discovered this week that it is illegal in Canada to buy or sell or export fresh ginseng… Can I replace it with something else? Jujubes are impossible to find too :(
    Aigoo Eotteoke~!

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

      “Aigoo Eotteoke~!” lol!
      Skip ginseng then. It will still be delicious.

    • GiveMeKimchi Philadelphia joined 3/11 & has 8 comments

      I know this was posted almost a year ago, but if you ever get to read this Urahara, I think you’ve been misinformed. Who told you that fresh ginseng is illegal to buy in Canada? It seemed improbable, so I tried looking it up, and nowhere did it say that fresh ginseng is illegal to buy, sell, or export. Hopefully, you found out the truth and was able to make yourself some samgyetang, because it would be such a pity not to haha.

  6. lukaaleeya malaysia joined 7/11 & has 2 comments

    i cook this soup today,,,today is my friend birthday and i cooked this for her,,,,a surprise party,,,,,and the recipe help me a lot,, it was a huge success,,,thank you so much for the recipe,,,btw i substitute the fresh ginseng root with the dried one,,since i couldnt find the fresh one here at my place….this soup is so yummy

  7. mase kul joined 12/10 & has 13 comments

    Hi Maangchi

    *Happy New Year*

    Can I substitute the dried root ginseng with ginseng extract instead.
    That’s what I have presently.

    If so how much should I use with the chicken stuffing. Thnx.

  8. mase kul joined 12/10 & has 13 comments

    Hi Maangchi

    Is samgyetang eaten during winter b’cos of the cold weather? Do you eat this on its own or with rice and other side dishes.

    The jujubes look like red dates(taste sweet right?).

    I must ask my sister to buy me some Korean ginseng during her vacation in Korea. I would like to follow exactly the ingredients that you use. I’m curious as to how it taste.


    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

      Ironically samgyetang is more popular in the summer among Koreans because we believe it helps us overcome hot summer heat by eating it. Sizzling hot samgyetang will warm your body in the summer.The room will seem colder than it was before you ate the soup, because your body is now warmer.

      Jujube photo is here:

      Use only one root in this recipe if you eat it for the first time because 2 roots may be too strong and bitter for you.

  9. Kavanaru France joined 1/10 & has 3 comments

    Great! I need to try this one! I make a similar soup I learned from a vietnamese friend. Basically the same but using shitakii instead of jujubes and gingseng…. a very nice way to surprise your friend, who will end up “eating soup” with chopsticks :)

  10. the-weekend-kusinera Philippines joined 9/10 & has 3 comments

    is it necessary to use a clay pot? or is any kind of pot okay for this recipe? thanks

  11. partyallmyown1 Honolulu joined 7/10 & has 4 comments

    what is jujubes …really…and i live in hawaii but i cannot find jujubes or fresh ginseng…and good substitutes

  12. shaoen01 joined 6/10 & has 11 comments


    Can we stuff the chicken with other ingredients beside rice? Also, is the jujubes a must or is there an alternative? I don’t think i can find jujubes here.

  13. idan2point0 California joined 4/10 & has 1 comment

    a few things,

    1. everything you make is so good! the recipies I have made after you are always delicious and I thank you!

    2. I know this song you used, and I think you should let us know what song you play in the background of your videos, you always pick such good music, and I am always wondering what the songs are! lol

  14. Hello! I have a question with the rice. Do I have to use only sweet rice?
    or can I use regular rice also?? and does it have to be cooked before to soak in the water?

  15. Maangchi,

    Hello! My husband and I have been looking over you website for the last couple of weeks. We are currently living in Seoul but are going to be heading back in a few months. I wanted to start learning how to cook Korean food while I am here so we can eat it back in the states. We already tried cooking Daegujeon, Dubu buchim yangnyumjang, Japchae, and Kimchi chigae. Everything has turned out great. Tonight we are going to try cooking samgyetang since it is so cold outside right now. We are both excited. Thank you for all of the work you have put into this website. It will be a life saver when we move back to the U.S..


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