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. gel122190 Davao City, Philippines joined 7/16 & has 3 comments

    Hi Maangchi!

    I am from the Philippines and I don’t know where to find Ginseng root or Ginseng powder. I also have a lot of allergies and I don’t know if I’ll be allergic to Ginseng.. Any advice on what alternative I could use in place of Ginseng? I really want to try this, specially during colds/sickness season. Thank so much.

  2. RosalinaS Indonesia joined 2/16 & has 8 comments

    Hi Maangchi and all

    I need help here. I am about to buy ginseng in Seoul but I read from internet there are 3 types of ginseng – susam, baeksam, hongsam. which one of these type you use to make ginseng chicken soup above?? Any advise how I choose good quality ginseng?

    I read one of the comments I can substitute it with 1tbs ginseng powder, any recommended ginseng powder brand you have? Thank you!!

  3. Mi Heui Iran - Tehran joined 5/16 & has 18 comments

    Hi dear in my country just have a dried ginseng. for make 삼계탕 how many times i should ginseng soaked in water?!
    감사합니다 ^^

  4. Mi Heui Iran - Tehran joined 5/16 & has 18 comments

    Hi dear in my country just dried ginseng. for make 감계탕 how many times i should ginseng soaked in water?!
    감사합니다 ^^

  5. Kandracar Mesa, Arizona joined 1/15 & has 4 comments

    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 joined 11/13 & has 4 comments


      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.

  6. 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..

  7. pp_123 Hong Kong joined 12/14 & has 9 comments

    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 joined 12/14 & has 9 comments

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

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

      ” 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! : )

  8. Lynlyn Sweden joined 10/14 & has 1 comment

    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,..

  9. nemeriza82 philippines joined 8/14 & has 1 comment

    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

  10. Raymond Singapore joined 12/13 & has 1 comment

    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.

  11. virulain United States joined 4/12 & has 5 comments

    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!

  12. mabellth Australia joined 6/13 & has 3 comments

    Hi Maangchi,

    Is the soup suppose to not add salt and pepper? :)

  13. ana lee malaysia joined 8/12 & has 5 comments

    Hi maangchi..
    where can I get the sweet rice? Can I just substitute with Thai’s sticky rice?? or normal rice???

  14. MeepKitty Florida joined 10/12 & has 9 comments

    Hi Maangchi! Thankyou for the great recipe!! The weather has been chilly lately, and my boyfriend fell into I was in search for a good healing soup for him and decided this was the one..~ I added some small carrot pieces and shredded the chicken and placed it back into the soup so it was easier to eat.The balance of flavours were soooo good (:. He told me this soup reminded him of his own mother’s soup! We ate it with a lot of black pepper and the garlic was soft and sweet. Yummm!!! Thank you again :)!!!

  15. Cselestyna canada joined 2/10 & has 8 comments

    I make this dish alot it’s one of my favorites and i always look forward to it, but cornish hens here are expensive and i wanted to experiment, so last night i did and it was the worst it’s ever turned out! So here is my tip: if you are using a piece of chicken instead of a Cornish hen, make-sure the skin isn’t real fatty! I used a leg last night and it turned out that the skin was so fatty that it actually ruined the soup, it ended up being disgusting! the small amount of meat i actually got was fine but the fatty skin and fatty meat ruined this dish! so if you’re trying this out use a good piece of chicken with minimal fat and a nice thin skin!

    lol However on a side note, I didn’t have any ginseng and couldn’t find any in my area for that time of evening, so I went to the superstore and bought ginseng tea. i used Korean ginseng tea that came in granular form. I used 3 packages and it worked really well, of course since my fatty chicken ruined my soup i’ll have to try it again!!

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

      Simple solution! Just skin the chicken and make samgyetang if you don’t like to see the floating fat. Or make it and later scoop out the floating fat

      • Cselestyna canada joined 2/10 & has 8 comments

        LOL, the fatty skin actually made the liquid part of the soup more of a gross gelatinous texture, it ended up being more of a really weird half jelly- half liquid like chicken dish that only tasted somewhat like ginseng soup; i ended up taking the chicken out, rinsing it under running water and eating it with steamed rice :p next time i will pick out a nice piece of chicken instead of whatever is in my freezer hahaha :D

        • jaylivg Houston joined 7/10 & has 107 comments

          LOL , here is tips for you .. next time do not use chicken thighs , why ? because chicken thighs contains the most fat . Next time , do use chicken breast , skinless , boneless , if you don’t want any fat floating around , but i must warn you , if you choose chicken breast , skinless and boneless then u must be careful , why ? because your meat might turn out pretty dry . Even cooking regular chicken noodles soup , i still end up with some fat floating around .. no biggie , don’t fuss over it , just remove it .. end of story !! Even the cornish hens still have little fat floating around !!!

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