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. yantiyanti Czech joined 7/18 & has 1 comment

    Hi manchii!!!!

    Can I have Samgyetang Hmota during pregnancy and also confinement (after delivery baby)? I appreciate for your advice.

  2. jonah36 4231 rundlehorn drive ne,Calgary joined 1/18 & has 4 comments

    Hi maangchi thanks for your recipe,i love it so delicious even without juju and ginseng root.

    See full size image

  3. chrisnnho87 melbourne, victoria, australia joined 5/18 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi,
    I cannot find any fresh or freshly frozen korean ginsengs in melbourne, australia, so would that still be authentically delicious if i use dried korean ginseng roots soaked in water over night to cook it? i hope it does not turn out too medicinal

    Thank you!

  4. sanne Munich joined 8/14 & has 250 comments

    It’s freezing cold here in Munich (and will even get much colder from Sunday on) – so I made a (heart-)warming dish today. Guess what! ;-)
    While eating it, I had so many good memories of where and when we had 삼계탕 in Korea – including prepared with precooked filling and rotary-grilled.
    There was a tom-cat there named “나비” (butterfly) – not a stray, but still, he was begging for the gristle. Afterwards, he lay on the (not at all busy back then) road and took a nap. ;-)
    Our cat must be of Korean heritage, she does the same – except for a soft cushion on the couch after enjoying the 인삼-flavored gristle… ;-D

    Bye, Sanne.

  5. Dayane Delaqua Brazil joined 2/18 & has 2 comments

    I looked around all my city and I don’t find jujuba or ginseng root. I just find ginseng powder. How can i substitute?

  6. CallMeNuna Malaysia joined 11/17 & has 3 comments

    Maangchi, just made this recipe today. I could not finish the whole bowl however. I shared it with my sister! I thought it was delicious. I feel like i want to have it as often as possible. It is possibly my new soul food ❤ oh and I had it with homemade kimchi. Your recipe is delicious and I make kimchi so often now I have memorized it thank you so much for providing the means to explore Korean cooking. 감사합니다~

  7. gretta.o MN, USA joined 9/12 & has 1 comment

    This was the first dish I had when I went to Korea in summer. So excited to try and make it myself! Thanks for the recipe!! :D

  8. Glo13 California joined 10/17 & has 1 comment

    Hello Maangchi,
    I bought a fresh ginseng in the korean store and excited to make my first ginseng chicken. But I still have a lot of left over of ginseng, I want to know how I can keep them for later use and how long i can keep them?

  9. Lovely20032003 New York joined 6/17 & has 3 comments

    My first time making Ginseng Chicken Soup and it came out perfect and delicious!!
    Thank you so much for this recipe! My family loved it!

    See full size image

  10. cecilia chile south america joined 5/17 & has 2 comments

    Hi Maangchi ! May you help me ? I`m so happy because I bought this bag specially for cooking samgyetang. But ¿ what is this ? ¿ pieces of wood ? Do you know it ?
    I´m enjoying so much your blog and youtube`s videos. Thanks to you I`m prepare tasty kimchi ! ñami !

    See full size image

  11. HoosierMama Virginia joined 10/16 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi!! Could this be prepared family style with a larger roaster size chicken? My kids have have an aversion to Cornish hens because they look like baby chickens :-(.

    • sanne Munich joined 8/14 & has 250 comments

      Prepare the chicken without the rice, but with everything else (let it simmer until it’s tender), take it out of the pot, keep it warm, remove the oily fat on the broth and cook the rice in the broth.
      Tear or cut the chicken in suitable pieces. Serve it on a big plate and the juk in individual bowls. Dipping sauces as usual.
      We had it this way with friends after harvesting daeju. With lots of banjan and somek… ;-)

      Bye, Sanne.

  12. jmy NJ joined 9/16 & has 1 comment

    Hi, maangchi. Do you have some tips for making samgyetang for a large group? Would you put many hens into one extra large pot? Thank you for your help!

  13. sanne Munich joined 8/14 & has 250 comments

    Tomorrow evening I will cook this – it will be 말복 in Korea then.

  14. LauraCooks USA joined 7/16 & has 1 comment

    Maangchi, thank you for this recipe! I have been wanting to make this for a long time.
    Is there any difference for cooking Samgyetang in a dolsot? I am thinking about splitting this recipe so I can just make one. 감사합니다!

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,049 comments

      “Is there any difference for cooking Samgyetang in a dolsot?” You can cook samgyetang either in a regular pot or in a dolsot. I would make samgyetang in a large pot so that you can cook it more easily without it boiling over, and then transfer it to a dolsot for serving. Good luck!

  15. reesejin corona joined 4/10 & has 1 comment

    I’ve made this dish so many times now. It’s super easy to make and my husband loves it! Thank you Maangchi for sharing your recipes!

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