Seafood tom yum is a flavorful and umami broth that infuses the delicious herbal tom yum flavors with succulent seafood, and only takes 15 minutes to make.
This dish is one of the most popular in Thai restaurants given its unique fragrant and spicy flavor.
While tom yum is undeniably delicious, is tom yum healthy?
Tom yum is a very healthy soup given that its flavor predominantly comes from herbs, which are very low in calories, and steeped with seafood, which is a great source of lean protein.
A serving of tom yum soup has 251 calories with 40 grams of protein, 3 grams of fat, and 16 grams of carbs.
This makes tom yum a great healthy Thai food dish for those trying to stay fit and eat a protein-packed meal.
🍳 Why Make This Recipe
- It's healthy and packed with lean proteins
- It's super easy to put together. All it takes is some boiling and straining!
- It's super versatile and easy to mix and match with other proteins or noodles.
💭 What is Tom Yum?
Seafood tom yum soup is a spicy and sour soup that consists of a variety of aromatic ingredients simmered with mixed seafood to create a deliciously bold flavor. It’s one of the best soups to make on a cold day.
This dish has a lot of different variations:
- Creamy vs Clear Broth – The creamy version is a popular variation that mixes milk with the spicy soup.
- Red colored (due to Nam Prik Prao or Thai Red Chili Paste) vs. Clear (both are spicy though)
🍏 Calories and Nutrition – How to Make It Healthy
A serving of this seafood tom yum recipe only has 251 calories with 40 grams of protein, 3 grams of fat, and 16 grams of carbs.
Most of the calories of this dish come from the seafood, which is a lean protein source. The great thing about this soup is that the flavor comes from steeping the herbs and shrimp shells, which have a negligible amount of calories, and yet have an astounding medley of flavors.
The thing to note here is that this dish typically does not have enough protein content at restaurants, and may have an outsized amount of fats from oil or coconut milk for the creamy version.
Thankfully, you can still enjoy this dish by using a few ingredient swaps and cooking techniques. Here’s what I did to make this healthy:
- Portion enough protein for the dish. I used 4 ounces of shrimp and squid rings each.
- Used cooking spray instead of oil. A tablespoon of olive oil can have a whopping 120 calories mainly from fat.
- Omitted usage of milk and made the clear version. If you do choose to use coconut milk to use a creamy version, opt for the light coconut milk, which has ⅓ of the calories.
For a detailed breakdown of each ingredient, their portioning, and how they make up the nutrition profile of this seafood tom yum recipe, you may refer to the table below:
📋 Ingredient Notes
To make the seafood tom yum soup, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Shrimp Shell and Head – In addition to the shrimp meat itself, the head and shells are vital for the tom yum broth flavor, infusing it with a delicious umami seafood flavor. If you can’t find head-on shrimp, at least try to use the shells.
- Fresh Lemongrass – Essential herb for the flavor of the Tom Yum broth. Use the top parts of the lemongrass stalk.
- Makrut Lime leaves – Another essential herb for the tom yum broth. You can find these at your local Asian grocery stores or buy dried ones online.
- Fresh Galangal – A woody ginger-looking herb that is essential for the Tom yum broth. You can also find these at your local Asian grocery store. You may substitute with ginger and some lemon juice as well.
- Thai chilies – Gives the stock its spice. You can buy fresh ones at the grocery store or use dried ones online. If you can't find them, any red chilies would work.
- Shrimp – Essential protein base for this recipe.
- Squid Rings – For additional seafood. You can also opt to use baby octopus, clams, and/or mussels.
- Nam prik pao (Optional) – Gives the soup an additional infusion of spice and its red color.
See my recipe card below for a complete list of the ingredients with measurements.
📖 Substitutions and Variations
Nam Prik Pao Usage – This Thai chili paste gives the soup an additional kick and it's beautiful red flavor. You can find them at your local Asian grocery store or order online.
Use as hot pot base – Tom yum is a great healthy broth option for hot pot. Just add the desired vegetables and meats.
Add chicken – If you don’t have seafood, you can also make this dish with chicken.
Add noodles – Make a tom yum noodle soup by pairing this with a serving of egg or rice noodles.
Add cream – To make the milky version, add a tablespoon of light coconut milk or skim milk.
Mix and match the vegetables – Straw mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, and tomatoes are some other favorites.
🔪 Step by Step Instructions
Make the shrimp stock – De-vein shrimp and reserve the head and the shells, reserving them in a saucepan. Bring the shrimp shells and head to a boil in 2 cups of water and let simmer for about 5-10 minutes. Strain and remove the shrimp shells.
Infuse the herbs – Mince the galangal, rip the kaffir lime leaves, and chop the lemongrass using the top part. Smash the garlic clove as well to release flavor. Add them all to the shrimp stock and let simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
Cook the seafood – Strain the herbs out and add in the raw seafood and shallots if using. Season with fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, and nam prik pao. Turn the heat to medium-high heat and cook until the seafood is fully done about 2-3 minutes.
Garnish and enjoy – Serve the soup in a bowl and garnish with cilantro if desired.
💭 Recipe FAQs
Lemongrass is a long, stalky herb with a wood-like texture. When using, you will need to remove the tough outer layers to reach the white fleshy part. Then, cut the lemongrass into thin slices starting from the white, fleshy bottom until you reach the green woody part (these are usually saved for steeping in soups or curries).
For optimal flavor, pound the sliced lemongrass slices in a mortar and pestle — this will release all the flavor and juices. For more information about how to cook with lemongrass, check out this article from The Spruce Eats on How to Prepare Lemongrass.
I would recommend making the stock in advance only and mixing in the seafood when you're ready to cook to ensure the seafood doesn't get overcooked in the reheating process.
You can store this dish in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.
💡 Expert Tips
Save the shrimp shells and heads for the stock – Stacking the chicken pieces on top of each other will result in uneven cooking. Keep in one layer for best results.
Adjust the spiciness – You can adjust the spiciness with the number of Thai chilis. Use 1 for a mild spice, 2-3 for a medium spice, and 3+ for a heavy spice. Keep in mind that Thai chilis are much spicier than your average chili!
🍽 What to Pair with this Dish
This tom yum seafood soup recipe is a super versatile dish that can be paired with a wide variety of dishes including the following:
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Seafood Tom Yum Recipe (Is Tom Yum Healthy?)
- Shrimp shells and heads
- 1 stalk Lemongrass
- 1 Makrut Lime Leaf
- Fresh Galangal
- 1-2 Thai chilies
- 1 clove Garlic
- 4 oz Shrimp
- 4 oz Squid rings
- ½ Shallot
Seasonings and Garnish
- 1 tablespoon Fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon Sugar
- 1 Lime
- 1 teaspoon Nam Prik Pao (Optional)
- Cilantro (For garnish)
- Make the shrimp stock – Devein shrimp and reserve the head and the shells, reserving them in a saucepan. Bring the shrimp shells and head to a boil in 2 cups of water and let simmer for about 5-10 minutes. Strain and remove the shrimp shells.
- Infuse the herbs – Mince the galangal, rip the kaffir lime leaves, and chop the lemongrass using the top part. Smash the garlic clove as well to release flavor. Add them all to the shrimp stock and let simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
- Cook the seafood – Strain the herbs out and add in the raw seafood and shallots if using. Season with fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, and nam prik pao. Turn the heat to medium-high heat and cook until the seafood is fully done about 2-3 minutes.
- Garnish and enjoy – Serve the soup in a bowl and garnish with cilantro if desired.