Authentic Hot and Sour Soup (酸辣汤)

Hot and Sour Soup | Omnivore's Coobkook

Hot and sour soup is a very popular dish, whether in China or at overseas Chinese restaurants. The soup has an appetizing sour and spicy flavor and contains various vegetables, eggs and meats. Although it’s a nice soothing winter soup that will warm you up immediately, I really enjoy eating it throughout the year.

The different ways one can cook hot and sour soup are very diverse. For example, you can add practically any vegetables or meat you like into the soup. My personal favorite choices are: mushrooms (dried or fresh shiitake, golden needles or wood ear), vegetables such as tomato and bok choy, tofu (fried or fresh), and meat such as lean pork, chicken breast, and ham. If you want  a vegetarian soup, you can simply skip the meat.

Hot and Sour Soup | Omnivore's Coobkook

Here are some tips for making a successful hot and sour soup:

First of all, the spiciness of  authentic hot and sour soup should only come from white pepper. You shouldn’t add chili pepper, bell pepper, or any other type of pepper. The combination of  white pepper and rice vinegar will create a pungent, refreshing and crisp flavor that is not too spicy.

The key to making delicious hot and sour soup is the ratio of vinegar, soy sauce and white pepper. After making this soup countless times, I have worked out the golden ratio of these ingredients in the recipe below. You could easily double or reduce the amount of water, or adjust amount of vegetables you prefer, as long as you follow the ratio of the three key ingredients.

Hot and Sour Soup Ingredients | Omnivore's Coobkook

Some other things to take note of are:

(1) Add a mixture of cornstarch and water to make a richer and thicker soup – It will also add some calories, but the texture of soup will be thicker and more satisfying.

(2) Add meat or poultry at the end of cooking – The meat/poultry in the soup is to add texture and nutrition, but not to infuse flavor into the soup, so they should be added later, in order to keep the meat soft.

(3) Add vinegar and white pepper at the last minute and stop heat immediately – Otherwise the nice kick of vinegar will disappear as the vinegar evaporates and the white pepper will release a bitter taste if heated for too long.

(4) My recipe does not require chicken broth – I promise the result will still be great. However, if you want to make a richer soup, you can use chicken broth instead of water.

Hot and Sour Soup | Omnivore's Cookbook

I also made a short video to show you how to easily cook an authentic hot and sour soup.

I hope you’ll enjoy this hearty and delicious soup. Happy cooking! 🙂

5.0 from 6 reviews
Authentic Hot and Sour Soup
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Chinese
Serves: 4-6
  • 100 grams (1/2 cup) sliced pork tenderloin (see footnote)
  • 2 teaspoons rice wine
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper powder
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • (optional) 1 cup sliced fresh or rehydrated wood ear mushroom
  • 1 cup sliced firm (or semi-firm) tofu
  • 1 cup sliced shiitake mushroom
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  1. Add pork tenderloin, Shaoxing wine, and 1/4 teaspoon salt into a bowl, mix well by hand. Add 1 tablespoon cornstarch and mix again, until pork is evenly covered. Marinate for 10 - 15 minutes.
  2. Add rice vinegar and white pepper into a small bowl, mix well and set aside.
  3. Add 1.2 liters of water into a pot and heat on medium high heat. Add tomato, wood ear mushroom and tofu to the pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium low, add soy sauce, and boil without lid for 5 minutes.
  4. Mix the rest of the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water in a bowl until cornstarch is fully dissolved in the water. Slowly add cornstarch-water mixture into soup, stir well. The soup should be thickened but not too heavy.
  5. Add pork from step one into the soup, stir several times to avoid the pork strips sticking together. Add the rest 1 teaspoon salt. Slowly swirl in the beaten egg and stir well. The egg should be scattered and not clotted.
  6. Add the vinegar and pepper mixture and stir well, then remove from heat immediately.
  7. Add cilantro and sesame oil, give a final stir.
  8. Serve while warm.
You can replace the pork with ham slices and skip Shaoxing wine, 1/4 salt and 1 tablespoon cornstarch.

The nutrition facts are calculated base 1 of the 6 servings generated by this recipe.

Hot and Sour Soup Nutrition Facts | Omnivore's Coobkook


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Meet Maggie

Hi I'm Maggie Zhu! Welcome to my site about modern Chinese cooking - including street food, family recipes, and restaurant dishes. I take a less labor-intensive approach while maintaining the taste and look of the dish. I am originally from Beijing, and now cook from my Austin, Texas kitchen.

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26 thoughts on “Authentic Hot and Sour Soup (酸辣汤)

  1. Judit & Corina @Wine Dine

    This soup sounds very comforting and delicious Maggie! Every time we visit a Chinese restaurant we order a sweet- sour soup and can’t wait to try it at home soon.Lovely photos and video 🙂

  2. Thomas

    I just cooked a pot of this, and it is delicious! I am impressed that such a rich soup can be made so easily without any pre-made broth. Thanks for sharing the secret.

    1. Maggie Post author

      I’m so glad you like the soup and thank you for using my recipe! Yes, it’s a very rich soup without using broth. I cooked this a lot for dinner, since it requires so few ingredients. 🙂

  3. Kash

    You should try some white hot and sour soup with hot oil. Do you not know that the adding of soy sauce is relatively new to this very old soup. By far the white soup is hands down the best I have ever had!

    1. Jim

      Do you have a recipe for the White Hot and Sour soup to share or is it just omitting the soy sauce that makes it white/light?

      Thanks for a great recipe. Made it many times and it’s always delicious

  4. ColinR

    This was spot on. It was interesting to see how you can make a satisfying stock without much meat or stock cubes.

    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Colin, I’m glad to see you like this recipe! Back in Beijing, my mom served soup almost everyday and most of the time she didn’t use a stock. The hot and sour soup is definitely one of our favorites. The other soup without using stock: soak some dried shrimps and dried scallops for 30 minutes, and use them to make a seafood clean broth. We usually add some napa cabbage (or other greens) with tofu. The soup was quite light, but flavorful.

      1. ColinR

        Thanks Maggie; next time I go to the Chinese supermarket, I’ll look out for the dried shrimps and scallops, and I’ll look forwards to trying them. I’ll also need another bag of shiitake; I have chicken stock in the freezer, but it is quite precious stuff and I can’t use it every time.

      2. Maggie Post author

        I’m glad to help! The homemade chicken stock is precious in our house too. I’ve been trying a new thing lately, by using a bit pancetta (might able to be replaced with bacon) to make a pork soup. I will share the recipe soon. By the way, have you ever tried miso soup? It’s not Chinese food, but we love it. So simple to make and does not require using a stock.

  5. Jasmine Rice

    Hi Maggie. From the website Pantry section I learned about different types of rice vinegar. For the hot and sour soup, which type of rice vinegar you prefer? I noticed that you used a black vinegar but was it the Chinkiang or the Shanxi Extra Aged vinegar? Thanks Maggie. Your website is such a great resource for my Chinese cooking . Thank you!

  6. Eva

    My husband and I loved the soup. I saw 1 teaspoon white pepper in the ingredients and I thought that was an awful lot. I put in 1/2 teaspoon and it was right at the edge of being too hot for us. Had I put in the whole teaspoon we would have had to call the fire department LOL.

    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Eva, I’m glad to hear your soup turned out not too spicy. My family loves very spicy food and we might have added too much white spice powder!

  7. Melora Rouse

    This may seem obvious, but I am a novice cook. I am supplying for soup for my son’s teachers and your recipe was the one that I signed up to bring. Is it okay to leave this soup in the crockpot on warm so the teachers will have it warm for their lunch?

    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Melora, yes you can keep the soup in crockpot. The cornstarch slurry will start losing thickening power if you keep the soup heated for too long time. But I think it should be OK as long as you make the soup the same day you serve it.
      Happy cooking and I hope the teachers will enjoy the dish!

  8. Stella Luna

    Hi very nice recipe but I have a question if I didn’t want to use wine can I substitute it with vinegar?
    Thank you

    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Stella, you can replace the wine with water, broth, or oil. Or skip the salt and use 1 teaspoon soy sauce instead.
      Shaoxing wine is usually in China to eliminate the gamey flavor from the pork. But I found the meat in the US is less gamey, so it’s OK to skip the wine.
      Happy cooking and hope your soup turns out great 🙂

    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Doris, thanks so much for taking time and leaving a comment! I’m so glad to hear you tried my recipe and enjoyed the dish 🙂
      Hope you have a great day!