Ginseng chicken soup (Samgyetang) recipe

Samgyetang is a traditional Korean soup that features a whole young chicken stuffed with rice, garlic, jujubes (Korean dates), ginseng, and sometimes chestnuts or ginkgo nuts, all simmered together in a rich and flavorful broth. This dish is highly regarded for its nutritional benefits and is often consumed during the summer months to combat the heat with the belief that it replenishes energy and improves overall health.

Samgyetang is often enjoyed during the hottest days of summer, particularly on "Sambok" days. These are the three hottest days in the lunar calendar: Chobok, Jungbok, and Malbok. The belief in Korean culture is that consuming this hot, nutritious soup helps to balance the body's heat and replenish energy lost due to the high temperatures, a practice known as "iyeol chiyeol" (이열치열), which means "fight heat with heat."

Key Ingredients:

  • Young Whole Chicken: Typically a Cornish hen, small enough to serve one person.
  • Ginseng: Fresh or dried, known for its medicinal properties.
  • Glutinous Rice: Soaked before stuffing into the chicken.
  • Garlic: Whole cloves, adding flavor and health benefits.
  • Jujubes (Korean Dates): Adds a hint of sweetness and depth to the soup.
  • Ginkgo Nuts or Chestnuts (Optional): Adds additional texture and flavor.
  • Green Onions and Salt: For seasoning and garnish.
  • Water: As the base for the broth. 

Nutritional Benefits:

The key ingredient, ginseng, is prized in traditional Korean medicine for its ability to boost energy, improve stamina, and support overall health. The soup is also packed with other nutritious ingredients:
  • Glutinous Rice: Provides carbohydrates and makes the soup more filling.
  • Garlic: Known for its immune-boosting properties.
  • Jujubes: Add natural sweetness and are rich in vitamins and minerals.
  • Ginkgo Nuts or Chestnuts: (optional) Add texture and additional nutrients.

Flavor Profile:

Samgyetang has a delicate, slightly sweet, and aromatic flavor profile. The broth is savory and rich, thanks to the long simmering process that extracts flavors from the chicken and herbs. The garlic and ginseng infuse the broth with a distinctive yet gentle flavor, making the soup soothing and comforting.

Ideal Occasions:

While traditionally consumed during the summer, Samgyetang is also enjoyed year-round, especially during times of fatigue or illness, as it is believed to help recover strength and vitality. It’s a popular choice for special occasions, family gatherings, or simply as a hearty, wholesome meal.

Samgyetang is not just a meal but a reflection of the deep-rooted connection between Korean cuisine and traditional medicine. Its preparation and consumption are rituals that highlight the importance of health and well-being in Korean culture.

Samgyetang (Ginseng Chicken Soup)


  • Chicken and Stuffing:
    • 4 small Cornish hens (or young chickens), cleaned and gutted
    • 1 cup glutinous rice, soaked in water for 1 hour and drained
    • 8 whole garlic cloves
    • 4 pieces of fresh ginseng root (or 4 tablespoons of dried ginseng)
    • 8 dried jujubes (Korean dates)
    • 8 chestnuts or ginkgo nuts (optional)
    • Kitchen twine or skewers to secure the stuffing
    Broth and Seasoning:
    • 12 cups water
    • 1 large onion, quartered
    • 2-3 green onions, cut into large pieces
    • 1 piece of ginger (2-inch), sliced
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 4 green onions, finely chopped (for garnish)
    • Salt and pepper mix (for dipping)


  1. Clean the Cornish hens thoroughly, removing any remaining feathers and internal organs.
  2. Rinse the glutinous rice and soak it in water for about an hour, then drain.
  3. Stuff each hen with 2 garlic cloves, 1 piece of ginseng, 2 jujubes, 2 chestnuts or ginkgo nuts (if using), and a portion of the soaked rice.
  4. Use kitchen twine or skewers to secure the openings of the hens to keep the stuffing inside during cooking.
  5. In a large pot, add the water, quartered onion, green onion pieces, and sliced ginger. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  6. Carefully add the stuffed hens to the pot. Ensure they are fully submerged in the water. If necessary, add more water to cover the hens.
  7. Once the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and skim off any foam that rises to the surface.
  8. Cover the pot and let it simmer for about 1.5 to 2 hours, until the hens are tender and the flavors have melded together.
  9. After simmering, carefully remove the hens from the pot and place each in a serving bowl.
  10. Strain the broth to remove the onion, ginger, and green onion pieces, then season the broth with salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Pour the strained broth over the hens in the serving bowls.
  12. Garnish with finely chopped green onions.
  13. Serve the Samgyetang with a small dish of salt and pepper mix for dipping the chicken.
  14. Offer kimchi and other banchan (Korean side dishes) as accompaniments, Enjoy.
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