This comforting Hot and Sour Soup is a perfect, soothing and healing winter meal. Whether you are fighting off a bug or just looking to have a cozy and quick bowl. Ready in barely about 15-minutes, this soup is paleo, gluten-free, whole30 and keto / low-carb compliant with options for vegetarian and low FODMAP.
Despite my efforts to fight off illness this winter, (dang there is just SO much going around) and despite taking on all of my holistic and natural approaches to protect and boost my immune function – earlier this month I got a cold! Booo.
The good news is that all of my constant hard work caring for my immune system was not for nothing, it was a very quick and fairly benign little cold, thankfully. Shortest cold I have ever had, to be exact. A day and a half, really. After two days in the hot desert in Joshua Tree and Palm Springs and coming home immediately to teach a sunrise yoga class to 60 people, outside in 45ºF weather, barefoot in wet grass, in a tank top, I kinda put my body through the ringer and it finally hit it’s limit. A little sniffly nose, a few sneezes and more than anything, a very fatigued body – that I could tell was fighting hard and I finally had to succumb to it. So, I allowed myself the time and space to just rest and relax and to fight off whatever it was working hard to keep at bay, 2 days of chillin’. I continued on my protocol of protecting my body, I took my elderberry syrup several times a day, zinc, vitamin C, oregano oil and all my other witchy remedies, and I was back to myself in no time. What a win. Truly.
Years ago a cold like that would have taken me out for at least 7 days, it would have likely transitioned over to a sinus infection and then possibly a respiratory illness of some kind. What a long road we’ve been on, but this cold actually felt like something to celebrate! It was a beautiful reminder of how far I have come and how all of the hard work that I put in, day in and day out, is important, it matters and it all is serving a crucial purpose. Weirdly, I felt somewhat grateful for this cold, as it truly reminded of how far I have come with my immune system dysfunction, how fortunate I am to be in good health and of course, this cold reminded me of this amazing soup I had all but forgotten about and for that we now have a yummy recipe out of the deal. Not too shabby, weird short cold, not too shabby at all.
On the first full day of fighting off this cold I recalled a time when I used to get sick several times throughout the winter months, for weeks at a time, and I remembered very vividly our love for take-out hot and sour soup as part of our home remedies. We would order from the Chinese place around the corner, Mark would go pick it up for us and we would shovel it in, steaming hot, spicy and sour – our noses clearing and bellies soothing with every spoonful.
Of course, I later realized that the soup was likely loaded with gluten, those little crispy wontons on top, alone, were loaded with flour, and were actually challenging my immune system to work even harder than it already was with whatever I was fighting.
I had all but forgotten about this little Hot and Sour Soup ritual and how comforting, clearing and healing this soup was. As I sat on the couch with my box of tissues a few weeks ago, like a movie montage while I reminisced of sicknesses gone by, a flash of that memory came to me – I remembered that take-out Hot and Sour Soup and this old take-out ritual of ours and I could literally taste the soup, I felt the tangy vinegar on my tongue and the warming heat of the spice. I decided I had to experiment with recreating it. Immediately. I got off the couch and since I keep a fairly stocked kitchen and pantry and it’s a simple recipe, I had most of what I would have wanted to use (the first test was made without mushrooms), so I went in, started playing and experimenting and no joke in about 20 minutes I had an incredible pot of Paleo-Friendly Hot and Sour Soup.
I make my Hot and Sour Soup with soothing and healing homemade chicken bone broth, the fresh ginger and garlic brings those anti-inflammatory and anti-viral effects, then of course the amazing the epic spice and the subtle sour tastes of the soup really help to clear the airways and open you up for easier breathing. Finally, the ribbons of pasture-raised eggs bring protein and healthy fats to encourage satiation.
My fat-loving pals, since we often have pork rinds from Epic in the house for occasional snacking, a few times when serving this soup we crushed up a handful of pork rinds on top. It was quite reminiscent of the crunchy fried wontons often served with Hot and Sour Soup. A nice treat for a bit more substance, a little more fat and some crunch.
You can add protein at the start, cooking down (or heating already cooked) chicken or pork, try ground, shredded or thinly sliced pork loin. If you do tofu, that would be a nice option, too.
What’s especially lovely about this soup, is you can adjust the hot and the sour to your taste. I like a pretty sour Hot and Sour Soup with a nice little kick of heat, but not too much. So start light, and taste at the end and adjust your levels accordingly.
Finally, I go with a full 4 eggs, in this large pot of soup. I love eggs, I enjoy having the protein to keep me full and they help to thicken the soup up a bit. Go with less if you’d like, but I find 4 eggs to be perfect. If you want your soup thicker still, I offer options for using the starch of your choice to make a starch slurry to thicken your soup. Up to you.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, ghee or other neutral cooking oil
- 12 ounces sliced shiitake, baby bella or cremini mushrooms
- ½ cup thinly sliced scallions
- 1½ tablespoons minced fresh ginger, grated or very finely minced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 8 cups chicken or veggie broth (I use homemade chicken bone broth)
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
- ¼ - ⅓ cup unseasoned rice vinegar* (more or less to taste)
- ¼ cup coconut aminos (tamari or soy sauce)
- 2-4 pasture-raised eggs, lightly beaten* (I like mine real eggy so we go with 4)
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground white pepper (or black)
- 8 ounces bamboo shoots, drained
- ½ - 1 lb shredded chicken, ground chicken or pork, thinly sliced pork tenderloin or shoulder, tofu, etc
- Additional thinly sliced scallions
- Fresh cilantro
- Sesame oil
- sriracha or other chili garlic sauce or hot chili oil
- Add the oil to a large pot over a medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, scallions, ginger and garlic, (and bamboo shoots, if using). Cook and stir for 1-2 minutes to infuse the flavor.
- Add the broth, red pepper flakes, vinegar and coconut aminos (or soy sauce). Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender.
- Stir the soup in a circular motion in one direction, then drizzle in the eggs in a thin and steady stream (while you are continuing to stir the soup) to create egg ribbons. I personally like to give the soup a swirl, then I like to pour the beaten eggs in a steady stream through a slotted serving spoon to encourage nice separated ribbons.
- Give the soup a taste and add more red pepper flakes and/or rice vinegar, as needed to get your desired flavor. Stir in ground white pepper.
- Serve hot. Garnish the hot and sour soup with chopped scallions, cilantro and a drizzle of sesame oil.
Options for thickening the soup: If you wish to have a thicker soup, you can use cornstarch, tapioca starch or arrowroot flour. Equal parts starch to cold water (or broth). Whisk together. Start with 2 tablespoons starch to 2 tablespoons water. Stir into the soup after it has been simmering, before you add the eggs. I find when I add 4 eggs to the soup, I don’t need or want the starch to thicken. It’s just personal preference.
Traditional hot and sour soup uses dried wood-ear mushrooms and dried day lilies, about 1 ounces of each, since these aren’t super easy to come by, I skip them, if you have access, go for it. They are lovely. Simply soak to rehydrate and add when you are adding the mushrooms.
Leave out the garlic and mushrooms to make low FODMAP