A simple, tasty dish using common ingredients, classic egg drop soup only takes a few minutes to cook. Learn pro tips to make it to perfection.
What is egg drop soup
As its English name suggests, egg drop soup is a type of soup that involves dropping eggs into the broth. Whereas its Chinese name “Dàn Huā Tāng/蛋花汤” literally means “egg flower soup”.
I presume it refers to the flocculent appearance of the cooked eggs which resemble tiny blossoms. This particular look is achieved by slowly pouring the beaten egg into the simmering broth.
Compared to other popular Chinese soups (such as Wonton Soup, Hot & Sour Soup, etc.), egg drop soup takes very little time and effort to make. Only a few common ingredients are called for and it can be made in just a few minutes!
Like congee (Chinese rice porridge), this delectable soup is considered a “healing food” by many Chinese people. Whenever I crave something soothing and light, it’s one of the dishes that always comes to my mind.
It’s gluten-free and vegetarian-adaptable (if using vegetable broth). A single serving only counts around 90 calories.
Here is a quick summary of the factors that contribute to a great bowl of egg drop soup.
- Use broth, instead of water, as the soup base.
- Add starch to create a silky texture but do not overuse it.
- Pour in the beaten egg when the broth is at a bare simmer.
- Control pouring and swirling to achieve the perfect egg strands.
- Add extra ingredients to create more versions.
Four key elements go into this authentic egg drop soup recipe: broth, cornstarch, eggs, and seasonings. Read on to learn more about each ingredient and substitute.
Chicken broth is the most popular base for egg drop soup. Beef broth works too if you prefer its flavor. To make this dish vegetarian, substitute with vegetable broth.
Shop-bought ready-to-use broth and stock cubes/powder are quick solutions. Make your own if time permits. You can find instructions on homemade chicken broth in my recipe for wonton soup.
🛎Substitute: Don’t have broth at hand? Try water seasoned with chicken powder (鸡精), mushroom powder (香菇精), or MSG (味精).
Cornstarch is used to slightly thicken the soup base and create a silky smooth mouthfeel. It also helps the tiny egg ribbons to stay floating instead of sinking to the bottom.
Other types of starch, such as tapioca, sweet potato, potato, or arrowroot starch, can be used as substitutes.
Like how I cook Tomato & Egg Stir-fry, I always add a little water to the eggs and then whisk lightly. This helps to get a tenderer texture, as well as thinner the consistency of the eggs making it flow smoothly when pouring.
You only need salt, white pepper, and sesame oil to season egg drop soup. Remember to use sesame oil sparingly to avoid overpowering the dish.
Use finely chopped scallions (green onions/spring onions), or chives, to brighten up the dish.
Egg drop soup is one of the simplest Chinese dishes to make. However, attention to detail is required to achieve the best result. Here are the cooking procedures and tips you may find helpful.
Step 1: heat the broth
In a saucepan or small pot, bring the broth to a full boil then turn the heat down to a gentle simmer.
Step 2: Season the broth
Add salt, ground white pepper, and sesame oil and stir to distribute evenly. If your broth is already salted, you may not need extra salt. It’s always a good idea to taste and adjust.
Step 3: Add the starch
In a small bowl, mix cornstarch with water (double the volume of the starch) very well then gradually pour it into the broth while stirring with a spoon.
🛎TIP: At this stage, the soup won’t actually look “thick”. It still flows easily. Although cornstarch slurry is a key ingredient, I don’t recommend you increase its quantity. Overuse would make the soup slimy.
Step 4: Pour in the egg
This is the most technical part of the recipe. Read and follow these tips to produce small, wispy “egg flowers” (also watch the video in the recipe card below).
- Make sure the broth is at a bare simmer before adding the egg.
- Drizzle it in a thin stream (a jag with a pouring spout would help).
- Slowly and gently swirl the soup with a spoon (do not swirl vigorously otherwise the egg strands will be too small turning the soup into a paste).
🛎TIP: If you prefer large “egg flowers”, follow the same instructions to pour the egg but don’t swirl the soup.
Step 5: Garnish and serve
Spoon the soup into serving bowls and sprinkle finely chopped scallions to garnish. Enjoy while it’s warm.
Store & make ahead
You can keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 days. Reheat until piping hot but avoid overcooking to retain the egg’s tenderness.
I don’t recommend you freeze the soup as the texture of the egg strands tends to become a little rubbery. But you can freeze the seasoned, thickened broth. Defrost and heat it then pour in the egg before serving.
What to serve with
Honestly, I can eat egg drop soup at any time of the day. The pairing options are endless but here are some of my favorite ways to serve it.
- With bready staples like Scallion Pancakes, Mantou (plain steamed buns), Sheng Jian Bao (Pan fried pork buns), You Tiao (Chinese doughnut sticks), etc.
- With all-in-one meals like Pork Fried Rice, Chicken Chow Mein, Singapore Rice Noodles, Clay Pot Rice, etc.
- In a multi-course meal, along with savory dishes like Garlic Sauce Pork, Black Pepper Beef, Sichuan Homestyle Tofu, etc., and steamed rice.
Egg drop soup variations
Besides this classic version, Chinese egg drop soup has many other variations with extra ingredients. The favorite in our Red House is Tomato Egg Drop Soup (see image above) which has a tangy and umami taste.
Dried seaweed (Zi Cai/紫菜), corn, peas, spinach, soft tofu, and mushrooms are also great additions.
A: It’s not a secret that restaurants use turmeric or food coloring to make egg drop soup look yellower (more appetizing). You can do the same.
A: It’s simply because egg drop soup tastes wonderful without the addition of soy sauce. That said, please feel free to add some if you wish. Start with a few drops then taste to adjust.
A: You may leave out cornstarch if you aren’t keen to create the most authentic look and texture. My recipe for tomato egg drop soup doesn’t use starch, but it still tastes great.
A: I don’t think flour is an ideal substitute for this recipe as it makes the soup cloudy and opaque.
Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 rating in the recipe card below & if you REALLY like it, consider leaving a comment as well!
Egg Drop Soup, The Classic Version (蛋花汤)
- 3 large eggs
- 4 cups chicken broth - or vegetable broth (see note 1)
- Salt - to taste
- Ground white pepper - to taste
- ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
- 3 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 stalk scallions - finely chopped
- Crack the eggs then add 2 tablespoons of water. Beat lightly until the whites and yolks are fully integrated. Set aside.
- Pour the broth into a saucepan/pot. Bring it to a full boil then turn the heat down to a gentle simmer.
- Season the broth with salt, white pepper, and sesame oil. Taste to adjust.
- In a small bowl, mix cornstarch with 6 tablespoons of water until combined (make sure no starch sinks to the bottom). Gradually pour it into the broth while stirring with a spoon.
- Turn the heat to the lowest so the broth is at a bare simmer. Pour the beaten eggs in a thin stream while slowly swirling with the spoon.
- Transfer the soup to individual bowls. Garnish with scallions and serve immediately.
NUTRITION DISCLOSURE: Nutritional information on this website is provided as a courtesy to readers. It should be considered estimates. Please use your own brand nutritional values or your preferred nutrition calculator to double check against our estimates.