There is something undeniably comforting about a steaming bowl of Chinese tomato egg drop soup. And with a short list of easy-to-find ingredients, you most likely already have everything you need to whip up this delightful dish in under 30 minutes.
Egg drop soup is also called egg flower soup, a literal translation of its Chinese name.
The name beautifully describes the floral patterns, reminiscent of delicate blossoms floating on the surface, created by swirling beaten eggs into hot broth.
It should also come as no surprise that egg drop soup is one of the most popular soups in Chinese cuisine. With delicate egg ribbons suspended in a flavourful broth, this tomato and egg soup is perfect for a light soup course or bulked up into a complete meal.
Why you’ll love this tomato egg drop soup
It should be immediately clear why this easy recipe is a staple for Chinese households. The popular Chinese soup is both simple to make and incredibly satisfying.
Why will you fall in love with tomato egg drop soup?
- It requires simple ingredients: This recipe uses easy-to-find ingredients like fresh tomatoes, green onions, whisked eggs and a handful of pantry ingredients.
- The recipe is super flexible: Make it your own by adding cooked noodles or silken tofu for a more filling main course. Use Chinese homestyle or shop-bought chicken broth. Or keep things vegetarian with a vegetable broth. You can always boost the umami of your vegetable stock with a dried shiitake mushroom.
- Make it gluten-free: Simply swap out the light soy sauce for tamari to make this recipe gluten-free and enjoy it sans gluten.
- It is quick and easy to get on the table: This recipe is perfect for busy weeknights or whenever you need a quick pick-me-up. You’ll have comforting bowls of egg tomato soup on the table in under 30 minutes.
- The silky egg flowers are also very pretty: The delicate egg ribbons provide a silky texture and beautiful patterns, sure to impress your guests.
Ingredients and substitutes
This easy recipe requires only a handful of basic ingredients and comes together in under 30 minutes. And the meal is as comforting as it is easy to make.
- Cooking oil: Use a neutral-tasting oil – like canola, peanut, or vegetable oil.
- Scallions: If you don’t have scallions (green onions or spring onions), use finely chopped regular onions or shallots instead.
- Garlic: Freshly minced garlic adds a savoury flavour, but you can omit it without impacting the final dish too much.
- Tomatoes: I use Roma tomatoes because they’re readily available. But you can use any other type of tomato, including small tomatoes, though tomatoes with a meaty texture work best.
- Stock: Traditional Chinese egg drop soup calls for chicken stock. Homestyle Chinese chicken stock includes aromatics like scallions and ginger. But because we add aromatics to the soup, you can use any good quality chicken or vegetable stock.
- Soy sauce: Use all-purpose or light soy sauce, not dark soy sauce – it explicitly states dark on the label. Or use tamari to keep things gluten-free.
- Ground white pepper: I adore the classic Chinese pepper flavour. But if you don’t have any, you can substitute it for black pepper or chilli flakes for a spicy egg drop soup.
- Toasted sesame oil: It has a strong nutty flavour, and a little goes a long way. Untoasted sesame oil does not have the same flavour. You can skip or substitute the toasted sesame oil, but it will alter the final taste.
- Cornstarch: If you use very thick gelatinous chicken stock, you can skip the cornstarch. But the cornstarch helps to thicken the soup and to get that classic Chinese restaurant consistency. It also helps to suspend the delicate egg ribbons in the broth.
- Eggs: It wouldn’t be egg drop soup without some eggs, would it? The delicate egg ribbons have a seductively silky texture and further thicken the simple broth.
Not feeling soupy?
Did you know you can make another comforting Chinese staple from the same ingredients as this tomato and egg soup?
Chinese stir-fried tomato with scrambled egg is another favourite weeknight dinner spooned over steamed rice. The stir-fry requires the same handful of pantry ingredients (without the stock) to create a quick-and-easy meal.
How to make tomato egg drop soup
Making Chinese restaurant-style egg drop soup at home is easier than you think. And it’s all about figuring out how YOU like it. So feel free to adapt these instructions for the homemade soup to fit your preference.
Make tomato egg drop soup in four easy steps:
- Step 1: Ingredient prep
- Step 2: Sauté aromatics and stir-fry tomatoes
- Step 3: Craft your soup base to taste
- Step 4: Create the egg flowers
Step 1: Ingredient prep
It helps to stay organised when preparing this Chinese tomato and egg soup. Use small bowls to measure ingredients before getting started. Or simply arrange the ingredients on the counter, ready to eyeball – I get it, not everyone measures.
Step 2: Sauté aromatics and tomatoes
Heat oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat.
Add the sliced spring onions and minced garlic, sautéing for two minutes until softened. Next, incorporate the chopped tomatoes and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until they transform into a soft, saucy mixture.
Step 3: Craft your soup base to taste
Add the stock, water, and soy sauce (or tamari) to the stir-fried tomatoes and aromatics. Bring the mixture to a boil before reducing the heat to low, allowing it to simmer for five minutes.
Sprinkle the white pepper powder over the soup (to prevent clumping), then mix in sesame oil and season with salt to taste.
Grab a separate bowl and mix a tablespoon of cornstarch with two tablespoons of cold water. Add this cornstarch slurry to the simmering soup, which will thicken slightly. You can add more cornstarch slurry if you want a thicker broth. The whisked eggs will also thicken the soup.
Step 4: Create the egg flowers
The tender egg flowers make this simple soup comforting and beautiful – and this is where the magic happens.
Form a whirlpool in the boiling soup by stirring a soup ladle in a circular motion.
Gently pour the beaten egg mixture into the broth in a thin stream as you stir to create the pretty egg ribbons. Allow the eggs to cook undisturbed for another minute for larger egg flowers, or break them apart with the ladle for a more shredded appearance.
Ladle the hot soup into bowls, garnishing with the reserved green onion.
Serve this traditional egg drop soup warm on a chilly day or at room temperature in the summer. And enjoy the bright tomato flavour and comforting warmth of this popular Chinese soup.
Tips and tricks for perfect egg drop soup
Create restaurant-quality Chinese egg and tomato soup in the comfort of your own kitchen with these tips and tricks:
- Pick ripe, tangy tomatoes: Choose red, fully ripened tomatoes for a bright tomato flavour. I use sun-ripened Roma tomatoes but don’t hesitate to experiment with other varieties. Why not try a tangy yellow tomato?
- Whisk eggs thoroughly: Attain those tender eggs and delicate, silky ribbons by whisking your eggs well before adding them to the soup pot. But stop whisking before the egg mixture gets frothy.
- Pour a thin stream of eggs: Slowly and steadily pour whisked eggs into the boiling soup from a height. This approach creates long, silky strands as the eggs cook – my preferred appearance and texture.
- Create a whirlpool motion: Stir the soup in a circular motion to create a gentle whirlpool as you add the eggs for the delicate egg flower shape. You can also use chopsticks at the edge of a bowl to scatter the beaten eggs into thin strands like J. Kenji López-Alt does (see his youtube video that illustrates the technique).
- Avoid overcooking the eggs: Monitor the soup closely after adding the raw egg. Overcooked eggs become rubbery and lose their delicate nature. Aim to cook them until just set – about one minute.
- Balance seasonings: Taste, taste, taste! And adjust the soup to taste after incorporating white pepper powder and salt.
Storing egg drop soup
Egg drop soup is best served fresh. And it is so easy to make that you can whip up a fresh batch in no time. But you can safely refrigerate your leftovers or get ahead by making the broth a couple of days in advance.
You can make the soup base and refrigerate it for three days. Then reheat the broth and create fresh and silky egg ribbons just before serving.
You can also freeze the soup base for up to three months.
Refrigerating egg drop soup
While the egg ribbons are definitely at their silkiest when fresh, you can safely refrigerate egg drop soup. Allow leftover Chinese tomato egg drop soup to cool to room temperature before transferring it to an airtight container.
Properly stored in the refrigerator, your soup will keep for three days.
When you’re ready to reheat and serve, gently warm the soup over low heat on the stovetop – and stir occasionally to ensure even heating.
Freezing egg drop soup
I don’t recommend freezing egg drop soup. The reheated egg ribbons become rubbery and lose the appeal of those silky strands.
But you can make a large batch of the soup base, freeze it for up to three months and make fresh egg ribbons in the reheated broth whenever you want.
How to serve Chinese tomato egg drop soup
This versatile recipe can be a soup appetiser, a light main course, or part of a Chinese multi-dish meal.
As a first course
Tomato egg drop soup is a satisfying and nourishing starter to kick off any meal. Pour the soup into small bowls or cups, and garnish with the reserved green scallion bits for a pop of colour. Serve the soup warm or at room temperature.
As a light meal
For a more substantial meal, bulk up the soup with cooked noodles or silken tofu. These additions will fill you up and add interesting textures to the soup, making it an ideal option for a light lunch or dinner.
In a multi-dish meal
Tomato egg drop soup fits seamlessly into a multi-course meal, offering a soothing contrast to other bold and flavourful Chinese dishes. Serve the soup alongside other favourites like stir-fried vegetables, Kung Pao cauliflower or chicken, or beef and broccoli.
Frequently asked questions
Cornstarch thickens the broth and helps to suspend the delicate egg strands in the soup base. The beaten eggs cook in the hot soup to further thicken the soup and create the unique texture of egg drop soup.
There is no raw egg in egg drop soup. The raw whisked egg quickly cooks in the simmering soup and solidifies, forming the characteristic egg ribbons.
Yes, you can safely refrigerate and reheat egg drop soup. But the delicate egg ribbons are silkiest when just cooked. Store any leftover soup in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to three days. Reheat gently over low heat on the stovetop, stirring occasionally.
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil, like canola, peanut or vegetable oil
- 2 scallions, finely sliced (green bits reserved for garnish)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 10 ounces Roma tomatoes (about 3), roughly chopped
- 2 cups stock, vegetable or chicken stock*
- 1 cup water, or more stock
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce, or tamari for gluten-free
- ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
- ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- salt, to taste
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch, or more as needed*
- 2 large eggs, whisked
- Place a medium pot or saucepan over medium heat and add the oil. Sauté the sliced scallion whites and minced garlic for 2 minutes until soft and fragrant.
- Add the chopped tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are saucy and falling apart.
- Pour the stock, water, and soy sauce (or tamari) into the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle the ground white pepper over the soup – it tends to cluster, so don’t just dump it in. Then stir in the sesame oil and a pinch of salt to season the soup. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your preference.
- Next, make a cornstarch slurry by mixing the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of cold water in a small bowl. Stir the slurry into the soup until the cornstarch is incorporated and the soup thickens slightly. Add extra cornstarch slurry if you want a thicker soup.
- While maintaining a gentle simmer, move a soup ladle in a circular motion beneath the soup surface to create a whirlpool. Keep stirring as you slowly pour the whisked eggs into the soup in a thin stream. Stir the soup to break apart the egg drizzle, or leave them undisturbed for longer ribbons – I prefer longer silky egg ribbons. Let the wisps of egg cook for another minute.
- Ladle the soup into bowls, and garnish with the reserved green bits of scallion. Serve the soup warm or at room temperature.
- Chinese homestyle chicken stock is the traditional choice – it contains aromatics like scallions and ginger. But because we add some extra aromatics to the broth, you can use the stock you have.
- But if you’re using vegetable stock or very thin chicken stock, you may need to add extra cornstarch. The consistency of the soup should be slightly thickened. When you add the whisked eggs, the soup will thicken a bit more.