Chinese Bird’s Nest Soup Recipe

Birds’ nests are prized in Chinese culture, so this Bird’s Nest Soup is for special occasions when you really want to impress! Follow this recipe for a soup that’s fit for royalty.

bird's nest soup

Why This Bird’s Nest Soup Is So Good

  • A Chinese delicacy that’s steeped in history
  • Impress guests with this decadent soup.
  • Easy to make.

Ingredients

  • Dried red dates
  • Rock sugar
  • Bird’s nest
  • Water

How To Make This Bird’s Nest Soup – Step By Step 

Soak the bird’s nest overnight in cool water.

bird's nest in pot

The nest should be clean of all impurities.

hand holding bird's nest

If you happen to get bird’s nest that contains impurities, it’s best to clean the nest one more time. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and boil the bird’s nest for 10 minutes, then drain and rinse with cool water.

But since this bird’s nest is so clean, all we needed to do was soak overnight and drain.

nest in sieve

Bring a pot with 6 cups of water to a low simmer. Add in the drained bird’s nest and jujubes.

dates and bird's nest in pot

Keep the heat on low – you don’t want a hard, rolling boil (which would break the delicate bird’s nest). Aim for the smallest bubbles possible.

Cook for 30 minutes – 2 hours. The timing really depends on the quality of the bird’s nest that you have. For Golden Nest’s products, it only took 30 minutes of cooking to get a gelatinous texture. If you over-cook the bird’s nest, it will become gummy and break apart, ruining the very expensive delicacy!

Taste the bird’s nest – it should be soft, gelatinous, slippery-like.

ladle in bird's nest soup

Add in 4 medium chunks of rock sugar. You can turn off the heat and just let the sugar slowly dissolve. Taste and add additional sugar if you’d like. The flavor should be delicately sweet.

rock sugar in bird's nest soup

Serve warm.

bowl of bird's nest soup

What Is Bird’s Nest Soup?

Bird’s Nest Soup 燕窝 is one of the most luxurious and expensive delicacies in Chinese cuisine. The shallow cup-shaped nest that hang from the sides of caves takes the swiftlet bird over 30 days to build. For hundreds of years, bird’s nest soup has been prized for its health benefits, especially increasing libido.

For the price of $100 per serving at some restaurants, you might expect the most delicious experience. In fact, the bird’s nest has very little flavor on it’s own, and its gelatinous texture might be forgettable. But what you’re buying is rarity and centuries of tradition, culture and perhaps superstition.

pack of dried bird's nestI’ve only had Chinese Bird’s Nest Soup a few times, the last time was about 10 years ago in Hong Kong. U.S. based Golden Nest company sent 1 ounce of their AAA grade (retail $105) bird’s nest to cook.

I recruited Mom to help me, as I’ve never cooked with such an expensive ingredient before! Mom called her sister, in Hong Kong, for a recipe.

For premium, high quality bird’s nest, the simpler and cleaner the recipe, the better. “According to the Qing Dynasty manual of gastronomy, the Suiyuan shidan, bird nest was a delicate ingredient that must not be flavoured or cooked with anything strong tasting or oily.” (source)

Quality of Bird’s Nest is Important

One of Mom’s cookbooks talks extensively about bird’s nest. There are different grades of nests, the blackish nest near the top is the lowest quality (see all the feathers?), and the spongy looking nest (middle, top), is a lesser quality, the kind that many restaurants will use but will doctor up the soup with many other ingredients.

pictures of bird's nest

Golden Nest’s bird’s nest resembles the bottom left photo. Perfectly formed, white, with no impurities.

Protecting The Swiflets Is Important

Any animal product that is high highly prized and can fetch a large sum of money needs to be tightly regulated, to protect the animal. Reputable companies will wait for the swiftlet to lay their eggs, and for the birds to hatch prior to harvesting the nest. The industry is highly regulated and taxed. The problem is poachers, illegal harvesting and illegal export of bird’s nests. Only purchase bird’s nests from reputable companies. Golden Nest is based in the California, and you can look up their Better Business Bureau rating online.

Bird’s Nest Soup – A Simple Soup 

Because of the extreme high quality of the bird’s nest, we opted for a pleasantly sweet soup with only 3 ingredients: bird’s nest, red date (jujube) and rock sugar.

Jujube – Dried Red Dates

Dried jujube is considered a Chinese superfood for their health benefits. You’ll often find these dates in traditional Chinese herbal concoctions, soups and braised dishes. Jujube has 80x the vitamin C than grapes and apples, and they are said to “stimulate the production of white blood cells, which improves immunity, and decrease the levels of cholesterol in your bloodstream, which helps protect the liver” (source)

The taste is sweet.

dried dates

Rock Sugar In This Bird’s Nest Soup

Rock sugar is used often in Chinese cooking – they are golden, irregular clumps of sugar. Its taste is clean, less sweet than granulated sugar and dissolves nicely in hot water without a gritty texture.

You can find it packaged in boxes or bags, in Asian markets.

rock sugar

Top Tips For This Bird’s Nest Soup 

  • If you happen to get bird’s nest that contains impurities, it’s best to clean the nest one more time. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and boil the bird’s nest for 10 minutes, then drain and rinse with cool water.
  • When boiling the bird’s nest you want a gentle boil or it will rip up the bird’s nest.
  • Taste and add additional sugar if you’d like.
  • Serve warm

pack of rock sugar

Check Out These Other Delicious Soups

Have you tried this Bird’s Nest soup? Feel free to leave a star rating and I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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Bird’s Nest Soup
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
35 mins
soak
8 hrs
Total Time
40 mins
 
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: bird's nest soup, chinese fine dining, tradtional chinese soup
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 272 kcal
Author: Jaden Hair
Ingredients
  • Dried Red Dates
  • Rock sugar
  • Bird’s nest
Instructions
  1. Soak the bird's nest overnight in cool water.
  2. Drain.
  3. Bring a pot with 6 cups of water to a low simmer. Add in the drained bird's nest and jujubes.
  4. Keep the heat on low - you don't want a hard, rolling boil (which would break the delicate bird's nest). Aim for the smallest bubbles possible.
  5. Cook for 30 minutes - 2 hours. The timing really depends on the quality of the bird's nest that you have. For Golden Nest's products, it only took 30 minutes of cooking to get a gelatinous texture. If you over-cook the bird's nest, it will become gummy and break apart, ruining the very expensive delicacy!
  6. Taste the bird's nest - it should be soft, gelatinous, slippery-like.
  7. Add in 4 medium chunks of rock sugar. You can turn off the heat and just let the sugar slowly dissolve. Taste and add additional sugar if you'd like. The flavor should be delicately sweet.
  8. Serve warm.
Nutrition Facts
Bird’s Nest Soup
Amount Per Serving
Calories 272 Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Fat 1g2%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 4mg0%
Potassium 169mg5%
Carbohydrates 56g19%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 8g9%
Protein 9g18%
Calcium 14mg1%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.