The Ultimate Guide to Hot Pot at Home

family dinner sharing hot pot at home

Hot pot is one of those rare meals where I prefer making it at home versus going to a restaurant–it’s much cheaper to feed a big group, the prep isn’t too tricky, and I can customize the ingredients to what people actually want to eat. While there are many varieties of hot pot, like Japanese shabu shabu or spicy Chinese hot pot, I like to pick and choose my favorite aspects of each and combine them. 

After many years of eating hot pot communally with friends and family, I’ve come up with a guide on how to throw the best hot pot party at home. I’ll show you how to set up equipment, what to buy at the grocery store, and most importantly, how much food to buy for a group of about six people. Each person’s hot pot is meant to be customized, but use this thorough guide as a jumping-off point for yours. 

Where’s hot pot from?

hot pot with all ingredients cooking

Hot pot is a communal way of eating that involves simmering a metal pot full of broth over a stove (or grill), and you eat as you cook. It originated in China as far back as the Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC). These days, Chinese hot pot is divided between the Northern style (more meat-focused, like mutton) and the Southern style (often spicier broths with different dipping sauces). 

Hot pot is a pretty simple concept: cooking ingredients like meat, seafood, vegetables, tofu, and carbs in a broth. However, there are many variations of hot pot worldwide. You’ll find shabu shabu in Japan, while Korea has its versions called ​​jeongol and jjigae. Taiwanese hot pot is it’s own thing, and my family does our own take with Vietnamese hot pot too.

I’ve had many different types of hot pot for over 20 years and whenever I host hot pot at home, I like to add different elements of each variety. Not for the sake of mixing, but to just get to eat what I want. For example, I like using different broths (one lighter broth, a sweet-savory sukiyaki-based broth, and a spicier broth from Haidilao), cooking both meat and seafood, and using lots of options for dipping sauces. 

Hot pot is best as a shared experience, so it’s necessary to have at least a small group of people to eat it. Otherwise, you’ll end up with excess ingredients that you can’t buy small amounts of.

Hot pot equipment

You’ll need a heating element to boil the broth and cook the food. The most common two options are a butane gas burner and an induction stove. These two are commonly found in Asian markets in the kitchen aisle. Here are some tips for equipment:

portable butane stove and induction stove
  • butane gas burner: this is our go-to for hot pot because it’s strong and buying fuel is relatively inexpensive. You also don’t need to plug it into a wall socket. You should only use a butane gas burner when you are in a well-ventilated space to prevent carbon monoxide buildup. I use this burner near a large sliding glass door while keeping the stove exhaust on too. 
  • electric induction stove: this is a safer option if you are worried about ventilation issues indoors. Make sure your pot works for induction stoves (magnetic stainless steel, cast iron, enameled iron, or nickel base cookware). I’ve also found that portable induction stoves can be weaker than gas burners, so reaching a boil may take some time; however, they get the job done.
split pot for hot pot
  • pot: You can use any pot (as long as it works on your heating element), but we recommend split hot pots that are wide and made of thin metal to have fast-boiling broth and the split option lets you have two broths. I also recommend having a lid because it helps bring the broth to a boil faster. I like to heat the pot on your main kitchen stove to give it a fast kick start though.
tongs and ladels
  • stainless steel ladles: Use at least two types of ladles, one solid for soup and a strainer ladle to get ingredients without soup. I only use metal or wooden utensils in my kitchen to reduce microplastics in my hot foods. 
  • tongs: stainless steel tongs help move large items like leafy veggies or meats. 
  • scissors: these are great for cutting noodles, mushrooms, or other ingredients you’ll want to split with others. 
  • chopsticks: for eating and serving. Long chopsticks are also great for more reach.
rice bowls and sauce dipping bowls for hot pot
  • eating bowls: for rice and/or noodles 
  • dipping bowls: you’ll need plenty of dipping bowls for guests. I have two bowls per person if someone likes different sauces for different ingredients. I usually keep one for goma or sesame base, and one for a ponzu based sauce.

Types of hot pot soup bases

packaged instant hot pot broth

Now, onto the main event, the soup. Hot pot broth varies so much depending on the type of hot pot cuisine. Northern Chinese broths can be on the lighter side with water as a base to highlight the heavy meat ingredients like mutton, Southern Chinese broths feature mala (a numbingly spicy seasoning of peppers and chili), Japanese sukiyaki has a sweet soy sauce broth, and Vietnamese canh chua includes a tamarind-base broth. 

You can eat many different types of soup bases for a hot pot party, and the types of premade packets and homemade bases are endless. If you like some of the more popular hot pot restaurants like Haidilao or Little Sheep, both companies sell their broth in packets available at Asian grocery stores like H-Mart or Ranch 99. 

simmering pot of broth

You can also make a hot pot base at home to customize a specific flavor. Here is my go-to homemade hot pot broth, which is easy to make for veggie-friendly folks or meat eaters with a handful of ingredients.  

Ingredients

Before going on a grocery hunt, my best tip is to survey the people coming to dinner and ask them what their favorite ingredients they like to eat for hot pot. This is a good guide on what to buy and how much to buy at the grocery store because I have often bought too many hot pot ingredients. 

Below, you’ll find a guide on how I host hot pot for a group of 6 people who eat what I would call an average amount of food with a balanced assortment of meat, veggies, and carbs. If you have different preferences, feel free to just use this guide as a springboard. 

For my group of 6 friends, I typically pick 2 lb of protein, 1 type of tofu, 2 types of carbs, 2 types of greens, and 4 types of other veggies. We also love dipping sauces and have variety, so we tend to err on the side of abundance and have a plethora of ingredient options that include black vinegar, sesame paste, chili oil crisp, goma, ponzu, scallions, fried garlic, and more.  

Proteins (pick 2-3)

protein for hot pot: beef, pork, salmon, seafood, tofu

Depending on who you have for dinner, I would suggest picking 2-4 types of proteins and buying ½ lb of meat per person if you have heavy meat eaters, ⅓ lb of meat for your average eater, or ¼ lb of meat per person if your guests don’t eat that much meat. 

For meat proteins, you’ll want to find very thinly sliced meat (often in the frozen or refrigerated section) because it will be quicker to cook in a hot pot–no more than 1-2 minutes, depending on the meat. You’ll know the meat is done when it turns from pink to brown. At some Asian grocery stores, some of these meat varieties will also have a sticker or label on them that indicates they are best for hot pot (or other iterations like shabu). 

  • beef (brisket, short rib, top blade, eye round, beef tongue, or ribeye): thinly sliced, frozen or refrigerated. 
  • pork (pork belly, pork shoulder, pork collar, or pork butt): thinly sliced, frozen or refrigerated. 
  • lamb (leg or shoulder): thinly sliced, frozen or refrigerated. 
  • chicken (chicken thighs or breast): boneless, skinless, and thinly sliced. You’ll most often find this refrigerated and will need to slice it yourself. A tip is to place chicken in the freezer for about 10 minutes until it’s slightly firm, but you can still slice it with a sharp knife. 
  • fish (salmon, salmon skin, halibut, seabass, tilapia, or bass): thinly sliced and boneless. My H-Mart has salmon skin and salmon belly precut for an affordable price because they don’t have as much meat on them. Many fish varieties cook very quickly in hot pot when they are sliced thinly. I cook fish slices for about 1-2 minutes until they’re opaque and firm. 
  • cuttlefish: fresh and kept whole. Boil in hot pot until they turn opaque and firm. 
  • scallops: frozen and no shell. Frozen scallops are more affordable than fresh scallops and cook just as quickly in hot pot without defrosting. Depending on the size, scallops will boil in hot pot in 1-2 minutes (or when they turn opaque). 
  • shrimp: I prefer de-shelled, frozen shrimp because of its convenience. Defrost them first by rinsing them in cold water until they are soft to the touch. Boil until they’re opaque, about 3-5 minutes, depending on their size. 
  • clams and mussels: similar to scallops, buy clams and mussels frozen and deshelled. They can go straight into the hot pot and cook for 5-10 minutes, depending on the size. They will be firm and opaque in color once finished. 
  • meatballs (fish, beef, shrimp, or pork): various types of meatballs are found in the frozen sections, and you can put them straight into hot pot without defrosting. Meatballs typically take 5-10 minutes to fully cook in hot pot, depending on the size. They’re done when they float to the top of the pot and have a bouncy consistency. 
  • fish cakes: you’ll find fish cakes in the refrigerated section. Cut them into a smaller size, I like 3-inch triangles. Cook them until they’re hot (they’re already cooked, so you just need to warm them up). 

Tofu (pick 1-2, or more if you are catering to veggie-friendly diets)

tofu skin, fried tofu plate

Tofu is a great option to have because a little goes a long way and it’s inexpensive. If you’re hosting guests who are on veggie-friendly diets, feel free to add more than the suggested amount. Tofu is often easy to prep (if there’s any prep at all), and it cooks quickly. 

  • fresh tofu (firm or extra firm): cut into 1-inch cubes. Boil in the hot pot for about 30 seconds to one minute or until hot.  
  • fried tofu: cut into 1-inch cubes. Boil in the hot pot for about 30 seconds to one minute or until hot.
  • tofu sheets or skin: slice into 1-inch wide, long strips for easy cooking. I like to fold them in an accordion style and skewer them together so it’s easier to boil in hot pot and pull out. Boil in the hot pot for 30 seconds to one minute or until hot. 
  • fried beancurd rolls: place directly into hot pot and cook for about 30 seconds to one minute or until hot. 

Carbs (pick 1-2 carbs)

noodles, ramen, rice, carb options for hot pot

Rice is always a staple for our hot pot nights, but many prefer other options—our friends especially like ramen noodles to eat with the concentrated broth at the end of the meal. If your friends and family love carbs, I suggest picking at least two.  

  • rice: I like to cook short-grain rice, but you can cook jasmine, brown, or whatever your preference. 
  • udon: buy the frozen packs in the freezer section, and they cook in 1 minute in hot pot. It’s super fast, and I recommend using scissors to cut them up for easier eating. 
  • egg noodles: buy fresh egg noodles in the refrigerator section. There are lots of different noodle thicknesses. Based on the thickness of your noodles, egg noodles can take 5-8 minutes. I recommend not boiling these until the end of your meal because egg noodles often have starch on them which could end up thickening your broth too much.  
  • shirataki noodles: these noodles are made from konjac; they have a gelatinous texture and are difficult to overcook. Boil them until they’re hot (less than one minute, but they can be left in the pot for over 10 minutes without disintegrating). Cut them with scissors to make eating easier. 
  • rice cake slices: pick thin rice cake slices instead of tube-shaped rice cakes because they are easier to eat. Boil the rice cakes for 1-2 minutes until they’re softened. 
  • ramen noodles: buy plain, dry packaged ramen (without the seasoning). Boil it in the hot pot for 3 minutes for an al dente texture, longer if you want it softer. Cut the noodles with scissors and transfer them to your bowls. Add soup from the hot pot to eat.  
  • rice noodles: read the package for specific instructions where you may need to submerge them in cold water before dipping them in hot pot. 

Leafy greens (pick 2-3)

plates of veggies and mushrooms for hot pot

Don’t skimp on the greens–they offer a good texture and make hot pot much healthier. However, cleaning leafy greens takes some work to get into every nook and cranny. 

To ensure everything is super clean, I chop certain greens first, submerge them in water and vegetable wash, and rinse them under running water until the water comes clean; this applies specifically to baby bok choy, napa cabbage, and chrysanthemum leaves. The other greens don’t need to be chopped first. I buy my vegetable wash from Trader Joe’s, but you can also use water and a few drops of white vinegar. 

All of these greens cook fairly quickly, about 1-2 minutes, except for baby bok choy, which takes 3-4 minutes. 

  • Chinese spinach: buy the spinach in a bunch from the produce section; these bigger pieces are easier to fish out of the pot. Submerge in water and vegetable wash, and use your hands to move the greens around to help remove the dirt. Rinse with water until the water runs clear. Dry with a salad spinner.  
  • baby bok choy: cut baby bok choy in half keeping the stem attached. Submerge the bok choy in water and vegetable wash, and use your hands to move the greens around to help remove the dirt. Rinse thoroughly with water until it runs clear. Dry using a salad spinner. 
  • Napa cabbage: try to find already halved Napa cabbage in the store; this helps cut down on the amount of leftover cabbage, trust me. Once the cabbage is cut in half longways, cut it again so it’s in quarters. Remove the tough stem at the bottom and slice it in 1 ½ inch pieces.  Submerge the bok choy in water and vegetable wash, and use your hands to move the greens around to help remove the dirt. Rinse thoroughly with water until it runs clear. Dry using a salad spinner. 
  • chrysanthemum leaves: Cut the chrysanthemum leaves in half. Submerge the chrysanthemum leaves in water and vegetable wash, and use your hands to move the greens around to help remove the dirt. Rinse thoroughly with water until it runs clear. Dry using a salad spinner. 
  • watercress: Submerge the watercress in water and vegetable wash, and use your hands to move the greens around to help remove the dirt. Rinse thoroughly with water until it runs clear. Dry using a salad spinner. 
  • pea tips: Submerge the pea tips in water and vegetable wash, and use your hands to move the greens around to help remove the dirt. Rinse thoroughly with water until it runs clear. Dry using a salad spinner. 

Veggies (pick 3-4, or more if your guests have veggie-friendly diets)

plates of root veggies, squash, mushrooms

You can eat various vegetables with hot pot, and I recommend picking 3-4 types for a group of 6. If your group is keen on vegetables, feel free to add more to that number. 

  • lotus root: buy fresh lotus root and not precut because sometimes they have additives that change the flavor. They typically look like 2-3-inch thick tan tubes that range in length and sometimes are connected in links (think like a sausage). You’ll need to wash the skin of the lotus root thoroughly, peel the skin, and cut them into ½-inch round slices. I love lotus roots because they are difficult to overcook and have a great crunch. Cook lotus root slices in the broth for at least 2 minutes. 
  • kabocha: similar to Napa cabbage, kabocha can be a lot if you buy it whole, so try to find halved kabocha in-store. Wash the kabocha skin very thoroughly with running water and vegetable cleaner. Cut the kabocha in half (if it’s not already) and remove the seeds with a spoon. Slice the kabocha into ½-inch wedged slices. These slices will cook in about 1-2 minutes and very quickly turn mushy, so don’t forget about them!  
  • daikon radish: buy daikon radish fresh like the other roots above. Clean them thoroughly with vegetable wash and water. Peel the skin and cut them into ½-inch round slices. Cook them in the hot pot for at least 2 minutes, but you can leave them in longer like the lotus root. 
  • green onions: rinse green onions under running water. Cut the stems off and cut them into 3-inch pieces. Green onions cook in the hot pot for about 1 minute. 
  • bean sprouts: submerge bean sprouts in a water and vegetable wash and use your hands to move the beans around to remove dirt. Rinse with running water until it runs clean. Cook the beans for at least 2 minutes in the hot pot broth. 
  • broccoli: cut the dried part of the stem off (about 1 inch) and separate the florets into even-sized pieces. Submerge the broccoli florets in water and vegetable wash, and use your hands to move the pieces around to help remove the dirt. Rinse thoroughly with water until it runs clear. Broccoli takes about 2-3 minutes to cook in hot pot. 
  • bamboo shoots: buy whole packaged bamboo shoots in a bag. Cut them in half for easier portions to eat. Packaged bamboo shoots are already poached and cooked, so you need only 1-2 minutes to heat them in the pot. 
  • Chinese long green beans: cut the long green beans into 3-inch pieces. Submerge the green beans in water and vegetable wash, and use your hands to move the greens around to help remove the dirt. Rinse thoroughly with water until the water runs clear. Green beans take 2-3 minutes in a hot pot. 
  • king mushrooms: cut ½-inch of the stem off and break them into 1-inch thick bundles. use a damp paper towel to brush the dirt off the top and stem. Cook them in the hot pot for 2 minutes or until softened.
  • cremini mushrooms: use a damp paper towel to brush the dirt off the top and stem. Slice them into ¼-inch slices. Cook them in the hot pot for 2 minutes or until softened.
  • shiitake mushrooms: use a damp paper towel to brush the dirt off the top and stem. Slice them into ¼-inch slices. Cook them in the hot pot for 2 minutes or until softened. 
  • oyster mushrooms: cut ¼-inch of the stem off and break them into smaller bundles. Gently rinse under water. Cook them in the hot pot for 2 minutes or until softened. 
  • enoki mushrooms: cut ½-inch of the stem off and break them into 1-inch thick bundles. Gently rinse under water. Cook them in the broth for 30 seconds to 1 minute.  
  • shimeji mushrooms: cut ¼-inch of the stem off and break them into smaller bundles. Gently rinse under water. Cook them in the hot pot for 2 minutes or until softened.
  • dried wood ear mushrooms: rinse them in warm water and rub them to remove excess dirt. Cook them in the hot pot for 2 minutes or until rehydrated and softened.

Dipping sauces

hot pot dipping sauce station

Make a dipping sauce station so your guests can make their own dips, just like at Haidilao! Making a hot pot dipping sauce is my favorite part, and it truly brings so much flavor to every bite. I like to break down dipping sauce ingredients into three parts: sauce bases, aromatics, and spice. Start by choosing a base you like, add a few scoops of your favorite aromatics, and optionally finish with spice.

Sauce bases

  • Goma
  • sesame sauce/paste (not tahini!) 
  • soy sauce (light soy sauce, dark soy sauce)
  • ponzu
  • black vinegar
  • fish sauce
  • rice vinegar
  • oyster sauce
  • hoisin
  • roasted sesame oil

Aromatics

  • roasted sesame seeds
  • chopped cilantro
  • thinly sliced scallions
  • fried garlic
  • fried shallots 

Spice

  • chili oil
  • chili garlic crunchy
  • Sambal 
  • minced garlic
  • sliced Thai peppers

Place the ingredients on a countertop with extra spoons and bowls for your guests to make their creations. My go-to hot pot dip includes a mix of goma, sesame sauce, ponzu, rice vinegar, chili garlic crisp, scallions, fried garlic, and fried shallots. An easy and light dipping sauce can simply be ponzu, minced garlic, and scallions. 

Grocery stores to shop for hot pot

Living in Southern California, I’m fortunate to have a lot of grocery stores and markets that sell various hot pot party ingredients and equipment. I frequently visit H-Mart, Ranch 99, Seafood City, and Mitsuwa. H-Mart has pre-made fresh produce packs to make it easier to prep since prepping ingredients takes the longest. Usually I can just visit one of these stores and get everything I need for hot pot.

 If you don’t have Asian markets nearby, you can find a lot of equipment, such as gas burners, induction cooktops, and hot pot pots, on Amazon and Global Kitchen Japan. You can also find ingredients available online, like Weee! and Yami.

Hot pot tips

taking cooked beef out ot hot pot

I’ve hosted plenty of hot pot parties over the years and learned some lessons the hard way. Here are some tips to help you prep and host a successful hot pot dinner on the first go:

  • Prep time can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the amount of food you’re prepping. I always welcome help during this time.   
  • When you first add broth to the pot, leave at least 2 inches of space at the top of the pot. You’ll need space to add ingredients without spilling out. 
  • BEFORE adding ingredients to the broth, bring the broth to a boil. This will help evenly cook your ingredients. Remember this every time you want to add more ingredients while eating. 
  • Keep a pitcher of hot water on the side to add more liquid to the broth during eating. Some restaurants add extra broth, but I find that the hot pot is already salty and concentrated by the time we need more water, so I add hot water instead.
  • Add the things that take the longest to cook first (hard veggies like lotus root, or mushrooms.)
  • Have designated raw meat utensils to prevent contaminating other ingredients when moving ingredients to and from the hot pot. 
  • Don’t double-dip from your personal bowl and chopsticks to and from the communal hot pot. 
  • If you end up with an abundance of ingredients at the end of the night, you can use these as meal prep options for the week. Just make sure to cook items like meat or seafood quickly. Some recipes I like to make with extra hot pot ingredients are stir fry, fried rice, or another quick soup using ramen packets or leftover (unused) soup broth.
hot pot with ingredient plates nearby
hot pot at home recipe

Ultimate Guide to Hot Pot at Home

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Learn how to throw a hot pot dinner at home with this ingredient list!
BY: Huy Vu
Prep: 2 hours
Cook: 0 minutes
Total: 2 hours
SERVINGS: 6

Ingredients

Hot pot soup base

  • Homemade hot pot broth or premade packaged soup base

Meat & seafood (pick 2-3 options: ½ lb of meat per person if you have heavy meat eaters, ⅓ lb of meat for your average eater, or ¼ lb of meat per person if your guests don’t eat that much meat)

  • beef (brisket, short rib, top blade, eye round, beef tongue, or ribeye)

  • pork (pork belly, pork shoulder, pork collar, or pork butt)
  • lamb (leg or shoulder)
  • chicken (chicken thighs or breast)
  • fish (salmon, salmon skin, halibut, seabass, tilapia, or bass)
  • cuttlefish
  • scallops
  • shrimp
  • clams and mussels
  • meatballs (fish, beef, shrimp, or pork)
  • fish cakes

Tofu (pick 1-2 options, or more if you have veggie-friendly guests)

  • fresh tofu firm or extra firm
  • fried tofu
  • tofu sheets or skin
  • fried beancurd rolls

Carbs (pick 1-2 options)

  • rice
  • udon frozen
  • egg noodles fresh
  • shirataki noodles
  • rice cakes slices
  • ramen noodles
  • rice noodles

Leafy greens (pick 2-3 options)

  • Chinese spinach
  • baby bok choy
  • Napa cabbage
  • chrysanthemum leaves
  • watercress
  • pea tips

Other vegetables (pick 3-4 options, or more if you have veggie-friendly guests)

  • lotus root
  • kabocha
  • daikon radish
  • green onions
  • bean sprouts
  • broccoli
  • bamboo shoots
  • Chinese long green beans
  • enoki mushrooms
  • shiitake mushrooms
  • oyster mushrooms
  • king mushrooms
  • shimeji mushrooms
  • cremini mushrooms
  • dried wood ear mushrooms

Dipping sauce ingredients (pick 2-3 options in each sub-category)

Bases

  • Goma
  • sesame sauce/paste not tahini!
  • soy sauce light soy sauce, dark soy sauce
  • ponzu
  • black vinegar
  • fish sauce
  • rice vinegar
  • oyster sauce
  • hoisin
  • roasted sesame oil

Aromatics

  • roasted sesame seeds
  • chopped cilantro
  • thinly sliced scallions
  • fried garlic
  • fried shallots

Spice

  • chili oil
  • chili garlic crunchy
  • Sambal
  • minced garlic
  • sliced Thai peppers

Equipment Used

  • heating element (butane gas burner or electric induction stove)
  • pot with lid (make sure it works with your heating element)
  • 2+ stainless steel ladles (both solid ladles and perforated/net ladles)
  • 4+ tongs (separate tongs for cooking and serving)
  • scissors
  • 6+ chopsticks (individual chopsticks and serving chopsticks)
  • 6+ dipping sauce bowls
  • 6+ eating rice/noodle bowls
  • kettle of hot water

Instructions 

  • Talk to your guests about their hot pot preferences and how much they think they will eat.
  • Create a food list and grocery shop.
  • Prep the ingredients and dipping sauce station as suggested above.
    hot pot dipping sauce station
  • Gather all hot pot equipment and set up the dining table.
  • Make the hot pot broth or use a premade soup base and add enough broth until it reaches 2 inches from the top of the pot.
    packaged instant hot pot broth
  • Bring the broth to a simmer in the hot pot over the burner with the lid on.
  • Have guests make their dipping sauces and add rice to their bowls.
    sesame based dipping sauce for hot pot
  • Start adding ingredients to the hot pot. Once you add an ample amount of ingredients for one round of eating, wait for the food to cook. Before adding more food, wait for the heat to come back to a simmer, and don’t overfill the pot. (see above for cooking times)
    dipping beef into broth
  • After about 30-45 minutes of eating, you may need to refill the broth. If you still want to continue eating hot pot, pour some hot water into the broth. Add the lid so it comes back to simmer before adding more ingredients. If your guests want to eat noodles with concentrated broth, add your preferred noodles and cook.
    pouring hot water into hot pot
  • When finished eating, discard all the cooked broth (including ingredients in the broth you don’t want to eat). Store all the uneaten vegetables, tofu, and carbs in food storage containers in the fridge. Store the leftover meat and seafood in individual containers in the fridge. Cook all of these ingredients within 3 days.
Course: Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: Asian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese
Keyword: dinner party
Did you cook this recipe?Tag @HungryHuy or #hungryhuy–I’d love to see it!

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