A method based on headspace (HS) sampling coupling with portable gas chromatography (GC) with photo ionization detector (PID) was developed for rapid determination of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (BTEX) in soils. Optimal conditions for HS gas sampling procedure were determined, and the influence of soil organic matter on the recovery of BTEX from soil was investigated using five representative Chinese soils. The results showed that the HS-portable-GC-PID method could be effectively operated at ambient temperature, and the addition of 15 ml of saturated NaCl solution in a 40-ml sampling vial and 60 s of shaking time for sample solution were optimum for the HS gas sampling procedure. The recoveries of each BTEX in soils ranged from 87.2 to 105.1 %, with relative standard deviations varying from 5.3 to 7.8 %. Good linearity was obtained for all BTEX compounds, and the detection limits were in the 0.1 to 0.8 μg kg(-1) range. Soil organic matter was identified as one of the principal elements that affect the HS gas sampling of BTEX in soils. The HS-portable-GC-PID method was successfully applied for field determination of benzene and toluene in soils of a former chemical plant in Jilin City, northeast China. Considering its satisfactory repeatability and reproducibility and particular suitability to be operated in ambient environment, HS sampling coupling with portable GC-PID is, therefore, recommended to be a suitable screening tool for rapid on-site determination of BTEX in soils.