We apply spectral hole burning (SHB)-aided detection in ultrasound-modulated optical tomography (UOT) to image optical heterogeneities in thick tissue-mimicking phantom samples and chicken breast tissue. The efficiency of SHB is improved by using a Tm3+:YAG crystal of higher doping concentration (2.0-atomic%) and a double-pass pumping configuration, in which the pump beam is transmitted through the crystal twice to burn a deeper spectral hole with the available optical intensity. With the improved SHB-UOT system, we image absorbing, scattering, and phase objects that are embedded in the middle plane of a 30-mm-thick phantom sample. The imaging resolution was 0.5 mm in the lateral direction, as defined by the focal width of the ultrasonic transducer, and 1.5 mm in the axial direction, as determined by the ultrasonic burst length. We also image two absorbing objects embedded in a 32-mm-thick chicken breast sample. The results suggest that the improved SHB-UOT system is one step closer to the practical optical imaging application in biological and clinical studies.