This Tom Kha Gai soup is creamy and will give you authentic flavors for the best Thai coconut chicken soup you've ever had! What's best is that it's super quick and easy and is made with coconut milk and aromatics like lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and galangal root.
Table of Contents
- What is Tom Kha Gai Soup?
- Why You’ll Love This Tom Kha Gai Soup Recipe
- Ingredients You’ll Need to Make Tom Kha Gai Soup At Home
- How to Make Tom Kha Gai (Step by Step)
- Joyce's Tips For Making the Best Tom Kha Soup Every Single Time
- Serving Suggestions
- Recipe Variation Ideas for Tom Kha Gai Soup
- Laos Coconut Chicken Soup Variation
- Frequently Asked Questions
- How to Store Leftover Tom Kha Gai Soup
- More Thai Recipes You May Like
- Did You Make This Thai Tom Kha Soup?
- Recipe Card
- Looking for More Soup Recipes? Try These!
This is the perfect soup if you're looking for authentic Thai flavors at home without too much hassle. It tastes absolutely incredible, and you can customize it to be as spicy or mild as you want! What's best is that it's packed with flavor!
The flavor comes from the delicious broth that's made with authentic flavors such as lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves. These ingredients, commonly used in Thai cooking, lend their unique aromas and tastes to the soup, creating a distinctive and vibrant base. The coconut milk adds a smooth and creamy texture to the soup while balancing the spiciness of the chilies.
Whether you are looking a light and nourishing meal or a comforting antidote to a chilly day, Tom Kha Soup is a delicious choice that you’re going to love!
Read on to learn exactly how to make this delicious tom kha soup recipe today!
What is Tom Kha Gai Soup?
Tom Kha is a traditional Thai soup made with coconut milk, galangal, lemongrass, and other herbs and spices. It's one of Thailand's most popular soups and is one of the best soups to have in cold weather.
It's my favorite Thai soup (my second favorite Thai soup is the classic spicy tom yum soup), because of the creamy citrusy flavor, and even though it is made with coconut milk, the sour hot soup doesn't feel like a heavy soup at all.
This Thai chicken coconut soup is PACKED with flavor and has a wonderful balance of spicy, sweet, salty, and sour.
One of the key highlights of this soup is its rich and creamy texture from the coconut milk, which adds a delightful sweetness to the dish. The combination of galangal and lemongrass gives the soup a unique and refreshing flavor that is both citrusy and slightly spicy.
If you never had tom kha soup, but you've tried tom yum before, they are actually very similar in taste, but the main difference is that tom kha has coconut milk in it, which makes it a creamier soup.
If you prefer to make this a vegetarian soup, you can simply omit the chicken, which turns it into Tom Kha Soup.
This tasty authentic tom kha gai (aka tom kha kai) soup is very quick and easy to make, uses traditional Thai ingredients, and is made from scratch. The best part is, it only uses one pot from beginning to end so it has an easy clean-up!
Why You’ll Love This Tom Kha Gai Soup Recipe
Easy to make: This recipe is incredibly simple and straightforward, making it accessible to even first time cooks. With clear instructions and minimal ingredients, anyone can whip up a delicious batch in no time.
Versatile: This recipe allows for customization and adaptation to individual preferences. Whether you prefer a vegetarian version or want to add extra protein, this recipe is flexible and can accommodate various dietary needs.
Delicious flavor: The combination of coconut milk, lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves creates a delicious flavor profile that is both comforting and refreshing. The balance of sweet, sour, and savory notes in this soup is truly exceptional.
Authentic taste: This recipe stays true to the traditional Thai flavors of tom kha soup and gives an authentic and satisfying taste experience. The use of authentic ingredients like kaffir lime leaves and galangal make all the difference in capturing the essence of this classic Thai dish.
Crowd-pleaser: Whether you’re serving a small gathering or a large party, this tom kha soup recipe is sure to impress everyone. Its unique and exotic flavors will leave your guests craving for more, making it an ideal choice for any social gathering or special occasion.
Ingredients You’ll Need to Make Tom Kha Gai Soup At Home
All you need are some incredibly simple, pantry-staple ingredients to make this delicious tom kha soup recipe at home.
Here's an overview of the specific ingredients for this recipe. For the exact ingredients and measurements, please scroll to the recipe card below.
- Broth or Water: We will need some broth or stock to make this recipe. It will provide a flavorful base for the soup and help to enhance the flavors of the other ingredients. Any type of broth works, which means chicken broth, beef broth, vegetable broth, or even seafood broth will work for this soup. You can even use water if you like.
- Coconut Milk: We will also need some coconut milk or coconut cream. It will add a creamy and rich texture to the soup, balancing out the flavors of the other ingredients.
- Chicken: You can use white or dark (boneless) chicken meat. I like to use chicken breast that has been thinly sliced. It's very important you marinate it in a bit of cornstarch to keep it moist and tender. You can also make tom kha gai without chicken as well and it would be called tom kha. I have also made this with thinly sliced pork belly, tofu, shrimp, seafood, and leftover meats.
- Fish sauce: We will need fish sauce to add a savory and umami flavor to the soup, enhancing the taste of the other ingredients.
- Lime juice: We will also need some lime juice. It will add a refreshing and tangy taste to the soup, brightening up the flavors of the other ingredients. Please don't use bottled lime juice for this recipe. Fresh lime juice will taste the best in this recipe.
- Palm sugar: We will also be using palm sugar (or light brown sugar, coconut sugar, cane sugar) to make this recipe. It will provide a subtle sweetness to the soup, balancing out the savory and tangy flavors. Fish sauce, lime juice, and palm sugar are what I call the holy trinity for making that balance of sweet, tart, and savory flavors. If you cannot find palm sugar, you can substitute it with light brown sugar, cane sugar, or white sugar.
- Salt: We will also add some salt to this recipe. It will enhance the flavors of the other ingredients and help to bring out their natural tastes.
- Galangal: If you cannot find galangal, do not substitute it with ginger. You can just make tom kha gai without galangal and it will taste fine.
- Lemongrass/Kaffir Lime Leaves: Kaffir lime leaves are a very important component to give the soup flavor, and I highly encourage you to use them but if you cannot find them you can substitute it for double the amount of lemongrass. Try to use whole lemongrass stalks so that you can strain them out more easily. They're widely available in the produce section of almost every grocery store these days otherwise, you can find it at any Asian market or even Whole Foods.
- Garlic/Onions: These will give your broth a lot of flavors. I like to add the onions in after the aromatics are done simmering and removed so that I have a bit to eat. If you don't like eating onions, you can add the onions during the aromatic simmer stage and remove them with the aromatics.
- Vegetables: You can be creative and add any type of vegetable to this soup. I like to use a mix of mushrooms (any kind, shiitake, button, oyster, etc), tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, sweet red peppers, and/or snow peas.
- Cilantro (for garnish): We will also need some cilantro as garnish. It will add a fresh and fresh flavor to the soup, adding a final touch of brightness.
- Thai chilies (optional): I use these to make this soup spicy. Use fewer chilis for a milder spicy flavor, or omit it completely if you don't want it spicy at all.
How to Make Tom Kha Gai (Step by Step)
Making this incredible tom kha soup recipe at home is super easy and will give you great results every single time. Here's how to make it step by step:
Prepare Aromatics for the Soup
Making the Broth
Set the stove to medium-high heat and add the broth and aromatics. Once the broth starts to boil, reduce the heat to low and gently simmer it for 15 minutes with no lid.
Prepare the Vegetables
While the broth is simmering, thinly slice the onions, sweet red pepper, snow peas, and mushrooms.
If you are using a large tomato, cut them into small wedges, if you are using baby tomatoes, slice them in half length-wise.
Cut the limes in half and squeeze out the juice into a small bowl and set it aside.
Marinate the Chicken
Thinly slice the chicken breast and mix it with soy sauce, water, corn starch, and oil, and set it aside for later.
Putting Everything Together
Once the soup has finished simmering, remove the aromatics and discard them.
Add in the finely sliced onions and chicken and cook it for a few minutes until the chicken is cooked.
Stir in the coconut milk and let the soup gently simmer for 1 minute.
Add in the vegetables and cook them for a few minutes
Mix in the fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar, and do a taste test to make sure it is balanced. If it is not, adjust it to your liking.
Garnish with cilantro or Thai basil, and enjoy!
Your delicious Tom Kha Gai soup is ready to be served!
Joyce's Tips For Making the Best Tom Kha Soup Every Single Time
Ingredients matter: Kaffir lime leaves are a very important component to give the soup flavor, and I highly encourage you to use them but if you cannot find them you can substitute it for double the amount of lemongrass.
Don't substitute galangal: If you cannot find galangal, omit it. Please do not substitute ginger for it. Galangal and ginger have completely different flavor profiles.
For a creamier soup: If you want a creamier soup with a stronger coconut flavor, substitute coconut milk with coconut cream.
Use full-fat coconut milk: Try to use full-fat coconut milk for the best flavor.
Simmer on low heat: High heat will remove some of the flavors from kaffir lime leaves, just like how high heat also breaks down the flavors of fresh herbs, so try to keep the broth at a low simmer to get the most flavor from the aromatics.
Add rice noodles for a meal: You can make this into a small cozy meal by adding a small bundle of rice noodles to it right before serving. Simply soak the rice noodles in boiling water for 3 minutes until they are soft (do a taste test). Once the noodles are soft, add them to the soup.
Balancing the flavors: Taste the soup as you go and adjust the flavors accordingly. Add more lime juice for acidity, fish sauce for saltiness, or sugar for sweetness to achieve the perfect balance of flavors.
Freeze extra ingredients: If you have extra galangal, kaffir lime leaves, or lemongrass you can freeze them for up to 6 months in a Ziploc. Make sure you remove as much air out of the ziplock as possible.
Serve the soup as a main course with steamed jasmine rice on the side. The fragrant and creamy soup pairs perfectly with the fluffy rice and creates a delicious and satisfying meal.
For a lighter option, serve the soup as an appetizer in small bowls or cups. Garnish with fresh cilantro and lime to add brightness and freshness to each bite.
If you have a bit of time and are planning to have guests, or you are entertaining and cooking for a group of people, you can pair this soup with our popular Grilled Thai Coconut Chicken Skewers, easy-to-make Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce, Thai Basil Chicken (Pad Krapow Gai), Lemongrass Pork Meatballs (Larb Style), Pad Thai, Grilled Lemongrass Pork Chops or my personal favorite, Lao Crispy Rice Salad (Nam Khao).
Whenever I have leftover rice, I also like to make some Thai Basil Fried Rice, using ground beef, chicken, or pork which also goes very well with this soup as both dishes are packed with flavor.
Recipe Variation Ideas for Tom Kha Gai Soup
This delicious tom kha soup recipe is so flavorful and easy to make, you'll want to try out some of these delicious variations! Here are some great ideas:
Spicy: For those who like a little heat, add some extra sliced Thai chili peppers to the soup while it simmers. The addition of the chili peppers will give the soup a spicy twist that balances well with the creamy coconut milk and tangy lime juice.
Seafood: This is perfect for seafood lovers. Add a combination of shrimp, squid, and mussels to the soup and let them cook until they are tender and cooked through. The seafood adds a delicious flavor to the soup and makes it heartier and more satisfying.
Vegetarian: To make this thai coconut soup vegetarian-friendly, omit the chicken and add a variety of vegetables such as mushrooms, red bell peppers, green onions, bok choy, and baby corn. The vegetables will add a nice crunch and texture to the soup, making it a wholesome and filling meal on its own.
Mushrooms: If you love mushrooms, then you can add your favorite ones to this soup. Oyster mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms work great in this recipe. Serve with some extra lime wedges or lime zest to take it to the next level.
Laos Coconut Chicken Soup Variation
Although most people know this as a Thai soup, it actually originates from Laos as well. The main difference between the Thai version and the Laos version is that the Laos-style coconut soup has dill in it. So if you are up for trying something different, add some dill to the broth when you add the aromatics (lemongrass, lime leaves, etc).
Frequently Asked Questions
Both soups have a very similar flavor base, which is a balance of spicy, salty, sour, and sweet. The main difference is tom kha is a creamier version of tom yum. Since tom kha is made with coconut milk/cream it also has a coconut flavor as well.
Tom means boiling, kha means galangal, and gai means chicken. It literally means 'boiled galangal chicken'.
You definitely can! You can add any type of seafood, vegetable, or meat to this soup, be creative!
Yes, you can make this soup ahead of time, it gets even more flavorful the next day.
Yes, you definitely can! To make tom kha gai without galangal simply omit it and do not substitute it with ginger. Ginger will give the soup a different flavor.
Traditionally, this soup is a little spicy, but you can adjust the amount of spiciness by adjusting the number of Thai chilies you add to the soup. If you don't want it spicy at all, you can just omit the chilies.
You can make this soup in a slow cooker but I would not add the meat or vegetables until you are ready to eat it so that the chicken doesn't get overcooked and the vegetables don't get mushy. The cook time for the soup takes about 15 minutes as well, so it may not be worth it to make it in a slow cooker.
Yes, you can make Tom Kha Soup vegetarian by using vegetable broth and omitting the chicken or shrimp. You can also add in tofu or other vegetarian protein options for added flavor and texture.
How to Store Leftover Tom Kha Gai Soup
To store leftovers of the soup, first, allow the soup to cool down to room temperature. Once cooled, transfer the soup into an airtight container and place it in the refrigerator. The soup can be stored in the fridge for up to one week. Alternatively, you can also freeze this soup for up to one month.
When reheating the soup, pour the desired amount into a saucepan and heat it over medium-low heat until it reaches a gentle simmer. Stir occasionally to prevent the soup from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Alternatively, you can reheat the soup in the microwave by placing it in a microwave-safe bowl and heating it in 1-minute intervals, stirring in between, until heated through. If you are reheating it from frozen, thaw it in the fridge overnight first.
More Thai Recipes You May Like
- Yum Woon Sen (Thai Glass Noodle Salad)
- 5 Minute, Easy Thai Peanut Sauce
- Pad Woon Sen (Thai Glass Noodle Stirfry)
- Thai Basil Turkey Fried Rice
- Tom Yum Goong (Thai Hot and Sour Soup)
- Grilled Thai Coconut Chicken Skewers
- Easy Khao Soi (Thai Coconut Curry Noodle Soup)
- Creamy Thai Red Curry
- Thai Peanut Sauce (From Scratch)
- Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce
- Thai Meatballs
- Thai Basil Chicken (Pad Krapow Gai)
- Easy Pad Thai
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Easy Tom Kha Gai Soup (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)
Joyce's Recipe Notes
- Kaffir lime leaves are a very important component to give the soup flavor, and I highly encourage you to use them but if you cannot find them you can substitute it for double the amount of lemongrass.
- If you cannot find galangal, omit it. Please do not substitute ginger for it. Galangal and ginger have completely different flavor profiles.
- If you want a creamier soup with a stronger coconut flavor, substitute coconut milk with coconut cream.
- Try to use full-fat coconut milk for the best flavor.
- High heat will remove some of the flavors from kaffir lime leaves, just like how high heat also breaks down the flavors of fresh herbs, so try to keep the broth at a low simmer to get the most flavor from the aromatics.
- I like to add the onions in after the aromatics are done simmering and removed so that I have more food to eat. If you don't like eating onions, you can add the onions during the aromatic simmer stage and remove them with the aromatics.
- You can make this into a small cozy meal by adding a small bundle of rice noodles to it right before serving. Simply soak the rice noodles in boiling water for 3 minutes until they are soft (do a taste test). Once the noodles are soft, add them to the soup.
- If you have extra galangal, kaffir lime leaves, or lemongrass you can freeze them for up to 6 months in a ziploc. Make sure you remove as much air out of the ziplock as possible.
- 2 stalks lemongrass
- 10 kaffir lime leaves (*See note 1 for substitution)
- 7 slices galangal (*See note 2 for substitution)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2-3 bird's eye chili
- ½ small onion (or 3 large shallots, finely diced, approx ¼ cup)
- ¼ cup button mushrooms (any type of mushroom will work)
- ½ cup baby tomatoes (any type of tomato will work)
- ¼ cup snow peas (tips removed, thinly sliced)
- ¼ cup red peppers thinly sliced
Prepare Aromatics for the Soup
- Smash 4 cloves of garlic with the side of your knife and peel the skin off. Keep the garlic whole and set them aside.
- Wash 10 kaffir lime leaves and rip them in half and set them aside.
- Cut off the top 2-3 inches of the lemongrass (it's too dry to use) and discard it. Then take the back of your knife or a rolling pin and hit the lemongrass with it to bruise it and crack it open, focus on hitting the base of the lemongrass. Set them aside.
- Remove the green stem of 2-3 Thai chilies and finely chop them and set them aside.
- Slice the galangal into 7 slices or small pieces. Galangal is very tough to cut, so please be careful when cutting it and use a rocking motion with your knife slowly to cut through it.
Making the Broth
- Set the stove to medium-high heat.
- Add the 3 cups of broth, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, garlic, Thai chilies, and galangal into a small pot and bring the broth up to a boil.
- Once the broth starts boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer it gently for 15 minutes with no lid.
Prepare the Vegetables
- While the broth is simmering, prepare the vegetables by thinly slicing ¼ cup of red peppers, ¼ cup of onions (or shallots), ¼ cup of mushrooms, and ¼ cup of snow peas.
- Cut ½ cup of tomatoes. If you are using a large tomato, cut them into small wedges. If you are using baby tomatoes, slice them in half length-wise and set them aside.
- Cut the limes in half and squeeze out the juice into a small bowl until you get ¼ cup of lime juice. Set it aside.
Marinate the Chicken
- Thinly slice 1 chicken breast against the grain and place it in a bowl.
- Add 1 teaspoon of water, 1 teaspoon of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of corn starch, and 1 teaspoon of oil into the bowl with the sliced chicken and mix well. Set it aside for later.
Putting Everything Together
- Once the soup has finished simmering, scoop out the aromatics from the soup with a small strainer and discard them. You should be able to see it clearly since there is no coconut cream in it yet.
- Add in the onions (or shallots) and sliced chicken and stir it to separate the chicken into individual pieces and cook it for 3-4 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
- Stir in the coconut milk and let the soup simmer for 1 minute. Avoid boiling the soup, this will prevent the coconut cream from foaming and curdling.
- Add in the vegetables and cook them for about 1-2 minutes and then turn off the heat
- Mix in 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, ¼ cup of lime juice, and 4½ teaspoons of sugar, and do a taste test. It should be balanced with salty, sour, and sweet flavors. If it is not, adjust it to your liking.
- Garnish with cilantro or Thai basil and enjoy!
*Nutritional information is calculated using online tools and is an estimate*
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