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Tom Kha Gai Recipe (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)

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Tom kha gai recipe makes a comforting, guilt-free dish in just 20 minutes, perfect for any day of the week. This authentic Thai coconut chicken soup brims with flavors of Thai spices like galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves. Outshine any takeout with this homemade, fragrant bowl of goodness!

Tom kha gai or Thai coconut chicken soup with mushrooms, chilies, and herbs in a patterned soup bowl.

What is tom kha gai

Tom kha gai is a classic Thai soup with a creamy texture and a balance of savory and sweet flavors. Key ingredients are coconut milk and aromatic Thai spices like galangal and lemongrass. Chicken is often used as protein, but it can be made with shrimp or vegan as well.

Thai coconut chicken soup

One of the most famous soups of Thai cuisine is tom kha gai, it rivals the famous tom yum kung in both flavor and popularity.

Now, you might be wondering, ‘what does tom kha gai mean?’ In Thai, ‘tom’ means boiling, ‘kha’ is galangal, and ‘gai’ stands for chicken, so tom kha gai translates to ‘boiled galangal chicken.’

Thai coconut chicken soup with mushrooms, kaffir lime leaves, and chilies in a patterned bowl.

It’s a creamy, dreamy authentic Thai coconut chicken soup that’s total Thai comfort food!

This easy recipe comes together quickly. It’s made with dried chilies, palm sugar, fish sauce, and tamarind paste. A perfect balance of sweetness, saltiness, and a tangy note that’s perfect for the whole family.

Authentic tom kha gai soup with mushrooms, chili, and cilantro garnish, served in a blue and white patterned bowl.

While traditionally made with chicken, you can switch up tom kha with other protein like fish and seafood. And don’t worry, vegetarians – there’s a plant-based version of this Thai classic just for you!

Why try this Thai soup recipe

  • Tender chicken with fresh herbs: The chicken is cooked to soft perfection, complemented by refreshing herbs. Add your favorite veggies alongside the mushrooms to personalize this recipe for tom kha gai.
  • Authentic tom kha gai recipe: This Thai chicken soup recipe is crafted with traditional ingredients for an authentic flavor.
  • Perfect for any home cook: If you’re new to Thai cooking, this recipe is perfect.
  • Better than takeout: Making this galangal soup at home beats any takeout. You’re in control of the ingredients, ensuring a healthy dish that’s altered to your taste preference.
  • Gluten-free soup: This chicken soup is gluten-free, perfect for anyone. With a perfect balance of flavors, it’s a total crowd-pleaser.
  • Versatile: Tom kha is so versatile, you can enjoy it with rice like a curry, or enjoy it on its own as a light meal or dinner or lunch.

Check out more of my Thai soup recipes!

Ingredients

Ingredients can be sourced at Asian grocery stores and Asian markets.
The exact measurements are in the recipe card at the end of this post.


A Thai woman presenting ingredients for Tom Kha Gai, including chicken, herbs, and spices, arranged on a woven tray with traditional decor.
  • Chicken – Keep tradition by opting for chicken, the classic choice for tom kha soup. Slice the chicken into thin, evenly sized pieces to ensure it gets evenly cooked.
  • Coconut milk – Full fat coconut milk is necessary for a rich and creamy broth. To thicken tom kha gai, add more coconut milk.
  • Tamarind paste – Added for its tangy flavor.
  • Palm sugar – Palm sugar is key for adding a sweet flavor.
  • Fish sauce – A key ingredient of Thai cuisine for its umami and salty flavor.
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves – Galangal is a key ingredient, lemongrass offers a bright and refreshing flavor, and kaffir lime leaves add aroma and a hint of citrus.
  • Coriander, culantro, green onions – My choice of herbs, feel free to substitute with your favorites.
  • Dried chilies – Dried chilies are optional. As a Thai food lover, I like all my food spicy.
  • Mushrooms – Tom kha gai can be made with various types of Asian mushrooms, the most commonly used are straw mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, or enoki mushrooms.

Cooking instructions

  1. In a wok or pot over medium heat, combine water and coconut milk and bring them to a gentle boil. Add lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and dried chilies to the mixture.A soup of water and coconut milk with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, and dried chilies.

  2. Once the soup base is boiling, stir in fish sauce, tamarind paste, salt, and palm sugar. When the palm sugar is completely dissolved, introduce mushrooms and chicken into the boiling broth. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked through.Close-up of Thai coconut chicken soup with herbs, spices, and mushrooms in a wok.

  3. After the chicken and mushrooms are cooked, add green onions, coriander, and culantro to the broth. Remove the pan from the heat and serve immediately.Close-up of tom kha gai, Thai chicken soup with a base of coconut milk, fresh herbs and spices, and mushrooms in a wok.

Kitchen tools

  • Cutting board & chef’s knife
  • Measuring spoons & cups
  • Wok or large pot
  • Ladle

Customize this recipe

  • Add more vegetables: Add any vegetables that go into a soup, like bell peppers or baby corns.
  • Vegetarian-friendly: To make a vegetarian tom kha, use tofu and a vegetarian fish sauce.
  • Protein variations: Switch up the chicken with shrimp, pork, or tofu.
  • Adjust the heat: To increase the spiciness, add more dried chilies, fresh chilies, or Thai chili flakes. For a milder, kid-friendly version, simply leave out the chilies.

How to serve

Tom kha gai can be served on its own as a main dish or paired with rice. In some Thai restaurants, the soup is served as a starter in smaller portions. To enhance the soup, garnish it with herbs like coriander or cilantro. For a spicy kick, sprinkle Thai chili flakes on top.

How to store

Let your dish cool down to room temperature and transfer it to an airtight container. Store in your refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Freezing instructions: Transfer to a freezer-safe container and store in the freezer. Thaw in the fridge overnight.

Reheating instructions: Reheat on the stovetop over low heat stirring regularly.

Frequently asked questions

  1. Can I make this in advance?

    This chicken soup is a great dish to make ahead of time. It reheats easily on the stovetop, so you can make a large batch and store it in your refrigerator for later use.

  2. Is tom kha gai spicy?

    This recipe is mildly spicy, and you can adjust the spiciness of your soup to your spice level by increasing or decreasing the amount of dried chilies used in this recipe.

  3. Is tom kha gai healthy?

    Tom kha gai is a healthy soup. It’s rich in nutrients from chicken, coconut milk, and a variety of herbs and spices. The soup has a balance of protein and healthy fats, with many health benefits.

More Thai soup recipes you’ll love

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Tom Kha Gai Recipe (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)

Tom kha gai or Thai coconut chicken soup with mushrooms, chilies, and herbs in a patterned soup bowl.
This recipe for tom kha gai comes together quickly with a blend of chicken, and classic Thai herbs and spices.
Praew
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Cuisine Thai
Course Main Course, Soup
Serving Size 2 people

Ingredients

  • 10 fluid ounces water
  • 6.8 fluid ounces coconut milk
  • 0.7 ounces lemongrass
  • 1 ounce galangal
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • 4 dried chilies
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon tamarind paste
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon palm sugar
  • 3.5 ounces mushrooms enoki or any type of Asian mushrooms
  • 8.8 ounces chicken sliced into thin, bite-sized pieces
  • 0.15 ounces coriander to taste
  • 0.15 ounces culantro to taste
  • 4 green onions to taste

Instructions

  • In a wok or pot over medium heat, combine water and coconut milk and bring them to a gentle boil. Add lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and dried chilies to the mixture.
  • Once the soup base is boiling, stir in fish sauce, tamarind paste, salt, and palm sugar. When the palm sugar is completely dissolved, introduce mushrooms and chicken into the boiling broth. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked through.
  • After the chicken and mushrooms are cooked, add green onions, coriander, and culantro to the broth. Remove the pan from the heat and serve immediately.

Notes

  • Use the nutrition card in this recipe as a guideline.
  • Galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves are not to be eaten, you can choose to take them out of the soup before serving or serve as it is.
  • Garnish with fresh herbs and chilies to taste.
  • Serve on its own or with rice.

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