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Tom Kha Gai Recipe (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)

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This authentic tom kha gai recipe makes a delicious healthy Thai coconut chicken soup in less than 20 minutes, perfect for any day of the week. Try this easy recipe, and you’ll find that using fresh Thai spices like galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves makes homemade Thai food taste amazing, way better (and cheaper) than takeout!

Tom kha gai, a Thai coconut chicken soup,  served in a patterned bowl.

This Thai coconut soup can be served as both lunch and dinner. The same goes for many of my other Thai soup recipes, such as tom yum talay, boat noodles, and even khao tom.

Before we go over the ingredients and cooking steps, I’d like to tell you a bit more about this coconut soup. If you’d like, feel free to scroll directly to the ingredients!

What is tom kha gai

Tom kha gai is a classic Thai chicken soup with creamy sweetness from coconut milk and added sugar. Key Thai spices include galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and sometimes chilies can be added for spice.


What does tom kha gai mean? In Thai, tom means boiling, kha is galangal, and gai is Thai for chicken, so tom kha gai translates to boiled galangal chicken.

Thai coconut chicken soup

This authentic Thai chicken soup is true comfort food. It’s an easy recipe that’s quick to make, but you’ll need some traditional Thai ingredients like dried chilies, fish sauce, palm sugar, and tamarind paste to achieve the perfect balance of sweet, salty, tangy, and slightly spicy flavors.

The traditional choice of protein is chicken, but you can also make tom kha soup with other seafood or meats, like shrimp and pork. Vegetarian tom kha is also easy to make; you can simply add extra vegetables and use a vegetarian fish sauce alternative.

Speaking of vegetables, don’t hesitate to add your favorite soup vegetables or fresh herbs! The flavors in this authentic tom kha gai recipe are just like in Thailand, but if desired, you can adjust the taste or ingredients to your liking. That goes for every time you cook Thai food.

Thai coconut chicken soup served in a patterned bowl.

By choosing the ingredients yourself, you can be sure you’re making a healthy galangal soup. Tom kha is also gluten-free, so it’s perfect for everyone. Serve it on its own or pair it with a delicious Thai curry or a serving of jasmine rice.

Tom kha vs tom yum

Tom kha soup, along with tom yum soup, is one of Thailand’s most popular soups. However, there are some notable differences between them:

Tom kha is a soup with a creamy texture due to the inclusion of coconut milk. This soup is generally mild and often prepared with chicken, making it the perfect Thai soup for families and children.

Tom yum is beloved for its bold and spicy flavors, combining spicy, sour, and salty, with a hint of sweetness. Shrimp is a common ingredient, but it can also be made with other seafood or chicken. It is typically a very spicy dish, loaded with red chili peppers.

Top-view of tom yum noodle soup with spicy broth topped with peanuts, liver, pork balls, boiled egg, and fried wonton.

If you’d like to experience the flavors of tom yum as well, bookmark one of these authentic recipes for later: tom yum gai soup, tom yum noodle soup, and tom yum paste!

What kind of mushroom in tom kha soup

Tom kha soup can be made with different types of mushrooms. The mushroom you choose will influence the final taste and texture:

  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Oyster mushrooms
  • Button mushrooms
  • Straw mushrooms
Authentic tom kha gai soup with mushrooms, chili, and cilantro garnish.

Feel free to experiment with other types of Asian mushrooms.

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 soup, including chicken, spices like galangal, seasonings, and mushrooms.
  • Chicken – Chicken is the traditional choice of protein for tom kha soup. Opt for chicken fillets or thighs, sliced into thin, evenly sized pieces to ensure it gets evenly cooked.
  • Coconut milk – Full-fat coconut milk is essential for a rich and creamy broth.
  • Tamarind pasteTamarind paste is a tangy and slightly sweet concentrate used in Thai cooking to add a sweet-sour flavor.
  • Palm sugarPalm sugar is a natural sweetener that adds a caramel-like sweetness to the chicken soup.
  • Fish sauceFish sauce is a salty, fermented condiment that adds umami and depth to Thai food.
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves – Galangal is a key ingredient, lemongrass offers a bright and refreshing flavor, and makrut lime leaves add aroma and a hint of citrus.
  • Coriander, culantro, green onions – My choice of herbs, feel free to substitute with your favorites.
  • 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.
  • Dried chilies (optional) – Dried chilies are optional for those who like a spicy soup.

How to make tom kha kai

Coconut milk with herbs and spices boiling.

Step 1: In a wok or pot, heat water and coconut milk over medium heat until gently boiling. Add lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and dried chilies to the mixture.

Tom kha gai soup cooking in a pot.

Step 2: Once the base of the soup is boiling, add fish sauce, tamarind paste, salt, and palm sugar. Stir until the palm sugar has fully dissolved. Then, add mushrooms and chicken to the boiling broth. Cook for approximately 2 minutes, or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked.

Step 3: Stir in green onions, coriander, and culantro. Remove the pan from the heat and serve the soup immediately. Enjoy!

Kitchenware

  1. Cutting board and a sharp knife
  2. Measuring spoons and cups
  3. Wok or large pot
  4. Ladle for stirring and serving

Tom kha recipe customization tips

Adjust the spiciness: 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.

Protein variations: Feel free to switch up the chicken with shrimp, pork, or tofu.

Vegetarian soup: To make a vegetarian tom kha, use tofu and a vegetarian fish sauce.

Vegetables: You can add extra vegetables that go into a soup, like bell peppers or baby corn.

What to serve with tom kha gai soup

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 flavor, garnish it with herbs like coriander or cilantro. For a spicy kick, sprinkle Thai chili flakes on top.

How to store Thai coconut soup

Storing: Let your leftover soup cool to room temperature and transfer it to an airtight container. Tom kha soup will last for up to 4 days in the fridge if stored correctly.

Freezing: Transfer the soup to a freezer-safe container and store in the freezer. Thaw it in the refrigerator overnight.

Reheating: Reheat tom kha chicken on the stovetop over low heat, stirring regularly.

Frequently asked questions

  1. Can I make this in advance?

    Yes, tom kha can be made ahead of time. You can easily reheat it on the stove top. Make a large batch and store it in your fridge for later use!

  2. Is tom kha gai spicy?

    Traditionally, tom kha gai is a mild soup with a predominantly sweet flavor from coconut milk and sugar, but it may have a subtle kick from the spices used or optional chili peppers.

  3. Is tom kha gai healthy?

    Yes, tom kha gai is a healthy soup, especially when prepared with fresh ingredients. Coconut milk is high in saturated fat, chicken is a lean source of protein, and the soup is prepared with lots of vegetables and fresh herbs. It’s also a great low-carb dish for the keto diet.

  4. How many calories in tom kha soup?

    The number of calories in tom kha soup can vary depending on the recipe and serving size. Generally, a typical serving can contain approximately 150–200 calories. A serving may contain around 10–15 grams of carbohydrates.

  5. What does tom kha gai taste like?

    Tom kha gai has a savory flavor and creamy sweetness from coconut milk and added sugar. Tangy and slightly sour notes in tom kha come from ingredients like lemongrass and tamarind paste. The soup can also have a mild to moderate level of spice.

Authentic Thai soup recipes

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Tom Kha Gai Recipe (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)

Tom kha gai, a Thai coconut chicken soup, served in a patterned bowl.
This authentic tom kha gai recipe is easy to make and delicious. Learn how to make a Thai coconut chicken soup at home that tastes just like in Thailand!
Praew
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Cuisine Thai
Course Main Course, Soup
Serving Size 2 people

Ingredients

  • 300 ml water
  • 200 ml coconut milk
  • 20 g lemongrass sliced
  • 30 g galangal sliced
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves stems removed
  • 4 dried chilies optional, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 0.5 tablespoon tamarind paste
  • 0.5 tablespoon salt
  • 0.5 tablespoon palm sugar
  • 100 g enoki mushrooms or any type of Asian mushroom
  • 250 g chicken sliced into thin, bite-sized pieces
  • 4 g coriander to taste
  • 4 g culantro chopped, to taste
  • 4 green onions roughly chopped, to taste

Instructions

  • In a wok or pot, heat water and coconut milk over medium heat until gently boiling. Add lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and dried chilies to the mixture.
  • Once the base of the soup is boiling, add fish sauce, tamarind paste, salt, and palm sugar. Stir until the palm sugar has fully dissolved. Then, add mushrooms and chicken to the boiling broth. Cook for approximately 2 minutes, or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked.
  • Stir in green onions, coriander, and culantro. Remove the pan from the heat and serve the soup immediately. Enjoy!

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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