Tom Kha Gai is a light and refreshing Thai soup featuring tender chicken in a tangy coconut milk broth. This easy soup recipe comes together in about 30 minutes.
Tom Kha Gai – Thai Coconut Soup
One thing that I love about Houston is that it has such a wide variety of restaurants from around the world, everything from Afghan food to Thai food. In college, my sister and I used to try a new restaurant or type of food every weekend.
Now that I live father outside of the city, I don’t have the same access to all of that amazing food, but thankfully my husband has done a fantastic at recreating some of my favorite dishes.
One such favorite of mine is Tom Kha soup, a creamy Thai coconut chicken soup steeped with herbs and finished with tangy fresh lime juice.
The broth is truly the star of this recipe. The base of the soup broth is creamy coconut milk that is cooked with ginger, lemongrass, herbs, fresh lime juice, and a splash of fish sauce. It is a delicate mix of sweet, sour, and umami flavors. Everything that you add to the soup soaks up all that yummy broth so that every bite is flavorful and juicy. We make our Tom Kha soup with tender chicken and broccoli.
I do want to note that this is not necessarily a one hundred percent authentic Thai recipe, simply because some of the ingredients in the traditional recipe might not be available everywhere here in the US. We’ve modified the recipe to make it accessible to most home chefs. For example, traditional Tom Kha soup uses galangal, which is closely related to ginger, but not exactly the same thing. You may not be able to find galangal, except at Asian grocery stores, so we’ve used ginger because the flavor is quite similar and you can find at your regular grocery store.
I hope that you enjoy this dish as much as we do! It is one of our family’s all-time favorite dinners and actually one of the first recipes that I ever shared on the blog, back in 2015. I’m updating today in 2023 with new photos, tips, and recipe video to help you recreate this recipe at home.
We’ve provided shop-able ad links for your convenience in re-creating this recipe; read disclosure policy here.
Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients…they pretty much all go into one pot, so it’s actually a very simple recipe!
- 2 lbs chicken breast, cubed
- 3 cans coconut milk
- 1 small ginger root
- 2-3 stalks lemongrass (find in produce with fresh herbs)
- 3 limes
- 1 onion, quartered
- 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
- 2 broccoli crowns
- 2-3 bunches cilantro
- 1 stalk green onion
- 2TB sugar (optional)
- 1TB fish sauce
- 1 clove garlic (or garlic powder equivalent)
Helpful Kitchen Tools
- Use a clean meat tenderizer or mallet to smash the lemongrass and ginger root. You don’t need to totally pulverize them, but you want to break them up a little bit to release their flavors.
- In a large soup pot or Dutch oven pot, combine the cilantro, ginger, lemon grass, onion, sugar, and coconut milk. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. If the soup starts to bubble up too much, reduce to medium-low heat. We don’t need the soup to boil.
- While the coconut broth is cooking, sauté chicken in a separate pan until just underdone. The chicken will finish cooking when we add it to the hot broth.
- When 15 minutes is up, strain the broth to remove the large chunks of lemongrass and ginger. If needed, use a spoon to squeeze out all the juice from them. Add the lime juice, fish sauce, and mushrooms to the broth and cook on low heat for about 5 minutes. Finally, add the cooked chicken and remove pot from heat.
- Coconut Milk – For the richest flavor, I recommend using regular coconut milk, rather than light coconut milk. That’s because light coconut milk is made by separating the coconut cream from the coconut milk and then adding water back in. This reduces the fat content of the coconut milk, but it also reduces the flavor and creaminess, since it has been watered down. However, if you are on a low fat diet or light coconut milk is all you have on hand, it can be substituted.
- Chicken – We used chicken breast in this dish because that is what is typically used in restaurants. However, you can alternatively use boneless chicken thighs, or both!
- Mushrooms – You can use pretty much any type of mushroom that you like or that you have on hand. Button mushrooms are one of the most commonly used varieties, but you could also use shiitake mushrooms or baby portabella mushrooms.
- Garnish – This is a fun soup to customize to your own tastes because there are so many options to play with! I love to add fresh cilantro, green onions, and a squeeze of lime juice to my soup.
- Make It Spicy – While Tom Kha is not traditionally a spicy soup, if you like spicy food, it can definitely be prepared with some heat. Try adding sliced Thai chili peppers, but start with a few unless you know that you like them because they do pack a spicy punch!
- Storage – Leftovers can be kept refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days. To reheat, pour the soup into a saucepan over medium-high and bring up to temperature. You can also reheat the soup in the microwave, but be sure to use a microwave-safe container and handle carefully. For best results, I don’t recommend reheating the soup more than once.
- Pairing – Tom Kha Gai tastes fantastic all on its own and can be served as an appetizer or as the main dish. It is often served with jasmine rice or white rice.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is The Difference Between Tom Yum Soup and Tom Kha Soup?
Tom yum soup and tom kha soup are two popular Thai soups that are often confused with each other, likely due to the similar names. While both soups are delicious and flavorful, there are some key differences between the two.
Tom Yum, also known as Thai hot and sour soup, is a clear, broth-based soup that is known for its tangy citrus flavor and spicy kick. It is generally prepared with shrimp, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, chili peppers, lime juice, and fish sauce.
On the other hand, Tom Kha is a creamy, coconut milk-based soup with a milder, sweeter flavor than Tom Yum soup.
Is Fish Sauce Gluten-Free?
Fish sauce may or may not be gluten free, depending on the brand and ingredients used. Always check labels to find a certified gluten free fish sauce, if that is of concern. Otherwise, Tom Kha soup is a gluten free dish.
More Soup Recipes To Try:
- Immunity Boosting Garlic Chicken Miso Soup
- Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Soup
- Vegetable Detox Soup
- Instant Pot Chicken Noodle Soup
- Sausage & Kale Soup
- Instant Pot Beef Pho
- Thai Corn Chowder
- 5-Minute Freezer Chicken Soup
Tom Kha Gai Soup Recipe (Printable Recipe Card)
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Tom Kha Gai Soup (Thai Coconut Soup)
- Dutch Oven or large soup pot
- Meat tenderizing hammer
- 2 lbs chicken breast cubed
- 3 cans coconut milk
- 1 small ginger root
- 2-3 stalks of fresh lemongrass find in produce with fresh herbs
- 3 limes
- 1 onion quartered
- 1 cup mushrooms sliced
- 2 broccoli crowns chopped
- 2-3 bunches cilantro
- 1 stalk green onion chopped
- 2 TB sugar optional
- 1 TB fish sauce
- 1 clove garlic or garlic powder equivalent
- Smash ginger root and lemongrass using a mallet to release flavors.
- In a large soup pot or dutch oven, combine: cilantro, ginger, lemongrass, onion, garlic, sugar, and coconut milk. Bring to a simmer (medium heat), cover, and cook for 15 minutes.
- While the broth is cooking, sauté chicken until just underdone (will finish cooking once added to broth.)
- Optional: Steam broccoli to add to the finished soup.
- After 15 minutes is up, strain the broth to remove all of the large chunks of herbs and vegetables. If needed, use a spoon to squeeze out all the juice.
- Add juice from 3 limes and 1TB fish sauce to broth.
- Return broth to large pot and add sliced mushrooms. Cook on low heat for 4-5 minutes until mushrooms are soft.
- Once mushrooms have softened, remove pot from heat. Stir in chicken and broccoli, garnish with cilantro leaves and green onion. Enjoy the soup as an appetizer, or as is traditionally done, served over rice as a meal.