Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)

A warm comforting bowl of Thai coconut chicken soup is infused with bright flavorful ingredients like lemongrass and ginger, and rounded out with coconut milk. And the best part is that it’s much easier than you might think!

Tom Kha is served at most Thai restaurants, and if you’ve never tried it, you should the next time you go for Thai food or get some take out. The base is chicken stock that’s infused with lemongrass, ginger and lime. Add to that coconut milk, chicken, mushrooms, and a finishing touch of fish sauce, and you have an exceptionally flavorful and bright, yet comforting soup. I know some of the ingredients are not household ingredients, but it’s definitely worth it to go a little out of your way to get them. And I know that fish sauce scares some people because of the smell, and I used to be one of those people. Its smell is so pungent, I’m actually just really scared I’ll spill it, or drop the bottle and have fish sauce splatter all over the place, and that my place will reek of fish sauce forever. The point is, yes, it’s smelly, but it’s so dang delicious that once you understand the treasure it is, you’ll regret that you ever shunned it for its stink. The fish sauce is what really drives this soup home, so please don’t skip it! Lemongrass is the other odd one. This was actually the first time I used lemongrass, and it really isn’t too hard to work with – you basically just strip the outer tough layers, then bash it with the back of your knife, and it’s ready to use. That’s it! Sorry for all the pics of lemongrass- I was just so intrigued! All the other ingredients are pretty common/accessible.


tough outer layer

So, I was pretty proud of myself for going out to get the ingredients for this soup because one day I was craving the soup, but the thought of getting out of my pjs to go to the store was pretty unappealing at the time. But I got myself up and out of the house (I should get a prize for that). Anyways, I was all into making an authentic Tom Kha, which I was really excited about. Then I came home and did a little more research, and was pretty disappointed when I found out that legit Tom Kha has galangal in it, which I didn’t buy. Apparently “tom kha” translates to “chicken galangal soup.” What a fail. What the heck is a galangal? Well apparently it’s part of the ginger family. I guess since ginger is much more common than galangal, a lot of recipes use it as a substitute. So, here’s my confession that this soup is not legit because I used ginger instead of galangal. HOWEVER, the soup was still absolutely delicious!!

Here’s a quick rundown on the directions. First step is to steep the chicken broth with the aromatics (lemongrass, ginger and lime). Once it has developed all of that flavor, discard the aromatics. Add the coconut milk, chicken and mushrooms to the broth, and you’re basically going to poach the chicken and mushrooms in this lovely coconut broth. Once it’s cooked, just add some fish sauce and sugar and serve with cilantro and chili oil. That’s it! I told you it’s not that hard!

aromatics- so flavorful!

This soup is quite bright and tangy from the lemongrass and lime, with a hint of spice from the ginger, but is perfectly rounded out by the creamy coconut milk. The broth is the ultimate vehicle for the nicely poached chicken and chewy, hearty mushrooms.  Finished with fresh cilantro and a little bit of chili oil, there are so many amazing flavors colliding in one amazing bowl of soup. Give it a try! 

Are those hedgehogs on my kitchen cloth? Why yes, yes they are! Hugs & kisses and all my best wishes!

Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
  1. 2 cups chicken broth
  2. 6 quarter-sized slices of fresh ginger
  3. 3 stalks fresh lemongrass, cut into 4in pieces* (see note)
  4. 2 limes, cut in half
  5. 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast or things, cut into 1-in pieces
  6. 1 cup mushrooms (oyster, shitake or straw mushrooms)
  7. 1 can (14oz) full fat coconut milk
  8. 1 tbsp fish sauce
  9. 1 tbsp sugar
  10. 1/4 cup cilantro, for garnish
  11. lime, for garnish
  12. 1-2 tsp thai chili oil, for garnish
  1. In a medium pot, chicken stock, ginger, lemongrass and limes, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, bring the heat down to low and keep simmering for 10 minutes. Strain the stock and discard the ginger, lemongrass and lime.
  2. Return stock to the pot, increase to medium heat, and add the coconut milk, chicken and mushrooms. Cook until chicken is cooked through (about 5 minutes, but will depend on how big your chicken slices are).
  3. Add fish sauce and sugar to the soup, and stir to combine.
  4. Divide into 4 bowls, and serve with fresh cilantro, lime wedges and thai chili oil.
  1. *To prepare the lemongrass, remove tough outer portion of each stalk. Pound each stalk with the back of your knife, and cut into 4 inch pieces.
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