This creamy Tom Kha Gai Recipe (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup) showcases the magic of Thai cuisine! It’s a perfect harmony of sweet, tangy, and savory flavors with a rich coconut milk base, chicken for protein, and fresh, bright herbs and aromatics. And it whips up in just 30 minutes!
The first time I had Tom Kha Gai in Thailand I realized I had a new favorite. The bright, tangy flavor is a delicious complement to the creamy, yet complex coconut milk broth. It will wake up your taste buds for sure.
Thai cuisine is known for the art of marrying flavors, and this soup is a wonderful example of that!
In this recipe, creamy, naturally sweet coconut milk broth with savory garlic, galangal, and shallot, spicy Thai bird’s eye chilies, salty umami fish sauce, tangy lime juice, and bright cilantro come together in a beautiful way.
Not only is this soup flavor-packed, but it’s nutritious as well. It’s rich in healthy fats, contains vitamins and minerals, and is a good source of protein.
For a lighter meal, serve Tom Kha Gai Soup as-is. You can also enjoy it with steamed jasmine rice, or pair it with cauliflower rice to keep the carbs down.
One spoonful and I think you’ll have a new favorite soup!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Well-balanced flavor profile. Like many Thai dishes, this soup is a balance of salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami flavors.
- Ready in 30 minutes from start-to-finish. This delicious Thai Coconut Chicken Soup is quick and easy to make, which makes it perfect for a weeknight meal!
- A good option if you have special dietary concerns. Tom Kha Gai Soup is naturally gluten free, dairy free, paleo, and low carb.
Tom Kha Gai Recipe
- Chicken broth
- Thai bird’s eye chilies
- Tamari sauce, coconut aminos, or soy sauce (see Note in recipe)
- Fish sauce
- Coconut sugar
- Coconut milk
- Boneless skinless chicken breasts
- Red bell pepper
- White button mushrooms
- Kaffir lime leaves
- Lime juice
Step by Step Instructions
- For the lemongrass, remove the outer leaves, trim off both ends, cut it into 3 pieces, and pound each piece with a meat tenderizer.
- Prepare the other aromatics; peel and crush the garlic, peel and grate the galangal (or ginger), mince the shallot, and thinly slice the chilies.
- Chop the vegetables. This is also a good time to thinly slice the chicken.
- Add the chicken broth, garlic, galangal, shallot, lemongrass, Thai chili, tamari sauce, fish sauce, and coconut sugar to a 3-quart pot over high heat. Bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, add the coconut milk, chicken, red bell pepper, mushrooms, and kaffir lime leaves (if using).
- Give it a stir. Bring back up to a boil, and then boil for 3 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the scallion and cilantro.
- Add the fresh lime juice and give it a stir. Serve topped with any garnishes you like.
How to Store Thai Coconut Chicken Soup
Store this soup in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat it gently on the stovetop.
Tips for Making Tom Kha Gai
- Chicken thighs also work well here. You can use boneless skinless chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts if you prefer (just make sure to slice them super thin!).
- Swap out the mushrooms. This recipe calls for white button mushrooms, but you could also use cremini, shiitake, or oyster mushrooms. Feel free to double the amount of mushrooms if you really like them. Alternatively, if you’re not a fan of mushrooms you can omit them.
- As written, this soup isn’t overly spicy-hot. Yes, Thai bird’s eye chilies pack a punch of spicy heat, but we only use one chili to add balance. We also have sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami ingredients. Of course, if you like it hot feel free to add more chilies to taste!
Tom Kha Gai Soup FAQs
What is the Difference Between Tom Yum and Tom Kha Gai?
Tom Yum is a sweet, sour, and spicy Thai soup with prawns as a common addition. The main difference between Tom Yum and Tom Kha is that Tom Kha has coconut milk added. This changes the color of the broth from clear to milky, and it adds creamy rich sweetness to the flavor.
How Hot is a Thai Bird’s Eye Chili?
Thai bird’s eye chilies may be small (typically around 2 inches long), but they’re fairly potent. They have a fruity, peppery flavor and usually range from 50,000 to 100,000 on the Scoville scale. As a point of comparison, jalapeno Scoville units range from 2,500 from 8,000.
Where Can I Buy the Ingredients for Tom Kha Gai?
You can find a lot of the ingredients for Thai Coconut Chicken Soup at your regular grocery store.
There are a few ingredients that I have to go to local Asian grocery store to find:
- Thai bird’s eye chilies
- Kaffir lime leaves (my local Asian market usually carries these, but they were out of stock when I went there)
Is Tom Kha Gai Soup Healthy?
Thai Chicken Coconut Soup is packed with nutrition as well as flavor!
Coconut milk is rich with healthy fat (learn more on WebMD).
Chicken ads protein, and bell pepper and mushrooms bump up the vitamins and minerals.
More Unique Soups to Make
Tom Kha Gai Recipe (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 4 large cloves garlic crushed
- 1 tablespoon freshly-grated galangal or ginger
- 2 shallots minced
- 1 stalk lemongrass outer leaves removed, cut into 3 pieces, and pounded with a meat tenderizer
- 1 Thai bird’s eye chili thinly sliced (or more to taste)
- 1 tablespoon tamari sauce or coconut aminos or soy sauce
- ½ tablespoon fish sauce see Note
- ½ teaspoon coconut sugar
- 13.66 ounces can unsweetened full-fat coconut milk
- 12 ounces boneless skinless chicken breasts very thinly sliced across the grain
- 1 medium red bell pepper thinly sliced
- 4 ounces white button mushrooms thinly sliced
- 3 kaffir lime leaves tough center stems removed and lightly crushed in your hands (if available)
- ¼ cup thinly sliced scallion green and white parts
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- ⅓ cup fresh lime juice
- Lime wedges or circles
- Cilantro leaves
- Sliced scallion
- Thinly sliced Thai bird’s eye chilies
- Add the chicken broth, garlic, galangal (or ginger), shallot, lemongrass, Thai chili, tamari sauce, fish sauce, and coconut sugar to a 3-quart pot over high heat. Bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, stir in the coconut milk, chicken, red bell pepper, mushrooms, and kaffir lime leaves (if using). Bring back up to a boil, and then boil for 3 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the scallion, cilantro, and fresh lime juice.
- Serve topped with any garnishes you like.
- Net Carbs: 11g per serving
- Tangy Flavor: This soup has a bright tartness thanks to the fresh lime juice added at the end. If you aren't sure if you'll enjoy the tangy flavor, start with 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice and add more to taste. Personally, the tanginess is one of the things I love most about this soup!
- Fish Sauce: Instead of using 1 ½ tablespoons of fish sauce, this recipe uses 1 tablespoon of tamari sauce and ½ tablespoon of fish sauce. For the authentic version like I had in Thailand, omit the tamari sauce and use 1 ½ tablespoons of fish sauce (or more to taste).
- Kaffir Lime Leaves: Look for these at your local Asian grocery store. If you can’t find them, you can instead add ½ teaspoon freshly-grated lime zest along with the lime juice for a similar flavor.
- Thai Bird’s Eye Chilies: Look for these at your local Asian grocery store. If you can’t find them, you can instead use ground cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes to taste.
- Gluten Free Version: Use tamari sauce or coconut aminos (not soy sauce).
- Paleo and Whole30 Versions: To make this paleo, use coconut aminos (not tamari sauce or soy sauce). And for the Whole30 version, use coconut aminos and omit the coconut sugar.