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Tom Kha Gai Recipe: Easy and Delicious Thai Soup Guide

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Tom Kha Gai

Are you craving the rich and creamy flavors of Thailand? You’ve come to the right place! Tom Kha Gai, or Thai coconut chicken soup, is a delicious blend of coconut milk, lemongrass, galangal, and lime leaves, packed with tender chicken and mushrooms. This authentic recipe is surprisingly easy to make and perfect for a cozy night in.

What makes this soup special are the fresh spices and ingredients that give it a unique, aromatic taste. Adapt it to be vegan or Whole30 friendly by swapping out the chicken for tofu or shrimp. You’re just a few steps away from enjoying the comforting and exotic flavors of Tom Kha Gai in your own kitchen.

Exact Ingredients (+ Possible Substitutes)

To make a delicious Tom Kha Gai, you need some specific ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need:

Main Ingredients

  • Chicken: Use boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs. Substitute: Tofu for a vegetarian option.
  • Coconut Milk: Provides the creamy base. Substitute: Coconut cream for a richer texture.
  • Chicken Broth: Enhances the flavor. Substitute: Vegetable broth or water.
  • Lemongrass: Adds a citrusy aroma. Substitute: Lemon zest if you can’t find fresh lemongrass.
  • Galangal: Imparts a unique flavor. Substitute: Ginger, though it has a different taste.
  • Kaffir Lime Leaves: Essential for the authentic aroma. Substitute: Lime zest and a few basil leaves.
  • Thai Chilies: Adds heat to the soup. Substitute: Red pepper flakes or jalapeños.
  • Fish Sauce: Adds umami flavor. Substitute: Light soy sauce.
  • Palm Sugar: Balances the flavors. Substitute: Brown sugar or regular white sugar.

Additional Ingredients

  • Mushrooms: Adds texture. Substitute: Any variety you like, such as button or shiitake.
  • Onion: Adds sweetness. Substitute: Shallots.
  • Garlic: Enhances the savory taste. Substitute: Garlic powder, though fresh is better.
  • Tomatoes: Adds acidity and color. Substitute: Cherry tomatoes work well.

Optional Add-ins

  • Coriander (Cilantro): For garnish. Substitute: Parsley.
  • Lime Juice: Adds freshness at the end. Substitute: Lemon juice.

These ingredients combine to create the perfect balance of flavors in Tom Kha Gai. Make sure to gather all the necessary components to enjoy an authentic bowl of this Thai soup.


  1. Prepare Ingredients: Chop your onion, garlic, jalapeno or chile, galangal or ginger, and lemongrass. Tear kaffir lime leaves into pieces if using.

  2. Heat Oil: In a medium pot, heat a tablespoon of coconut oil over medium heat.

  3. Cook Aromatics: Add the chopped onion, garlic, jalapeno or chile, galangal or ginger, lemongrass, and red curry paste. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes until the onions soften.

  4. Add Liquids: Pour in chicken broth and coconut milk. Bring it to a gentle boil.

  5. Season: Add fish sauce, tamarind paste, salt, and palm sugar to the mix.

  6. Simmer Soup: Toss in chicken strips and let the soup simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the chicken is tender.

  7. Add Mushrooms: Add oyster mushrooms and cook for an extra minute.

  8. Finish with Herbs: Stir in scallions, cilantro, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

  9. Serve Hot: Enjoy your delicious Tom Kha Gai with a side of rice or on its own.

Tips, Tricks & Storing

Use Fresh Ingredients: Fresh herbs like lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves make a big difference in flavor. If you can find them, it’s worth the extra effort.

Adjust Flavors to Taste: Want it spicier? Add more Thai chilis. Need it tangier? Squeeze in extra lime juice. Don’t be afraid to tweak the recipe to suit your taste buds.

Common Substitutes

Kaffir Lime LeavesLime Zest + Lime Juice
Palm SugarBrown Sugar or Honey

Avoid Overcooking: Keep an eye on your chicken and vegetables to make sure they don’t overcook. The chicken should stay tender, and the veggies should retain a slight crunch.

Storing Leftovers: Store any leftover soup in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will stay fresh for up to 3 days. The flavors will deepen over time, making it even more delicious.

Reheating: Reheat your soup gently over low heat to avoid curdling the coconut milk. Stir often and avoid boiling.

Freezing: You can freeze Tom Kha Gai, although the texture might change slightly. Pour into airtight containers, leaving some space at the top, and freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.

Garnishes: Garnish with fresh cilantro, scallions, and lime wedges just before serving. They add a burst of freshness that elevates the soup.

Enjoy your homemade Tom Kha Gai and make it your own with these simple tips!

Recipe Variations & Serving Suggestions

To add variety to your Tom Kha Gai, consider these easy variations:

  • Swap chicken for shrimp or tofu for a different protein.
  • Add rice noodles to make it a hearty meal.
  • Use vegetable broth for a vegetarian version.

For serving, here are a few ideas:

  • Serve over a bowl of steamed jasmine rice.
  • Garnish with fresh cilantro, sliced chili peppers, or lime wedges.
  • Pair with a side salad or spring rolls for a complete meal.

Get creative with your kitchen staples, and you can enjoy Tom Kha Gai in many exciting ways.

Benjamin Happy Muncher

Hi, I'm Benjamin. I love cooking, long walks, and my girlfriend! Here you’ll find simple and delicious recipes that you can make in 30 minutes or less.