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Thai Coconut Soup (tom kha)




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Thai coconut soup in a bowl with spoon

Thai Coconut Soup, or tom kha, is a classic Thai chicken soup that’s so much more intensely flavored than most western soups, it’ll wake you up, tingle your taste buds and make your nose run (in the best way.)

Thai Coconut Soup in a green bowl

 

Thai Coconut Soup (aka Tom Kha) is a classic Southeast Asian classic

This soup is completely different from all the other soups that I make and that’s why I love it.  The flavor profile is pure Thai, but it’s completely attainable in a Western kitchen thanks to a few key ingredients readily available in most supermarkets.

Fresh chilis and lime for Thai Coconut Soup

The basic ingredients in Thai coconut soup ~

These flavors form the backbone of this soup, they’re simple yet powerful…

  • chicken stock
  • coconut milk ~ buy full fat coconut milk in the can.
  • curry paste ~ The soup gets its beautiful salmony color from red curry paste (Thai curry paste comes in red and green varieties.)  I was happy to discover them in new smaller 4 oz sizes, which is perfect for someone who cooks Asian food only occasionally.
  • fish sauce ~ don’t skip this for authentic flavor.
  • chili paste ~ I always have a jar in the fridge, it’s an ingredient I use over and over again, not just for Asian recipes.
  • Lemongrass or lemongrass paste ~ another ingredient that makes all the difference.
  • lime juice ~ fresh!
  • cilantro ~ fresh!
  • hot peppers ~ any small variety your supermarket stocks.

 

Coconut Milk for Thai Coconut Soup
fresh cilantro for Thai Coconut Soup

lemongrass and chilis for Thai Coconut Soup

Additional add-in ingredients for Thai Coconut Soup ~

  • chicken ~ feel free to use a rotisserie chicken for convenience
  • onions ~ regular onions or scallions
  • mushrooms
  • baby bok choy
  • pea pods
  • carrots
  • kale
  • bean sprouts
  • bell peppers

a bowl of Thai coconut soup with spoon

Once you’ve gathered your Thai ingredients you’ll have them on hand for future recipes like my Spicy Thai Spaghetti Salad, and my Thai Beef Salad.

Thai Coconut Soup (Tom Kha) in a green bowl

To make a vegan Thai coconut soup

  • substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth
  • Tamari sauce for the fish sauce
  • and tofu for the chicken.

 


Reader Rave ~

“This is the perfect soup for a gray winter’s day. Thanks for the lovely and luscious recipe :-)”  ~Amy


Thai coconut soup in a bowl with spoon
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4.11 from 28 votes

Thai Coconut Soup

Thai Coconut Soup, or tom kha, is a classic Thai chicken soup that's so much more intensely flavored than most western soups, it'll wake you up, tingle your taste buds and make your nose run (in the best way.)
Course Soup
Cuisine Thai
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Yield 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 cups chicken stock (use vegetable for vegan)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, or 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 inch piece of peeled fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 stalk lemongrass,upper and outer leaves trimmed off, peeled and halved the long way (or 2 tsp lemongrass paste)
  • 2 small hot peppers, sliced thinly
  • 1 can coconut milk, full fat
  • 1 Tbsp chili paste
  • 1 Tbsp red curry paste
  • 2-3 Tbsp fish sauce (use Tamari sauce for vegan)
  • 2 cups cooked chicken (use tofu for vegan)
  • handful of fresh cilantro chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt to taste
  • minced red bell pepper for garnish optional

Instructions

  • Put the chicken stock in a soup pot, along with the onion, ginger, stalk of lemongrass and sliced hot peppers. Simmer over medium low heat for about 15 minutes.
  • Add the coconut milk, pastes, fish sauce, and chicken. Let it simmer for another 5 minutes so the flavors can meld.
  • Add the lime juice, cilantro and salt to taste. Remove the lemongrass and serve.

 

thai coconut soup pin

 

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29 Comments

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  • Reply
    Michael
    May 4, 2020 at 4:26 pm

    5 stars
    Howdy Sue, I’ve made this three times now with very minor ingredient variations but the core of the recipe is just a magnificent blending of the tastes of Asia into a solid family meal (& Thai food is my favourite Asian)! So there’s only one point I have – can you please change the ‘drab photo’ (in my humble opinion) of the end product right next to the recipe (the blue bowl) to the very first ‘vibrant-colourful’ photo in your recipe above (the green bowl), as I believe it is more WOW-inspiring and will get you ‘many more visits online’.

    P.S. I’m also loving your new ‘Jump to Recipe’ button, as I do a quick scan of the ingredients and complexity of the method – THEN realising that the recipe is within my skills and stocked pantry, I go back to the top of the page and enjoy very much reading your recipe blog story, tips and comments in detail as I pick up some of the finer points and suggestions plus the other area of each page that I like is the ‘Make this Your Own’ suggestions. Just loving your Recipes, Blogs, Photos and overwhelming positiveness in these difficult COVID times! Thanks Sue my daily Ray of Sunshine!

    • Reply
      Sue
      May 4, 2020 at 5:23 pm

      I appreciate the comment Michael ~ I’m glad you like the jump to recipe button, 🙂 And I’ll change that featured image, good suggestion!

  • Reply
    Morgan
    February 23, 2020 at 4:43 pm

    Dark meat or breast? Which is more authentic, I mean?

    • Reply
      Sue
      February 23, 2020 at 5:20 pm

      I usually see it made with white, but not sure if that’s more authentic or not ~ go with what you love!

  • Reply
    Morgan
    February 23, 2020 at 4:42 pm

    5 stars
    Thank you! We just moved, and I don’t know if there are asian markets here, but I have never seen lemon grass in any store, anywhere I have lived. Thanks for the viable substitute.

  • Reply
    Crystal Walstad
    January 28, 2020 at 9:40 pm

    5 stars
    I had to substitute a couple ingredients, but the soup was still great!

  • Reply
    Beth H
    January 28, 2020 at 2:28 pm

    5 stars
    I made this for dinner a couple of nights ago. It was a huge hit, totally rivaling my daughter’s favorite soup at a local Asian bistro! Great to know we can now make it at home. Love it!! Yours is one of my go-to sites for recipes.

  • Reply
    Nikki Moranville
    January 27, 2020 at 7:43 am

    5 stars
    This was dinner last night. Quick, easy, and my husband (who is NOT a chicken fan) said the chicken in this soup was out of this world! I only had lemongrass paste so that is what I used. This is a keeper!

  • Reply
    Sue R
    January 23, 2020 at 1:25 pm

    5 stars
    I’m a big fan of this soup too. I have a couple of tips as I use to cook it in a restaurant and also use to grow it. The best way to get the most flavour out of the lemongrass is to cut the long stringy top off and throw it out, peel it a little then bash the base with a meat mallet a couple of times. No need to halve it. Also for the lady that doesn’t have access to it I’ve often used lemon rind just cut off with a potato peeler instead. Use it in the same way as lemongrass but make sure you don’t have any of the bitter white pith on it.

  • Reply
    Donna L.
    February 6, 2019 at 4:50 pm

    Hi Sue – This looks delicious! I can’t find lemon grass in my area. Is there something else I can use (perhaps purchase online)? Thank you.

    • Reply
      Sue
      February 6, 2019 at 5:14 pm

      Hi Donna! There are a lot of flavors going on in this soup, so if you have to leave out the lemongrass it won’t be a huge problem. You can also use lemongrass paste, which comes in a tube or a jar, and might be more available in the Asian section of your local large supermarket.

  • Reply
    Shelley
    February 21, 2014 at 5:41 am

    I just discovered your website and seriously loving it! It love Thai coconut soup and this one looks delicious. I buy the larger Thai chili pasts and freeze it in dollops of 1 tbsp. on aluminum foil, freeze it solid and then keep it in freezer bags…this way, you just thaw a dollop as you need it.. Hope this helps. Shelley

    • Reply
      Sue
      February 21, 2014 at 6:55 am

      Welcome in Shelley — and thanks for the tip, I should do that with a lot of my more exotic Thai condiments!

    • Reply
      Sue
      July 30, 2018 at 8:30 pm

      I love the freezing tip, Shelley, that’s so smart.

  • Reply
    Sarah (Snippets of Thyme)
    February 10, 2012 at 3:11 am

    5 stars
    We absolutely love this dish and you really made it look delicious in your photos! In fact, we need to get to our Thai Kitchen restaurant really soon…we can’t go long without Thai food.

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    February 10, 2012 at 1:57 am

    This is the perfect soup for a gray winter’s day. Thanks for the lovely and luscious recipe 🙂

  • Reply
    annie
    February 9, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    I must try this…it looks delicious and I love your photos of the finished soup and the ingredients…so pretty.

  • Reply
    Magnolia Verandah
    February 8, 2012 at 10:54 am

    I love Thai flavours whatever the region – one for my cooking journal in readiness for the cooler weather. Lovely!

  • Reply
    bemelodious
    February 7, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    • Reply
      bemelodious
      February 7, 2012 at 10:33 pm

      Nice recipe! I just want to make a quick correction that Thai food is technically Southeast Asian food not “East Asian” as you stated in your post. East Asian food would hail from China, Korea, Japan, etc.

  • Reply
    A Trifle Rushed
    February 7, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    What a fantastic soup, perfect for winter. Lemongrass is widely available in UK supermarkets, ‘thai’ cooking is huge here!

  • Reply
    Mary
    February 7, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    That is absolutely gorgeous soup! I’m not sure what to do with a recipe that does not include garlic though… I probably would have added it without even thinking about it!

  • Reply
    Rose
    February 7, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    That looks yummy! I LOVE and cook Thai food on a regular basis. Living in Vancouver we are lucky enough to be able to get all the ingredients such as lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves easily.

  • Reply
    Barbara
    February 7, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    And it’s soooooo much fresher than anything you get at a Thai restaurant!

  • Reply
    From the Kitchen
    February 7, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    Yes, please, to anything in the Thai food area! We are fortunate to have a wonderful Thai restaurant nearby. There are also several Thai grocery stores. Thanks for another delicious recipe.

    Best,
    Bonnie

  • Reply
    Valerie
    February 7, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    What a delicious assortment of flavours! (I absolutely love coconut and curries…and food that makes my nose run.) 😀

  • Reply
    yummychunklet
    February 7, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    I love Thai food, so this soup is right up my alley!

  • Reply
    Heather @girlichef.com
    February 7, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Mmmm…I love these flavors! And I can’t go without at least one can of coconut milk in my pantry and a jar of Thai red curry paste in my fridge- love the stuff!

  • Reply
    Rebecca Subbiah
    February 7, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    love this soup