Thai Coconut Soup (tom kha)

Thai coconut soup in a bowl with spoon

Thai Coconut Soup, or tom kha, is a classic Thai chicken soup recipe 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 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

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. You can sometimes find it fresh in your produce section, but the paste works just fine, and you’ll find that in the Asian section of your store.
  • lime juice ~ fresh!
  • cilantro ~ fresh!
  • hot peppers ~ any small variety your supermarket stocks.

Once you’ve stocked these Thai ingredients you’ll have them on hand for future Thai inspired recipes like my Thai Spaghetti Salad or my Thai Beef Salad.

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

additional ingredient suggestions for Thai 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
Thai Coconut Soup (Tom Kha) in a green bowl

substitutions for a Thai vegan soup

  • vegetable broth for the chicken broth
  • Tamari sauce for the fish sauce
  • tofu or mushrooms instead of chicken.
Thai coconut soup in a bowl with spoon
Thai coconut soup in a bowl with spoon
4.46 from 48 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
Total Time 25 minutes
Yield 4 servings
Calories 369kcal
Author Sue Moran


  • 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


  • 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.


Calories: 369kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 22g | Cholesterol: 60mg | Sodium: 411mg | Potassium: 692mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 635IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 44mg | Iron: 5mg
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
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    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    February 7, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    • Reply
      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
    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
    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
    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.


  • Reply
    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
    February 7, 2012 at 3:05 pm

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

  • Reply
    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

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