This Tom Kha Soup recipe (Thai coconut soup) is pure comfort in a bowl! Rich and creamy, tangy and salty, it’s completely delicious! Make it with chicken, shrimp or tofu, on the stovetop or in your instant pot! Video.

bowl of Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup) with pieces of shredded chicken, lemongrass, lime, kaffir lime leaves, mushrooms, chilies.

I would say that there exist a thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else, and that our dignity and our chances are one. The farthest star and the mud at our feet are a family; and there is no decency or sense in honoring one thing, or a few things, and then closing the list. ~Mary Oliver 

When feeling under the weather, one of my favorite meals is Tom Kha Soup. This Thai coconut soup is made with a rich, fragrant coconut broth infused with Thai flavor- especially comforting during cold and flu season. The coconut milk gently coats the throat and soothes, while the mild heat clears up the sinuses. It’s one of my all-time favorite Thai soup recipes!

Why You’ll Love This!

  1. Authentic flavor. This Tom Kha soup uses galangal root, the star of the dish! Kaffir lime leaves and lemon grass add delicious brightness.
  2. Quick and easy. Can be made in 30 minutes on the stovetop or in an Instant Pot.
  3. VeganAdaptable. This recipe is paleo and gluten-free, but can also be made vegan -using cubes of tofu (or crispy tofu) and this vegan fish sauce (or sub soy sauce).

 Tom Kha soup | 60-sec video


What is Galangal Root?

Tom Kha means Galalgal Soup. Galangal root is the star of the recipe here and looks very much like ginger but tastes very very different. It has an exotic pine flavor, which, in my opinion, totally makes the soup. Galangal is shown on the top (in the photo below) while ginger root is on the bottom.

galangal root, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and ginger root on wood table.

Tom kha Ingredients

  • Protein: chicken breasts or thighs, or sub one pound shrimp or one block tofu.
  • Mushrooms: Oyster mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, cremini mushrooms, or straw mushrooms.
  • Coconut milk: Use canned full-fat coconut milk.
  • Galangal root: Buy at your local Asian market in the produce section or freezer section. Buy extra to freeze!
  • Ginger: Slice a 2-inch piece into ⅛ inch thick disks, skins ok.
  • Shallots: Diced. You can use onion if it’s all you have.
  • Lemongrass: Use whole lemongrass stalks, or chopped, or use lemongrass paste. All work.
  • Kaffir lime leaves: You will find these at the Asian market, either fresh or in freezer section.
  • Chicken broth: Or use vegetable broth.
  • Fresh Thai Chilies: or add Thai red curry paste to taste at the end.
  • Fish sauce: Or sub vegan fish sauce.
  • Fresh lime juice: From 1-2 small limes, to taste.
  • Palm sugar: Or use coconut sugar or brown sugar.
  • Garnish with fresh cilantro or green onions.

How to Make Tom Kha Soup

Tom Kha Soup can be made in an instant pot (especially easy if using whole chicken breasts) or cooked on the stovetop. Here are instructions for both.

Authentic Tom Kha Gai Soup (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup) in bowl with chicken, mushrooms, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, chilies, in front on Instant Pot.

Instant Pot Instructions:

  1. Place everything in the instant pot except lime juice, coconut milk and sugar – leaving the chicken thighs or breasts whole. Don’t forget the salt. Give a stir. 🙂
  2. If using chicken breasts, pressure cook on high pressure for 7 minutes, or 10 minutes for chicken thighs. If using tofu, pressure cook 4 minutes.
  3. Naturally, release for 10-15 minutes. Shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces using two forks and add the coconut milk, sugar, and lime juice. Taste- adjust salt, lime and spicy heat. Serve with a lime wedge.

Stove Top Cooking instructions:

  1. Slice the chicken into thin bite-sized pieces (across the grain) and season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  2. In large heavy bottom pot or Dutch oven, saute shallot in a little oil over medium heat. Add ginger, lemongrass, lime leaves, and galangal, and 2 cups broth and simmer gently for 5 minutes, letting the broth infuse.
  3. Add the chicken (or tofu) and mushrooms and gently poach, simmering for 3-4 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked through and mushrooms wilt.
  4. Stir in the coconut milk, fish sauce, chilies, and salt and bring to a simmer. Turn off heat. Add the lime juice and sugar. Taste. Adjust salt and lime and the spice level by adding more chili paste.

Serve this on its own, or over rice or rice noodles! Garnish with cilantro, green onions, or lime zest if desired. Serve with lime wedges on the side.

Expert Tips

  1. When making the trip to the Asian market, buy extra galangal root, kaffir lime leaves, and lemongrass to freeze for later. Slice the galangal root before freezing, then just drop the frozen slices into your soup. You can find chopped lemongrass in the freezer section- that way you always have some on hand for Thai cooking.
  2. Tom Kha is a lovely balance of salty, sour, and spice. Find the balance! Adjust these at the end to your taste by adding more fish sauce (depth and salt), lime juice, sweetness, or heat( chili paste).
  3. Do not boil the coconut milk. This will make it less sweet; just bring it to a simmer and turn off the heat.

FAQs

Should I cook Tom Kha Gai in the Instant Pot or on the stovetop?

Make the Tom Kha Gai in an Instant Pot with chicken breast or chicken thighs, or cook it more authentically on the stovetop. Your choice! The instant pot version is very quick and easy- just put it all in the pot and set. When it’s done squeeze with fresh lime and serve in bowls.

Can Tom Kha Gai be frozen?

Yes, Tom Kha Gai freezes well. Make a big batch and freeze for busy nights. Freeze for up to 3 months.

What is the difference between Tom Yum Soup and Tom Kha Gai?

The primary difference between Tom Yum Soup and Tom Kha is that Tom Kha is richer and creamier by adding coconut milk. Tom Yum Soup is brothy, spicy and much more sour. Because it is made with a clear broth, without the addition of coconut milk, it is lighter, low in calories and saturated fat. Tom Kha is rich and creamy, with sweeter notes.

What is Tom Kha Gai made of?

Gai means “chicken” in the Thai language, so Tom Kha Gai translates to Galangal Soup with Chicken.

hands squeezing lime quarter into bowl of Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup), full of chicken, mushrooms, chilies, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves in coconut broth.

Enjoy this Tom Kha Gai – a warming Coconut Chicken soup that is full of amazing Thai flavor.

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Authentic Tom Kha Gai Soup (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup) - a healthy, delicious and easy recipe that can be made in an Instant Pot or on the stove top. Vegan Adaptable! #tomkha #thaisoup #tomkhagai #paleo #keto #thaichickensoup #galangal #coconutsoup #traditional

Tom Kha Soup ( Thai coconut soup)

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 4.8 from 66 reviews
  • Author: Sylvia Fountaine
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 20
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 8 cups ( 4 servings) 1x
  • Category: soup, gluten-free, vegan-adaptable
  • Method: instant pot, stove top, pressure cooker
  • Cuisine: Thai

Description

This Tom Kha Recipe (Thai Coconut Soup) is authentic and delicious! Make it with chicken, tofu, or shrimp on the stovetop or Instant Pot.


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 12 shallots, diced
  • 1/4 cup ginger, sliced into 1/8 inch thick disks, skins ok ( 2 inch piece)
  • 1/4 cup galangal root, sliced into 1/8 thick disks, skins ok ( 2 inch piece)
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped lemongrass– or use lemongrass paste.
  • 8 kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 cups chicken broth or veggie broth
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken- whole breasts or thighs (or sub 1 pound crispy Tofu or shrimp)
  • 8 ounces mushrooms (oyster, shiitake, cremini, or straw mushrooms) or sub other veggies like bell pepper, snow peas, etc.
  • 24 fresh Thai Chilies, or add chili paste to taste at the end
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce (or sub vegan fish sauce)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

————–

  • 2 x 14ounce cans of coconut milk (full fat)
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice ( 12 small limes) to taste
  • 2 teaspoons palm, coconut or brown sugar

Serve this on its own, over rice or rice noodles!


Instructions

Stovetop Cooking instructions:

  1. Slice the chicken into thin bite-sized pieces (across the grain) and season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
  2. In large heavy bottom pot or dutch oven, saute shallot in a little oil over medium heat. Add ginger, lemongrass, lime leaves and galalagal and 2 cups broth and simmer gently for 5 minutes, letting the broth infuse. Add the chicken (or tofu) and mushrooms and gently poach, simmering for 3-4 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked through.
  3. Stir in the coconut milk, fish sauce, chilies, and salt and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the lime juice and sugar. Taste. Adjust salt and lime and the spice level by adding more chili paste.

Instant Pot Instructions:

  1. Place everything in the instant pot except lime juice, coconut milk and sugar – leaving the chicken thighs or breasts whole. Don’t forget the salt. Give a stir.
  2. If using chicken breasts, pressure cook on high pressure for 7 minutes, or 10 minutes for thighs. If using tofu, pressure cook 4 minutes.
  3. Naturally, release for 10-15 minutes. Shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces using two forks and add the coconut milk, sugar, and lime juice. Taste- adjust salt, lime and spicy heat. Serve with a lime wedge.

Notes

When making the stove top version, sometimes I’ll poach whole chicken breasts in the infused broth (covered) then shred with 2 forks- a little longer cooking time, but no pre-cutting required. Then add the remaining ingredients. 🙂

Boiling coconut milk will take some it’s lovely sweetness away, so don’t over boil it or over cook it, just simmer gently and not for too long. 🙂

To make a vegan version, sub veggie broth for the chicken broth. Add cubes of raw tofu or  crispy tofu ( pan- sear cubes of tofu in a skillet first, with olive oil, salt and pepper). Add other veggies if  you like! Sub vegan fish sauce for regular fish sauce. 

If using shrimp, peel and devein, and drop into the simmering soup, cooking until tails curl. 

Feel free to serve over rice or rice noodles.

The soup freezes well!

RECIPE UPDATE: I changed the Instant Pot version, to add the 2 cans of  coconut milk AFTER pressure cooking. Some folks had issues with the coconut milk curdling during the pressure cooking.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups using chicken breast
  • Calories: 461
  • Sugar: 3.4 g
  • Sodium: 1123.7 mg
  • Fat: 33.9 g
  • Saturated Fat: 28.3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 9.5 g
  • Fiber: 0.7 g
  • Protein: 25.6 g
  • Cholesterol: 66.2 mg

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Comments

  1. The soup was simple and quick to make, but the chunks of ginger and lemongrass were just not at all good. Maybe it’s just my taste, but I found this soup incredibly hard to eat.

    1. Sorry about that- it is pretty typically to serve it this way with the big chunks in the soup- have you tried it at a restaurant before? You can always fish them out beforehand too.

  2. How do you get 8 cups from this recipe when there is only 2 cups of liquid in the ingredients list. I think I might get 4 or 5 cups.

  3. This was my first time making Tom kha gai and omg – it was better than the restaurant that got me hooked on it!






    1. I’m not sure Tara- I personally have not tried freezing. It should be ok? Coconut milk may separate, but give agood stir.

  4. This was delicious! I think it would have been even better if I’d had everything as recommended. I had to substitute bonito flakes since I didn’t have fish sauce. The galangal and makrut lime leaves really do make the flavor pop! 3/4 kids, husband, and I highly approved. I’m going to try this again when I’ve gotten some fish sauce and will try it to accompany pad Thai as these are my favorite Thai dishes.






  5. Very delicious soup. One of my favourite soups. It has an authentic Thai taste.
    When I put the coriander in at the end, it just brought it to life.
    I’ll definately be making this again.
    Thanks for the recipe






  6. I made this tonight, added mushrooms and omitted the chili’s cause I wasn’t in the mood for the heat. I’ve tried other Tom kha Gai recipes and THIS is the one I’m keeping.






  7. This recipe is so delicious, so tasty, so easy to make! I have made this recipe several times and each time it taste better. Give it a try, but you must use the galangal root. You can find all the ingredients on Amazon, and then freeze for future use as I have done. My compliments to the Chef!!






  8. This soup was such a hit- amazing flavors and textures! While ingredient prep was not quick, the process of cooking it on the stovetop was a breeze. I added extra fish sauce and lime juice for depth of flavor.






  9. I have made this soup many times and love it. Today I find myself with out the fresh galangal. What are your thoughts about using dried?






  10. Loved this recipe!! How do you suggest storing the leftovers? Will leaving the aromatics in the leftovers make the flavor too strong? Thanks!






  11. Our favorite thai restaurant has a to die for Tom Kha that when we do eat out with usually regular there because of how good it is, and how difficult I thought it would be to make at home. Thank you for this recipe and breaking the thought it my mind that it was something I could not replicate at home because it is 99% spot on! I’m making a second batch now and just need to cook my noodle a bit longer (which has nothing to do with your recipe) and it will be PERFECT. I found all ingredients at our asian market thankfully but was prepared to order it all on amazon because I love tom Kha so much. Next time will do with shrimp as my family likes that protein as well with this soup. Thank you for another wonderful recipe! SO glad I found your blog!






  12. So delicious!! Made this working from home on my lunch break. In Perf time. She’s a winner, healthy, easy and sooooooo yummy.






  13. My dad is super hard to please and as soon as he tasted this he said, “oh wow, this is so authentic!” and my whole family loved it. I was worried because the Asian market I went to was out of lime leaves, but I substituted the zest of three small limes and two bay leaves and it came out great.






  14. Hello Everyone-

    I am writing from Everett, WA…outside of Thailand…. perhaps MORE Thai restaurants and people from Thailand than anywhere else in the world.

    While I have never been to Thailand, I have eaten Tom Kha Gai at more than a dozen Thai restaurants in the Pacific NW.

    Unfortunately, this recipe IS NOT correct.

    in addition to the dozens of Thai restaurants in the Pacific NW, we also have DOZENS of authentic everything Pacific Rim grocery stores.

    I followed this recipe to the letter and it did not even come close to what one can find at (for example) Tasters Wok in Lynnwood, WA.

    IT WAS WAY TO SALTY. (I use RED BOAT #40 Fish Sauce)

    If you try this recipe, PLEASE do not add the 1.5 t salt and limit the Fish Sauce to 1 or 2 tablespoons (at first).

    BTW, I used organic reduced sodium chicken broth.

    I may try this recipe again…. but will first talk to some local Thai cooks to find out what the error is with this recipe.

    I mean no disrespect to Sylvia…. I am merely trying to pass on my findings to everyone.

    The ingredients are not cheap… so be advised.

    Good Luck!






    1. Hummm, sorry about that. Really dont know what could have happened here. Did you add both cans of coconut milk?

  15. I love this soup. Previous attempts, using different recipes, were disappointing. This recipe is excellent. I actually have a kefir lime plant that a co-worker found for me a couple of years ago when we were both into Thai cooking. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs. My local Central Market carries all the rest of the aromatics so assembling the ingredients was not difficult. I already had some button mushrooms that I needed to use or throw away so I used them and they were fine but I will definitely try one of the more exotic type mushrooms when I make it next time.






  16. This is my third time making this soup as my son and family keep asking for more👍🏻 The flavours are very authentic and it is super easy to make






  17. Absolutely delicious. I bought extra ingredients the second time I made it and gave the extra ingredients to my mom and sister with copies of the recipe. This is definitely a recipe worth sharing and making weekly! I love it!






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