Tom Kha Gai Soup (Coconut Chicken Soup)

This Tom Kha Gai soup is SUPER easy and loaded with great flavors and textures such as tangy lime, creamy coconut, spicy cayenne, and tender chicken! 

Bowl of tom kha gai soup

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What is tom kha gai soup?

Tom Kha Gai is a creamy, spicy, slightly sour Thai chicken soup. The creaminess comes from full-fat, canned coconut milk, the spiciness comes from a dash of cayenne pepper and freshly grated ginger, and the sour comes from traditional fish sauce and loads of life juice.

Tom Kha Gai soup was my introduction into the Thai food world. It was the first Thai food I had ever tried and I knew immediately I had to learn how to make my own. So good! This soup is complex in flavor but surprisingly easy to make at home!

Tom Kha Gai is a variation of the traditional Thai dish, Tom Kha. The “gai” translates to “chicken” which is added!


  • Chicken Breast – soaks up the flavors in the soup and adds some delicious protein to the dish.
  • Vegetable Oil – has a neutral flavor perfect for highlighting the strong flavors brought to the dish by the other ingredients.
  • Coconut Milk – adds a creaminess to the broth.
  • Chicken Broth – is the base of the soup and adds so much flavor.
  • White Mushrooms – soak up the flavor of the broth and add texture to the soup.
  • Fresh Ginger – adds zest to the flavor profile. Although most Tom Kha Gai soups use gangalal, I decided to use ginger instead to make it easy since gangalal isn’t always as accessible.
  • Fish Sauce – creates an earthy, savory, salty taste. Fish sauce gives that traditional “Thai” flavor.
  • Lime Juice – offsets other bold flavors with its bright citrusy taste.
  • Cayenne Pepper – adds spice and heat.
  • Lemongrass – perfectly highlights the lime juice with additional fresh, citrus flavor.
  • Green Onion – makes a great garnish and adds just a little of that onion sweetness.
  • Cilantro – is another great garnish and adds just a little earthy, tangy flavor to finish out the soup.

How to make thai tom kha gai soup

This recipe is so easy and can be made in just three steps!

  1. Cook chicken in a skillet with oil.
  2. Mix chicken and veggies into prepped broth in a large stockpot.
  3. Simmer, garnish, and serve!

See? So easy! You can whip up a delicious dinner in no time at all.

Overhead shot of bowl of tom kha gai soup

What’s the difference between tom yum and tom kha?

Tom Yum is another hot and sour Thai soup. Although they are both similar and delicious, the primary difference is that Tom Kha soup has coconut milk added which gives the broth a creamier texture and fuller flavor.

Personally, I prefer Tom Kha soup just because the coconut milk works to balance the heat added by the spices creating a well-rounded flavor profile.

Another great Thai recipe that uses coconut milk is my Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Soup Recipe! If you like this one you should definitely give that a try as well!

How to make tom kha soup vegetarian

Making this dish vegetarian is SUPER easy. Literally all you have to do is omit the fish sauce, swap chicken broth for veggie broth, and either ditch the chicken or substitute with another great protein like tofu!

Bowl of tom kha gai soup from side with spoon highlighting mushroom, chicken, and cilantro

How to serve

Give it a taste and season with salt and more cayenne to taste! This soup is so good stand-alone but if you want to bulk up your meal a bit it’s also so delicious served over a bed of steamed, brown rice! So healthy, so simple, and SO tasty!

How to store

The great thing about soup is that it tastes just as good, if not better, leftover. Although this soup didn’t last long enough in my house for me to have to worry too much about storage, if you have leftovers you can certainly either store it in the refrigerator for up to five days or in the freezer for up to three months.

– Jennifer


Tom Kha Gai Soup

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This Tom Kha Gai soup is SUPER easy and loaded with great flavors and textures such as tangy lime, creamy coconut, spicy cayenne, and tender chicken!
Course Soup
Cuisine Thai
Keyword easy, fresh, quick
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 633kcal
Author Jennifer Debth


  • Stockpot
  • Cast Iron Skillet


  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts*
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 (14 oz) cans coconut milk
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 (4 oz) white mushrooms sliced
  • 1 (1 inch) piece ginger peeled and halved
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or more to taste
  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass tough outer layers removed, and cut into 4 pieces
  • thinly sliced green onion for garnish
  • chopped fresh cilantro for garnish


  • Cut chicken into chunks. Heat pan over medium heat. Add in oil and chicken and sauté for to 2 to 3 minutes. Salt slightly. The chicken won’t be cooked through, it’ll continue to cook in the soup later on.
  • In a pot, bring coconut milk and chicken broth to a barely simmer over medium heat. Whisk to break up milk.
  • Add in the chicken, mushrooms, ginger, fish sauce, lime juice, cayenne powder and lemon grass. Simmer until the chicken is done and the mushrooms are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. You may need to lower heat.
  • Sprinkle with green onion and fresh cilantro and serve steaming hot. I also love serving this over steamed brown rice!


*Lemongrass: First, peel the outer layers (they look like corn husks). Then with the back of your knife, hit the lemongrass. You’ll make indents all along the stalk. Then, cut into quarters.
* You won’t eat the ginger/lemongrass, but whenever I get this in restaurants, they always leave the pieces in the soup!


Calories: 633kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 56g | Saturated Fat: 47g | Cholesterol: 73mg | Sodium: 1649mg | Potassium: 1097mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 86IU | Vitamin C: 17mg | Calcium: 54mg | Iron: 7mg

This post was originally published on February 13, 2015 and has been updated to provide more detailed information. 

The post Tom Kha Gai Soup (Coconut Chicken Soup) appeared first on Show Me the Yummy.

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