Thai Coconut Soup: Your Guide to a Gastronomic Adventure

October 4, 2023

Let’s face it, Thai coconut soup is one of the best Thai foods out there.

It is just the right level of flavor, zest, and creaminess.

If you would like to give this recipe a try, then this is the post for you.

Here, you will discover all the secrets to whipping up the best, most authentic batch of soup.

Let the lesson begin!

Understanding the Coconut Milk Soup

Before going any further, let’s break down what this soup actually is.

For starters, the real name of the dish is Tom Kha soup.

The “tom” means boil, while “kha” refers to the galangal used in the soup.

It is also distinguishable by the fact that it contains coconut milk, unlike some other Thai soups.

Tom Kha Gai

Now, you may have noticed that this dish is sometimes referred to as Tom Kha Gai as well.

So, is this any different to Tom Kha?

Not really – “gai” means chicken and so, Tom Kha Gai is simply includes chicken.

Thai Breakfast Soup Bowl

Maintaining the Authenticity of Thai Coconut Soup

You are going to find a ton of Thai soup recipes out there.  

However, many of these are Westernized versions.

As such, they can’t really capture the flavors that make up Thai cooking.

If you want to enjoy a truly authentic soup, then it is important to buy authentic ingredients.

Related Reading
A Taste of Paradise: The Best Coconut Recipes to Satisfy Your Cravings


In particular, you should make it a point to find galangal.

There are many altered Tom Kha recipes that will call for ginger instead of galangal – don’t follow these instructions.

On the surface, galangal and ginger can look virtually identical.

This is because they are both rhizomes.

And, yes, galangal is often referred to as Thai ginger.

However, if you were to taste this ingredient, you would notice that it is quite different from ginger.

In particular, galangal has a stronger flavor to it.

When added to dishes, it contributes a sharp, earthy, and citrusy taste.

As a result, it is important to only use galangal in your soup.

It shouldn’t be too hard to find – most Asian food stores should contain them.  

Beware that galangal can be a rather tough root.

Thus, you do need to use a bit more force when slicing it for the soup.

One technique can involve wedging the knife into the top of the root and gently tapping the knife with your palm.

Kaffir Lime Leaves

Another essential part of Thai cooking is kaffir lime leaves.

Although they are added to dishes, they aren’t actually consumed.

Instead, these leaves impart a wonderful tangy flavor.

These leaves can be substituted with:

  • Bay leaves
  • Zest of limes and lemons
  • Lemon thyme

Once again, though, you should make an effort to find the real deal.

While there are some substitutions that can come close, they don’t really capture the essence of the kaffir lime leaves.

Specialty Asian food stores should carry the leaves.

Using Coconut Milk

Needless to say, this soup contains coconut milk.

To make things easy, you are probably going to use the best canned coconut milk – and this is fine.

However, when purchasing this ingredient always check the label.

Make sure that it is full-fat milk and meant for cooking.

If possible, use a Thai brand to add more authenticity to the dish.

Related Reading
Selecting the Best Coconut Milk: Which Brands to Choose?
The Search for Creamy Goodness: A Rundown of the Best Coconut Milk for Curry

Easy Thai Coconut Soups

Here are the easiest and best coconut soups that you can whip up.

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup


Serves 4

  • 1 – 2 shallots, diced
  • 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 2-inch galangal root, peeled and sliced
  • 3 tbs. of lemongrass, cut into strips
  • 8 kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1lb of boneless, skinless chicken, sliced thinly
  • 8 ounces of sliced mushrooms
  • 2 – 4 Thai chilies
  • 3 tbs. of fish sauce
  • 1½ tsp. of salt
  • 2 cans of coconut milk
  • 3 tbs. of lime juice
  • 2 tsp. of brown sugar
Thai Coconut Chicken Soup


Step 1: Season the Chicken

Season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste.

Set the chicken aside.

Step 2: Cook the Herbs

In a heavy bottom pot, pour in some oil.

Add the shallots and sauté over medium heat.

Next, add the ginger, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and lemongrass to the pot.

Step 3: Add Broth

Add the broth to the pot and stir well.

Let all the ingredients simmer for about 5 minutes.

Step 4: Add the Meat and Veggies

Add the meat and the mushrooms to the pot.

Let the chicken cook for up to 4 minutes, or until is cooked all the way through.

Step 5: Stir in the Rest of the Ingredients

Pour in the coconut milk and fish sauce.

Add the chilies and the salt – stir well.

Bring the soup to a simmer.

Add the lime juice and sugar – combine well.

Coconut Soup Served Hot On Bowl

Making a Vegan or Vegetarian Thai Coconut Soup

If you are a vegan or vegetarian, it is quite to adjust this soup recipe accordingly.

Instead of chicken, simply use tofu or use more veggies – bell peppers and snow peas work especially well.

Substitute chicken broth with veggie broth.

And, rather than using fish sauce, use vegan fish sauce.

Then, simply follow the instructions as they are – it is as simple as that!

The only thing that you have to be mindful of is the cooking time of any of the additional veggies that you may be adding to the soup.

Make sure that the veggies are softy, but not mushy.

So, only simmer the soup for as long as it is needed.

Eating Tom Kha

Now, the most common way of eating Tom Kha is by itself, much like a soup.

However, you can serve it alongside rice or even rice noodles.

It makes a wonderful side dish as well.

This is what you need to know about making Thai coconut soup. It isn’t nearly as tricky as you might imagine.

All you need are the right ingredients and a little bit of guidance.

If you enjoyed this recipe, head over to our Pinterest page. We have tons of other coconut milk recipes for you to choose from.

An Important Disclaimer
The information on this page should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult a doctor if you wish to consume any kind of tea regularly for the purpose of treating any condition or illness.
Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API. For the Love of Coconut is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon (.com,, .ca etc) and any other website that may be affiliated with Amazon Service LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Copyright © 2024 · For The Love of Coconut · All Rights Reserved