Tom Kha Soup is a traditional Thai coconut soup recipe that is made using fragrant herbs, spices, and coconut milk. This super flavorful soup can be made vegan, vegetarian, or with chicken and shrimp.
What Is Tom Kha Soup
Tom means soup and Kha means “galangal” in Thai. So literally, Tom Kha means soup with galangal.
It is a traditional Thai soup that typically features coconut milk, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and fish sauce. This one-pot soup can also include chicken, shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes, and other vegetables.
Tom Kha is often considered to be a healthier alternative to other Thai soups like tom yum due to its lower fat content. This soup is also relatively easy to make at home, making it a popular choice for home cooks.
Thai coconut soup has a complex and layered flavor that is both savory and sweet. The coconut milk lends the soup a richness and creaminess, while the galangal and lemongrass add depth of flavor. The kaffir lime leaves give it a subtle citrusy taste, and the fish sauce provides a salty umami flavor.
Rich and creamy, yet tangy and salty, this soup recipe is light on the stomach but still fills you up for a longer time. The best part, it has so many flavors dancing in your mouth, and the heavenly aroma can make you hungry instantly.
One serving of this soup has approximately 315 Kcals. Tom kha soup is rich in minerals and vitamins too. If you add noodles, the calories will increase per serving but it will be quite filling.
This soup is naturally gluten-free, and paleo and the recipe can be easily doubled or tripled. It can be easily made vegan too.
Try my restaurant-quality tom kha recipe at home!
This soup requires ingredients that are easily available in the Asian section of any grocery store.
Coconut Milk – The base of the soup is made with coconut milk, which makes it different from other soups. It makes the soup rich and creamy and gives it a distinct flavor. I have used canned coconut milk but you can definitely use freshly made coconut milk for a more authentic flavor. If you get your hands on coconut cream, it will make the soup creamier.
Vegetables – I have used only onions and button mushrooms. You can also use oyster mushrooms or for a more intense flavor, use rehydrated dried mushrooms. You can make this soup more nutritious by adding your favorite vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, green beans, etc. Other veggies like green onions, colored bell peppers, etc can also be added.
You can also add tofu to this soup.
Galangal – This is another important ingredient in this recipe, which adds a significant taste. Galangal is a rhizome from the ginger family and has a more peppery and pungent taste. If you can’t find galangal, you can use ginger instead.
Lemongrass and Kaffir Lime Leaves – These two are my favorite ingredients! The taste that these two add to the soup is out of the world. So make sure you don’t miss them, especially lemongrass. You will find it in the produce section or frozen in a tube in the freezer section. Use lemon zest instead of kaffir lime leaves if you are not able to find them.
Thai Bird’s Eye Chilli – Adds the spiciness to this soup. You can adjust the amount of these chilies according to your taste.
If you cannot find the same, you can use any spicy red chilies.
Vegetable Broth – As coconut milk is a little thick and creamy, to get the soup into a soupy consistency, we will add vegetable broth, which has a flavor of its own and it adds to the soup’s taste too. I use my Homemade Vegetable Broth to give this soup the best flavor.
Coconut Oil – Make it in coconut oil, as it brings out the flavor very well. But if it’s not available, you can use any vegetable oil instead.
Other Ingredients – Apart from the above-mentioned ingredients, you will also need garlic, lemon juice, brown sugar, and fish sauce.
How To Make Tom Kha
Make The Broth
Heat coconut oil in a pan over medium heat.
Once the oil is hot, add onions and garlic and saute for a minute.
Add lemongrass stalks, galangal, Thai red chilies, kaffir lime leaves, and vegetable stock, and bring the soup to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low.
Cover the pan with a lid and let the soup simmer for 25-30 minutes.
Using a strainer, remove the onions, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir leaves, and chilies.
Make The Soup
Add mushroom to the soup and cook for 3-4 minutes.
Add fish sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, and coconut milk, and bring the soup to a simmer, stirring frequently.
Garnish with cilantro, chopped red chilies, and lemon wedges, and serve hot.
Frequently Asked Questions
Tom kha and tom yum are both Thai soups that feature coconut milk and a variety of herbs and spices. However, tom yum soup is typically made with a clear broth, while tom Kha has a creamy coconut milk-based broth. Tom yum soup is also usually spicier than tom kha.
Yes, tom kha is considered to be a healthy soup option. The soup is lower in fat than other Thai soups like tom yum, and it is also packed with vitamins and minerals.
It is a good source of protein, fiber, and vitamin C. It also contains iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.
To make this soup in an Instant Pot, press the SAUTE button.
Add coconut oil to the Instant Pot. Add onions and garlic and fry for a minute. Now add all the ingredients to the instant pot except coconut milk, lime juice, and sugar. Close the lid and pressure cook on high for about 5 minutes. Once done, let the pressure release naturally.
Open the lid. Using a strainer, remove the onions, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir leaves, and chilies. Add in coconut milk, sugar, and lime juice, give it a mix and serve hot.
Just skip adding fish sauce to the recipe to make this soup vegan.
To make this soup whole 30, use a whole 30 fish sauce that has no sugar. Red Boat is the only one that I have come across. Use whole 30 chicken broth and coconut aminos for coconut sugar.
Pro Tips By Neha
Thai bird’s eye chilies are very very hot. Don’t try to bite into them.
You can also use oyster mushrooms or for a more intense flavor, use rehydrated dried mushrooms
Smash the lemongrass stalk with the back of a knife and then add it to the soup so that it releases all its flavor. I also like to use lemongrass leaves wrapped in a bindle to flavor the soup instead of the stalk sometimes.
When this soup is made with chicken, it’s called Tom Kha Gai Soup. Add boiled and shredded chicken breast to the basic vegetarian soup to make this version. You can replace the veg broth with chicken broth.
You can add prawns to this soup instead of chicken.
Make it into a full meal by adding some cooked noodles to it. I like to add rice vermicelli noodles but you can go ahead and add whichever are easily available.
When this soup is made with chicken, it’s called Tom Kha Gai Soup. Add boiled and shredded chicken breast to the basic vegetarian soup recipe to make this version. You can also replace the veg broth with chicken broth. You can even add prawns to this soup instead of Chicken.
You can make it into a full meal by adding some cooked noodles to it. I like to add rice vermicelli noodles but you can go ahead and add whichever are easily available.
Tom kha soup can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
To freeze, place the soup in a freezer-safe container and store it for up to 3 months.
When you’re ready to eat, simply thaw the soup and reheat it on the stove. Serve with rice or enjoy it on its own!
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Tom Kha Soup Recipe (Authentic Thai Coconut Soup)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- ½ cup sliced onions
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
- 3 lemongrass stalks (lightly crushed)
- 2-3 inch piece of galangal (sliced)
- 6-8 whole Thai bird's eye chilies
- 2-3 kaffir lime leaves (roughly torn)
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 200 g mushrooms (thinly sliced)
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce (skip for vegan)
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 cups coconut milk
Make The Broth
- Heat coconut oil in a pan over medium heat.
- Once the oil is hot, add onions and garlic and saute for a minute.
- Add lemongrass stalks, galangal, Thai red chilies, kaffir lime leaves, and vegetable stock, and bring the soup to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to low.
- Cover the pan with a lid and let the soup simmer for 25-30 minutes.
- Using a strainer, remove the onions, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir leaves, and chilies.
Make The Soup
- Add mushroom to the soup and cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Add fish sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, and coconut milk, and bring the soup to a simmer, stirring frequently.
- Garnish with cilantro, chopped red chilies, and lemon wedges, and serve hot.