That Spicy Chick

Tom Kha Gai (Coconut Milk Chicken Soup)

This Tom Kha Gai (Coconut Milk Chicken Soup) is an intensely aromatic and flavorful traditional Thai soup. It is fragrantly sweet and a little spicy, and ultimately just a tasty bowl full of chicken and mushroom soup heaven! It’s also naturally gluten-free and dairy-free.

Tom Kha Gai (Coconut Milk Chicken Soup) in a black bowl garnished with kaffir lime leaves, coriander reaves, red birds eye chilies, and a drizzle of chili oil.

Wow guys. Just wow.

Thai cuisine has completely blown my mind (again!), and guys I am super excited to be sharing my Tom Kha Gai recipe today!

Doesn’t it look glorious and make you want to dive right in?! Well it does for me because whenever I make it, I can smell its alluring sweet fragrance throughout the house when I leave the kitchen to let the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and peppery sweet galangal simmer away in the coconut milk and work their magic! I kid you not when I say the aroma is completely intoxicating and a full on slap in your nostrils.

Tom Kha Gai in a Dutch oven with a serving soup laddle full of smoking hot soup.

Ok, that’s a weird way to put it. But trust me when I say that you’ll feel the same love for it while it’s cooking and the temptation to immediately devour a bowl of this heavenly and deliciously creamy yet light soup will be completely irresistible!

Tom Kha Gai in a blue dutch oven.

Good thing it only takes 30 minutes to make once the chopping is done and it’s an easy recipe to make, no?! 😉

A few months ago, I was in Bangkok for a friend’s wedding and was staying at the Hilton Millennium where the Indian three day wedding was taking place. There was TONS of delicious food being served daily, some of which I thoroughly enjoyed and was inspired by during this trip, so stay tuned for upcoming new Thai recipes!

But if you’ve ever attended an Indian wedding, you know all too well that things tend to run a little (read: A LOT!) late. Basically, you can expect dinner to be served at 9pm at the earliest on most of the occasion days! 😳

Tom Kha Gai in a black bowl, garnished with coriander leaves, kaffir lime leaves, freshly chopped red chilies, and a splash chili oil.

Ok I digress. My point is that it was late evening on the last day of occasions (usually the day that runs the latest because it’s when the traditional Indian wedding ceremony takes place) and I was sitting up in my room and feeling absolutely FAMISHED!

I knew not to expect dinner until at least 9pm+ that day, so I decided to ring up room service and order something to tide me over till then. That something I ordered ended up being the BEST Tom Kha Gai I have ever tasted in my WHOLE life! That is saying something for someone who’s a HUGE Thai cuisine foodie and who’s drank her fair share of this delicious coconut milk chicken soup at various venues from 5 star hotels to roadside stalls, and to hole in the walls all over Thailand! I highly recommend the Hilton Millennium’s Tom Kha Gai if you’re ever visiting Bangkok! (BTW, this is not a sponsored post but just sharing the good food love! ❤️)

Tom Kha Gai in a black bowl, garnished with coriander leaves, kaffir lime leaves, freshly chopped red chilies, and a splash chili oil. Silver spoon to the side of the bowl and a small bowl with lime wedges behind the soup bowl.

When I returned to Hong Kong, I could NOT get that fantastic flavorful bowl of Tom Kha Gai out of my head! I tried ordering it at two of my favorite Thai restaurants here but it just wasn’t the same as the one I had in Bangkok. Plus, the price was actually kind of steep because of the king oyster mushrooms they used in both the ones I tried here. 😬

So naturally, being an avid recipe developer meant that I was going to be recreating my interpretation of the luxurious Tom Kha Gai I had at the hotel in my own kitchen! 😎

Tom Kha Gai in a black bowl, garnished with coriander leaves, kaffir lime leaves, freshly chopped red chilies, and a splash chili oil. Silver spoon to the side of the bowl and a small bowl with lime wedges behind the soup bowl.

After testing my recipe a couple of times and perfecting it over a few weeks (some very house-smelling-absolutely-phenomenal-in-the-evenings weeks!), I’m extremely ecstatic to finally be able to share my Tom Kha Gai recipe now! 🤗

A couple of notes on the Thai ingredients – you’ll need galangal, the star ingredient in this soup, as well as lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. If your local wet market or Asian market doesn’t have these, substitute with the following:

  • Galangal – There is really no great substitute for galangal due to its uniquely pungent and peppery flavor. If you can’t find it, just use the ginger in the recipe instead as they taste somewhat similar. It might not taste like traditional Tom Kha Gai since as mentioned, it’s the key ingredient for this soup and Tom Kha Gai actually literally translates to “boiled galangal chicken”, but I promise you it’ll still taste fabulous. 😊
  • Lemongrass – Most supermarkets have lemongrass paste available. You may need to adjust and use more paste than the equivalent of the 4 stalks of fresh lemongrass in the recipe if you use lemongrass paste as a substitute.
  • Kaffir Lime Leaves – Dried kaffir lime leaves should be available in most grocery stores and supermarkets so just opt for these in fresh kaffir lime leaves place. Or you can use lime zest along with some lemon thyme if that’s easier to locate where you live.
Hand holding up a spoon of Tom Kha Gai with soup bowl underneath and a bowl of steamed white rice in the back.

Once your beautiful Tom Kha Gai is done simmering and your house smells ridiculously good, ladle the soup out into bowls and sprinkle some more chopped coriander on top for garnish. Drizzle a bit of chili oil too as trust me, it adds a great kick and tastes 100% divine when you stir it into the warm bowl of soup that feels like spicy love! ❤️🤗❤️

You can enjoy Tom Kha Gai as is or serve it with some steamed white rice like they do in Thailand. Sending lots of warm soupy love and big hugs to everyone! 😘 Xx

Hand holding up a dripping spoon of Tom Kha Gai with soup bowl underneath and a bowl of steamed white rice in the back.

PS: The flavors tend to intensify over time and the soup tastes even more magnificent as leftovers! 😉

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Tom Kha Ghai in bowl garnished with kaffir lime leaves, red chilies, coriander, and a drizzle of chili oil.

Tom Kha Gai (Coconut Milk Chicken Soup)

This Tom Kha Gai (Coconut Milk Chicken Soup) is an intensely aromatic and flavorful traditional Thai soup. It is fragrantly sweet and a little spicy, and ultimately just a tasty bowl full of chicken and mushroom soup heaven! It’s also naturally gluten-free and dairy-free.

  • Author: Lavina
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 30
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Soups & Chowders
  • Method: Simmer
  • Cuisine: Thai
Scale

Ingredients

  • 10 Garlic cloves – minced
  • 516 Red Chilies (Bird’s Eye preferred), to taste and deseeded depending on desired heat level – cut in half and smashed with knife
  • 5 inch knob of Ginger – sliced
  • 5 inch knob of Galangal – sliced then chopped into thin strips
  • 4 Lemongrass stalks – bottom woody part and upper tough parts of the stalk chopped off and outer skin removed and discarded, then sliced diagonally into 1cm wide pieces
  • 1 medium sized Tomato (remove skin if desired but it is not necessary) – chopped into wedges
  • 1 small bunch (57 leafy sprigs) Coriander – roughly chopped
  • 810 Kaffir Lime Leaves – chopped into two or three pieces each
  • 24 Thai Dried Red Chilies, to taste (optional)
  • 25g (1/2 disc) Coconut Sugar, more or less to taste (can substitute with 2 TSP crystalized Coconut or Brown Sugar) 4 Limes – squeezed for fresh lime juice
  • 150g Oyster Mushrooms (or any other mushroom that you prefer and have easy access to) – rinsed and chopped if needed
  • 2 Chicken Breasts (about 400g), boneless, skinless – thinly sliced
  • 2 TBLS Fish Sauce, to taste
  • 5 TSP Kosher Salt, to taste
  • 2 TSP ground Thai Red Chili Pepper, to taste (optional)
  • 800ml Coconut Milk (I used 2 large OSC brand cans)
  • 200ml Water
  • 1 TBLS Chili Oil (optional)
  • 1 TBLS Olive Oil
  • Garnish: Reserved coriander and a drizzle of chili oil
  • To Serve (optional): Steamed white rice and lime wedges

Instructions

Prep

  1. Prepare all your fresh ingredients: Chop the garlic, red chilies, ginger, galangal, lemongrass, red onion, tomato, coriander, and kaffir lime leaves. Place in small bowls and set aside. Rinse and dry the oyster mushrooms and chop them into smaller pieces if needed.
  2. Chicken: Slice your chicken breasts thinly into bite sized pieces.
  3. Limes: Squeeze the limes in a lemon/citrus squeezer and reserve the juice in a small bowl or bottle.

For the Tom Kha Gai:

  1. Heat olive oil and chili oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Once hot, add the red onion and sauté for 1-2 minutes or until translucent.
  2. Add the garlic and red chilies and continue to sauté for 1 minute until fragrant.
  3. Next, pour in half (200ml) of the coconut milk, and add the galangal, ginger, lemongrass, and stir. Then add the tomato wedges, stir to combine and bring to a slow simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the rest of the coconut milk (200ml), the chicken slices, oyster mushrooms, and 200ml water. Stir and cook until the chicken is no longer pink – about 1 minute.
  5. Add the Thai dried chilies, coconut sugar, and kaffir lime leaves and stir. Season with fish sauce, kosher salt, ground Thai red chili pepper to taste, and pour in the lime juice.
  6. Give everything a good stir, then cover the pot and let simmer for 10-12 minutes.
  7. Uncover the pot and stir the soup. Taste and adjust the kosher salt, sugar, fish sauce, and ground Thai red chili pepper if needed and as required.
  8. Stir in ¾ of the chopped coriander and switch off the heat.
  9. Garnish/To serve: Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with the remainder coriander, and drizzle a bit of chili oil over the top for some extra OOMPH!! Serve with steamed white rice and lime wedges if desired.

Notes

  1. While you can simmer the soup with the aromatics first, then strain the soup and discard them before adding the chicken and mushrooms, I prefer not to because leaving them in allows the soup to build more flavor. Your call here, but I don’t recommend this method because you can easily pick them out while eating or leave them at the bottom of the bowl.
  2. If you’re not rushed for time, I recommend simmering everything except the chicken, mushrooms, and coriander in all of the coconut milk (400ml) and water (200ml) first for up to 20 minutes. Then uncover the pot and add the chicken and mushrooms. Continue simmering for a few minutes longer to cook them. The flavors intensify the longer you simmer the aromatics and seasonings so definitely worth going this route if you have the time! 😉

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 bowl
  • Calories: 682
  • Sugar: 12.4g
  • Sodium: 2317.5mg
  • Fat: 51.3
  • Saturated Fat: 37.8g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 9.5g
  • Trans Fat: 0
  • Carbohydrates: 33.8g
  • Fiber: 4g
  • Protein: 31.2g
  • Cholesterol: 73mg

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Tom Kha Gai (Coconut Milk Chicken Soup) in a black bowl garnished with kaffir lime leaves, coriander reaves, red birds eye chilies, and a drizzle of chili oil.

 

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