Tom Kha Gai ต้มข่าไก่ (Chicken Coconut Soup)

Tom Kha Gai ต้มข่าไก่ (Chicken Coconut Soup)

Tom Kha Gai is one of the most famous Thai soups. This chicken coconut soup tastes lightly creamy with a hint of spiciness and sourness. Here are some tips to making the best authentic Tom Kha Gai you have ever tasted. Turn this recipe vegetarian, if you like!

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Preparation 30 mins
Cooking 15 mins

Appetizer, Soup, Main


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Nutrition per Serving

850 kcal
44 g
64 g
37 g

Tom Kha Gai is a Thai style coconut milk soup with chicken. Authentic Tom Kha Gai consists of galangal cooked in coconut milk and chicken broth. When combined with other fresh herbs like lemongrass, long coriander and coriander, the soup becomes extremely incredible. The distinct flavours are filled with umami.

Fresh ingredients
Fresh ingredients

Translated from Thai, Tom means soup. Kha and Gai means galangal and chicken, the other two main ingredients. Just as literal as its name, the dish is easy to prepare as a weekday meal.

Compared to Tom Yum which is a clear broth, Tom Kha contains coconut milk. Therefore, it is slightly sweeter. Both soups are sour but in a different way as tomato is added to Tom Yum. That contributes a slight tartness to the soup.

Why is this recipe the best?

It is freaking delicious that my husband had two bowls of rice with it! This recipe uses young galangal which is less fibrous and has a more mellow aroma. That makes it easily edible especially if you follow step 3 exactly.

Slicing makes it easier to eat
Slicing makes it easier to eat

This recipe uses fish sauce in the dressing instead of during the cooking process. The dressing is added shortly before serving. If you do not enjoy this ingredient, you can omit it as the soup is already flavourful without it.

Using packaged coconut milk

Fresh coconut milk is more diluted compared to those that are packaged. This recipe uses fresh coconut milk which is the perfect consistency. When using packaged coconut milk, add some water to dilute it according to your preference. The amount of water varies depending on the brand used.

The right type of mushrooms

Oyster and enoki mushrooms are the most common types used in this soup. Sliced champignon mushrooms goes quite well too. The latter is an option if you are out of Southeast Asia.

Can ginger be used to replace galangal?

While many recipes may recommend ginger as a substitute for galangal, this is not the case for Tom Kha Gai. It is already in the name as 'kha' means galangal. It gives a distinct flavour and citrusy aroma that ginger does not. Ginger has a peppery undertone whereas galangal is less spicy.

Sometimes called blue ginger, it can be found at the frozen section of Asian grocers if you are living abroad.

Substitute for Lime and kaffir lime leaves

Both ingredients are rather significant to the dish. If you must, substitute it with lemon juice and some lemon or lime zest.

Avoid curdled soup

Cook the soup at low to medium heat. Do not allow the dish to boil for too long. Most importantly, constantly stir gently to prevent the coconut milk from curdling. However, curdled coconut milk does not really change the taste of the dish but only its appearance.

Important tip to prevent undercooked chicken

Chicken thigh, meat and bones
Chicken thigh, meat and bones

Chop them into bite sized pieces. This dish does not require a long cooking time. Therefore, drumsticks will not be able to fully cook in this short duration. Remove the meat from the bone or use chicken breast pieces instead.

Why cook chicken with coconut milk and water first?

This is an important step to keep the meat tender. Doing so will also allow the meat to absorb the sweetness of the coconut milk making it tasty.

Why is the aroma of kaffir lime leaves not obvious?

It must be bruised before adding to the soup. It is best to discard the midrib of the leaf to release more aroma and fragrance.

Arrow pointing to midrib
Arrow pointing to midrib

Vegan or vegetarian options

Instead of chicken, use tofu or tempeh as a replacement for protein. Otherwise, just add any vegetables of your choice to make the dish vegetarian.

What to serve with Tom Kha Gai

This soup is served as a main dish together with rice or sometimes as an appetizer. You may serve this dish with other types of grains of your choice. It can also be an accompanying dish along with an array of Thai dishes.

Tom Kha Gai when sick?

Some even swear by this soup when they are sick. Although the soup is nutritious, just be aware that you need to omit the spiciness and sourness if you are down with sore throat or an upset stomach.


chilli peppers (dried)
lemongrass stalk(s)
2 tbsp
500 g
chicken thigh(s)
500 ml
coconut milk
100 ml
2 tbsp
kafir lime leaves
1 tsp
1⁄2 tbsp
tamarind paste
1 tbsp
coconut sugar
60 g
oyster mushroom Optional
bird-eye chillies
1 tbsp
lime juice
1⁄2 tbsp
fish sauce
3 tbsp

Steps to Prepare

Tom Kha Gai ต้มข่าไก่ (Chicken Coconut Soup) Step 1

Step 1 of 8

Roast dried chillies on a dry pan heated over medium heat. Once they darkened or emit a scent, remove them from the pan. It should take about 2-3 minutes. Chop them into ca. 2cm length. Set aside.

Tom Kha Gai ต้มข่าไก่ (Chicken Coconut Soup) Step 2

Step 2 of 8

Remove the hard layers of the lemongrass (first 2-3 layers). Lightly pound them. Then, cut them into lengths of 1 inch.

Tom Kha Gai ต้มข่าไก่ (Chicken Coconut Soup) Step 3

Step 3 of 8

    • 2 tbsp galangal

Remove the skin of the galangal and cut it into thin slices.

Tom Kha Gai ต้มข่าไก่ (Chicken Coconut Soup) Step 4

Step 4 of 8

    • 500 g chicken thigh(s)
    • 200 ml coconut milk
    • 100 ml water

Remove meat from the bones. Chop meat into bite-sized pieces. Heat up coconut milk and water in a pot over medium heat. Once coconut milk begins to boil, add bones and meat to cook until done.

Tom Kha Gai ต้มข่าไก่ (Chicken Coconut Soup) Step 5

Step 5 of 8

    • 300 ml coconut milk
    • 2 tbsp shallot(s)
    • 4 kafir lime leaves

Add the rest of the coconut milk and stir constantly over low to medium heat. Once it begins to simmer again, add lemongrass, lightly pounded shallots and galangal. Also, add kaffir lime leaves without the midrib (the hard membrane in the centre). Mix well.

Tom Kha Gai ต้มข่าไก่ (Chicken Coconut Soup) Step 6

Step 6 of 8

    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1⁄2 tbsp tamarind paste
    • 1 tbsp coconut sugar
    • 60 g oyster mushroom Optional

Add salt, tamarind juice and coconut sugar. Add oyster mushroom too, if you like. Stir well until it begins simmering again. Add chopped long cilantro before cooking for another 30 seconds. Then, turn off the stove.

Tom Kha Gai ต้มข่าไก่ (Chicken Coconut Soup) Step 7

Step 7 of 8

    • 3 bird-eye chillies
    • 1 tbsp lime juice
    • 1⁄2 tbsp fish sauce
    • 3 tbsp coriander

Prepare the spicy dressing by mixing chopped and pounded bird eye chillis, lime juice, fish sauce and chopped coriander.

Tom Kha Gai ต้มข่าไก่ (Chicken Coconut Soup) Step 8

Step 8 of 8

Serve 2 cups of Tom Kha Gai with the spicy dressing and some roasted red chillies. Tip: Add dressing when the soup is no longer cooking because heat will make the lime juice bitter.

Published: December 19, 2021

2 Discussions

Lesley 🌸
3 years ago

Lesley 🌸

Looks so enuk Grace :)... perfect for wintery days I have always just used ginger in place of galangal. I will have to try to make more of an effort to find galangal. Terima kaseh.

3 years ago


Thank you, Lesley. This recipe is from our lovely Thai cook from Bangkok, Pantila. Give her a follow, she will be sharing lots of Thai recipes. ;)

Shazia Naaz
3 years ago

Shazia Naaz

Sooo good 👌🏻

3 years ago


I glad to hear that you like it.

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