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Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)

Tom Kha Gai is Thai coconut chicken soup. The BEST and EASIEST recipe to make authentic coconut chicken soup that is a zillion times better than takeout | rasamalaysia.com

Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)

Tom Kha Gai is Thai coconut chicken soup. The BEST and EASIEST recipe to make authentic coconut chicken soup that is a zillion times better than takeout.

This Tom Kha Gai recipe was originally posted in August 2, 2009. Updated with new photos.

Tom Kha Gai

Tom Kha Gai—everyone’s favorite Thai coconut chicken soup—is one of the Thai recipes that I have always always loved but never did. Why? Because there are plenty of good Thai restaurants in the US that serve pretty authentic Thai food.

So, it’s no surprise that this is my virgin Tom Kha Gai—my first attempt at home. It was easier than I thought, and the Tom Kha Gai turned out really good and tasted exactly like what it should be: milky, aromatic, sour, salty, and super appetizing.

Tom Kha Gai is Thai coconut chicken soup. The BEST and EASIEST recipe to make authentic coconut chicken soup that is a zillion times better than takeout | rasamalaysia.com

The main ingredient of Tom Kha Gai is galangal, or “Tom Kha” in Thai. “Gai” means chicken. The more I cook Thai food, it dawns to me that Thai recipes are pretty much variations of the following Thai ingredients:

1) Fish sauce (nam pla)
2) Coconut milk
3) Kaffir lime leaf
4) Galangal
5) Lemongrass
6) Palm sugar
7) Bird’s eye chilies
8) Nam prik phao (roasted chili paste)
9) Cilantro (coriander)
10) Lime

If you have the ingredients above, you can pretty much whip up any good Thai recipes as you wish. Below is my Tom Kha Gai recipe, which I adapted from my favorite Thai cookbook: Thai Cooking Made Easy.

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79 COMMENTS... read them below or add one

  1. SLT

    Hey!

    The soup looks really really yummy! I live in the midwest where unfortunately good Thai/Asian food is so hard to come by…so I’ll try this recipe next week. Cannot wait!
    Keep the good food recipes coming and congrats on your new site too!

  2. I went to a Thai restaurant yesterday and was somewhat disappointed with the food- it was barely Thai food at all! But I loved going through the menu, especially seeing all the different soups. And here is a beautiful recipe. What a pleasant coincidence :)

  3. congrats on your first try at home! fabulous! i’ve never made it but would enjoy it! i loooove coconut soup and just don’t eat Thai out enough!

  4. I’ve never made this at home, although it too is my favorite Thai soup! The place where I usually order it throws little halves of cherry tomatoes in there…only about 2 tomatoes total. Kinda wondering if that’s authentic, but they’re an enjoyable addition, a nice little surprise bite in your soup! I will have to try this at home. Yum.

  5. I love Thai food too and i cried for days when my kaffir lime tree died. :(
    I wanna try to make this recipe for my big bossman to see if it gets me a raise. If it does, the extra money will be saved for your 24 courses meal. :) Looks fabulous as always.

  6. Hey Ivy – I know what you mean but I didn’t see any tiny little white bits in the soup from the chicken breast. I think you have to make sure the soup is boiling when you add the chicken breast? I personally don’t like thigh meat.

  7. That soup is sure a thing of beauty. It is one of my kid’s favorite soups. I haven’t made it in ages. I doubt that mine is more authentic than yours, for sure no straw mushrooms in mine (maybe a few shiitakes,) and I usually use fish. Never tried it with chicken. Beautiful Photos!

  8. Jules

    I have made this soup 3 times and have impressed my friends 3 times. I substitute chicken with prawns sometimes. For more I added 1 or 2 more chillies. Great and easy recipe!

  9. Ktrumpet67

    made this today. the Kaffir lime leaves were the most difficult to find, had to go to 3 asian markets to find them. i just tasted the soup as it is simmering…………OMG! i can see why this is my wife’s favorite at “Indocine” restaurant. We will make this again, and again. Thanks for sharing the awesome recipe!

  10. Larrie Tarver

    I love ordering this soup at Thai restaurants. I have never cooked any kind of Thai food before though. Honestly I have no idea what half of these ingredients are. You can find/buy them in a normal grocery store or do you have to get them at a specialty food store? Any tips would be appreciated. Thanks!!

  11. Ine

    Have to agree: here in Belgium, the kaffir limes are by far the hardest to find as well. Luckily, I found them today in a fresh Tom Yum package, which also contained some chillies and galangal, so that was pretty handy. Was my first time using a lot of the ingredients, including the straw mushrooms (what strange things they are :)), but it worked out really well, it isn’t hard to make at all. I do wonder if I’m just a weakling, or if it’s normal that even with just 2 chillies in there, I still think this soup is really really hot. It’s delicious though, will definitely make it again to build up my tolerance for hot food :)

  12. Janice

    I always, always order this soup when I go to a Thai restaurant. Then it dawned on me: Why not make this at home? Can’t wait to try this. Thanks so much for sharing!

  13. jevb1004

    I decided to try and learn to cook at home and this was the first dish I ever cooked. Its delicious! Thanks a lot! :)

  14. Rachel@Tasty Thailand

    This is one of my favorite Thai dishes, as like you said it’s not only tasty it’s easy to make :)

    Lovely photos by the way.

  15. cherie

    HI

    Gong Xi Fatt Chai!!!!

    I have been following your blog for the past 1 1/2 yr. Although they are many blogs out there but somehow yours is the one that I will go check first for inspiration. Ha ha ha…Your Thai coconut prawn N this soup are my inspiration to cook up something new for my brother in law who just got back from USA.

    Keep up the good work… Pretty mummy!

  16. hjlowry

    I have been following your website for about a year now, since my wife and I went to Malaysia on business. I have made many of the dishes, but hadn’t branched out to this one yet. We made this tonight, and it is amazing. I didn’t quite put the firepower of 8 birds eye chiles in, but other than that followed the recipe exactly. This is better than the Thai restaurant version that we love. Thanks so much!

  17. Tutu

    I now live near Washington DC and used to live in Hawaii where they have authentic Thai cuisine.
    All the recipes I see on the internet are runny.
    The Thai soup that I love best is thicker and is wonderful served over sticky rice. It has almost a stew like sauce to it.
    What do you recommend that I use to thicken it?
    Thank you,
    Tutu

  18. S. Raney

    Title: Very Easy To Make

    My kind of cooking is usually throwing in a frozen pizza. However, I love Thai food so much and wanted to save money on going to a restaurant all the time that I was inspired to try this recipe. I have to say, even being an EXTREMELY amateur cook, it was VERY EASY to make.

    The hardest part was finding the ingredients (more specifically the Kaffir Lime Leaves). I live in Phoenix, AZ and went to two Asian food restaurants (Asianas & Lee Lee’s) but I could not find lime leaves. At Lee Lee’s two store employees gave me some dried leaves they said were lime leaves called Wood Skin. Anyone ever heard of them? They seemed to work fine.

    The coconut milk visually curdled a little bit (I think because I simmered it too long waiting for my husband to get home), but it didn’t change the taste. My husband said that the taste of the broth was perfect =) What a compliment. Thank you for this wonderful recipe!

    • Justin L

      I’m in Phoenix, too, and shop at Asiana all the time. I’ve only been to Lee Lee a few times.

      I know for a fact that both stores carry kaffir lime leaves. You’ll find them in the produce section, usually wrapped in a white styrofoam sleeve with cellophane wrap. This is one ingredient where fresh definitely trumps dried…

  19. Siobhán

    Tom kha gai has been my favourite soup since the first time I ordered it in a Thai restaurant and I can’t even consider any other starter now. Seeing as I’d like to have it much more often than I eat out, I googled recipes and this came up at the top of the list. I used the recipe today and it turned out perfectly! As another person said, the hardest part by far was finding the ingredients. (I live in Dublin and had to go to one Asian shop for the kaffir lime leaves and another for the galangal.)

    Thank you so much. :-)

  20. TheDoughboy

    In Thailand, do they make this soup With or Without chicken stock/broth? Other tom kha gai recipes I have tried always called for some stock in it. Just wondering. Looks good though! Ron

  21. suz

    I had a wonderful dish that was chicken breast cooked in a heavy coconut sauce. not a soup do you know what it might have been. the place went out of business before i could go back and try to taste what was in it. It was wonderful.

  22. I love Tum Ka Ga Soup, its the best ever, i dont cook at all, but some 12 years ago i picked up a recipe book from Bangkok and tried the soup at home while my wife was traveling,, if you get the ingredient then its pretty easy. Soup is a hit with any one at all, there is a special rice that I make with the soup stolen from a Bohra Dish my mother used to make. Together the two are a tremendous meal. I can send you the recipe for the rice if you want. Zain Jeewanjee

  23. Jerry Ewing

    This heavenly, and so easy. The asian market owner suggested I add:
    2 tbsp of Thai Chili Paste for medium heat and to give it that orange tint, and
    2 tbsp of coconut palm sugar (substitute is brown sugar)

    My first try at Asian cooking. Oh wow! Thank you for the recipe!
    Jerry in Orlando

  24. Frank Leopold

    Agree on the palm sugar, tasted the soup when cooking an immediately thought “palm sugar!” as well as a bit more fish sauce. Gives it a bit more kick… :-)
    Thanks for the recipe and thanks for that very handy list of essential Thai cooking ingredients, that was an eye opener.

  25. Edwin Smith

    Talking about Thai or Chinese food not tasting the same in India, I was born in Bandung, Indonesia and recently took a bucket-list vacation to Bali after many, many years. I was shocked how different the food on Bali tasted from what I grew up with, which was mainly Javanese/Malaysian food.

  26. lalitaji

    I love this soup! Thank you for the recipe!

    I would like to suggest that you format the picture smaller for printing. It is a small recipe, but the banner and picture took over 50% of the page, only allowing the ingredients on the first page. And the method using 25% of the second page.

    Bea you have a wonderful site, keep up the great work!

    • Thanks for your suggestion but the ads shouldn’t print out. Most readers requested to have the picture on the recipe page because they wanted to have a reference of how the dish looks.

  27. Ron

    Tom yum khaa, it tastes just like it sounds. Whether you’re snuggled up on a cold winters night, or heating it up in that filthy lunchroom microwave, it will take your mind to the coconut filled beaches of Thailand. The sweet yet tangy aromatic flavours startle the likes of those who are not accustomed to this South East Asian cuisine. Maybe its the enoki mushrooms and cherry tomatoes floating graciously in the creamy coconut milk, or is it the spicy fragrances hurling towards my pallet .I take my first sip, not expecting the ambush of flavors that was to come. Sweet and sour overwhelms my senses and I am left with the common after burn that accompanies a Thai dish. My taste buds scream for more, ignoring the need for a freshly pored glass of cold water. As it warms my belly, I cant help but imagine the sites and sounds of that coconut filled beach, the waves crashing, the sun rays beaming down on my back, and even that old man frying fish on the side of the road. Despite the subzero temperatures and the snow covered evergreens that currently surround me, this dish seemingly transforms into a piece of Thai culture that I can forever take with me.

  28. Sue von Baeyer

    powdered glangal is available at Penzy’s Spices.
    So is powdered lemongrass.
    Makes thai cooking much easier!!

  29. sometimes I put a bit of green curry (like half a teaspoon) that has been fried with a bit of coconut milk. This adds a depth of flavor that I LOVE. Also, I boil the ingredients with bone-in chicken leg or thigh (breast meat is too dry) which adds flavor to it. Also, at the tail end of the cooking, I throw in some shrimp, because YUM shrimp!! But now that the weather has turned…yum!!!

  30. C. Brown

    I cheat quite a bit when I make tom kha gai. I use Pacific Foods Tom Yum base, then add more fish sauce, lime juice, and – gasp! – ginger paste. Plus, I do put in a small piece of palm sugar as well as at least a few (or more) teaspoons of nam prik pao. I also use oyster mushrooms instead of straw.

    In response to someone who thought the soup was too thin, you can do a couple things. Mind you, these are experimental (mostly), but should work. 1: add a bit of rice flour to some nam prik pao (or chili oil), stir into soup prior to putting in coconut milk, and simmer ’til it’s to the thickness you want; 2: add coconut cream instead of coconut milk; or 3. let the soup simmer for awhile ’til some of the broth has evaporated. [This one I have done – by accident. But good results!] To do the latter, though, if you’ve already added the coconut milk, make sure it’s on the lowest possible setting and make sure to gently stir every so once in awhile; this may take some time, especially if you’ve already added coconut milk/cream. You might also want to try a combination of these things if one alone doesn’t work. Good luck!

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