Tom Kha Soup is perfectly creamy, tangy, salty, and spicy! This aromatic Thai meal showcases coconut milk, chicken, lemongrass, and a hint of chili to warm you from the inside out. Whether you’re cozying up on a rainy day or hosting a dinner party, this comforting combination is sure to impress.
Why you’ll love this recipe
- Quick & easy: Despite its complex flavors, you’d be surprised at how simple tom kha soup is to make. It takes just 10 minutes of prep and 45 minutes of cooking time!
- Versatile: Whether you prefer chicken, shrimp, or tofu, tom kha soup caters to all! With easy swaps and adjustments listed below, you can tailor it to your liking.
- Nutritious: Not only is this soup delicious, but it’s also packed with nutrients from avocado oil, ginger, and mushrooms, ensuring you get a health boost with every serving.
Aromatic Tom Kha soup
Tom kha soup is a traditional Thai soup that’s recently become one of my go-to dinners, along with other comforting soups like spicy vegetable coconut curry soup and white bean soup. Seriously, the first time I tried it, I was hooked!
It has a creamy consistency from coconut milk, while tender slices of chicken and the unmistakable punch of lemongrass, garlic, and ginger create a balanced flavor profile. I also like to add a touch of Thai red curry paste and Fresno chilis for a subtle kick and pop of color.
Trust me, every spoonful is bursting with zesty, tangy, and creamy flavors. Whether you’re having a quiet family dinner or hosting a larger gathering, this soup is a showstopper!
Ingredients & substitutions
- Avocado oil: To sauté the aromatics, adding a rich flavor. I prefer avocado oil for its high smoke point, but you can also use sunflower oil, safflower oil, canola oil, etc.
- Onion: Gives a subtle sweetness and depth essential for building the soup’s base. Shallots are another great option if you prefer a milder onion flavor.
- Garlic: Fresh garlic cloves always add the best flavor to tom kha soup, but you can use pre-minced garlic in a pinch. I don’t recommend garlic powder here.
- Fresno chili: Provides a touch of heat without being overpowering. You can also try using jalapeños or serrano peppers.
- Ginger: A warming spice that complements the creaminess of coconut milk. If you have access, you can use galangal for a more authentic taste.
- Lemongrass: Imparts a citrusy, fresh note that’s necessary for authentic Thai flavor. Use a fresh stalk of lemongrass if you can find it. Otherwise, use lemongrass paste.
- Thai red curry paste: Gives the soup its vibrant color and spicy undertone. You can also try Thai green curry paste for a different flavor.
- Chicken broth: Homemade or store-bought chicken broth both work. If you prefer, you can use chicken bouillon or stock powder. Alternatively, opt for vegetable broth.
- Coconut milk: Use full-fat coconut milk or coconut cream from a can, not cream of coconut or coconut creamer. Lite coconut milk won’t work for tom kha soup either.
- Chicken breasts: I prefer chicken breasts for their quick cooking time and tender, lean flavor. Boneless skinless chicken thighs will also work with an increased cooking time.
- White mushroom caps: Add an earthy flavor and meaty texture. You can always swap out these mushrooms with other options like shiitake, portobello, or oyster mushrooms.
- Coconut aminos: Provides a sweet, savory, and umami taste. Alternatively, use liquid aminos, soy sauce, or tamari.
- Fish sauce: Intensifies the soup’s depth with its umami richness. If you can’t find fish sauce, additional coconut aminos, tamari, or soy sauce will all work.
- Lime juice: Adds a tangy zest, balancing the soup’s richness. If you can get your hands on some, you can use kaffir lime leaves (aka makrut lime leaves).
- Garnishes: While optional, I like to add a sprinkle of fresh cilantro and green onions. Feel free to experiment with your own garnishes, like chives, sambal oelek, chili garlic paste, or chili flakes.
How to make tom kha soup
- Start with the base: In a medium pot, heat the avocado oil over medium-low. This oil has a high smoke point, making it perfect for sautéing. Toss in the onion, garlic, Fresno chili, ginger, and lemongrass, cooking until the onions are translucent.
- Add the paste: Stir in the Thai red curry paste. This paste contains a mix of flavorful spices and herbs that make it easy to give the soup its signature Thai kick.
- Simmer the soup: Pour in the chicken broth and let everything come to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
- Cook the chicken: After removing the lemongrass and ginger, mix in the coconut cream or milk, chicken breast, and mushrooms. Bring it to a boil again, then turn the heat down and simmer until the chicken breast pieces are just cooked.
- Flavor enhancers: Season your tom kha soup with coconut aminos, fish sauce, and lime juice. These add the flavor elements this sweet and sour dish is known for.
- Garnish & serve: Once the soup is cooked, ladle it into bowls and garnish with green onions and cilantro. If you love spice, feel free to throw in some extra chili slices!
Serving suggestions for tom kha soup
Transform your tom kha soup recipe into an entire spread by serving it alongside satisfying dishes like these:
- Rice: Steamed jasmine rice or rice noodles complement the creamy soup perfectly.
- Thai peanut chicken: Also made in one pot, making cleanup a breeze!
- Thai spring rolls: Both fresh and fried spring rolls work well with tom kha soup.
- Thai beef salad: Serve Thai beef salad or keto Thai steak salad as an appetizer to increase the protein content.
Frequently asked questions
Fresh lemongrass is best for tom kha soup, but in a pinch, dried lemongrass can be used. Ensure you hydrate it in warm water before adding it to the recipe.
The chicken pieces should turn opaque and white when they’re finished. However, a meat thermometer can confirm if the internal temperature has reached 165F for the safest and most accurate results.
Storage & reheating
If you end up with leftover tom kha soup, here’s what to do:
- Fridge: Once cooled, store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days.
- Freezer: This soup can be frozen for up to 2 months, but note that the texture of the coconut milk might change slightly upon thawing.
- Reheating: Warm your tom kha soup in a pot over medium, stirring occasionally. If you’re reheating it from frozen, allow it to thaw overnight in the fridge first.
- Vegan: Skip the chicken and use tofu cubes. Swap the chicken broth for vegetable broth, and add soy sauce instead of fish sauce.
- Shrimp: Instead of chicken, try shrimp. Stir it in raw and follow the same directions as with chicken, simmering until it is just pink and no longer translucent.
- Vegetables: Add an assortment of vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, bok choy, and baby corn in addition to the mushrooms.
- Spicy: Add extra Thai red curry paste and crushed red pepper flakes for a fiery kick.
- Fresh ingredients: Always opt for fresh lemongrass, ginger, and limes for the best flavor. Paste and dried forms don’t provide as much flavor.
- Don’t boil after adding lime: Boiling can make the lime taste bitter, so add it at the end.
- Check the chicken: Ensure the chicken pieces are evenly sized for uniform cooking. Additionally, keep the soup at a simmer to prevent overcooking it.
Looking for more soup recipes?
If you enjoyed this tom kha soup recipe, be sure to check out some more soups like these:
If you try this Tom Kha Soup, let me know what you think! Rate and review this recipe in the comments below. Don’t forget to take a picture and tag me on Instagram @lenaskitchenblog!
Spicy Tom Kha Soup
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- ½ small onion thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ½ Fresno chili sliced
- 3 ½ inch ginger sliced or use galangal
- 1 stalk lemongrass pounded with the back of a knife and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 teaspoons red Thai curry paste
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 27 ounces coconut cream full-fat and unsweetened, or full-fat unsweetened coconut milk
- 2 medium chicken breasts thinly sliced and then halved
- 8 ounces white mushrooms caps only sliced
- ⅓ coconut aminos
- ¼ cup fish sauce or more to taste
- 6 tablespoons lime juice freshly squeezed (about 3 limes)
- 2 stems green onions sliced thinly
- ¼ cup cilantro chopped for garnish
- In a medium pot, heat the avocado oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, Fresno, chili, ginger, lemongrass, and red curry paste and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, or until onions are softened.
- Add chicken broth and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pot for all the flavor. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
- Remove the lemongrass and ginger and discard. Leaving the onions, garlic and chili peppers.
- Add in coconut cream or milk, chicken breast (or you can use tofu or shrimp), and mushrooms. Bring it to a boil, then turn the heat to medium-low heat and cook until chicken breast pieces are just cooked through, about 5 minutes.
- Add fish sauce, coconut aminos and lime juice, taste and adjust more of each to taste.
- Cook for 2 minutes, then ladle into serving bowls and top with green onions and cilantro, more chili slices if you’d like too. Enjoy!