Thom Kha Gai – Homemade Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

Things have been so busy around the house with work schedules, school schedules, more work schedules that yesterday everyone ended up feeling a bit run down.  What’s the best recipe when you have lost your perk and the scratchy throat takes up residence?  Chicken Soup, of course!

And while chicken noodle soup and chicken rice soup are nice and homey – there is one soup that I crave for a great pick-me-up.  Usually, I run down to the closest Thai restaurant and pick up some Thom Kha Gai but I nosed around for a good recipe and decided to make it homemade since I needed an excuse to go to Whole Foods to buy herbs (HA!).

The aroma is fragrant and warm and filled with all of the yummy scents of lemongrass and coriander and galanga root and shallots and ginger … it smelled so good that I wanted to take a bath in it (weird, right? oh well!).

This recipe is relatively quick for a soup – the challenge is gathering all of the ingredients but the good part is that you can re-use the ingredients for some other incredible dishes – like Green Thai Curry.  I did need to hit the Asian Market for the garlic chili sauce and the galanga root but when I was in Whole Foods, I noticed that Thai Kitchen is now selling some of the more unique and hard-to-find herbs if you cannot find them fresh – like kaffir lime leaves and even Galanga.

Perfect for a winter day and as a pick-me-up when you are not feeling well!  And, a nice break from the normal holiday dishes!

Ingredients for Thom Kha Gai


  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2-3 cups chicken stock (I use the organic/gluten free from Costco)
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon palm sugar (you can substitute brown sugar)
  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, washed and choppped in chunks (the fresher the better!)
  • Chili Garlic Sauce at Asian Market

    3 red shallots, peeled and chunked

  • 3 cloves of garlic smashed
  • About an inch of ginger sliced in a big round
  • Pinch of whole coriander seed plus a handful of fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves
  • 2 chili peppers, halved (thai chilies are great or serranos – control the heat with the seeds and number of chilies)
  • 1.5 inch chunk of galanga root, chunked (this is the secret ingredient – try Asian Markets or the new Thai Kitchen Galanga Root at Whole Foods)
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves, coarsely chopped (Whole Foods carries this in the produce section)
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce (really adds a nice heat that is not overwhelming)

Chunks into the Soup

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut to 1″ pieces (you can use breasts, but the thighs come out very tender and add to the richness of the soup)
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms (regular mushrooms or wild mushrooms or whatever you prefer)
  • 1-3 Tablespoons fish sauce (Add incrementally and taste before increasing.  This is an important ingredient and tastes better in the soup than it smells coming from the bottle)
  • 1 can baby corn, drained and chopped to 1/2″ chunks

At the End

  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice or fresh lime wedges
  • lime zest
  • Extra can of coconut milk
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 orange pepper in strips
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes halved, or 2 plum tomatoes coarsely chopped

How to Prepare Thom Kha Kai

Make the Broth

Combine all broth ingredients (coconut milk, stock, salt, sugar, shallots, garlic, ginger, coriander, galanga, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, chili sauce), bring to a low boil, and simmer for at least 15 minutes.

Strain the broth through a sieve and make sure you squeeze the ingredients to push flavor out into the broth.

Add Chunks

Chop chicken, mushrooms, and baby corn and add to pot with broth.  Add fish sauce, and lime zest if using.  Simmer lightly until chicken is cooked all the way through – approx 30 minutes but test the chicken.  If you notice that the coconut milk and broth are separating, I just added another 1/2 to 3/4 can of coconut milk and that was perfect.

Finish and Serve

Add the lime juice to the broth in the pot.  Add some chopped cilantro, sliced peppers, chopped tomatoes to the bowl just before serving and fresh lime wedge on the side.  Thom Kha Gai is a fragrant soup with a rich mix of sweet and sour and salty flavors in the broth.  There is a bit of heat depending on how many peppers you added.  If you want more sweet, add another teaspoon of palm sugar.  If you want more sour, add more lime juice.  If you want more salt and tang, add a bit more fish sauce.

Serve hot.

You can store the soup in the refrigerator and after the flavors have blended, it should taste even better!



Recipe Adapted from Instructables

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