Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)

Cold days call for warm soup, at least in my house. This is the second time I have made this soup, adapted from a Food and Wine recipe, and it is really a lovely warming soup to eat when the temperature drops. I made the recipe with a few modifications. The recipe called for chicken thighs, but I really don’t care for dark meat chicken so I used organic skinless, boneless chicken breasts; I also couldn’t find the specific type of thai chili paste, so I used the one I had in my fridge (Thai Kitchen brand roasted red chili paste); I didn’t have kaffir lime leaves so I substituted a tablespoon of grated lime zest; and lastly Whole Foods didn’t have thai chilies, so I substituted serrano peppers. If I had been more motivated I could have found these items at another grocery store, but I wanted to keep things quick and simple. Despite the substitutions the soup turned out very well, I got a thumbs up from 2/3 of us (I left the serranos out of the spice-phobe’s soup, he found the soup just “okay”). I have no idea why my soup came out whiter than the Food and Wine picture, maybe it was the different chili paste I used? I served the soup with some plain brown jasmine rice and broccoli roasted in the oven with olive oil, squeeze of lime, garlic, salt and pepper.
thai coco soup.jpeg

Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Sweet and spicy coconut chicken soup to warm you on a cold day.

Adapted from Food and Wine magazine, May 2016.


  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, trimmed and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
  • 3 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons Thai chili paste (The original recipe calls for Nam Prik Pao — which is a sweet and spicy Thai condiment. I couldn’t find this at my local store so I used Thai Kitchen brand roasted red chili paste)
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of finely grated lime zest (original recipe calls for 2 kaffir lime leaves, but these are not easy to find, so I use grated lime zest).
  • 1 stalk fresh lemongrass, tender inner white part only, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Two 14-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk (I used the lite type)
  • 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 Serrano peppers, seeded and very thinly sliced on the diagonal, plus more for garnish if desired (original recipe calls for Thai chiles, but they are hard to find).
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro leaves, for garnish
  • Limes wedges, for serving


  1. In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with the fish sauce.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the chicken broth or stock with the chili paste, sugar, lime leaves and lemongrass and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Stir in the coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken and fish sauce to the saucepan along with the shiitakes and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the lime leaves (if using lime leaves). Stir in the lime juice and chiles and season with salt. Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle the soup with the cilantro and serve with lime wedges and sliced chiles.

December 5, 2016

Lemongrass. Just use the tender white part you see here.
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2 thoughts on “Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)

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