Thai Foodie

Tom Kha Gai Recipe | Thai Coconut Chicken Soup | ต้มข่าไก่

Tom Kha Gai Recipe | Thai Coconut Chicken Soup | ต้มข่าไก่

Soothing. That’s what comes to my mind when I think of Tom Kha Gai, aka Thai Coconut Chicken Soup with Galangal. It calms my heart with every bite.

Tom Kha Gai Recipe-Thai Coconut Chicken Soup-ต้มข่าไก่

But as you know my dear Thai hubby isn’t a fan of coconut milk in his dinner. But last week my sweet friend gave birth to a little baby boy. I texted her to ask what Thai dish she wanted me to make for her, and she replied, “Anything coconutty please!!”

Tom Kha Gai Recipe-Thai Coconut Chicken Soup-ต้มข่าไก่

So per her request, I got to make Tom Kha Gai!

What makes this dish stand out is the kha, or galangal. I like to think of it as the big brother to ginger. In my humble opinion, it’s tougher and stronger than ginger and doesn’t mind taking the lead. So make sure you add lots of it to your soup to accentuate its awesome flavor.

Tom Kha Gai Recipe-Thai Coconut Chicken Soup-ต้มข่าไก่

And quick tip with the Thai chilies when using them in any Thai soup. Make sure you not only smash them, but smash them so their insides ooze out a little.

Tom Kha Gai Recipe-Thai Coconut Chicken Soup-ต้มข่าไก่

After my Thai hubby’s first sip of my tom kah gai, he said, “Did you smash the chilies?”

“Yes! And I added four of them! So why can’t we taste them?”

Tom Kha Gai Recipe-Thai Coconut Chicken Soup-ต้มข่าไก่

He picked the delicate green Thai chili out of the soup pot to critique my handiwork and said, “You need smash it so the seeds are showing, that’s where all the spice is.”

Tom Kha Gai Recipe-Thai Coconut Chicken Soup-ต้มข่าไก่

Oops! So next time I pounded them up in my mortar and pestle and then the spicy flavors mixed with the sour and the sweet coconut milk, and it was paradise on a spoon.

Tom Kha Gai Recipe-Thai Coconut Chicken Soup-ต้มข่าไก่

Try out the recipe and upload a pic, so I can see your beautiful handiwork!

Tom Kha Gai Recipe | Thai Coconut Chicken Soup | ต้มข่าไก่

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Serving Size: 4-5

Tom Kha Gai Recipe | Thai Coconut Chicken Soup | ต้มข่าไก่

In the mood for creamy, cozy Thai coconut milk with chicken soup? Try out our Tom Kah Gai recipe today!


  • 2 stalks lemongrass
  • 3 inch section of fresh Thai galangal or 6-8 dried galangal pieces, thinly cut, no need to peel
  • 3 c. chicken stock
  • 3 c. coconut milk (Chaokoh brand is my favorite)
  • 3 chicken breasts, cut into small bite-size pieces
  • 2 c. sliced mushrooms of your choice, but not shitake (too overpowering)
  • 1 small onion quartered and sliced 1/4 in. thick
  • 4-8 Thai chilies, smashed so you can see the inside
  • 4 fresh kaffir lime leaves, thinly slivered
  • 4-6 tbsp. fish sauce, to taste
  • Juice of 4-5 limes, to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp. palm sugar or brown sugar, to taste
  • handful of cilantro leaves


  1. If you want the maximum flavor in your soup, concentrate your chicken stock. A simple way to do it is to put the stock in a shallow pan and bring it to a boil, then reduce it over medium-high heat until the liquid reduces in half. If you don't concentrate it, your soup wont have the same flavor, but do whatever you prefer!
  2. Cut off the bottom your lemongrass stalks and discard. Remove the loose outer layer of leaves. Slice lemongrass at an angle, about an inch apart up to where the grass blade starts. Smash the lemongrass and chilies, in order to release the flavors, with the side of your chef's knife or in a mortar and pestle.
  3. Place lemongrass, thinly sliced galangal, and slivered kaffir lime leaves in soup pot with coconut milk and chicken broth.
  4. Bring to a low boil.
  5. Add onion, mushrooms and chicken. If you think it needs more liquid add more chicken stock, or water.
  6. Keep at a low boil, until chicken is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.
  7. After chicken is cooked, add smashed chilies.
  8. Cook for 2-3 minutes longer and then turn off the heat. But if you really want it spicy, add the chilies sooner. The longer the chilies sit in the soup, the spicier it will be.
  9. Add lime juice, fish sauce and sugar to taste. I like my tom kha gai more sour followed by a light salty, sweet flavor.
  10. Sprinkle cilantro leaves on top.
  11. Serve with jasmine rice. Enjoy!


This is a rich soup since I made it one part coconut milk and one part chicken broth. If I'm making this for my friends who love rich soups, I keep it this way. If I'm making it for my Thai hubby who doesn't like it so rich, I do one part milk to two parts stock.

If you taste your soup after the chicken is cooked, and it doesn't seem like you can taste the herbs, the herbs might not have had the chance to infuse the broth enough. That's happened to me! I let it cook on low for a few minutes longer to draw out more of the flavors.

But keep in mind, that even as your herbs sit in the soup in your fridge, more of the flavors will come out, so I prefer making this soup ahead of time to let the herbs infuse the broth while it sits and warming it up before I serve it.

Recipe adapted from Kasma Loha-Unchit ‘s tom ka talay recipe and tom ka gai recipe, my two favorite Thai chefs!




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6 Thoughts on “Tom Kha Gai Recipe | Thai Coconut Chicken Soup | ต้มข่าไก่

  1. Love your pictures!! You make this soup look too good not to eat! :)

    • Sherri Phengchard on December 26, 2013 at 2:58 pm said:

      Thanks Megan! Your tip to read Pinch oF Yum’s Tasty Food Photography book has helped my food photos so much! Thanks again :)

  2. Yummy soup.. Love the addition of coconut.. Beautiful clicks

  3. It was oh so coconutty and delicious!!! Thanks for bringing it over friend!

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