Tom Kha Gai {Thai Coconut Soup}


{This Tom Kha Gai Thai Coconut Soup is the first in a Thai Take-Out Dinner Series. Check back next week for Pad See Ew, Yellow Curry with Prawns, and Thai Iced Tea!}

This soup is my chicken noodle soup. It’s the soup I crave when I’m sick in bed or when I’ve had a bad day and need something comforting. I could eat it daily.

We love Thai food in this house. If given the choice, I think my husband and I would order it once or twice a week. We have this amazing, family owned little place in our town that we’ve been going to for years and just love. The owners are so sweet and always hang around our table offering Thai cooking and recipe tips. I’d been making this version of the soup for the last few years and was never really truly happy with it, so I figured I’d ask what their secret is. After listening to her explain the simple process to making this soup, I finally figured out that the culprit was the chile paste I had been using. Chile pastes were created for American’s in order to make some of the Thai ingredients more accessible. I try not to use them and prefer to use fresh ingredients, but sometimes they are hard to find. The problem is that the paste has a few ingredients in it that are not normally in Tom Kha Gai, so that’s why I wasn’t getting the authentic flavor I was so desperately looking for. In the real deal, they just use homemade dried and ground Thai chiles.

The owner was sweet enough to send me home with a container of their homemade ground chiles and it made a world of difference! Now this recipe tastes exactly like the restaurant, and at a fraction of the cost! You can make your own at home by drying and grinding Thai chiles, or you can buy it at any Asian market and some health food stores in the Asian foods aisle. I prefer the finely ground spices where the seeds are not noticeable. This recipe is mild, so if you can handle the heat you’re welcome to add an extra dash, but I warn you : this stuff will go a REALLY long way. My husband loves spice and he can’t handle more than a tiny pinch sprinkled on is food.

You will also want a really good quality fish sauce for any Thai dish you’re making. Red Boat Fish Sauce company is the only one on the mainstream market that is both Paleo and SCD/GAPs legal. It’s aged 12-16 months and comes directly from Vietnam. They bottle only pure first press “extra virgin” fish sauce so you get an extract that is made of just two all natural ingredients: fresh wild caught anchovy and sea salt. For years I used Thai Kitchen fish sauce and looked past the sugar in the ingredient list, but I’ve tasted the two side by side now and notice a huge difference.



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Tom Kha Gai {Thai Coconut Soup}

AUTHOR: Danielle Walker - AgainstAllGrain.com


  • ½ tablespoon coconut oil
  • ⅛ teaspoon Thai dried chiles, finely ground*
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • 2 cans full fat coconut milk
  • 2 inch piece of Galangal, skin on and thinly sliced (fresh Ginger will work too)*
  • 1 stalk lemon grass, sliced diagonally into 3-4 pieces and slightly bruised/flattened with a mallet or butt of a knife*
  • 8 kaffir lime leaves*
  • 4 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 cups chicken breast, very thinly sliced
  • 1 cup white button mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • ½ tablespoon coconut sugar (honey will work too, but coconut sugar will taste the most authentic or omit for Whole30)
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • fresh cilantro and scallions for serving

*All of the starred items can be purchased dried in a jar by the brand Thai Kitchen


  1. Melt the coconut oil in a soup or stock pot, then add the ground chiles and stir for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
  2. Pour in the coconut milk and bring to boil.
  3. Add the chicken stock, galangal, lemon grass, kaffir leaves, fish sauce, and chicken and simmer for 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
  4. Add the mushrooms, lime juice, coconut sugar, tomatoes and simmer for another 5 minutes until the vegetables are tender but not mushy.
  5. Serve with fresh cilantro and scallions.
* indicates required

  • http://avocadopesto.wordpress.com Vicky

    I absolutely loooove this soup. I was able to find dried kaffir lime leaves and galangal at Whole Foods so now I can finally try this recipe!

  • http://thaicooking4u.wordpress.com/ Thai Food Recipes

    I’m extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Anyway keep up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to see a great blog like this one these days.

    • Against All Grain

      Thank you! It’s a free theme but my husband is computer savvy so we did some custom css coding ourselves.

  • http://www.scdgroceries.com Jessica

    Just made this one! I love Thai food and since I moved out of Brooklyn, the one Thai restaurant in my rural town just doesn’t cut it!
    I didn’t have the fish sauce, so I substituted an anchovy which I remember hearing somewhere was a good substitute.
    Couldn’t find the fresh keffir leaves, but they had them shredded in a jar in the asian aisle.
    Surprisingly couldn’t find any thai chilis either, so i used some chili oil.
    I also added a bag of oriental mixed vegetables to make this a meal instead of an appetizer.

  • http://www.class-source.com Dina Fox

    This recipe ROCKS!!! I made it tonight for dinner and there is not a DROP left. A hit for sure and super healthy, fast, and filling.

    • Against All Grain

      It’s one of our favorites! Making it tomorrow actually :)

  • Rachel

    sweet heavens to betsy, there is a legal fish sauce i can buy! i have a similar recipe from cooking light that i am going to attempt to modify. need to figure out soy sauce substitution and siracha sauce then i am golden! this looks very similar and oh so delish! thai food here i come!!!!

    • Michelle

      I made the Thai Curry with Prawns over the weekend. Last night I made the Tom Kha and the Thai Iced Tea. DEEEEEEEEEEEELICIOUS! Please oh Please oh Please post how to make Massaman Curry!