How to Make Thai Tom Kha Gai

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Our Global Gourmet recipe series is designed to bring the foods we loved while traveling into our own kitchens and onto our own dinner tables.

This Global Gourmet recipe is a dish we fell in love with while traveling in Thailand, Tom Kha Gai Soup.

The key to recreating International dishes at home is to start with an authentic recipe, adapt it to substitute ingredients you can’t find or don’t know how to work with, and simplify difficult techniques. Then it becomes more approachable and possible to make and enjoy at home.

Tom Kha Gai

What is Tom Kha Gai

Translated from Thai, you’ll learn exactly what this soup is.

  • Tom means soup
  • Kha means galangal
  • Gai means chicken

So this is a galangal soup with chicken. Galangal is a root spice that’s very similar to ginger and turmeric. It’s not hot spicy, but very similar to ginger. That’s why you can exchange the galangal with ginger if you can’t find it.

You can, of course, make the soup without the gai if you’re vegetarian. I really like it with chicken because it gives an additional richness to the soup.

Ingredients in Tom Kha

Thai cooking has a few ingredients that are used in almost every recipe. The flavor combination is incredible, and very aromatic, which adds a lot to the experience of eating it. One of my favorite soups is this Tom Kha Gai soup, because it has all of these typical Thai flavors melded together in perfect harmony.

After eating it in many different restaurants throughout Thailand, I started making it at home. It’s a pretty effortless soup, and the payoff is tremendous!

Deliciously aromatic Tom Kha Gai
Deliciously aromatic Tom Kha Gai

You’ll just need to gather the typical Thai ingredients, which include:

  • Coconut milk (in a can – full-fat only)
  • Fresh lemongrass
  • Fresh Galangal (or ginger)
  • Shitaki or button mushrooms
  • Fish sauce
  • Lime
  • Chicken
  • Cilantro
  • Tomato
  • Kafir lime leaves (if possible)

If you have an Asian store nearby, you can usually always find them there, but if you don’t, it’s not a big deal, you can substitute dried lemongrass and ginger. There’s really no substitute for kaffir lime leaves, so you will just have to leave those out. You can also leave out the lemongrass, but the soup won’t be quite as aromatic.

How to Make Tom Kha Gai

tom kha gai ingredients
Tom Kha Gai ingredients

The first thing you need to do to make this soup is assemble all of the ingredients and chop them up. I like to pull everything out of the fridge and make little bowls with the ingredients as I cut them, so I can put them all into the soup at the appropriate time.

Make sure you’re working with a really sharp knife to cut up the ingredients, especially things like galangal and lemongrass that are harder and prone to rolling. You don’t want to lose a finger.

>> If your knives are dull, read this guide from On the Sharp Side to learn how to keep your knives sharp.

tom kha gai

Once you’ve chopped all the ingredients, you can begin assembling the soup. Unlike some soups that need many hours to simmer and develop flavor, Tom Kha Gai doesn’t need a lot of simmering. The flavors come together very quickly.

Just a note about the coconut milk – you need to use the highest quality coconut milk you can get. It makes a huge difference in the flavor and the creaminess. Never use a low-fat coconut milk, unless you’re okay with the soup being thin and not very creamy.

Put the coconut milk and broth into stockpot and allow it to come to a strong simmer, then add the aromatics and the chicken. Once the chicken is cooked, which should be pretty quickly if you’ve sliced it thin enough, you can then add the rest of the ingredients and allow that all to simmer together for about 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

That’s really all there is to it. Easiest soup to make!

If you’re looking for a salad to serve this with, to complete your meal, try this lovely Thai Morning Glory Stir Fry. It’s a quick and easy Thai salad to make, and it’s packed with flavor. There are a few ingredients that are shared between the stir fry and this soup, like the lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves.

Pairing Tom Kha Gai with Wine

Thai food pairs well with citrusy whites
Thai food pairs well with citrusy whites

Spicy Thai food goes really well with a dry Riesling, due to its high acidity and sweetness. However, Tom Kha Gai is not typically spicy, unless you add a lot of bird’s eye chilies! If you do, then you’ll likely find that a Riesling pairs well with this soup.

If you don’t like it spicy, we recommend pairing it with an unoaked Sauvignon Blanc or even a slightly oaked Chardonnay. Red wine doesn’t really pair well with this creamy soup, and you’ll know that the second you take a sip of one and then the other. It just doesn’t compliment well.

These white wines pair well because of their acidity and brightness, that helps counterbalance the richness of the coconut milk. These whites also have a nice citrus note that works well with the lime juice.

You won’t have a difficult time finding either of these varietals at any wine store or grocery, since you won’t be looking for a wine made in Thailand. That opens up the possibilities quite a bit.

Tom Kha Gai (Chicken Coconut Soup)
Yield: 2 servings

Tom Kha Gai (Chicken Coconut Soup)

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Tom Kha Gai has a sweet, spicy and sour flavor that melds together in the perfect blend of flavors


  • 1 can coconut milk, not low fat
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 lb chicken breast, sliced thinly
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 stem lemongrass, cut into one inch pieces
  • 1 oz galangal, or ginger sliced thinly
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 5-6 mushrooms, halved
  • 2 limes, one juiced, one cut into wedges
  • handful of cilantro


  1. Combine coconut milk and chicken broth in a large sauce pan and bring to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat.
  2. Add sugar lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves.
  3. Add chicken and simmer until cooked, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add fish sauce, mushrooms, juice of one lime and half the cilantro.
  5. Simmer on medium for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat, add to bowls, top with cilantro. Serve.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

1 bowl

Amount Per Serving:Calories: 689Total Fat: 47gSaturated Fat: 39gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 99mgSodium: 2004mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 4gSugar: 8gProtein: 44g


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Tom Kha Gai
How to Make Thai Tom Kha Gai

14 thoughts on “How to Make Thai Tom Kha Gai

  1. Maddy says:

    Thai food is my favourite, and as I’m a shocking cook this is perfect as it doesn’t look too hard to make. I’m so glad you mentioned wines to pair it with! I’d probably have mine vegetarian, do you think this would make much of a difference? You said you like the texture chicken brings, do you think I could substitute something in?

  2. Marlene Marques says:

    Hi, Laura. Almost could taste this wonderful soup! I love asian food and never tasted this one before. Can’t wait to try out your recipe. 😉

  3. Jenni says:

    mmm looks tasty. I like how you have given the wines that would accompany the dish. Sounds realy easy to make aswell think I will have to give it a try.

  4. Jenni says:

    mmm looks tasty. I like how you have given the wines that would accompany the dish. Sounds really easy to make aswell think I will have to give it a try.

  5. Jenn and Ed Coleman says:

    This is absolutely our favorite soup and a must order for every Thai restaurant we go to. Interesting hint about the coconut milk. There are huge variations in how this soup tastes and we always wondered why. In general, we look for the amount of inedible ingredients as the indicator of quality. The more ginger roots and such you have to pick through, the better the soup tastes. Perhaps it is just that the chefs who choose these higher grade ingredients also pick quality coconut milk. Great tip on sharp knives too. Too many people think they are safer using dull knives when, in fact, it’s exactly the opposite.

    • Laura Lynch says:

      I order this every time I’m in a Thai restaurant too, and I completely agree on the quality. The flavor has so much to do with all the bits and goodies, like you said, but the creamy divine richness is all about the coconut milk.

  6. Hugo Cura says:

    This looks tasty! I don’t cook much Thai food but will definitely try my best with this one. Time for some shopping!

  7. Barbara Wagner says:

    This looks like a very tasty recipe and it’s seems like it’s easy to make too! I will have to try it out!

  8. Jo says:

    Yumm!I love Thai food! So always been trying out new recipes! Thanks for this recipe, very precise and to the point. Definitely trying it out this weekend.

  9. Vicky and Buddy says:

    I didn’t realize this soup was so easy to make! I like that it doesn’t have to simmer for a long time. And that it pairs well with Riesling (my favorite wine). And thank you for the reminder that sharp knives are important! It makes cutting up the ingredients so much easier!

  10. Karla says:

    Thai food is my absolute favorite. I want to do a thai cooking class. Thank you for this! I will definitely give it a try

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