Thai Chicken Soup With Coconut Milk (Tom Ka Gai)

Thai Chicken Soup With Coconut Milk (Tom Ka Gai)

The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

Prep: 25 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 40 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Yield: 2 quarts
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
310 Calories
18g Fat
18g Carbs
21g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 310
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 18g 23%
Saturated Fat 13g 66%
Cholesterol 41mg 14%
Sodium 857mg 37%
Total Carbohydrate 18g 6%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 5g
Protein 21g
Vitamin C 16mg 80%
Calcium 53mg 4%
Iron 5mg 26%
Potassium 730mg 16%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This simple Thai chicken soup (aka Tom Ka Gai) has that distinctive Thai flavor–a balance of spicy, salty, sweet, and sour. A bit creamier than Tom Yum soup, you will especially welcome this soup's frangrance and comforting warmth during the winter.

Tom Ka Gai can either be served as an appetizer or as the star player. Add noodles if you're planning to make this soup an entree. So sip, slurp, and enjoy.


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"This soup was delicious. I added the vegetables and extra coconut milk for creaminess. I also ended up adjusting and adding more fish sauce and a bit more brown sugar. Preparation was easy but takes a little time to measure, chop, and mince—it was worth every minute!" —Diana Rattray

Thai Chicken Soup with Coconut Milk Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1 stalk lemongrass

  • 6 cups chicken stock

  • 1 to 2 chicken breasts, sliced

  • 1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms

  • 4 makrut lime leaves, fresh or frozen

  • 1 to 3 fresh red chiles, minced to taste

  • 1 thumb-size piece galangal or ginger, grated

  • 1/2 to 1 (13 1/2-ounce) can good-quality coconut milk

  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce, or more to taste

  • Sliced bell pepper, optional

  • Cherry tomatoes, optional

  • 2 tablespoons lime juice

  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar, or to taste, optional

  • Handful fresh coriander leaves

  • Handful fresh basil leaves

  • 3 spring onions, sliced

  • Wheat noodles or rice noodles, if serving as the main course, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Thai Chicken Soup With Coconut Milk (Tom Ka Gai) ingredients

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

  2. Slice and mince the lower portion of the lemongrass stalk. Retain the upper stalk for the soup pot.

    Slice and mince the lower portion of the lemongrass stalk

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

  3. Place chicken broth in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. If you have leftover chicken or turkey bones, add those too. Bring to a boil.

    chicken broth in a pot

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

  4. Add the chicken and mushrooms.

    Add chicken and mushrooms to the broth in the pot

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

  5. Then add the prepared lemongrass–including the upper stalk pieces–the makrut lime leaves, and fresh chilies.

    add the lemongrass, the makrut lime leaves, and fresh chilies to the soup in the pot

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

  6. Boil 5 to 8 minutes or until the chicken is cooked. Reduce heat down to medium.

    soup cooking in a pot

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

  7. Add the galangal or ginger, 1/2 can of the coconut milk, the fish sauce, and extra vegetables (if using). Stir well and simmer gently for 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low.

    Add the ginger, coconut milk, the fish sauce, and extra vegetables to the soup in the pot

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

  8. Add the lime juice and stir. Do a taste test. Look for a balance between spicy, sour, salty, and sweet flavors. Start with saltiness, adding more fish sauce if the soup is not salty or flavorful enough, 1 tablespoon at a time. If it's too sour, add the brown sugar. If the soup is too spicy or if you'd like it creamier, add more coconut milk. If it's not spicy enough, add more chilies.

    add lime juice to the soup in the pot

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

  9. Ladle the soup into serving bowls. Sprinkle a little fresh coriander, basil, and spring onions over each bowl.

    Thai Chicken Soup With Coconut Milk (Tom Ka Gai) in a bowl

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

How to Store and Freeze

  • Refrigerate Tom Ka Gai in a covered container for 3 to 5 days.
  • For longer storage, freeze the soup in containers or zip-close freezer bags for up to 3 months.


  • If you are serving the soup with noodles, it is best to prepare them separately from the soup; otherwise, the soup gets too thick because of the starch from the noodles. Leftovers will also taste better this way.
  • It can be difficult to find makrut lime leaves, but they are available online and they can be frozen. If you need to substitute, use 2 teaspoons of lime zest or 1 teaspoon of lime zest and 1 teaspoon of lemon zest.
  • You may use dried galangal root to flavor the soup. Reconstitute the galangal in boiling water. Add the steeping water and slices of the reconstituted galangal root to the soup, but do not eat the slices.

Recipe Variations

  • Use 3 tablespoons of frozen prepared lemongrass in place of the lemongrass stalk.
  • Instead of the sliced chicken breasts, use up any leftover roasted chicken or turkey you might have on hand. All you need is 1 to 2 cups.
  • Substitute 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon dried crushed chile peppers if you don't have fresh red chiles.
  • For an extra kick of flavor, add a dollop of either store-bought or homemade Nam Prik Pao chili sauce.

Do You Eat the Makrut Lime Leaves?

Like the lemongrass stalk and sliced galangal (if using dried sliced), the makrut lime leaves are left in the soup for flavor, but are not eaten.