Tom Ka Kai (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)

Total Time
Prep 15 mins
Cook 20 mins

This is my husband's all time favorite Thai soup - but up until now, I haven't been able to recreate it at home. I've played around with several versions to come up with this one. The authentic ingredients make a HUGE difference - although you can use substitutions, of course, it does affect the outcome. I have been able to find the galangal root (much preferred over ginger!!), the lemongrass, and the kaffir lime leaves at my local asian market. Yum yum yum, worth the extra shopping trip!

Ingredients Nutrition


  1. In the bottom of a large soup pot, heat the oil over high heat until very hot but not smoking. I often make this is a wok on the stove.
  2. Salt the chicken and add to oil, tossing to brown all the pieces. Cook about 3 minutes or until outside is browned, but not necessarily cooked all the way through.
  3. Add mushrooms and toss. Allow to cook until some of the moisture is cooked out and the mushrooms are soft. Turn down heat to medium-low.
  4. To prepare the lemongrass, slice and mince the lower portion and reserve the stalk to flavor the soup. You can use a food processor for this, or just mince it by hand. The woody upper portion of the stalk will be removed later, so don't chop it up, simply score it by making a few superficial cuts in it to allow it to flavor the soup.
  5. Add the whites of the onions, reserving the greens. Add the minced lower portion of the lemongrass, grated galangal, and chilies. Toss until just warmed through.
  6. Add the lemongrass stalk, lime leaves, chicken stock, coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar and remaining onions, reserving just a few for garnish. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes to allow flavors to blend well.
  7. Taste test and adjust flavors as follows:.
  8. Not salty enough - add more fish sauce.
  9. Too sour - add a little more brown sugar.
  10. Too spicy - add more coconut milk.
  11. Not spicy enough - add more chilies.
  12. Ladle into 4 soup bowls and garnish with remaining onion greens, cilantro, and basil.
  13. Variations:.
  14. Add more vegetables such as some sliced red bell peppers with the mushrooms.
  15. Serve over wide rice noodles for a main dish serving.
  16. Make vegetarian by increasing mushrooms in place of chicken and substituting vegetable stock.


Most Helpful

Fantastic recipe, and very versatile. I added 6 red Thai chilis and the heat was perfect. The only omission in the ingredients that needs to be corrected is the kafir lime leaves. The directions for cooking show lime leaves should be added, but they're not in the ingredients. I also added the zest of a whole lime as well. In any event, this recipe is a keeper! Thanks!

Glaber May 11, 2013

Delicious, but was really bummed that the recipe didn't list Lime Leaves in the ingredients! I was so excited to make it, but not having the L. Leaves was a real letdown.

yobuck285 March 19, 2013

Absolutely delicious! My first taste of and attempt at Thai food. My DH gave rave reviews, and he's quite the critic. I didn't have lemongrass or red chiles, but I put it some red pepper flakes, and I used ginger instead of galangal. Cilantro in Canada's suggestion of sesame seed oil just put it over the top. Will definitely make it again, and often!

MrsWevs October 15, 2011

Join the Conversation

  • all
  • reviews
  • tweaks
  • q & a