Thai Chicken Soup With Coconut Milk (Tom Ka Gai)

Homemade Thai Chicken Soup
  • 25 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins,
  • Cook: 15 mins
  • Yield: 2 servings
Ratings (47)

This simple Thai chicken soup has that distinctive Thai flavor, a balance of spicy, salty, sweet, and sour. You will especially welcome this soup's 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.

What You'll Need

  • lemongrass stalk or 3 tablespoons frozen prepared lemongrass
  • 6 cups good-quality chicken stock
  • 1 to 2 fresh chicken breasts, sliced, or 1 to 2 cups roasted chicken or turkey
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 kaffir limes leaves, fresh or frozen
  • 1 to 3 fresh red chilies, minced to taste, or 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon dried crushed chili peppers
  • 1 thumb-size piece galangal or ginger, grated
  • 1/2 to 1 (13.5-ounce) can good-quality coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce, or more to taste
  • Optional: sliced bell pepper or cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar, optional, to taste
  • Handful fresh coriander leaves
  • Handful fresh basil leaves
  • 3 spring (green) onions, sliced
  • Optional: wheat or rice noodles, if serving as the main course

How to Make It

  1. Slice and mince the lower portion of the lemongrass stalk. Retain the upper stalk for the soup pot.
  2. 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.
  3. Add fresh chicken or leftover chicken or turkey and mushrooms. Then add the prepared lemongrass, including the upper stalk pieces, the kaffir lime leaves, and fresh chilies.
  1. Boil 5 to 8 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked.
  2. Turn the heat down to medium.
  3. 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.
  4. Turn the heat down to low.
  5. Add the lime juice and stir.
  6. 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.
  7. Ladle the soup into serving bowls. Sprinkle a little fresh coriander, basil, and spring onions over each bowl. For an extra kick of flavor, add a dollop of either store-bought or homemade Nam Prik Pao chili sauce.


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.