A Twist on Tom Kha Gai Soup


I can’t tell you how much I love tom kha gai. The creamy coconut soup is probably my all-time favorite soup, and up there with one of the best comfort foods around too.

A bowl of tom kha gai with rice is my favorite winter lunch and a great take-out dinner option as well. It is so flavorful and satisfying. The only real issue I have with tom kha gai as a meal is that it is not particularly healthy. 

So, to combat this, I have been working on ways to make the soup at home and add a few more ingredients to up the nutritional level. I have finally found a way to make the soup base delicious (see recipe below) without having to deal with picking out all the pieces of ginger and lemongrass you can’t eat. Then, I worked on adding a few more vegetables than a traditional version of the soup includes to make it slightly healthier.Tom Kha Gai

With the addition of carrots and kale, I feel pretty good about eating this soup for dinner. Its still has the basic, classic tom kha gai broth, but just has a few things added to make it more of a meal. I really love fragrant jasmine rice with this soup to make it more filling and work as a meal. You could make brown rice, but I just don’t think it’s quite the same so I am a purist and go with the white variety.

The good thing about this recipe is that you can adapt it to suit your tastes. Many people like mushrooms in this soup. I don’t like mushrooms so they are not in my recipe, but feel free to add them if you like. You could easily add a chopped red pepper in with the carrot for more color and additional veggies of your choice.

As far as the chilies go, add one and taste the broth before you add another. Chilies can have varying levels of spice, and it’s hard to know until you try it how that is going to work out. You can never take away the spice, but you can always add more.

I love the trick of developing the flavor of the broth but straining out the inedible solids. I sometimes find myself picking through the soup when I eat it out because you don’t want to accidentally swallow a stalk of lemongrass, so this is a fun way around that.

The Ultimate Tom Kha Gai Soup


  • 10 inch piece ginger, peeled
  • 10 kaffir lime leaves or 1 tablespoon lime zest and ¼ cup lime juice
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth, homemade if possible
  • 1.5 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces carrots, sliced thinly
  • 1, 13.5 ounce can coconut milk
  • 2 Thai chilis, chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, tough outer layers removed
  • 2 cups chopped kale


  • Steamed jasmine rice, cilantro leaves, bean sprouts and lime wedges (for serving)
  • Using the back of a knife, lightly smash lemongrass and ginger; cut lemongrass into 4 inch pieces. Bring lemongrass, ginger, lime leaves and broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer until flavors are melded, 8 to 10 minutes. Strain broth into a clean saucepan; discard solids.
  • Add chicken and return to a boil. Reduce heat, and add carrots, chilies and simmer, skimming occasionally, until chicken is cooked through – about 20 to 25 minutes. Mix in coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar and kale. Cook until kale is wilted.
  • Place soup a scoop of rice in bowl and top with soup. Finish with cilantro, bean spouts and lime wedges as desired.

About Author

Writer. Cook. Hockey player. Skier. Snowboarder. Mountain biker. Mother of two great danes. Wife. Marketing expert. And, most fulfilling, Co-editor of Dishing!

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