Tom Kha Gai-Thai Coconut Soup

By Published On: April 28th, 2024Categories: Soup6 Comments on Tom Kha Gai-Thai Coconut Soup

We recently had my sister-in-law, Esther and her beau, Jack visit us in sunny, southern Arizona. They were only with us for 3 days, but we sure did pack in a lot of food, fun, laughter and even more love!

I made this especially for Esther as it is her favorite soup. Tom Kha Gai, also known as Thai Coconut Soup is traditional Thai comfort food.  It is also thought to be healthy for colds as it eases congestion and stimulates your taste buds. It sure does wake them up! She said it was the best Thai Coconut Soup she has ever had. That is quite a compliment!

It is believed the soup originated around 1890. That is the first known recipe found in a cookbook. My guess is they have been making this soup in Thailand for centuries. The earliest version, called Tom Kha Pet was made with duck, young galangal cooked together in a coconut milk based curry. Galangal, a more flavorful relative of ginger, means Tom Kha and galangal is known as Tom Kha Pet.

This is my favorite red curry paste. It’s rich, thick, and has a wonderfully spicy, deep curry flavor.

I ordered some ingredients online as I did not think my local grocery would have them, but was surprised to find fresh lemongrass. Since I had already bought lemongrass paste, I used them both. I also added curry powder along with the red curry paste that the original recipe called for. And I added cumin, which it did not call for. Instead of onion I used a combination of leeks and shallots. I toned down the spices a bit, but it was still too much for my delicate husband who is not nuts about heat.

Jack liked it, too!

I had chicken stock already made in the freezer so this soup went together very quickly. The original recipe calls for chicken, but I used beautiful fresh jumbo shrimp from Guaymas, Mexico; not that far from us.

Heat the coconut oil in a medium pot. Add the shallots/leeks (or onion), garlic, jalapeno pepper, galangal or ginger root, and lemongrass (I added the lemongrass paste later). Smash the lemongrass with the flat side of a knife blade to allow the flavors to escape.

Cook, stirring frequently until the onions are softened; about 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. This will reduce quite a bit, which intensifies the flavors.

Strain out the aromatics and discard. Add in the coconut milk. Be sure to use unsweetened full fat coconut milk or cream. Add the mushrooms, 1/2 cup more thinly sliced leeks, fish sauce, lemongrass paste, red curry paste, red chili paste,  lime juice, curry powder, and cumin. Simmer for another 15 minutes.

Add 1# of shrimp. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes until shrimp just begins to turn pink. I made the soup a day ahead of time and did not want the shrimp to overcook when I reheated. If serving right away, cook the shrimp for 5 to 7 minutes. Check for seasoning and add more heat, spice, lime juice or whatever is needed.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with roughly chopped cilantro, chives, and a few thin slices of jalapeno. Serve with a wedge of lime.

You might also garnish with finely diced red bell pepper. I think the color contrast would look attractive and the flavor would blend nicely.

Jack also loves to cook and we were going to make Roti to go with this soup, but ran out of time. The soup was rich and filling on its own.

I have a couple more treats to share with you from Jack and Esther’s visit including an exclusive cocktail created by Esther that bartenders throughout the county will be clamoring for once they see the recipe!


Tom Kha Gai--Thai Coconut Soup

Sweet, spicy, a little sour, rich and delicious. True comfort food!


  • 1 Tbsp. Coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cup Shallots and leeks, chopped and sliced, Divided-1 cup for the stock and an additional 1/2 cup for the soup itself. Or use onion.
  • 2 cloves Garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 Jalapeno pepper, seeds and spine removed Or if you want a lot of heat, leave them in.
  • 3 inch Fresh ginger root, roughly chopped Or galangal if you can find it.
  • 2 stalks Lemongrass, pounded with the side of a knife, cut into 2 inch long pieces
  • 1 tsp. Lemongrass paste
  • 2 tsp. Red curry paste
  • 1 tsp. Red chili paste
  • 1 tsp. Curry powder
  • 1 tsp. Cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. Fish sauce
  • 4 cups Chicken broth, preferably homemade
  • 13.5 oz. Coconut milk or cream, unsweetened, full fat
  • 1 lb. Shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 8 oz. Mushrooms, sliced I used baby portabellas.
  • 3 Tbsp. Lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • Cilantro, chives, thinly sliced jalapeno for garnish


  • In a medium saucepan, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add 1 cup of the leeks/shallots, garlic, jalapeno, ginger, and lemongrass.
  • Cook, stirring frequently until onions are softened; about 10 minutes.
  • Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes.
  • Strain out the aromatics and discard. Add in coconut milk, mushrooms, additional 1/2 cup sliced leeks, and all of the spices-red curry paste, red chili paste, curry powder, cumin, lemongrass paste, fish sauce, lime juice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook another 15 minutes.
  • Add the shrimp and cook until it just starts to turn pink. If making in advance cook for about 3 minutes. If serving right away cook the shrimp through-about 5-7 minutes. These shrimp were huge so cook thoroughly, but do not overcook or they become tough.
  • Check for seasoning. Ladle into bowls and garnish with chives, roughly chopped cilantro, and thinly sliced jalapeno. Serve with a wedge of lime.


  1. Bonnie April 28, 2024 at 12:06 pm - Reply

    Looks delicious!! Say the name of that soup 3 times fast!!

    • Cindy Rabbitt April 30, 2024 at 11:48 am - Reply

      Very funny!!

  2. Kathy Fahey April 28, 2024 at 12:19 pm - Reply

    Wow does this recipe look divine! Got to try it!

    • Cindy Rabbitt April 30, 2024 at 11:48 am - Reply

      It really was quite special. You can substitute tofu for the shrimp, too!

  3. Diana Makes April 29, 2024 at 4:40 pm - Reply

    That looks REALLY good! As does Esther

    • Cindy Rabbitt April 30, 2024 at 11:47 am - Reply

      Thanks Miss Di! Lots of ingredients, which made for a very robust flavor!!

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