This Coconut Chicken Soup recipe is inspired by the famous Thai soup, Tom Ka Gai. You won't need to order take out once you discover how easy this soup is to make at home!
This recipe isn't authentic but it is just as delicious. It's creamy and aromatic with a touch of spice. Easily adjust the heat level by adding fewer chili peppers. This Coconut Chicken Soup includes harder to find ingredients like lemongrass and kafir lime leaves but don't let that stop you! I've included substitutions in case you can't easily find these ingredients.
Why You Will Love This Recipe
Easy to Make: This coconut chicken soup comes together easily with very little preparation. While the broth is infusing with aromatic Thai flavours you can prepare the other ingredients which saves time.
Versatile: Easily customize this soup by switching up the protein and incorporating a variety of different vegetables according to your personal preferences.
Balanced Flavors: The addition of fish sauce, brown sugar, chili peppers, and lime juice provides a well-balanced combination of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavors. Thai food is notorious for perfecting this balance of flavours and this soup is no exception!
🥘Ingredients and Substitutions
Red Onion: Thinly sliced red onion is the perfect garnish for this soup so I chose to use the rest of the onion in the soup to avoid having to buy 2 different onions. However, you can use any onion in this recipe such as white, Spanish, sweet or shallots, green onions or leeks.
Lemongrass: If fresh lemongrass isn't available you can substitute with lemongrass paste or dried lemongrass. For the paste, typically available in the fresh herb section of the grocery store, replace each stalk with about 1 teaspoon of paste. For dried, replace each fresh stalk with approximately 1 tablespoon of dried.
Kafir Lime Leaves: Kaffir lime leaves can be found in Asian supermarkets. They have a distinctive citrusy flavour and although lime zest won't replicate the flavour perfectly, it can give a similar citrusy taste. For this recipe you will need the zest of 2 limes to replace the lime leaves.
Ginger: Traditionally a spice called "galangal" is used to make coconut chicken soup. Because galangal is more difficult to find I've replaced it with ginger which is similar in flavour. If you have access to galangal I recommend using it in place of ginger for a more authentic taste.
Red Thai Chilis: Thai chilis, or Bird's Eye Chilis, are small and thin. They can be found in Asian supermarkets as well as many grocery stores. They can be replaced with any spicy chili peppers of your choice or omitted if you prefer to leave out the spice.
Chicken Breast: Chicken thighs or leftover cooked chicken can also be used. If using cooked chicken you can skip the step of cooking the chicken with the onions and simply add all the ingredients to the pot after softening the onions.
Enoki Mushrooms: The noodle-like texture of Enoki mushrooms add an element of texture to coconut chicken soup. Feel free to substitute with Shitake, Oyster, Cremini or white button mushrooms. Add in with the chicken to cook with the soup.
Green Peas: I love the sweet pop that green peas give. Replace green peas with other vegetables such as diced zucchini or toss in a handful or two of spinach.
Brown Sugar: In Thai cuisine palm sugar is often used for sweetening a dish. Brown sugar is the closest you can get to replicating palm sugar. Replace with regular sugar or sweetener of your choice, if desired.
Fish Sauce: Fish sauce has a unique flavour that is used in almost all savoury Thai dishes. It's difficult to replicate but soy sauce or tamari can be used in a pinch.
For a complete list of ingredients see the recipe card below.
Make it with Shrimp: Switch the chicken for shrimp and add in with the rest of the soup ingredients after cooking the onions.
Vegetarian or Vegan: Omit the chicken and use vegetable broth. Increase the vegetables and add tofu or tempeh for protein. For a vegan version, substitute fish sauce for soy sauce or tamari.
Curry Variation: Add a tablespoon or more of red or green Thai curry paste to the coconut chicken soup for an extra layer of flavour. Add with the chicken and adjust amount according to your desired spice tolerance.
🔪How to Make Coconut Chicken Soup
Step 1 - In a large pot combine broth, lemongrass, lime leaves, chilis, and ginger. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes to infuse the broth with Thai flavours. Strain and reserve broth.
Step 2 - Heat the oil and fry the onions for 2 to 3 minutes. Add chicken and cook for 3 minutes.
Step 3 - Add the broth and rest of the ingredients, except cilantro and fresh lime juice, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Step 4 - Remove from heat and add cilantro and lime juice. Serve garnished with fresh red pepper slices and thinly sliced red onion.
For detailed instructions see the recipe card below.
Save time by preparing your ingredients while the broth is simmering. Once the broth is done everything is ready to go into the pot making this soup come together quickly and easily.
Taste and adjust seasonings: Delicious Thai food is all about balancing flavours. The perfect balance of sweet, salty, sour, and spice is a delight for the palate. Be sure to taste your soup and adjust to meet your personal preferences.
Slice Chicken Thinly: To keep the chicken tender slice as thinly as possible. You can achieve the thinnest slices by partially freezing the chicken and slicing while firm.
Use Full-Fat Coconut Milk: Although light coconut milk can be used for this coconut chicken soup, full-fat will produce a creamy, luscious texture. Be sure to use canned coconut milk, not from a carton.
Simmer Gently: Coconut milk can split if boiled too hard and for too long. There is no need to boil this soup at any stage. Keeping it at a gentle simmer will produce the creamiest texture.
Yes you can substitute with either of those options. Replace 1 stalk of lemongrass with approximately 1 teaspoon of paste or 1 tablespoon of dried.
You can prepare Coconut Chicken Soup in advance and reheat it gently, avoiding boiling, whether on the stovetop in a pot or in the microwave.
Freezing can alter the texture of coconut milk causing it to split. However, if you choose to freeze it, defrost in the fridge overnight and reheat gently, stirring well to avoid splitting. Split coconut milk is perfectly safe to eat it just lacks a creamy texture.
You can add a variety of vegetables such as baby corn, bamboo shoots, spinach, zucchini, or bell peppers to enhance the nutritional content and add more color and texture.
Soy sauce, tamari, or vegetarian fish sauce are common substitutes for fish sauce. Adjust the quantity based on your taste preferences.
Yes, you can add rice noodles for a heartier version. Cook the noodles separately and add them to each serving bowl before ladling the soup over them.
More Thai Inspired Recipes
Coconut Chicken Soup
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil, or vegetable oil
- ½ medium red onion, peeled and thinly sliced, plus extra for garnish
- 4 stalks lemongrass, or 4 teaspoon lemongrass paste
- 3 inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced
- 12 Kafir lime leaves, torn in half, or zest of 2 fresh limes
- 4 Thai red chilis, thinly sliced
- 4 cups chicken broth, unsalted
- 2 x 400 ml/14 oz cans coconut milk, full fat
- 450 grams/16 oz chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, thinly sliced
- 150 g/5 oz Enoki mushrooms, stems trimmed and separated
- ½ cup green peas, fresh or frozen
- 3 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- Juice of 2 limes
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- Red pepper, thinly sliced, about 1 cup
- Red onion, thinly sliced, about 1 cup
- Fresh lime wedges
- Cut the dry, woody tops from the lemongrass stalks. Smash the remaining "fleshy" part with the back of your knife to break it apart slightly. Cut into ½ - 1 inch pieces.4 stalks lemongrass,
- In a large pot bring chicken broth, lemongrass, ginger, kaffir lime leaves (or lime zest), and Thai red chilis to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cover and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes to infuse the broth.3 inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced, 12 Kafir lime leaves,, 4 cups chicken broth, unsalted, 4 Thai red chilis,
- Strain broth and set aside. Discard aromatics.
- Heat oil in the same pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté for 3 minutes or until starting to soften.1 tablespoon avocado oil,, ½ medium red onion, peeled and thinly sliced,
- Add chicken and sauté for 2 minutes.450 grams/16 oz chicken breasts, boneless, skinless,
- Stir in reserved broth, coconut milk, mushrooms, green peas, fish sauce and brown sugar.2 x 400 ml/14 oz cans coconut milk, full fat, 150 g/5 oz Enoki mushrooms,, ½ cup green peas,, 3 tablespoon fish sauce, 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- Cover and continue simmering gently for 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
- Remove from heat and stir in fresh lime juice and cilantro.Juice of 2 limes, ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- Ladle into bowls and garnish with thinly sliced red onion, red pepper and extra lime juice.