A delicious and super flavorful Tom Kha Gai Recipe using authentic Thai flavors, but bulked up with lots of veggies. Serve this Thai coconut chicken soup with rice, quinoa, or cauliflower rice to keep it low carb. I love it all on it’s own!
A Healthy Paleo Tom Kha Gai
What’s not to love about Thai food? Full of amazing, complex flavors, that also happen to have anti inflammatory properties.
Tom Kha Gai is something I almost always order when I go out for Thai food. The creamy coconut milk base infused with ginger, kaffir lime, and shallots, is irresistible.
The restaurant version is mostly chicken, a few mushrooms, and then a lot of aromatics that you pick out as you eat it. I cut the ginger super thin in this recipe so that you can eat it along with the chicken, and add a few extra veggies for freshness and to turn a typically-starter soup into a main course on it’s own.
I serve this as a meal on it’s own. Add rice, quinoa, or coconut rice, depending on your family’s needs!
Ingredients in Tom Kha Gai
- Aromatics – ginger, lemongrass, and Thai shallots. Thai shallots are very small (like the size of a bouncy ball), and have a distinct flavor that adds a lot to the flavor of Thai dishes. If you can’t find these, just buy any shallots you can find.
- Vegetable broth – you can use chicken stock if you’d prefer, but I love the flavor of this vegetable bouillon and find that it makes a more flavorful soup.
- Chicken – use very thinly sliced chicken breasts or chicken thighs. Either work fine here!
- Veggies – traditionally, Tom Kha Gai soup has mostly just mushrooms, and possibly some tomato slices. This version has carrots, asparagus, and a lot of mushrooms to bulk it up and make it a more balanced meal. Sugar snap peas and green beans are also great additions.
- Fish Sauce – most Thai dishes are made with Fish sauce. I can’t stand the small of it out of the bottle, even though I know I enjoy it in dishes. I typically just skip the fish sauce when I make Thai at home, but add it if you like!
- Red Chilis – it’s very difficult to find red chilis in the US outside of Asian markets, so if you can’t find red Thai chilis, just use a spicy sauce like sriracha to add some heat.
- Coconut milk – I love coconut milk, but while living in Asia, realized that the kind we buy in a can in the US isn’t the best quality. It tastes a lot better when stored in soft packs, like it is in Thailand. You can order this kind on Amazon and your soup will be SO much better.
- Flavor additions, like lime wedges and chopped cilantro to serve. Another key flavor in Thai cooking is kaffir lime leaves, which I used to make this soup when I lived in Malaysia. They are hard to find in the US, so it’s okay to omit them.
How to Make Paleo Tom Kha Gai
This soup is fairly easy and quick to make. The most important part is preparing your ingredients so they are easy to eat as a soup.
Pull out your chicken, veggies and aromatics, and get cooking!
- Very thinly slice the ginger (after peeling it), so that it’s easy to eat along with the chicken and veggies in this soup. Cut the lemongrass in long pieces so they are easy to pull out of the soup or push to the side after releasing their flavor. Finely chop the shallots. Add all 3 ingredients along to a soup pot along with some avocado oil and saute to begin releasing the oils.
- Add water and vegetable broth, and simmer the ginger, lemongrass, and shallots for about 20 minutes. This will make the broth flavorful. Do not be tempted to replace the evaporated water. Coconut milk will be added soon, and it will replace the liquid and ensure the flavors are rich.
- Add the chicken, and allow it to poach in the broth, which should only take about 5 minutes.
- Add the coconut milk, along with the mushrooms, carrots, and asparagus. Bring to a low simmer and allow the veggies to cook.
- While the veggies are cooking in the broth, further season your soup with kaffir lime leaves, chilis or chili sauce, and salt. You can also use salt or fish sauce to add more flavor.
How to Serve Authentic Tom Kha Gai
This version of the soup is kept simple and a bit healthier than a traditional restaurant version, but packs in the best flavors and ingredients in a more balanced version.
In Thailand, the soup is served with steamed rice as an appetizer. Spoon the flavorful broth over the rice and enjoy it as it soaks in the flavor.
I sometimes serve this soup with quinoa or steamed rice, but it would be great with cauliflower rice as well.
If you love this soup as much as we do, make a double batch! The leftovers on the 2nd day are even better than the first day, as the flavors continue to come out in the broth.
Tom Kha Gai
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- 1/2 cup ginger peeled and very thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup Thai shallots or sub any shallot
- 3 stalks lemongrass cut into 1 inch pieces
- 5 cups water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable bouillon I use Rapunzel (great flavor)
- 2 chicken breasts or thighs, sliced into small pieces
- 1 carrot peeled and sliced
- 2 cups asparagus cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 cups mushrooms sliced
- 2 15 ounce coconut milk full fat, canned
- 4 kaffir lime leaves torn (if available)*
- 1-2 tablespoons paleo fish sauce optional
- 1-3 teaspoons paleo sriracha sauce or use sliced red Thai chilis
- sea salt to taste
- lime wedges to garnish
- cilantro to garnish
- After peeling, very thinly slice the ginger. This helps the flavor come out, and also allows the ginger to become soft so it can be eaten along with the soup. The shallots need peeled, and can be roughly sliced or diced. To prepare the lemongrass, cut it into 1 inch sections, and "smash" it with the side of a knife to start releasing the oils.
- Add the avocado oil to a pot over medium heat, and add the ginger, lemongrass, and shallots. Saute for about 5 minutes to start releasing the flavors.
- Add the water and vegetable bouillon, and gently boil for about 20 minutes. Do not replace the water that evaporates. Adding the coconut milk will add more volume without diluting the flavors of the soup.
- Add the thinly sliced chicken, and allow it to poach in the broth for about 5 minutes.
- Add the carrots, asparagus, and mushrooms, and continue to simmer for 5-10 minutes. While the soup is finishing, add the chili sauce or chilis, salt, and optional fish sauce (I omit the fish sauce most often) to taste. Add additional water if the soup is too thick for your tastes. If you have access to kaffir lime leaves, gently tear them to start releasing the oils and let them simmer along with the vegetables.
- Serve garnished with lime wedges and cilantro. This soup is great served with steamed rice, quinoa, or cauliflower rice.