Along with tom yum goong, tom kha gai (ต้มข่าไก่) is one of the most famous Thai dishes.

In Thailand, tom kha gai (ต้มข่าไก่) is eaten more like a curry instead of a soup, paired with a plate of rice and spooned onto your rice before eating it.

In this blog post I’m going to share with you a step by step tom kha gai recipe, the way you will find it in Thailand.

Tom kha gai recipe
Some of the ingredients you’ll need

The ingredients for this tom kha gai recipe (ต้มข่าไก่) are quite simple, but it’s the method of preparation, especially for the coconut milk that is the important part.

The ingredients you’ll need are widely available at any local market throughout Thailand, but I also noticed that you can get all the ingredients are Asian supermarkets throughout the US and Europe, and even some of the ingredients like coconut milk and kaffir limes leaves are available online.

If you love coconut milk, you’ll love tom kha gai (ต้มข่าไก่).

what is galangal
Galangal is a rhizome

Galangal (kha ข่า) is one of the most important ingredients in any tom kha gai recipe (ต้มข่าไก่). The kha in the name of the dish in Thai, actually means galangal – so it’s very important, and there’s really no substitute for the galangal.

It has an earthy spice flavor, and many people compare the taste to ginger, however it’s actually quite different in taste and feel. Galangal is included in many Thai curries and soups, and when used in small quantities, it provides a subtle kick of flavor.

When you cook with galangal, you don’t normally eat the actual pieces of galangal, but instead it’s boiled in the soup to releases its wonderful essence of flavor, and then you either throw it away before eating, or leave it on the bottom of the bowl of soup.

tom kha gai recipe
If you can get fresh coconut milk, that’s the best for this recipe

Coconut milk (น้ำกะทิ)

The base of any tom kha gai (ต้มข่าไก่) is coconut milk (น้ำกะทิ kati), and you couldn’t make this amazing Thai soup without it.

Since I made this recipe in Thailand, I was able to use freshly squeezed coconut milk. If you have an opportunity to use fresh coconut milk, the flavor will be by far the best.

However, if you can only get cans or boxes of coconut milk, this recipe will still work well. My preferred coconut milk is Aroy-d in the box, not the can. I’ve found it to have the best flavor and be the most similar to fresh coconut milk.

Thai recipes
Kaffir lime leaves

Another key ingredient for making this tom kha gai recipe are kaffir lime leaves (bai makrut ใบมะกรูด).

Similar to galangal, you don’t actually eat the kaffir lime leaves, but you boil them in the soup and they release their wonderful citrusy zest of flavor.

Thai chilies
Thai chilies

Like nearly all Thai soups and curries, this dish contains Thai red bird chilies. You can really use as many as you like for this recipe, but I would suggest about 5 – 10, or however many you like.

Tom kha gai (ต้มข่าไก่) is not like southern Thai gaeng som, which is supposed to be extremely spicy. Instead it’s typically a very mild dish in Thailand.

tom kha gai recipe
I prefer oyster mushrooms in tom kha gai

Tom kha gai (ต้มข่าไก่) is almost always made with chicken, sometimes bone in or boneless (I’m going to be using boneless chicken for this recipe), and often mushrooms are another main component.

I like to use oyster mushrooms (hed fang เห็ดฟาง) because they are nice and meaty and soak up so much of the delicious flavor from the coconut milk, but you can use whatever mushrooms you can get you hands on.

lime juice
Fresh limes

Finally, to give your tom kha gai (ต้มข่าไก่) a sour component, lime juice (manao มะนาว) is the beautiful final fresh touch to this recipe.

Little Thai limes or key limes are typical for this tom kha gai.

authentic Thai recipes
How to cook using coconut milk

Stirring coconut milk

One thing I’ve learned while living in Thailand and cooking Thai food is that coconut milk is a very delicate ingredient (especially fresh coconut milk).

Whenever you make a recipe that makes use of coconut milk, you need to stir it gently, and keep stirring it in the same directional flow (I’ve explained why better in the video).

If you stir coconut milk too fast and rough it will sort of start to clump or curdle, similar to the way cream or milk does when you boil it. So just remember to treat your coconut milk gently and stir it slowly and steadily without boiling it too hard.

Here’s the video recipe:

(If you can’t see the video, watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmfstZEB0F8)

Thai tom kha gai recipe (วิธีทำ ต้มข่าไก่)

Time: About 30 minutes all together
Recipe size: Serves 3 – 4 people, about 2 big sized bowls full
Cooking utensils: medium sized saucepan
Flavors: Creamy and rich
Eat it with: A plate of rice and a few other Thai dishes as well

4.7 from 13 reviews
Tom Kha Gai Recipe (ต้มข่าไก่) - Authentic Thai Style
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Thai tom kha gai (ต้มข่าไก่) is a popular Thai soup, that's eaten more like a curry. The base of the dish is coconut milk, so it's creamy and rich. It's not known as being a spicy Thai dish, but it's still full of delicious and well balanced flavor. Make sure you read the recipe below and also watch the video for cooking instructions.
Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Thai
Serves: 3 - 4
Ingredients
  • 400 grams (I used 2 chicken breasts)
  • 6 cups coconut milk (If you use a can or box of coconut milk, you might want to add some water to make it less thick)
  • 1 thumb chunk of galangal
  • 3 stalks of lemongrass
  • 1 big white onion (or 2 small white onions)
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves
  • 200 grams of oyster mushrooms (I used 2 big handfuls)
  • 5 - 10 Thai chilies
  • ½ teaspoon salt (to taste)
  • 4 tablespoons of lime juice
  • small bunch of cilantro
Instructions
  1. First take a thumb sized chunk of galangal, cut off the stems, and cut the root part into thin slices. It can be a little tough, so you might have to hit the top of your knife with your palm.
  2. Next grab your lemongrass, slice off the bottoms, pull off the outer skin layer, and then slice it diagonally into about 1 inch strips. This is just going to help release its amazing fragrance.
  3. Turn on your stove to medium heat, and add about 3 cups (or ½) of the coconut milk to a medium sized saucepan. Put the pot on the heat and immediately toss in the sliced galangal and lemongrass.
  4. As your coconut milk begins to heat, move back over to your cutting board and slice up the chicken. I used 2 chicken breasts for this recipe. Slice the chicken into medium sized chunks - they can be kind of big in size.
  5. Just before the coconut milk comes to a boil, add the chicken, and then add the other remaining 3 cups of coconut milk. Now, turn down the heat to a medium low, as you don’t want the coconut milk to heat too fast or burn.
  6. Prepare your Thai chilies by peeling off the stems and then just slice them diagonally. Go ahead and add them directly to the soup.
  7. Give the soup a quick stir, and then add about 200 grams of oyster mushrooms (it was about 2 handfuls for me).
  8. Your coconut milk should not boil, but just maintain a nice low heat. Because coconut milk is so delicate, when you stir, be sure to move your spoon in 1 direction only, otherwise you run the risk of the coconut milk getting too shaken and it will start to curdle. Be gentle with the coconut milk.
  9. Move back over to your cutting board and peel and slice 2 small white onions into thick wedges (if your onion is really big, just use 1). Immediately toss the onions into the soup.
  10. Next, cut your tomatoes in the same way as your onions, into thick wedges. Wait until your tom kha gai (ต้มข่าไก่) is just about to boil, and then add the tomatoes.
  11. Take the kaffir lime leaves, break them with your hand, and toss them directly into the soup. Breaking the kaffir lime leaves is going to release their flavor.
  12. Now add about ½ teaspoon of salt to begin with (taste to add more)
  13. Mix your tom kha gai slowly and gently, for about 5 - 10 minutes, making sure it doesn’t come to a full boil - and if it does - turn down the heat to even lower. You want the chicken, onions, tomatoes, and other ingredients to be fully cooked, but you don’t want to overcook the coconut milk.
  14. After about 5 - 10 minutes of cooking, go ahead and turn off the heat completely.
  15. Go back to your cutting board, slice up a handful of fresh cilantro, and add it to the soup. Give it a quick stir, and the cilantro will cook enough from the already hot soup.
  16. The final step is to juice a couple of limes into a separate bowl and then add about 4 tablespoons of lime juice to the tom kha gai (ต้มข่าไก่). Again, just give it a quick and gentle stir, and it’s ready to be served.
  17. Make sure you do some taste-testing to make sure it’s salty and sour enough. You may need to add a little extra salt or lime juice to get the flavor you want.
Notes
When you tom kha gai is ready, dish it into a bowl, and serve it with a plate of hot fresh steamed rice. Enjoy!

Full recipe here, and watch the video recipe here.

Tom kha gai is such a simple yet marvelous tasting Thai dish, and it’s sure to be a favorite when you make this recipe and serve it to friends and family.

Dish yourself out a plate of freshly steamed rice, and then take spoons of tom kha gai, combine it to your rice, and enjoy.

Do you like tom kha gai? Try this recipe and let me know what you think.



64 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Susan Slater

    2 weeks ago

    Mark. Great recipe. When you say ‘oyster mushrooms’, don’t you mean HET NANG ROM or HET NANG FA? Just wondering.

  • Lizzie

    1 month ago

    What a wonderful website – beautifully written recipes. The Tom Kha Gai recipe is fantastic. Can’t wait to try more. Thank you.

  • Laura

    5 months ago

    Just made this soup last night and it was absolutely delicious! Rich and creamy and full of flavor! Thank you for adding the detailed instructions-it turned out amazing thanks to you! And now that I feel confident in cooking with coconut milk, I’m going to try my hand at Red Curry!

  • Joe

    6 months ago

    Hey Mark. I will be in Bangkok for 2 days next week. Tom Kha Gai is one of my favorite dishes. Where is a great place to get Tom Kha Gai soup in Bangkok? Thanks so much!

    • Jory Hemmelgarn

      6 months ago

      The best Tom Kha i’ve had in Bangkok (besides just super good, workaday street vendor dishes) is at Local Canteen in Si Lom!

  • Marian I

    8 months ago

    Been making this since Feb 2016 – thanks to you. Whole family loves it. So fragrant, delicate and delicious! Thank you for the detailed instructions, pictures and video. :)

  • Steve

    8 months ago

    No fish sauce??????

  • Leah

    8 months ago

    Is it possible to get this recipe in a .pdf? I really want to make this but I need a printout version, please!

    • Mark Wiens

      8 months ago

      Hey Leah, I don’t have this in PDF yet, but feel free to copy it and print it off for now. I’m hoping to publish a full recipe book sometime in the near future!

  • Bella

    8 months ago

    Hi Mark,
    Greetings from Singapore! I tried the recipe and replaced chicken with tofu as I am a vegan. I worked magic. Such a wonderful dish! The first time I had Tom Kha Gai was at a Thai restaurant in town. I think your version is more authentic and definitely tastes better. Many big thanks to you.

    • Mark Wiens

      8 months ago

      Hey Bella, awesome to hear that, glad it worked so well and that you enjoyed it!

  • Siri

    9 months ago

    I just made it, and it is one of the better dishes i have tasted, it is so easy and this will deffinitly not be the last time i am making this :D

  • Christina

    9 months ago

    Just tried it and absolutely loved it! The only addition I made was 1 tbsp of fish sauce!

  • Sharon

    9 months ago

    Just made this. If I could eat it every day for every meal, I would be happy! The boxed coconut milk was so much better than the cans, too–great tip!

    • Mark Wiens

      9 months ago

      Hey Sharon, great to hear that, glad you enjoyed it!

  • Amanda Cooper

    10 months ago

    I make a totally blasphemous rendition of Tom Kha Gai! I reckon it’s ok that I do it, because my Thai friend, Kanitta, did it first. I start with the classic recipe (which is so tasty, but not as filling for a whole meal). I add diced water chestnuts, large chopped carrot, soba noodles, and firm tofu. I also serve the sticky rice in banana packet, if guests want it. Kanitta makes fresh spring rolls to go with!

    • Mark Wiens

      9 months ago

      Hey Amanda, cool to hear that. I’m a fan of switching things around so they are exactly unique the way we want them. Some noodles and tofu in tom kha gai sounds like it would work well.

  • Ah-Ber

    11 months ago

    This is indeed one of the more authentic recipes for Tom Kha Gai available. Had an excellent meal this evening!

    • Mark Wiens

      10 months ago

      Great to hear that Ah-Ber, thanks for cooking it!

  • Cassandra

    1 year ago

    Be mindful of overcooking the chicken too. First time I made this, it was delicious but the chicken was a bit tough/rubbery. The temp definitely never got too high but too much overall time on the burner. The result should be tender poached chicken.

  • Moon Goddah

    1 year ago

    Yes Thank you will love more authentic recipes happy to have found you

  • Kasia

    1 year ago

    I’ve tried Your receipe and it was just wonderful! I served it to my colleagues from Singapore and they were really impressed :-)

  • Kathy

    1 year ago

    Love this dish! We have been to Thailand 4 times and I finally tried the last time I was there. So glad Mark shared this recipe. I have made it twice since April with all fresh ingredients, both times it came out spectacular! Thanks for sharing the recipe!!

  • L Pat

    1 year ago

    OMG! This is so tasty and authentic – have made it a few times.

    • L Pat

      1 year ago

      oh and…I add a little bit of brown sugar :)

  • Joy Oh

    1 year ago

    yes indeed treat your coconut milk gently. sometimes when we have lots of people and we’re limited on chicken, we add green papaya or sayote. garnish with basil :)

  • Vanessa

    1 year ago

    Thank you for your recipe. I made the vegetarian version, Tom kha het (creamy mushroom soup) and it was delicious. I did use a pinch of sugar and fish sauce instead of salt as every Thai recipe I was ever taught included ‘fishsauce, sugar,MSG little bit’ :)

    • Mark Wiens

      1 year ago

      Hi Vanessa, thank you very much for sharing, glad it turned out so well!

  • Nyna

    1 year ago

    I add some tamarind and a can of unpeeled straw mushrooms. I love the “pop” of flavor when I bite into the mushroom. They also add an additional texture for my mouth. I haven’t tried tomatoes in my recipe yet, but I have had restaurant soup with them in it.

  • Jo

    2 years ago

    Delish! Thank you! I too added fish sauce as the man at the Asian market told me it would be appropriate. I made such a huge vat, I will have eight meals for the price of one from a restaurant – plus I can customise it. I have had so many variations of this meal, I know how I like it. Yum :)

    • Mark Wiens

      2 years ago

      Hey Jo, great to hear that, keep enjoying it!

      • Ismo

        2 years ago

        I use allways also fish souce. I have to try next time only salt as you said because coconut taste.
        One time i made this soup to my neighbour and i said that was chicken soup. He just wondered that she thinked it was fish soup ;-)

  • Chris

    2 years ago

    Hi! This recipe is perfect! Thanks!

  • bernhard

    2 years ago

    great taste and very fine …. thanks

  • kris

    2 years ago

    I make this recipe a couple times a month but I don’t use salt, I use fish sauce. And a lot of it. Is that wrong?

    • Mark Wiens

      2 years ago

      Hi Kris, good to hear from you. That’s totally fine to use fish sauce in the recipe, but some people in Thailand don’t because fish sauce adds saltiness but also alters the taste of the fresh coconut milk, while tom kha gai is supposed to be very pure with coconut milk and just a faint fragrance of lemongrass and galangal. So it depends on your personal preference. Most of the time in Thailand I’ve seen salt, but occasionally I’ve tasted fish sauce as well.

  • E Phil

    2 years ago

    Your recipes are delicious.
    I lived in Mexico, we do not have many Thai restaurants.
    However thanks to you I can cook thai food which all of us love and enjoy.
    Galangal is not available in Mexico but I used ginger instead.

    • Mark Wiens

      2 years ago

      Hey, E Phil, great to hear from you, I’m happy to hear you’re cooking Thai food in Mexica. Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Dick Dawson

    2 years ago

    Nice job! I use straw mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and fish sauce instead of sea salt. Real easy to make and simply delicious.

    • Mark Wiens

      2 years ago

      Thank you for sharing Dick. I love it with straw mushrooms too.

  • Joelle

    2 years ago

    I live in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. Seriously. I will have to make some substitutions. I have ground galangal and lemongrass. Any guesses on amounts? Kafir limes are a no-go, too, but I’ll look into getting a tree. I have a meyer lemon tree. Should I try those or just use lime zest? And yes, I know it won’t taste as great as the place we get it when we’re out in the real world, but even something close would be great! It’s one of our favourites.

    • Mark Wiens

      2 years ago

      Hey Joelle, I love your enthusiasm and glad you’re giving it a try! I would just start with a couple tablespoons of each and taste test many times. For the lime, I think lime peel might be good as other citrus leaves don’t have as much flavor. I think it will taste great, let me know how it goes!

    • Anders

      2 years ago

      If you cannot get fresh galanga, i suggest to use fresh ginger instead of ground galanga. Taste will be different, but beetter in my opinion. Good luck :-)

  • M

    3 years ago

    Having difficulty finding kafir leaves. What can be used as a substitute?

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Hi M, it’s a tough things to substitute, but you might try some orange leaves, or green orange peel. Can you find the whole kaffir limes?

  • Edwina

    3 years ago

    Thanks so much for this recipe! I made exactly as you said, but I added a few drops of fish sauce (the lady at the Thai market suggested that I do so). The curry was great and the entire family loved it!! Now I can never eat this soup at a restaurant because I see that they tend to serve us a watered down version of this soup/curry, here in the US.

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Hi Edwina, great to hear you made this tom kha gai recipe and enjoyed it, thanks for sharing!

  • Lisa

    3 years ago

    Ps, we ordered a small kafir lime tree. Great way to always have leaves.

  • Lisa

    3 years ago

    I have been using fish sauce instead of salt. We all like it that way – but is that inauthentic?

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Hi Lisa, normally my mother in law uses salt for tom kha gai, so that the flavor of the coconut milk remains more pure – but that being said, I think it’s fine that you’re using fish sauce. And very cool to hear that you ordered a kaffir lime tree!

    • Ruby Bastion

      1 year ago

      Hi Mark, , I’ve been looking for an authentic recipe for this for so long. I lived in Singapore for 2 years and it was one of my favourites. I live in New Zealand, South Island so colder than the North. Galangal is difficult to obtain and when it’s available it’s seasonal, I much prefer it to ginger as it has a different taste.
      ..i’m going to try to find some to grab and plant.
      I love this soup, but also have another favourite I cannot find a recipe for…Deep fried cuttlefish balls. They had a lovely texture crust on them and were dipped in something that tasted like maple syrup.

      • Mark Wiens

        1 year ago

        Hi Ruby, good to hear from you, hope this recipe works well for you and that you can find some galangal soon. Hmm, were the deep fried cuttlefish balls Thai?

  • Kitti

    3 years ago

    Tom Kha Gai, one of my favorite !!!