coconut chicken soup

$11.14 recipe / $1.39 serving

Oh, I’ve been wanting to make this soup for such a long long time! There are few things that I like more than coconut milk so I just knew this was going to be good. …and there was no “lite” in my coconut milk this time, folks. It was full fat, creamy coconut goodness!

I was really pleased with how simple this soup was to prepare. You pretty much just throw everything in a pot and heat it up. How “soup”er easy!

This recipe is basically an Americanized version of Tom Kha Gai. Tom Kha Gai doesn’t require many ingredients but there are some that can be hard to find if you don’t have an Asian market near by. So, here are the ingredient substitutions that I made:

I know the soup is probably 100 times better with the original ingredients but it still tasted fantastic with the substitutions and I know these ingredients are more realistic for most of you. If you have a chance to get the good stuff, by all means do! I did not make a substitution for the lemongrass because it is a major player in the flavor and there really is nothing like it. Check the produce section of your grocery store near the fresh herbs. Sometimes you can get it minced up in a tube, which will also work.

A word of warning about the fish sauce… if you’re not familiar or acclimated to it, go easy or don’t use it at all. And by all means, DO NOT SNIFF THE BOTTLE or else that’s all you’ll be able to taste in the final soup and you won’t be happy. Just speaking from experience. The fish sauce gives the soup a deep, savory, salty, umami flavor. Prior to adding the fish sauce, the broth tasted really light and fresh – more like coconut milk. Honestly, I liked the broth both before and after the fish sauce. Two totally different beasts but both good.

Because I live in the south and we put rice in anything remotely liquidy, I also cooked up a batch of jasmine rice and served the soup over it. The soup was good by itself but once I added the fragrant jasmine rice, it went from good to HEAVENLY. So, give that a thought.

Coconut Chicken Soup

Chicken Coconut Soup

5.0 from 2 reviews
coconut chicken soup
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Total Cost: $11.14
Cost Per Serving: $1.39
Serves: 8
  • 1 stalk lemongrass $2.49
  • 4 inches fresh ginger $1.14
  • 1 med lime $0.50
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper $0.03
  • 2 (13.5 oz) cans coconut milk $3.38
  • 1 Tbsp chicken bouillon $0.36
  • 3 cups water $0.00
  • 2 lg. chicken breasts $2.48
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce $0.07
  • 1 bunch cilantro $0.69
  1. Peel the ginger and slice into medallions. Remove any dry or black layers of the lemongrass and cut into 1 inch sections. Wash the lime well to remove any waxes or residues and remove the peel with a vegetable peeler. Try to get as little of the white pith as possible on the lime peel.
  2. Place the ginger, lemongrass, lime peel, both cans of coconut milk, chicken bouillon and water in a pot. Place over medium heat and stir to combine the ingredients and dissolve the coconut milk solids. Bring the liquid to a simmer.
  3. While the soup is coming up to a liquid, thinly slice the chicken. Once the broth reaches a simmer, add the chicken, allow it to come back up to a simmer and let it cook for about ten minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked.
  4. Once the chicken is fully cooked, turn off the burner. Add the juice from the lime and the fish sauce. Serve hot with a few sprigs of fresh cilantro. Serve over hot jasmine rice if desired.


Chicken Coconut Soup

Step By Step Photos

chicken coconut soup ingredientsThis is all that goes into the soup: coconut milk, crushed red pepper, fish sauce, chicken bouillon, lime, ginger, lemongrass and cilantro. Oh, and chicken which isn’t pictured.

lemongrassThis is the lemongrass that I used. Not the best but it is what is available in most grocery stores. You can find it in the produce section near the other packages of fresh herbs. This is basically one stalk that has been cut to fit in the box.

clean lemongrassFirst I just removed the dry ends and black, dry bits from the tips.

cut lemongrassThen I just cut it into one inch pieces. I also tried to smash it a bit under the blade of my knife to release some flavor. It smells SOOO good.

peel limeI also peeled the lime using a vegetable peeler. Try not to get very much of the white pith under the green because that will make the soup bitter.

thai aromaticsI also peeled and sliced the ginger. Place the ginger, lime peel and lemongrass in a pot.

coconut milkAdd the two cans of coconut milk to the pot. See how the creamy coconut oil separates from the liquid? YUM. If you use light coconut milk, it will most likely be a homogenous mixture.

chicken brothAlso add your 3 cups of chicken broth (or 1 Tbsp of bouillon plus 3 cups water, in my case). Turn the heat on to medium, stir it until it’s smooth and then let it come up to a simmer.

cut chickenWhile you’re waiting for the soup to come up to a simmer, slice the chicken. I kind of wish I would have cut slightly smaller pieces so that there would be more of them throughout the soup.

add and cook chickenOnce the soup comes up to a simmer, add the raw chicken. Let the soup come back up to a simmer and then cook for about 10 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked. Then, turn off the burner and add the juice from the lime and the fish sauce.

chicken coconut soupServe the soup with fresh cilantro. I also served mine with jasmine rice (not pictured) which really gave it a nice mellow, floral flavor. YUM.

eaten soupI left the lemongrass and peels in and just ate around them. When I ate this soup with rice, I ate the big chunks of ginger along with it! The rice was enough to mellow out the spicy ginger.

packed lunchesI packed up six servings of the soup with rice and cilantro for my lunches this week. I ate one today after give it a quick hit in the microwave. It was PERFECT.


  1. Colleen G says:

    This is in my Top 5. Delicious and sophisticated. I freeze it with the rice in portion sized bowls for lunch at work. Such a treat. When I buy the lemongrass and ginger, there is enough for two batches, so I get it all ready and freeze half until I make it again!

  2. Brianna says:

    I haven’t tried this soup yet, and I’m wondering how it would turn out if made in a slow cooker. Do you think it would lose any quality?

  3. Sarah says:

    Tom Kha is my faaaaavorite soup. I’m sure in a blind taste test I wouldn’t be able to really tell the difference between this recipe and what you find at most American restaurants. First time using one of your recipes after perusing for hours and am now excited to try the rest! (Also should mention for the hesitant that I’m practically a novice when it comes to cooking.) Thanks! :D

  4. Alex says:

    I’ve been reading this blog for hours and I’m kinda drunk and all these recipes look amazing but personal anecdote here my dad gave me his beautiful brand-new sports car to drive to university and i spilled an entire bottle of fish sauce…nobody wants rides from me bc the smell of my car is so rank…it’s like somebody microwaved old cat litter…

    • Hahahaha, one of my friends also spilled fish sauce in her car and I have to admit that’s much worse than spilling it down between the stove and cabinets like I did! :)

  5. Kimberly says:

    Absolutely one of my favorite recipes to make. I’ve made it for my family at least a dozen times since I first saw it and its a household favorite!

  6. Anon – I’m pretty sure I froze those small containers (they contained both a scoop of rice and the soup). It’s been a long time since I made this, but I think it should freeze fine.

  7. Anonymous says:

    can this be frozen?

  8. So, as I was busy making the cream cheese wontons to go with this… I set my husband to making this. He did all kinds of things wrong before I could catch him: grated the ginger instead of cutting into pieces, zested the lime rather than shaving the nice peels you have in your photo – nothing major, but I was a little worried. Especially about the lime zesting due to previous comments from another poster above. He ruined nothing. :) It all came out fine. And, you’re right, the rice does add a nice touch. Makes it a little more hearty. The flavor was just like the coconut & lime goodness I have had at our local Thai restaurant. We were watching our 6 year old cousin tonight and she even enjoyed it! As for the lemongrass, I believe he used about a half tablespoon – we both decided we could add more if it needed it, but couldn’t take it out. Was perfect. Thanks again for another great recipe. You’re amazing.

  9. Carol – I’m not exactly sure, since this was the only time I’ve ever cooked with lemon grass… Since it’s minced I would say start with 1/2 tablespoon? Well, at least that’s where I’d start if I were to experiment with it :) I hope it works out for you!

  10. I have some of the lemongrass in a tube. (Much more economical in my case.) How much do you think I should add in substitution of real lemongrass? I love this soup and have been wanting to make it at home for years now and never found a recipe I was brave enough to try, till now! Can’t wait!

  11. Mina – In theory I think it would freeze fine, although I have to admit I’ve never tried to freeze anything with coconut milk in it! I’d put my money on it being okay, though.

  12. How well would this freeze, or do you recommend refrigerating it only??

  13. Photon – Oops, yes, add the red pepper flakes in the beginning with the ginger, lemon grass, and lime peel.

  14. Where in the recipe does it say to add the pepper?

  15. I made this tonight and added some carrot chunks and strips of red pepper. I also substituted some basil leaves for the cilantro. I was trying to approximate my favorite thai green curry. What an amazing soup to soothe a sore throat! I ended up leaving out the lime zest and lemon grass (but did add the juice), as my first batch tasted extremely bitter even though I used my zester for the lime instead of strips and washed thoroughly ahead of time. I think it was because the lime wasn’t organic and may have absorbed some pesticides. Luckily I had just added broth so I was able to try again. I always try to use organic for zesting and now I know why! Thanks, as always, for the great recipe!

  16. PS: I used all organic ingredients in mine, except the rice noodles and lemongrass seasoning. i use organic salt free chicken broth in all my soups, so i always have plenty on hand.

  17. i just made this soup. i did not have lemongrass in my local stores, but did find lemongrass seasoning in the international isle. i also added a pack of rice noodles right before the fish sauce and lime juice. this soup was AMAZING!! has always been my favorite when dining out. this recipe was very simple. AND, my kids, ages 6-7-13, all love the soup as well. awesome and thank you!

  18. Anonymous says:

    Lovee it :) although i couldn’t taste my chillies that much, i think it’s because i am a chill freak & could put large amounts in anything ! This is my favv cococut chicken so far :)

  19. Yeah, I bet it would be delicious if you used a vegetable bouillon and had chunks of tofu instead of the chicken breast! If you try it, let me know how it tastes!

  20. Anonymous says:

    Looks so yummy but would it be possible to make without the chicken bouillon? I’m a vegetarian….

  21. This soup doesn’t looks good… because it’s great and delicious and amazing! I’ll be definitely making this recipe when I got home. It might warm up some cold couples relationship and calm down heated arguments. :)

  22. Anonymous says:

    I would suggest adding a bit of sugar to balance the flavors, and a bit of MSG. :)

  23. I made this last week. It was gooood :D
    I didnt have lemon grass, so i just squeezed 1 lemon into the soup. I also added asparagus with the chicken and let it simmer for 10min.i then paired it with rice. it brings back childhood memories when I used to live in philippines.
    thanks for sharing ^_^

  24. So I know I’m like a month behind on the actual posting of this, but as a sick, broke, college student I was in need of soup that wouldn’t keep me cooking all day or shelling out a ton of money. This was absolutely perfect. Thank you!

  25. I wouldn’t use a slow cooker for this recipe. The soup cooks up really fast as it is and cooking it long and slow would definitely change its light, fresh flavor.

  26. Anonymous says:

    is it possible to use a slow cooker for this recipe? how long would you cook it for?

  27. Very authentic Thai soup! Good call on saying no to the “lite” coconut milk, that stuff is a travesty. It tastes like flour and water with a hint of coconut…
    Besides, look at how thin Thai folks are, maybe they’re on to something with all that coconut milk.

  28. Anonymous says:

    You can add a chopped fresh tomatoe and some mushrooms. Very good recipe! Mine is about the same. I prefer homemade chicken broth. There is no salt in it, plus the flavor is awesome!
    Good idea to add some rice. It is a full meal with it.

    Thank you for your amazing recipes,

  29. Anon- Yep, I buy my chicken breasts in bulk and save AT LEAST $1 per pound. I buy a 10 lb. pack and then just divide it up when I get home into packs of two breasts.

  30. Ahhhh thank you for posting this recipe! A few months ago I had the craving for Tom Kha (I used to get it all the time at a Thai place but don’t know of any near me now) so I attempted to make it on my own, but I basically had to piece together a bunch of different recipes I found online in order to come up with one similar to what I used to get – and I had to make a bunch of substitutions that I wasn’t 100% sure about. It turned out AWESOME though and I would love to make it again. Your recipe is a lovely summary all in one place, and it makes me feel better about my substitution choices :) In my recipe, however, I also include large chunks of tomato and mushrooms – yum!

  31. Steve in W MA says:

    Edit, don’t chop the chili peppers small, no matter what! even the unseeded flesh of the thai chili pepper is very strong and what you are really going after is infusing the chili flavor throughout the coconut milk and broth, not “hits” of heat. So, leave the peppers in pieces, perhaps even just halved or quartered.

  32. Steve in W MA says:

    This is good!
    Sub a good, unsalted, homemade chicken stock for the water if you have it! I wouldn’t use canned stock because it’s very high in salt and the recipe already has plenty of salt from the fish sauce. If you are going to use the thai bird chili peppers, two peppers, one seeded and one unseeded, both chopped small, yield a good level of mild heat. If you are very sensitive to chili heat, seed them both, then chop roughly instead of small and avoid the chili pieces when you eat the soup. You can always add more chili pieces later but once they are in, they are in!

  33. I agree that making soup with coconut milk seems almost too simple for the beautiful, creamy end result! Lovely recipe/photo. Thanks for sharing!

  34. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your blog! I like the idea about adding rice. That can help stretch the meal. Where do you get 2 chicken breasts for $2.48? Do you buy in bulk?

  35. Oh my… this looks so darn yummy… perfect for pairing with the spring rolls… I’m bookmarking this!!!!

  36. Anonymous says:

    looks tasty :)

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