Tom Kha Gai Soup Recipe

on Saturday, May 19, 2012

One of the most delicious food experiences in this life is Tom Kha Gai, a thai soup made of chicken (Gaicooked (Tom) in coconut milk which has been infused with galangal (Kha), lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves. Galangal and kaffir lime leaves are hard to come by, so I use thai paste (which has all those ingredients) I found in the "asian" aisle of my grocery store. Also, I cooked my chicken alone on the stove prior to adding it to the soup because using a crock-pot to cook this soup can sometimes warrant rubbery chicken, which I like to avoid. This recipe can be pretty daunting the first time you make it, but once you stock all the ingredients its very easy. 

Traditional Tom Kha Gai is very complex in flavor and tastes so good because the flavors are perfectly balanced. I haven't tried to get it perfect, but each time I make it I get a slightly different and delicious flavor. This post is a great in depth look at the traditional way to make the soup, and is a good read if you want to understand why you would ever add fish sauce and lemongrass to coconut milk.

Crock Pot Tom Kha Gai 

1 chicken stock   2 coconut milk   3 lime juice   4 ground ginger   5 lemongrass   6 mushrooms  
7 red and green thai curry paste   8 fish sauce   9 cilantro   10 chicken


  • 2-3 cups chicken stock
  • 3 Kaffir lime leaves (or about 2 teaspoons each of the green and red thai curry paste I used)
  • 1-2 stalks of lemongrass, cut into inch pieces and bruise to release flavor 
  • 2-3 pieces of fresh galangal (I used about 3 teaspoons of my ground fresh ginger)
  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce (NOT OPTIONAL)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (I used juice from a lime-shaped container)
  • 1-2 thai chili peppers (this is also in the red curry paste I use, so I don't add anything extra for that. You could use cayenne pepper, but I don't like how hot that makes this soup, and it's not a great flavor)
  • 1 cup (or more) sliced mushrooms
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 2 pounds chicken breasts, sliced into bite-size strips or pieces 
  • 2-3 tablespoons cilantro (as garnish before eating)


1. Put the first section of ingredients in crock pot on high and bring to a simmer.

red and green thai curry paste
mmm, fish sauce!

2. Let simmer alone at least fifteen minutes to enhance flavors.
3. Add mushrooms and coconut milk and bring back up to a simmer.

coconut milk

4. While simmering, cook chicken pieces on stove with a little curry paste (this step is optional, but in a crock pot the chicken can become rubbery; in a pan the sugars caramelize instead of boil away).

chicken cooked with red thai curry paste

5. Put crock pot on low for 4+ hours or on high for 1-2 hours (if you didn't cook the chicken in a pan make sure to check if it's cooked through before eating). 

cooking on high

6. Garnish with cilantro before eating and enjoy! 
This recipe makes about 4-6 servings.

I get the ingredients for this soup every time I shop for groceries. In fact, I ate this while writing this post! Have you tried this recipe before? If so, what do you do differently? If not, will you  try it now?

NEXT POST: Pictures from a hike in which we brought a gnome and saw pretty things.


  1. Being the impatient, do everything fast, kind of person, I've always made it in a big pot on the stove, not in a crock pot. But I will try it soon.What happens if I leave it in the crock pot for about 8 hours? Will the chicken be rubbery? That's about how long it would be in there if I put it in before I go to work.

    Whenever I eat this, it takes me back to our trip to Washington when we first ate it. Fun times. :)

  2. Do it on your lunch. The chicken won't be gross or anything, just not that flavorful. I think that first soup was the yummiest I've had so far.


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