This vegan Thai coconut soup is a light and tasty, totally vegetarian version of Tom Kha Gai – one of Thailand’s most famous soup exports. This soup perfectly balances the sour, sweet, salty and spicy flavours that Thai food is famous for. The best of all? This soup is super simple and ready is just 15 minutes!
Now that the chilly weather is creeping in, it’s time to start thinking about getting creative with soups. This vegan Thai coconut soup is definitely different that your run-of-the-mill tomato or minestrone soups – different in a good way, that is!
This soup is flavoured with the delicious fragrances of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and galangal (related to ginger) in a coconut base. Tom Kha Gai is lighter and thinner than other coconut-based Thai dishes like vegan red curry and vegetable green curry as the coconut milk is mixed with stock in a 50-50 ratio, making it much easier to take as a soup.
Normally Tom Kha Gai is a chicken soup (I think gai means chicken, but I don’t speak Thai so I can’t tell you for sure!) with chunks of chicken and chicken stock. They’re easy enough to replace with vegetable stock and tofu, and lots of vegetarian versions dub this soup Tom Kha Tofu.
The other small issue is the ubiquitous fish sauce. But that can also easily be substituted for a vegetarian fish sauce (if you eat Thai food a lot, it’s worth it to keep a batch on hand) or soy sauce.
If you live in a big city, lemongrass and lime leaves should be fairly easy to find. A lot of regular supermarkets carry them now and, if not, an Asian supermarket is sure to have them. The galangal may be slightly more difficult to track down.
A lot of vegan Tom Kha Gai recipes suggest you can substitute ginger, but I personally think the flavour is too different for this recipe. I’d suggest doing your very best to find galangal and if not, just leave it out rather than substitute for ginger.
According to Eating Thai Food’s Tom Kha Gai recipe, the soup is not meant to be overly spicy so don’t go crazy with the chili peppers. Also, despite the coconut milk, the flavour profile should be predominantly sour, followed by salty then sweet. Be sure to taste your soup at the end of cooking and make any adjustments necessary.
In Thailand, Tom Kha Gai usually eaten alongside rice, with the soup being spooned over the rice to make something more similar to a curry than a soup. It does make more of a complete meal with rice, but this vegan Thai coconut soup is so delicious that you can certainly go at it with just a spoon alone!
If you liked this recipe and Thai soups in general, be sure to check out my vegan tom yum soup recipe!
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This vegan Thai coconut soup is a light and tasty, totally vegetarian version of Tom Kha Gai – one of Thailand’s most famous soup exports.
5 minPrep Time
10 minCook Time
15 minTotal Time
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- 3 cups coconut milk
- 2 stalks of lemongrass, sliced into 3 cm (1 inch) pieces
- A piece of galangal about 7 cm (3 inches) long, unpeeled and sliced thinly
- 6 kaffir lime leaves, make tears in them and scrunch them in your hand to release the flavour
- A medium-sized onion, cut into 1 cm (1/4 inch) slices
- 200 grams (7 oz) of oyster mushrooms, larger ones chopped
- 3 – 5 spicy chili peppers (like bird’s-eye), adjust to taste
- 200 grams (7 oz) of tofu, drained, pressed and cut into bite-sized pieces
- The juice of 2 – 3 limes
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- A handful of chopped cilantro
- Jasmine rice, to serve
- Begin by reducing the vegetable stock. Pour it into a wide saucepan and simmer until you’re left with 1.5 cups. Transfer to a medium-sized pot.
- Smash the lemongrass pieces with the side of your knife or in a mortar and pestle, then add it, the galangal, lime leaves and coconut milk to the pot with the vegetable stock. Heat to a gentle simmer. Add the onion and mushrooms. Simmer for about 5 – 10 minutes, or until the onion is soft.
- Smash the chili peppers with your knife or mortar and pestle and add them along with the tofu to the pot. Simmer for 2 – 3 minutes more or until the tofu is warmed through.
- Remove the pot from the heat and add the lime juice, soy sauce, sugar and cilantro. Taste and adjust the balance of sour, salty and sweet. The flavour profile should be predominantly sour, followed by salty then sweet.
- Serve with jasmine rice. Note: you can’t eat the galangal, lime leaves or lemongrass pieces; leave them in your bowl!