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!
Vegan Thai Coconut Soup
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.
- 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 (¼ 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!
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 643Total Fat: 40gSaturated Fat: 33gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1236mgCarbohydrates: 66gFiber: 4gSugar: 21gProtein: 15g
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Angie - WhippedGreenGirl says
This is truly one of my fav soups in the world!!! I'm so stoked to pin this one & give it a go! Amazing share! 🙂 Thanks !!!
Just made this for dinner; it was delicious! I was missing a few ingredients so I had to leave out the kaffir lime leaves, galangal, and brown sugar, but it was still really yummy without those items. (I added the zest of two limes to replace the lime leaves and I added a couple pieces of ginger.)
I'll definitely make this one again!
Eating this right now and it's SO good! Was out of tofu so threw in some steamed carrots and cabbage to sort of fill out the soup. Also spaced on the peppers. Still totally delicious. Thank you for my lunch!
Do you use the canned coconut milk, or from the carton?
This was incredible and I am hard to please when it come to this soup! We did sub some salt for tamari as we ran out and I might take a bit of the sugar out next time...just a bit. We also added a broccolini and small sweet red peppers. Just so, so tasty. Thanks so much!
This was SO GOOD! Tasted exactly like the Tom Kha from our favorite Thai restaurant. Thank you!
Gai does mean chicken! Nice guess. 🙂
The flavor of this is outstanding, but having to pick all the inedible pieces out really made eating it hard to enjoy. :c If anyone's reading this: simmer the galangal, leaves, and lemongrass in the broth and then strain it! You'll save yourself a lot of bother.
Any information on canning this recipe would be awesome!
Probably my fav soup!
Glad you like it!
I’m eating this now and it is so delicious! I had made a few chicken versions before I went vegan and this blows them out of the water! I’m excited to try your other recipes now. Thank you!
I forgot to add that I did reduce the sugar a bit, maybe to about 1.5 teaspoons. I also added my cilantro right before serving + sliced green onions.
I followed this recipe closely and I’d recommend only 1 lime, only one or two tablespoons of soy sauce, and less sugar. Otherwise it’s nice 🙂
Can you make this and freeze?
I don't see why not.
Leslie Uyeno says
Finally made this last night... WOW WOW WOW!!! This is a game changer!
This was so tasty I couldn't find galangal and Kaffir lime leaves and subbed ginger, lime zest, and lemon leaves. It didn't taste exactly how it was supposed to because of it, but I still liked it!
This was amazing and just what I was looking for! My 4 year old LOVES coconut soup and tofu. I was able to find all of these ingredients at an international grocery store in Atlanta.
I change one part: I double the recipe but don’t double the mushrooms, onions, or tofu because I thought it was too busy. Oh, and no peppers since my son’s eating it. It’s perfect! Thank you!
Very tasty recipe! We replaced the tofu with broccoli , used ginger as a replacement for the galangal and left out the kaffir leaves but still tasted amazing.
I used lemon grass for the first time and the Hint that i cant eat it came way to late for me, i chopped it finely since I thought its onion like and it kinda ruined it, I had to fish it out of my soup which didnt worked very well...next time I should read till the end.
paula cooper says
YUM!! I’ve made this recipe at least 4-5 times now. It’s my go-to when the family asks for “coconut milk soup”. The description of how to play around with flavor balance (sour, then salty, followed by sweet) really helped me make this one of my favorite soup recipes ever. A few changes/additions: used crimini mushrooms & 3 fresh Serrano peppers (perfect amount of heat for me) and added zucchini. I agree that doubling the recipe (broth and flavors, but not the veggies or tofu, etc.) would be a great idea, and you’d have more delicious broth. If you have younger kids, this might be difficult if they aren’t ready to pull out the leaves, lemongrass, galangal and peppers. I serve this with rice, and sometimes chicken satay (for my meat-eaters) or spring rolls (pre-made).