Vegan Tom Kha Gai (Soup)

Thai Ingredients: lemongrass (frozen), Thai chilies, galangal and coconut milk.

I realize that literally translated “tom kha gai” means something along the lines of “chicken galangal soup” but Galangal Soup just doesn’t sound right. Though, another site says Tom Kha means “boiled galangal”, so I really don’t know anymore.

It’s really not that important.

I visited a local Thai restaurant a couple weeks back called Sawadee Bistro and ordered their Tom Kha Gai soup without chicken and added tofu. Is there a likelihood of chicken broth being used, probably. I didn’t quite think of that until after the fact. That’s the way life goes.

Tom Kha Gai soup has been one of my most favorite Thai dishes since I can remember and I like mine extra spicy. I decided it’s about time to try to make this recipe at home.

I was down at the Farmers’ Market on Saturday to pick up some fresh tomatoes, herbs and kale when I walked past the vendor who sells the super awesome wide variety of chilies. (Remember, the ghost chili from last year?)

So, I decided I’d stop by and pick up a Naga chili for us to play with and spotted the Thai (Bird’s Eye) chilies. Thus the inspiration for this dish was born. I zipped over a few blocks to the Asian Market on Idylwyld and picked up galangal and lemongrass. They didn’t have fresh lemongrass but frozen stalks so I bought that. The bonus to the frozen stuff is less waste as only the parts you’d want to use are in the frozen package.

Side note: I was hoping to find a steal of a deal on coconut milk here but sadly no. I talked to the owner about possibly getting a deal if I bought in bulk. She said normally they’ve done something like this in the past but right now there’s a lot of instability in the coconut market. I didn’t realize this but with a blight on the coconut palms leading to poor production in Thailand and civil unrest in the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire has led to a shortage of coconut milk throughout the world. We truly are a smaller planet than we realize sometimes.

Back to the recipe at hand. What I’ve come up with is a combination of what I know I’ve seen in this soup at restaurants and a few recipes I mish-mashed together.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Vegan Tom Kha Gai (Soup)
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 3 cups vegetable stock (or vegetarian 'chicken' stock)
  • 4 stalks lemongrass, bruised then cut into 2" pieces
  • 3-4 kaffir lime leaves, torn
  • 3" piece of galangal, sliced thinly
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 3-4 Thai bird's eye chilies, sliced into larger pieces (makes it easier to avoid eating a big piece if you need to)
  • 1 package firm tofu, drained and pressed, cut into 1" cubes
  • 1 cup mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons Bragg's Soy Seasoning
  • 4 tablespoons minced cilantro
  1. In a stock pot bring the vegetable stock to a boil. Add galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, onion and sugar to a boil. Simmer 5 minutes.
  2. Add coconut milk, chilies, and soy sauce. Simmer 5 more minutes.
  3. Add tofu and mushrooms and heat through.
  4. Remove the pot from heat and add lime juice and cilantro.
  5. Serve with steamed rice or coconut Jasmine rice.

Is this a typical meal a regular home cook might make? I guess probably not. I don’t find these flavours or ingredients all that exotic or a pain to go out and gather because we are fortunate to have a few Asian markets in our city.


  1. Kelley says

    Such a tasty dish! Quite spot on with tastes. I added rice vermicelli noodles at the end and it made a perfect meal.

  2. laura says

    Used organic vegetarian mushroom gravy diluted, 2 cups gravy 1 cup water as is what I had. Used jarred galangal and lemongrass. Despite lack of fresh ingredients, it still tasted great.

  3. Kimberly says

    This has great flavor! My husband and I both really enjoyed it. The only complaint I have is that the lemongrass has to be picked out. I have seen other recipes that said to put it in a food processor or cut it in large pieces to make removal easier. Will try the food processor next time…

  4. sm says

    Gai mean chicken. Tom Kha Gai means chicken galangal coconut soup and Tom Kha Goong means shrimp galangal coconut soup. I think this soup is Tom Kha Phak.

  5. Mia says

    I’m Thai and Gai means chicken and Kha means Galangal. The word “Tom” means to boil, but usually it’s used as a prefix for soup as well such as Tomyum and Tomsaep (both soup). It is true that the kha automatically implies Galangal and coconut combination to Thai people, but there is no word that means “coconut” in the title :). coconut in thai is called “Maprao”.

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