Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Soup) Gluten-free + Dairy-free, w/Vegan options

by Beth @ Tasty Yummies

Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Soup) Gluten-free + Dairy-free, w/Vegan options

I am really obsessed with Thai food. I actually crave the flavors of Thai food quite often. Honestly, if we could go out for Thai food once a week, I would be totally content. However, we really try to not eat out very often, and I also really prefer to know what exactly is in my food. So, what better way to get what you want, then to just make it yourself. I started looking around at different authentic Thai recipes online and quickly learned to be able to really get the authentic flavors, I would need the proper ingredients. I planned to make Pad Thai and this Tom Kha Gai Soup over the weekend so I had to get all of my ingredients in order to do so. Seeing as a couple of the ingredients I was looking for didn’t exist in my regular circle of grocery shopping, this meant it was time for an adventure. I found there were two different Asian markets on Niagara Street in Downtown Buffalo, conveniently on my way home from yoga, so Saturday morning after my yoga practice, I took my little list and headed over to Niagara Street, feeling very intimidated.

Fresh herbs at the Asian market

Coconut Jelly Candies at the Asian market

First up, I stopped at A’Chau Oriental Food Market at 833 Niagara St., this is where I was able to grab most of what I needed to make my Pad Thai and Tom Kha Gai Soup, however they were out of fresh kaffir lime leaves. So, after really walking the aisles and grabbing some things not on my list, I headed over to Niagara Asian Market at 937 Niagara Street, where they had fresh kaffir lime leaves and a HUGE basement full of ingredients. In addition to the things I was looking for, I grabbed a few more that caught my eye. I actually picked up a HUGE 4-lb bag of gram flour aka chickpea flour, for just $4.99. I see lots of soccas in my near future! Both markets had so many ingredients I was already familiar with and so many that I had never heard of. They both had unlimited selections of rice noodles, rice flour, tapioca starches, palm sugar etc, available at very inexpensive prices. I could go nuts in those places for sure.

Pandanus Flavored Crispy Rolls from the Asian market

I also grabbed a bag of these Pandanus flavored Crispy Rolls from India, because they caught my eye only having 6 ingredients, coconut milk, tapioca starch, sesame, sugar, salt and pandanus extract. Naturally gluten-free and vegan, what isn’t to like?  To be honest, I didn’t (and still don’t) really have a clue what pandanus is, but I didn’t care, I went for it. Some of the best foods and flavors I have discovered that I love are by completely chancing it and trying something totally new. These crispy rolls are super light and crispy, delicious and very satisfying, I love the crunch and the subtle sweetness. Looks like I will be stopping by these Asian markets a lot more than I had planned.

Once I got the few ingredients I couldn’t easily find – specifically the kaffir lime leaves and the galangal root, making this soup was an breeze. I ended up making it for lunch on Sunday! Tom Kah Gai soup has always been one of my favorites. Even when I know I am going to order some type of noodle dish at a Thai restaurant, which  is more than enough food, I always feel obligated to order this soup, just because I don’t know when I will have the opportunity again. Now that I know how easy it is to make, I will just make it at home. The flavors in this soup are intense and so wonderful. The bright fresh flavor from the lemongrass is definitely the star of the show, but you get an equal burst of flavor from the keffir lime leaves. It is amazing what a punch those little guys pack! The galangal also brings a pungent flavor very similar to ginger, spicy with a little bit of bite. A little goes a long way with galangal. If you can’t find it easily, ginger will also work great here. Traditionally this soup is made with homemade chicken stock and along with diced or shredded chicken breast. I didn’t have any homemade stock at home so I went with some high quality organic low sodium chicken broth and skipped out on the meat and tofu. I just wanted to enjoy the best part, the delicious broth! To make this soup vegan you could substitute vegetable broth for the chicken and add in tofu or skip it like I did. It won’t be exactly the same flavor profile of traditional Tom Kha Gai soup, but it will still be absolutely delicious.

I am so glad I made the time to make some Thai food at home and explore the Asian markets. Look for my Pad Thai recipe, very soon! I made that Saturday night and both hubby and I were so excited with how it came out that we didn’t take a minute to stop eating so I could take pictures. Mark has already asked me when I will be making it again, so I should have that recipe up soon! Also, if you enjoy Asian foods of any kind (Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian, etc) and you know of an Asian market in your neighborhood, I highly recommend checking it out.

What is your favorite type of Asian food? Do you have a favorite dish? Have you tried making it at home?

Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Soup) Gluten-free + Dairy-free, w/Vegan options

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alex@Spoonful of Sugar Free May 2, 2012 at 6:59 pm

LOVE tom gai kai. My aunt just taught me how to make it last month…so good!!!! I actually should have a post about it, too…sometime…still editing the pics 😀


2 Amber May 2, 2012 at 8:49 pm

Gorgeous soup Beth!!

My favorite Asian food is anything with noodles. However, I can’t have my beloved noodles, so I use veggie noodles (zucchini, carrots, celery root, etc) and I make a vegan, raw Pad Thai sauce that I just LOVE. It’s fun to experiment and find alternatives to traditional foods. 🙂

Be Well,

P.S. I made your strawberry coconut breakfast cookies. Amazing! I will be posting about them soon. They were the first thing I made after our trip to the strawberry patch last weekend. They were a real hit with the kids, Beth. Great recipe! Thank you.


3 Narf7 May 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Hi Beth, Pandan is a plant leaf with a very distinct flavour from the Pandanus amaryllifolius plant. Cheers on yet another scrumptious recipe. In Australia we cook a lot of Asian food because we are part of Asia and Thai style food has been a large part of our lives here for many years. My favourite soup is laksa (veganised) and I can’t go past a bowl of it whenever I am having Asian food. Love your blog and can’t wait to see your pad thai recipe. I have been using a vegan recipe I found on line that is pretty tasty.


4 Andie d May 3, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Yum! Thanks for the tip on the Asian markets. Just moved back to b’lo after 20 years of dc, Florida, va beach and Texas and am in Asian market withdrawal. Now if I could just find dim sum around here, I’d be thrilled!


5 Hanna May 3, 2012 at 11:22 pm

I like mostly thai or korean food (or european with a splash of coconut milk haha… like from the recipe I found somewhere and then I lost the link: fry garlic + chili + ginger, then add soup and spinach, when your spinach soup is ready then add a splash of coconut milk…. so spicy and balanced by the mild coconut……), in korean food I like bbqued meat with tons of kimchi, but sometimes I like chinese dumplings or taiwanese stinky tofu too… I miss filipino breakfasts, awesome marinated meats with garlic rice (and the seaside) or lovely eggplant dish called tortang talong. recently I wanna eat vietnamese pho, it’s such a nice thing to add lime to the broth… 🙂


6 ingrid May 4, 2012 at 4:12 am

Hi Beth, best soup in the world! I am making this exact version for years and years. Only tip I can add is that you don’t have to cut the lemongrass. If you just add it as a whole to cook and remove when the soup is ready it gives all the flavour. Also I add shii take and oyster mushrooms (dont know if that is a correct translation from dutch sorry). In my opinion the best Asian food is definately thai and indian! Thanks again from the flat lands


7 Ashlae | Oh, ladycakes May 6, 2012 at 11:19 pm

I love Thai food. If my boyfriend would let me, I’d eat it every. single. day. So happy you posted a recipe for Tom Kah Gai because it’s one of my favorite soups. It’s going to be rainy all day tomorrow, so I’m going to make this for dinner (with a side of fried rice, maybe).

I make Pad Thai at least once a week – and I’ve started eating eggs again, so I’m excited to make traditional fried rice.


8 Amber June 5, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Hi There Beth,

I featured your awesome recipe this week on Allergy-Free Wednesdays. Your recipe and other highlights can be seen here:

Please join us again this week for more allergy-free fun and inspiration.

Be Well,


9 chon December 10, 2012 at 5:56 am

That crispy roll is Thai snack called Thong Muan (Golden Roll), there are many flavors.


10 tastyyummies December 10, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Thanks for sharing Chon! They were super delicious, I was so happy they were naturally gluten-free, too 🙂


11 Alex June 29, 2013 at 10:36 pm

Hi! I’m a not experienced cooker but I really like it!
I found the recipe for this soup a few days ago an d i wanted to try it. So i got allmost all the ingredients and prepared it today. But… well, it was not what i expected. :/
It was too sweet for me. I don’t know if i made it wrong or if that’s the flavor it should have.
Would you please tell me how would you describe the flavor the soup has?


12 Lexie October 28, 2013 at 10:12 pm

So on this!!


13 tastyyummies October 30, 2013 at 9:05 am

Yes!! I hope you like it. I love this soup. So easy and comforting.


14 Kristin January 9, 2014 at 2:41 pm

A while back, I searched for vegetarian Tom Kha and that’s how I found your blog. Voilà! Magic!
Pinned (again)!


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