This Thai Coconut Soup is so good, y’all. Your Thai food loving onmi friends won’t believe that it’s vegan, and you won’t believe that you could make something this identical to a Thai restaurant could be made in your own home.

I know I know I know… Thai food again?! Yes. Or at least my best and closest approximation of Thai food. But this one’s different. I promise! Kinda.

It’s a soup!

Tom Ka Kai soup has been a semi-permanent item in my Thai food orders since I first tried thai food back in the 90s. From that very first bite, that journey from confusion on my palate, to craving the spicy-savory-sour flavors, I have been obsessed. The broth, so rich and creamy and sweet and spicy and bright, and full of perfectly cooked vegetables and aromatics… What’s not to be obsessed with?!

And you know when I get obsessed with a dish, I have to figure out how to make it. Because of the complexity of flavors, I assumed that the recipe must be super complicated, and full of ingredients that I wouldn’t be able to easily acquire.

My first attempts were made using packaged seasoning mixes or concentrates. I found one sauce packet at World Market with a long list of ingredients, but the flavor was nowhere near what I was looking for. I found a tub of Tom Ka paste at an Asian supermarket, and that too had a long list of ingredients, but the resulting soup was not what I was looking for.

Maybe this soup was something that could only be made in a Thai restaurant? Did I just needed to accept reality?

One fateful day, however,  I stumbled upon (through a specific Google search) a recipe for “coconut soup” on Food Network’s website. Surprisingly, it was written by a cook who you would never expect to have a Thai coconut soup recipe. I was skeptical, but I was desperate, and at the time I had most of the ingredients on hand. I gave it a go.

The recipe was too simple, and it was ready to eat in about 20 minutes. There was no way that this recipe would taste anything like the soup I loved. Right?

I was shook at first bite! I gave the broth a try, and it tasted almost exactly like what I had been searching for. As simple as it was to make, and as common as most of the ingredients were, it possessed all of the characteristic complexity that I had been craving.

Had I really done it!? I had!

That was of course in my pre-vegan days. I made that soup to the point of almost getting sick of it, But since going vegan, I sort of let it slip away. And besides, we have some amazing vegan Thai food here in Vegas, so it’s not as if I had been going without.

I was recently reminded of this recipe though a strong craving for soup, and a desire to not leave the house. As I made it, veganized of course, I started thinking, maybe this recipe is bigger than me. Maybe I’m doing a disservice to those who did not have access to delicious vegan Thai food where they live by not sharing this recipe.  Well, I’m here to save the day.

This soup is so good, y’all. Your Thai food loving onmi friends won’t believe that it’s vegan, and you won’t believe that you could make something this identical to a Thai restaurant could be made in your own home.

Give it a go, and leave me a comment letting me know what you thought!

Vegan Thai Coconut Soup
Servings: 4 people
Author: Michael Monson
  • 4 cups of water or vegetable broth
  • 4 teaspoons No Chicken flavored Better Than Bouillon (If not using broth)
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, cut lengthwise and then into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced (plus 1 lime for serving)
  • 1 thumb-sized chunk of galangal or ginger, sliced into ¼ inch discs
  • 2 dried Thai red chilis (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons vegan fish sauce (store bough or recipe below)
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar, or equivalent sweetener of your choice.
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 5 ounces of shiitake mushroom, or mushrooms of your choice, thinly sliced
  • 4 small thai green chilis, or 1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 block of firm tofu. Cut into 1 inch cubes.
  • 1 13.5 ounce can coconut milk
  • 1 pound of frozen “Asian” style vegetables
  • Salt and and pepper to taste
  • Sambal
  • Cilantro
  1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large pot that will hold at least 8 cups of liquid. Add your bouillon, lemongrass, galangal, dried chilis, and lime zest. Remove from the heat and allow to steep at least 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Remove the aromatics from the broth, and turn the heat back to medium-high. Add the vegan fish sauce, agave, mushrooms, green chilis, tofu, and coconut milk. Bring to a simmer.

  3. Add the frozen vegetables, and then allow the soup to return to a simmer once again. Your soup is ready when the frozen vegetable are heated through.
  4. Before serving, add the juice of one lime. Serve with fresh cilantro, sambal, and lime wedges.


Vegan Fish Sauce: (Inspired by Feasting at Home’s recipe)
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
1 hr 20 mins
1 hr
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: Japanese
Author: Michael Monson
  • 4 cups filtered water
  • 1/4 cup Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, low sodium soy sauce, or tamari
  • 1/4 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 sheet toasted nori (for sushi)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  1. Add all ingredients to a pot on high heat, and bring to a boil. Turn off the stove, cover, and allow to steep for an hour. Remove nori. Return the pot to a boil, and then allow the liquid to reduce to two cups. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature before straining and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Recipe Notes

If you over-reduce, just add a bit more water until it reaches 2 cups.