Inspired by Tom Kha Gai, a classic Thai coconut soup, this vegan version can be made with tofu or other plant protein of your choice. It’s a light, lilting vegetable-rich soup that can be enjoyed year round.
I first had this classic Thai coconut soup at a restaurant in the town where I live. I was under the weather and wow, it really did the trick — instant comfort and remedy! This soup features a variety of vegetables in a lime and ginger flavored broth.
When it’s on a menu, it’s not always vegan, so do check before ordering, if you want to sample it when dining out. Or better yet, make it at home, where you can create a generous portion that can be enjoyed for more than one meal.
Choose your plant protein: My protein of choice in this version is plain, unadorned tofu, but you can use baked tofu or even a plant-based chick’n product. In no time, you’ve got a soup that’s both invigorating and comforting.
Lemongrass is nice, but optional: A nice addition to this soup, making it more authentic, would be lemongrass. But admittedly, it’s not easy to come by in Western markets. If you can get hold of some, so much the better (see the note in the recipe box), but this soup is just fine without it.
What to serve with Vegan Thai Coconut Soup
Despite a somewhat long ingredient list, this soup comes together quite quickly. Onion, garlic, mushrooms, carrots, and bell pepper are standard vegetables in this dish; bok choy isn’t, but I love the extra crunch it gives the soup and I add it at the very end. It’s optional, though, so you can omit it.
Here are a few ideas for companion dishes:
- Thai Pineapple Salad with Peanut Dressing
- Thai Vegetable Fried Rice (with Pineapple)
- Thai Zucchini Noodle Salad
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- 1 tablespoon olive or other neutral oil
- 1 medium onion, quartered and thinly sliced
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
- 1 medium bell pepper, any color, diced
- 6 to 8 ounces mushrooms (cremini or shiitake), cleaned, stemmed, and sliced
- 2 cups water
- Two 14-ounce cans light coconut milk
- 2 to 3 teaspoons grated fresh or squeeze-tube ginger
- 2 to 3 limes
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon sriracha or other hot seasoning, or to taste
- 14-ounce tub extra-firm tofu, diced (see variation)
- 2 to 3 medium stalks bok choy, or 1 baby bok choy, thinly sliced, optional
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish, as desired
- Heat the oil in a small soup pot. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent.
- Add the garlic, carrots, bell pepper, and mushrooms and continue to sauté until all have softened, about 8 minutes. Add a little water to the pot if it becomes dry.
- Add the water and bring to a simmer. Add the coconut milk, ginger, and the juice of 1 to 2 limes, to taste, and return to a simmer. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer gently for 7 to 8 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender but not overdone.
- Stir in the scallions, sriracha, tofu, and optional bok choy. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook just until piping hot, then serve at once, garnished with cilantro and, if you’d like, a lime wedge or two per serving.
Variation: Instead of extra tofu, you can use baked tofu (one 8-ounce package or two 5.5-ounce packages, diced small) or a package of vegan chick’n product, cut into bite-sized pieces.
If you'd like to add lemongrass for an extra-lovely flavor an aroma, use two stalks. Cut into 2-inch lengths and crush with the flat end of a sharp knife. Add to the soup in step 3, and remove the pieces before serving.
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