This rich, citrusy coconut soup will transport you to Thailand.  


Vegan Thai Coconut Tom Kha Soup

Before starting VegNews, I was very fortunate to have spent a lot of time in Asia (read my story here!). I lived in Japan, backpacked through India, and made numerous trips to Thailand. I did it all on a budget, and during a time when few Americans (especially women) traveled solo in those parts of the world. But I was fascinated by Asian culture and history, and I couldn’t get enough. 

Without question, one of my favorite cuisines is Thai. The freshness, the colors, the depth of flavor—in my mind, Thai food is absolute perfection. At every street stall or restaurant I would dine, I would study how the cooks prepared the food (I was even able to take some cooking courses during my travels there). To this day, I still make curries and soups the way I learned in Thailand, and this is my Healthy Vegan version of the country’s much-loved tom kha coconut soup. Featuring homemade coconut milk (so easy!), lots of mushrooms, and the citrusy kick of fresh lime or kaffir, this soup is creamy, tangy, robust, and comes together quickly. Sawadee ka!

Serves 4

What you need:

  • 6 cups water, divided
  • 1 shallot, sliced 
  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced 
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 3 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms 
  • 3-1/2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes, divided
  • 2 medium heads bok choy
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce 
  • ½ teaspoon red chili flakes 
  • ⅓ cup fresh lime juice 
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced red onion

What you do:

  1. Into a pot over medium heat, add 1 cup water, shallot, garlic, and ginger. Sauté for two minutes until highly aromatic. Add mushrooms and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. 
  2. Into a high-speed blender, add 3 cups coconut (reserving ½ cup for later) and remaining 5 cups water. Blend for 45 seconds and then strain through a fine-mesh sieve into the pot. Discard pulp.  
  3. Into the pot, add bok choy, soy sauce, and red chili flakes. Simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until mushrooms and bok choy are tender. 
  4. While soup is cooking, add remaining ½ cup coconut to a dry skillet over medium heat and toast for 4 minutes, or until golden brown. 
  5. When soup is done, remove from heat and add lime juice. Serve with toasted coconut flakes, cilantro, and red onion. 

Healthy hints:

  • >> You can use canned coconut milk, but I always prefer to make my own from unsweetened coconut flakes for optimal freshness, nutrition, and flavor. 

  • >> For a more traditional tom kha flavor, kaffir lime leaves are a must if you can find them. Add 10 to the pot in the beginning and skip the lime juice. Discard leaves right before serving. 

    >> Use this Thai Coconut Tom Kha as a base for your favorite vegetables. I love to add red bell pepper, corn, carrots, and kale. Want to up you plant protein? Add tofu!