This vegan tom kha recipe is a plant-based take on tom kha gai. Traditionally prepared with chicken (gai), this vegan Thai soup is loaded with plenty of heat!
Tom kha gai is one of my absolute favorite soups to order from a Thai restaurant. It’s rich, spicy, fragrant, and loaded with flavor.
Tom means soup and kha means galangal meaning galangal is really the star of the show in this classic Thai soup recipe.
What is galangal?
Galangal is an aromatic root that is closely related to turmeric and ginger. While ginger brings a sweet spiciness to dishes, galangal is sharper and spicier with peppery undertones. However, ginger and galangal can be used interchangeably in this dish. If you can’t find galangal, simply replace it with ginger
How to make this vegan tom kha:
Fortunately, this vegan Thai soup doesn’t require an immense amount of ingredients. However, some of the ingredients may be more difficult to source depending on where you live. I’ve offered common substitutes for the more difficult-to-find ingredients.
- Shiitake mushrooms: replace with any mushroom
- Galangal: replace with ginger root
- Lime leaves: replace with juice and zest from 1 lime
- Lemongrass: Omit if you can’t find it
- Thai chili peppers: Your favorite hot pepper, such as serrano or jalapeño
- Vegan fish sauce: Omit if you can’t find it or use the classic fish sauce if you aren’t vegetarian
- Coconut milk: Your favorite plant-based cream or milk
First, brown the mushrooms. Now, many recipes I’ve read online for this dish add the mushrooms right to the broth at the end. I’m positive this is how my local Thai restaurant makes it as well and it is absolutely delicious this way. However, I have a small preference for browning the mushrooms first because it gives you a bit of an umami base by way of fond on the bottom of the pot. You can skip this step, though, if you’re short on time!
Remove the mushrooms from the pot and add the crushed galangal, lemongrass, lime leaves, and halved Thai chili peppers. Sizzle in the oil briefly before adding water and a bit of soy sauce. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
From there, use a slotted spoon to scoop out all of the solids (alternatively you can strain through a sieve) and discard the solids. Taste the broth and season to your preferences.
Finally, add the cooked mushrooms along with coconut milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Stir in the vegan fish sauce if using.
How can you serve this tom kha?
I served mine with cooked white rice and plenty of chili oil on the side, and I garnished the soup with fresh cilantro.
Alternatively, you can tear soft tofu into bite-sized pieces and add it to the soup. Simmer it for 5 minutes until warmed through.
You could even ladle the soup over cooked rice noodles.
Easy Vegan Tom Kha Recipe
- Large pot
- Slotted spoon or sieve
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon neutral oil
- 1 pound mixed mushrooms, torn or sliced
- 12 lime leaves, or juice and zest of 1 lime
- 1½ inch piece of galangal peeled
- .25 ounces lemongrass, about 6-inch piece
- 4 Thai chili peppers, trimmed and halved, optional
- 6 cups water
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons vegan fish sauce, optional
- 14- ounce can coconut milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cooked white rice
- Chili oil
- Lime wedges
Cook the mushrooms:
- Heat 1 tablespoon neutral oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, for 10–15 minutes until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl.
Prepare the galangal and lemongrass:
- Place the galangal on a sturdy cutting board. Use the handle of your knife or a heavy-bottomed pan and smash the galangal until crushed open. Next, remove the tough outer layers from the lemongrass and crush the same way you crushed the galangal.
Cook the aromatics:
- Add 1 teaspoon of neutral oil to the pot and turn the heat to medium. Add the lime leaves, galangal, lemongrass, and halved Thai chili peppers. Sizzle in the pot for 1 minute until fragrant. Pour in the water and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15–20 minutes—taste and season to your preferences.
Strain the broth:
- Use a slotted spoon to remove all of the solids from the pot—alternatively, strain through a sieve. Discard the solids and return the broth to medium-high heat.
Finish the tom kha:
- Add the coconut milk, reserved cooked mushrooms, and vegan fish sauce to the pot. Bring to a low boil and then reduce heat and simmer for an additional 10 minutes—taste and season to your preferences.
- Ladle the tom kha into bowls and serve with cooked rice, fresh cilantro, and a drizzle of chili oil. Garnish each dish with a lime wedge. Enjoy!