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Thai Coconut Soup with Tofu and Rice

20 reviews / 4.9 average

A savory coconut creamy broth, swirls of chili oil floating on top, beautiful veg and cubes of flavor-soaked tofu, and a pile of steamy rice at your service.

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Warm, rich, savory coconut creamy broth, swirls of chili oil floating on top, beautiful veg and cubes of flavor-soaked tofu, and a pile of steamy rice at your service. This soup is a cool night, sweatshirt sleeves over your palms, curl up and into a warm bowl kinda meal.

Oh, we love so many things about this one. It is super fast and so very customizable because you can play around with your protein and veg. We found it to be great for the whole fam, too. Like for example, if your kiddos find soup-eating to be the literal hardest thing in the world? Cool, cool, no prob – you can pull out the tofu and veg and just serve it on rice for them without the broth (more for you).

It’s super cozy with warm, punchy, fresh, sweet-spicy flavors, and we are so ready to curl up with big trough-y bowls of this all season long.

Thai Coconut Soup in a bowl with tofu and rice.

How To Make Thai Coconut Soup

This beauty is inspired by an absolute favorite Thai soup called Tom Kha. Traditional Tom Kha has galangal in it (the “Kha” part, the “Tom” means “soup”), which is a fragrant root vegetable that is like, ginger-adjacent, as well as makrut lime leaves, lemongrass and Thai chiles. Though these ingredients are extremely delicious, we found them a bit harder to find in our regular grocery stores. So we substituted some things like ginger, lime juice, and chili paste, while still keeping the fresh lemongrass (which is becoming increasingly more common to find, yay!), earthy mushroom and sweet red pepper, and creamy coconut milk for a definitely inspired-by-but-not-totally-authentic nod to the soup we love.

For a look at a more traditional soup, blogger and YouTuber Seonkyoung Longest has a really beautiful video and recipe post for Tom Kha Gai (made with chicken or “Gai”) that’s worth a watch. She explains a bit more about the difference between galangal and ginger as well as the other ingredients that you would traditionally see in a Tom Kha recipe.

Bringing this soup-nod together is actually pretty darn easy. You’ll get the aromatics going first, and then it’s kind of just a stack and simmer sort of deal.

  1. Sauté garlic, ginger and lemongrass until super fragrant and yummy.
  2. Add chili paste and any veg you like (we did mushrooms + red pepp).
  3. Then add your tofu (or other protein of choice, chicken is also great) and broth and let it simmer for a bit.
  4. Coconut milk goes in and deepen the flavors with some brown sugar, lemon zest, fish sauce, and fresh cilantro. Yum, yum, yum!
  5. Scoop over some steamy rice, top with chili oil, more fresh cilantro…whooboy, we’re getting hungry.

So many beautiful fresh ingredients and flavors that only get better the longer they sit together (hello yes, leftovers dream!). The tofu holds its shape and texture beautifully, however, you could omit it if you like. But oh my, it is nice how that amazing broth just sneaks up into those delicious little cubes.

What To Serve With This Soup

Our favorite way to serve this champ is just ladled right over the top or alongside some fresh steamy rice. The soup is so good to scoop and slurp on its own, but we loved the extra little texture chomps that the rice provided.

Is there a limit to how much fresh cilantro you can slap onto something? Hahahaha no, just pile it on there. Shower with a fresh lime squeeze, dribble some chili oil on top, and then dribble some more because it is so spectacular.

This keeps really well for leftovers, but we would store the rice and soup separately for optimal texture success. If your soup separates a little, that’s totally okay! Just give her a good shake and she’s good to go.

Make It Your Own

We also love a good go-with-the-flow meal and this soup IS that. It is super versatile, so you can customize it to whatever you fancy. Not a tofu fan? No prob – chicken or shrimp would be outstanding. Want a bunch of other vegetables in there because, oh no, you got overzealous in the produce aisle this week? Great, toss them in!

Don’t like cilantro? How dare you, please leave. KIDDING. Other fresh herbs, like basil, would be so, so good.

Thai coconut soup in a bowl with fresh cilantro, rice, tofu, and a spoon.

However you put your signature on it, get ready to have yourself warmed from the inside out. Slurp after smile after slurp after smile, this little cozy, fragrant, rich, creamy little wonder has got your number.

Thai Coconut Soup: FAQs

Can I use a different protein?

Absolutely! Chicken or shrimp in this soup would be really good.

How can I make this vegan?

Fish sauce and chili paste are the only non-vegan ingredients in this soup. You could either purchase a vegan fish sauce (typically found at health-food stores) or use soy sauce (to taste) in place of the fish sauce. You could omit the chili paste or use a fresh Thai chili instead.

Any subs for lemongrass?

If lemongrass is a hard-to-find ingredient for you, a bit of lemon zest can work in a pinch.

How can I made this in the Instant Pot?

We’ve got what you need right in the notes section of the recipe card for full Instant Pot instructions!

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Thai Coconut Soup with Tofu and Rice


  • Author: Lindsay
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 56 servings 1x

Description

It’s Thai Coconut Soup with Tofu and Rice! A savory coconut creamy broth, swirls of chili oil floating on top, beautiful veg and cubes of flavor-soaked tofu, and a pile of steamy rice at your service.


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • one 3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into thin slices
  • 3 stalks lemongrass, ends trimmed, outer layer peeled, and cut into bigger chunks
  • 12 tablespoons roasted red chili paste
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 block of extra firm tofu, pressed and cut into small cubes
  • 56 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • about 20 ounces full fat coconut milk (I like Aroy-D brand, and I use about 1.5 cans)
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce (more or less to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • juice and zest of 1-2 limes (to taste)
  • salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon)
  • lots of cilantro
  • chili oil for serving
  • rice for serving

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and lemongrass; sauté for 3-5 minutes (but don’t let the garlic brown – if it starts browning, remove from heat / turn the heat down).
  2. When everything is soft-ish and smells really nice, add the roasted red chili paste and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and red pepper (and any other veggies you like). Sauté for 3-5 minutes to get them sweating a bit, and then add the tofu and broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Add coconut milk, fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice and zest, and salt.  Stir in the cilantro. Taste and adjust till you get it just how you like it. Pull out the lemongrass chunks.
  4. I like to ladle the soup over a shallow bowl filled halfway with rice – so the soup kind of goes on one side and the rice on the other, with the coconuty broth spilling over into the rice a bit. Top it off with extra cilantro and chili oil. SO, SO GOOD.

Notes

Some recipes instruct you to keep the ginger in bigger chunks so you can pull it out before serving – but personally I kind of enjoy an occasional bite of thinly-sliced broth-soaked ginger, so I just leave the ginger in!

The lemongrass stalks, especially when in bigger pieces, can be really tough, which is why I’d advise taking those out before serving. You could also use lemongrass paste for a little more convenience so you can just get the flavor without needing to pull out the stalks of lemongrass.

Instant Pot Instructions: Press the Sauté button on the Instant Pot and heat the oil. Then, sauté the garlic, ginger, and lemongrass for 2-3 minutes until soft-ish. Add the roasted red chili paste and sauté for another minute. Then, add in the tofu and 4 cups of broth. Place the lid on the pot and cook on Manual mode (high pressure) for 3 minutes. Quick release the steam using the valve. Stir in the coconut milk, fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice and zest, and salt. Add in the mushrooms and red pepper. If you feel like it could use more liquid, you can add an additional cup of broth if needed. Press the Sauté button again to simmer the veggies for 5-6 minutes until softened. Pull out the lemongrass chunks and stir in the cilantro.

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Thai-Inspired

Keywords: thai soup, coconut soup, tom kha

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62 Comments

  1. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Stacy

    This sounds delicious! Is there a substitute that you’d recommend for the fish sauce to make this vegetarian or would you just leave it out?






  2. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Lauren

    This hit my inbox this morning and went immediately on the menu for next week. Can’t wait to try this one!!

    We are not huge mushroom people over here – is there anything you might suggest as a replacement? Also, we have lemongrass paste in the fridge currently. I saw in the notes we could potentially use that- how much would you suggest? Thank you!!






    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Krista @ Pinch of Yum

      Hi Lauren! Yes, broccoli, zucchini, carrots, or cauliflower would all be great substitutes. I’d suggest 2 teaspoons of lemongrass paste!

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Tandy

      I like to add onions, water chestnuts and baby corn (in addition to mushrooms and red peppers) to Thai dishes like these!

  3. Pinch of Yum Logo
    terry

    Stopping by the market on my way home, this feels like the right thing to have tonight. I’ve had a lot of rice lately, so I’d like to try noodles instead. Any recommendations?

  4. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Melissa

    This recipe looks amazing. Do you have a favorite chili oil? I’ve had a hard time finding a good one lately.

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Krista @ Pinch of Yum

      We actually don’t have a favorite, but we used Lee Kum Kee for this recipe!

  5. Pinch of Yum Logo
    MS

    Sodium seems too high for a bowl. Is there something I can do to reduce sodium? I am in a low sodium diet. Thanks!






  6. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Sarah

    I saw this recipe and knew it was happening tonight! I used thighs and breast meat leftover from roasting a bird on Sunday. Sooo good! Rich, fragrant, warm flavors. This will be added into the rotation.






  7. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Jaclyn

    SO GOOD!!! I find curries made with just curry paste miss the mark and the extra flavor enhancers here really make the difference. I wish things had been a little spicier but next time will add maybe a jalapeno to spice things up. Another POY recipe added to my rotation!!






  8. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Jane

    I love love love this recipe! So savoury, complex but yet simple for a home cook who doesn’t have all the various ingredients for Thai dishes. I ended up using chicken thighs cause that’s what I had on hand but I do love firm tofu and will try that next time. I couldn’t get the Thai chili paste so I got the Thai red curry paste from the same brand and it worked out very well. This will be a regular on my repertoire. Thank you!!!






  9. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Diana

    Hi! This looks absolutely delicious!
    Is roasted red chili paste the same as sambal?
    I’m from The Netherlands and we have different types of sambal here.

    Thanks 😊

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Krista @ Pinch of Yum

      It’s a bit different, sweeter and more concentrated. But sambal will work just fine!

  10. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Robin

    I just made this and I can’t stop eating it out of the pot, it is amazing!! I cut down the fish sauce a bit as I find it quite salty and omitted the garlic based on personal preference. Otherwise made as written and oh my goodness this is my new favorite. Thank you!!






  11. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Stella

    Super keen on trying this ! Would it be possible to make this without the chili paste ? I have a 3 year old so was wondering if I can make it not spicy by removing it!

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Krista @ Pinch of Yum

      Hi Stella! The chili paste doesn’t add a whole lot of, if any, spiciness to the recipe, but you can certainly omit it!

  12. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Sarita

    I cannot find any roasted chili paste. Any other subs you can suggest??? Looking forward to making it 😀

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Krista @ Pinch of Yum

      You could try red curry paste, sambal oelek, or chili garlic sauce!

  13. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Thomas

    Just made this and it’s super delicious! I used some ponzu sauce in addition to the lime juice to give it an extra punch and I also reduced the amount of broth and increased the coconut milk to make it thicker. My question is… how will this freeze?

  14. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Melanie Schadewald

    I made this soup and loved it! I added additional veggies: zucchini & onion. I love a little “kick”in any recipe so I added some red chili peppers, garlic powder, 1/4 diced serrano pepper, and pepper. I was pleased with flavors, but was trying to figure out how to make the soup richer in taste. (I used vegetable broth). Any suggestions?






    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Krista @ Pinch of Yum

      Great question! I’m inclined to suggest using more coconut milk than vegetable broth to make the soup richer. Additionally, I’d suggest salting the veggies as you’re sauteeing them to really bring out their flavor!

  15. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Berg

    This was AMAZING!! I couldn’t find roasted chili paste so used Sambal Oelek instead. The recipe was so flavorful and made so much that I now have leftovers for a few days. Next time, I would try adding in more vegetables. Make this right away!






  16. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Tori

    We really enjoyed this recipe! I couldn’t find the chili paste that was called for, so I subbed in a fresh diced Thai chili plus some sambal oelek that we had on hand. It was delicious served over rice! Cozy but not heavy. Would recommend.