The Seasoned Traveler

Recipes and remedies using herbs, spices, and other natural ingredients from the world's pantry

Thai Coconut & Lemongrass Chicken Soup with Fresh Herbs


IMG_4982In fall, my dutch oven resumes its nearly constant place on my stove to cook up roasts and stews and other foods that warm and comfort us through the cold weather. On a chilly, drizzly autumn evening, I can’t think of a more comforting one-pot meal than Thai-style soup, with its flavorful blend of coconut milk and chicken broth, a vibrant punch of lemongrass, lime, ginger, and herbs, bright red bell peppers and earthy mushrooms. Mmmmmm….. it’s so good I think I’m ready to say good-bye to summer sunshine, snuggle in a blanket, and welcome all the hearty flavors and rich textures of fall.

This soup contains an army of immunity boosters to help you fight off viruses such as colds and the flu. Coconut milk alone has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties and bolsters cardiovascular health. The essential oils in lemongrass kill bacteria and many have anti-irritant, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties; according to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, they also slow the growth of cancer cells, especially in liver and breast cancers and leukemia. I use ginger in this recipe instead of the harder-to-find but more authentic galangal; both have anti-inflammatory properties that are believed to help protect against cancer and alleviate arthritis symptoms. Ginger has the added benefit of quelling queasiness, so it’s ideal in a comfort soup for you or your loved ones when those cold-weather sniffles and chills get you down.

Thai Coconut & Lemongrass Chicken Soup with Fresh Herbs

(Adapted from’s “Thai Chicken Soup with Coconut Milk (Tom Ka Gai)”)

  • 6 cups good-quality chicken stock
  • 2 chicken breasts, diced
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass
  • Zest of 2 limes
  • 2 cups button mushrooms, stems removed and buttons quartered
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips and then halved
  • Optional: 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • Optional: 1-3 small fresh red Thai chilies, minced (amount and type of chilies to taste; use gloves and slice into small slivers), OR substitute 1/2 to 3/4 tsp. dried crushed chili
  • 1 thumb-size piece galangal or ginger, grated
  • 1/2 can good-quality coconut milk (shake well before opening, and reserve other half for sticky rice with mangoes for dessert!)
  • Lime juice from 2 limes (amount varying to taste)
  • 2 Tbs. fish sauce (look for “nam pla” or generic fish sauce in Asian food aisle)
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar (varying to taste)
  • A handful of fresh cilantro and basil leaves, chopped coarsely
Prepare the chicken stock in a large pot. Slice the lemongrass stalk lengthwise and pound it briefly to release essential oils; add it to the broth and bring to a boil. Add diced fresh chicken and lime zest and boil 5-8 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Add mushrooms, peppers, onion, and chilies, if using. Turn heat down to medium and add the galangal or ginger, 1/2 can coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar. Stir well and simmer gently 1-2 minutes.
Do a taste test, looking for a balance between spicy, sour, salty, and sweet flavors. If not spicy enough, add more chilies; if not sour enough, add more lime juice; if not salty enough, add a little more fish sauce; if not sweet enough, add a little more sugar. If you prefer it more creamy, add more coconut milk; for a less creamy consistency, add more chicken stock.
Note: For a more filling meal, you can also cook rice noodles separately and add to bowls when serving.
Mix well; when ready to serve, remove lemongrass stalk (it will likely have melted and divided into thin pieces) ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle with fresh chopped basil and cilantro. Be well!

Author: Laura Haugen

Writer, Traveler, Foodie

3 thoughts on “Thai Coconut & Lemongrass Chicken Soup with Fresh Herbs

  1. Looks good! have a nice lunch! 🙂

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