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Easy Vegan Recipes

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Thai Coconut Soup

8 min read

This Thai coconut soup is rich, satisfying, and full of flavor! Made with a creamy spiced coconut milk base, crispy pan-fried tofu, tender veggies, and topped with fresh herbs, this soup tastes like it came from a restaurant, but is surprisingly easy to whip up in your own kitchen.

Two Bowls of Thai Coconut Soup with Napkin, Lime Wedge, and a Bunch of Cilantro

Have you ever tried to recreate a Thai dish you had at a restaurant and been super disappointed? I know I have! Thai coconut soup was one of those dishes. I tried so many recipes but could never get anything close to as good as restaurant quality.

Finally I discovered the problem: the ingredients.

Thai Coconut Soup Ingredients

Pair of Hands Holding a Bowl of Thai Coconut Soup Over a Marble Countertop

Most of the recipes I’d been trying called for ingredients that were accessible, but not necessarily authentic. My recipe calls for ingredients that might not be super familiar to you, but they add so much flavor!

Lemongrass

Lemongrass is a grass with a mild, citrusy flavor. You should be able to find it in the produce section of your regular supermarket! If not, try an Asian market. If all else fails, buy jarred lemongrass online.

Galangal

This is a root that’s related to the ginger you’re probably familiar with. It’s sometimes referred to as Thai ginger. Galangal is a bit firmer than regular ginger, and I find the flavor to be a big more pungent.

You might luck out and find Thai ginger at the supermarket (I did! Wegmans often has it.). Otherwise, try an Asian market. If you find some galangal when you’re not quite ready to use it, fear not! Just buy it, stick it in a sealed bag and freeze it for later.

You can substitute regular ginger if absolutely needed.

Kaffir Lime Leaves

Kaffir limes are a variety of lime with a flavor that’s a tad stronger than what you’re used to. I find the leaves to add an almost floral flavor to dishes like this.

You might be able to find fresh kaffir lime leaves at an Asian market, but I find this a rarity, at least where I live. Fortunately, they’re available in dried form online.

Sambal Oelek

This is an Indonesian chili paste that’s available at most supermarkets these days. If you can’t find it, try an Asian market. You could also get away with substituting sriracha if that’s easier for you.

That’s it for the ingredients that I consider to be somewhat challenging to find. In addition, you’ll need some oil, shallots, garlic, coconut milk, lime juice, tofu, veggies and fresh cilantro.

How to Make Thai Coconut Soup

Prep Your Ingredients

Be sure to read this section if some of the ingredients in this coconut soup are new to you!

Lemongrass

Side By Side Images Showing Hands Prepping Lemongrass on a Cutting Board

Lemongrass is pretty tough stuff, and if you don’t prepare it properly it can end up as a bunch of hard, chewy bits in your soup. Nobody wants that!

To prep your lemongrass, grab a stalk and cut a slit down the length of it. The slit should penetrate almost to the center of the stalk. Now peel off the tough outer layer so you’re left with the slightly less tough inner core. Chop this part up as finely as you can. (Note that I’m prepping a very skinny stalk in the photo, shown next to a pretty fat stalk. A typical one would probably be sized somewhere between the two.)

When it’s time to add the lemongrass to your soup you can add it directly, or, if you didn’t get it chopped as finely as you’d like, try placing it into a tea infuser.

Kaffir Lime Leaves

Kaffir Lime Leaves Soaking in Water

If you’re using dried kaffir lime leaves, place them in a bowl or cup of hot water to soak about 20 minutes before you start cooking.

Galangal

Hand Grating Thai Ginger on a Cutting Board

Ideally you’ll want to grate your galangal, just like you would with regular ginger. Galangal is a bit harder than regular ginger, making it a bit tougher to grate. Feel free to mince it finely with a knife if that’s easier for you.

Make the Soup

The tofu gets cooked separately from everything else, so you may want to start with that. I say may because you can also cook the tofu on a separate pan while the soup simmers (to save time!). The only reason I sometimes do it first is so that I can use the pot that the soup will simmer in (fewer dishes to wash!).

In any event, heat up some oil in the pot or a nonstick skillet. Add some cubed tofu and cook it for about 10 minutes. Flip the tofu a couple of times while it cooks. The goal is to get the pieces browned and crispy on multiple sides.

Side-By-Side Images Showing Stages of Tofu Cooking in a Skillet

If you cooked the tofu in your soup pot, take it out and transfer it to a plate. Heat up some more oil in the pot and add your shallots. Let them soften up a bit, then add your garlic, galangal, and some finely chopped fresh cilantro. Cook everything for about a minute, until the mixture becomes very fragrant.

Now add those kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass, along with some broth, coconut milk, baby corn and shiitake mushrooms. Bring the liquid up to a boil and let it simmer until the veggies are tender.

Add some broccoli during the last five minutes of simmering, then take the pot off of the burner.

Collage Showing Process for Making Thai Coconut Soup: Cook Shallots, Add Thai Ginger, Cilantro, and Garlic, Add Coconut Milk, Broth, Lemongrass and Lime Leaves, and Add Broccoli

Stir in your tofu, some lime juice, and sambal oelek. Season the soup with salt and ladle it into bowls.

Top your soup with fresh cilantro, scallions and/or basil.

Two Bowls of Thai Coconut Soup with Lime Wedges and Spoons

Thai Coconut Soup Tips & FAQ

  • Is this soup gluten-free? Yes it is!
  • Feel free to substitute your favorite veggies for those used in the recipe. Carrots, cauliflower, and spinach would all be great choices. Keep in mind that harder veggies generally take longer to cook, while softer veggies cook faster.
  • Is this soup spicy? Just a bit. If you prefer a milder version, leave out the sambal oelek. If you prefer a hotter version, add extra sambal oelek.
  • Need more guidance on how to get your tofu perfectly crispy? Check out this guide.
  • A note on ingredients and substitutions: Some of the ingredients in this soup may be tough for some folks to find. If you can get ahold of them, I highly recommend using them, but if you really, really can’t, try the following:
    • Galangal: Substitute an equal amount of fresh ginger.
    • Lemongrass: Most supermarkets carry lemongrass paste in tubes, usually found in the produce section. I’m not entirely sure how much you’d need, though I’m guessing a tablespoon or two. Try adding just a bit at at time until the flavor is right.
    • Kaffir lime leaves: Substitute a tablespoon of lime zest.
    • Sambal oelek: substitute sriracha, or another neutral flavored hot sauce.

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Two Bowls of Thai Coconut Soup with Napkin, Lime Wedge, and a Bunch of Cilantro

Thai Coconut Soup

This Thai coconut soup is rich, satisfying, and full of flavor! Made with a creamy spiced coconut milk base, crispy pan-fried tofu, tender veggies, and topped with fresh herbs, this soup tastes like it came from a restaurant, but is surprisingly easy to whip up in your own kitchen.

Prep Time 20 minutes

Cook Time 30 minutes

Total Time 50 minutes

Servings 4

Author Alissa Saenz

Ingredients

  • 5 dried kaffir lime leaves* (or fresh, if available)
  • 2 (4 inch) stalks lemongrass**
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (or high-heat oil of choice), divided
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh galangal***
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 (14 ounce or 400 ml) can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh baby corn, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup sliced shiitake mushroom caps
  • 7 ounces extra firm tofu, drained, pressed, and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 cups fresh broccoli florets (about 1 small crown)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon sambal oelek
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh cilantro, basil and/or scallions, for serving

Instructions

  1. If you’re using dried kaffir lime leaves, start by placing them in a cup or bowl of hot water. Let them soak for about 20 minutes while you prep the remaining ingredients, then chop them finely.

  2. Cut a slit down the length of each lemongrass stalk, then peel away the dried outer layers. Finely chop the inner core.

  3. Coat the bottom of a large pot with a tablespoon of coconut oil and place it over medium heat.

  4. When the oil is hot, add the shallot and cook it until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

  5. Add the garlic, galangal, and cilantro. Cook everything for about a minute, until very fragrant.

  6. Stir in the broth, coconut milk, baby corn, mushrooms, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Raise the heat and bring the liquid to a boil.

  7. Lower the heat and allow the soup to simmer for about 15 minutes, until the veggies are tender.

  8. While the soup simmers, cook the tofu. Coat the bottom of a medium skillet with the remaining tablespoon of oil and place it over medium heat.

  9. When the oil is hot, add the tofu in an even layer.

  10. Cook the tofu for about 10 minutes, flipping it once or twice to achieve browning on multiple sides.

  11. Remove the tofu from the skillet and transfer it to a plate.

  12. Once the soup has simmered for about 15 minutes, stir in the broccoli. Simmer the soup for about 5 minutes more, until the broccoli is tender and bright green.

  13. Remove the soup from heat and stir in the tofu, lime juice, and sambal oelek. Season it with salt to taste.

  14. Ladle the soup into bowls and top it with fresh cilantro, basil and/or scallions. Serve.

Recipe Notes

*You can substitute a tablespoon of lime zest if needed, though the flavor will  be slightly different.

**Lemongrass paste (available in the produce section of most supermarkets) may be used if you can’t find fresh. I’m not entirely sure how much to use though, so I’d add it to taste, just a bit at a time when the soup is almost finished cooking.

***You can substitute regular ginger if needed, though the flavor will be slightly different.

Nutrition Facts

Thai Coconut Soup

Amount Per Serving (1.5 cups)

Calories 514.8 Calories from Fat 324

% Daily Value*

Fat 36g55%

Saturated Fat 29g145%

Sodium 638mg27%

Potassium 1012mg29%

Carbohydrates 32.7g11%

Fiber 7.2g29%

Sugar 9g10%

Protein 15g30%

Calcium 13mg1%

Iron 31mg172%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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