Vegan Thai Coconut Soup

Thanks to its spicy-and-sour flavor profile, this Thai coconut soup will hit the spot. Learn how to make the one-pot recipe with tofu for a vegan version.

Kirsten Nunez, MS

By Kirsten Nunez, MS

1 Rating

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The cooler months are finally here, meaning it’s time to start making hearty vegan soups. But if you’re looking for something different than the usual minestrone and tomato soup — two popular choices in the U.S. — it’s worth exploring dishes from other cuisines.

Enter this vegan Thai coconut soup, which offers a spicy-sour flavor that’s rarely seen in American cooking. The soup (also known as tom kha kai or tom kha gai) is traditionally made with chicken breast, but our plant-based version uses tofu for the protein. It also calls for coconut milk, Thai chili paste, lime juice, and plenty of cilantro, resulting in a hearty and tasty dish.

Ahead, see how to make a vegan Thai coconut soup recipe, plus tips for variations and substitutions.

Key Ingredients

Ingredients for vegan Thai coconut soup.
Photo: Kirsten Nunez
  • Tofu. A source of plant-based protein, tofu makes the dish filling and satisfying. Use extra-firm tofu for best results. (Check out our best tofu press roundup.)
  • Vegetable broth. Use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth to ensure the soup is vegan.
  • Coconut milk. Coconut milk gives the soup a creamy texture. Be sure to use full-fat canned coconut milk for the best flavor.
  • Soy sauce. The saltiness of soy sauce adds brightness to the soup. Feel free to use low-sodium soy sauce or tamari for a gluten-free version. If you decide to use a low-sodium version, you might need to add salt later on.
  • Ginger. Traditionally, Thai coconut soup uses galangal, a plant related to ginger. However, it’s difficult to find in American grocery stores, so feel free to use ginger.
  • Thai chili paste. Like galangal, Thai chilis are traditionally used in the soup. The paste version, which is sold in jars, is typically easier to find in the U.S.
  • Lime juice. Lime juice adds the sour element to this soup. Use fresh lime juice for optimal flavor.

How to Make Vegan Thai Coconut Soup

For the full ingredients list and step-by-step tutorial, see the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

1. In a large pot over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the mushrooms, red bell peppers, and ginger. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the mushrooms are slightly soft. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Cooking mushrooms and red bell peppers with Thai chili paste.
Photo: Kirsten Nunez

2. Add the Thai chili paste and stir to coat the vegetables. Cook for 30 seconds.

Cooking mushrooms and red bell peppers.
Photo: Kirsten Nunez

3. Add vegetable broth, soy sauce, and brown sugar. Stir well, then bring to a light boil for 15 minutes.

Adding broth to vegan Thai coconut soup.
Photo: Kirsten Nunez

4. Add coconut milk and tofu. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Adding tofu to vegan Thai coconut soup.
Photo: Kirsten Nunez

5. Add the juice of one lime, about 3 tbsp. Taste and salt if needed.

Adding lime juice to vegan Thai coconut soup.
Photo: Kirsten Nunez

6. Divide the soup into bowls. Garnish with fresh cilantro, shredded carrots, and chopped green onions.

Vegan Thai coconut soup in a bowl.
Photo: Kirsten Nunez

Recipe Tips, Variations, and Substitutions 

  • Increase the spice. For a spicier soup, add another 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of Thai chili paste.
  • Use red curry paste. If you’re unable to find Thai chili paste, try it with red curry paste instead. It will add a slightly different flavor profile, but it will be just as good.
  • Mind the salt. As the soup uses soy sauce, avoid adding salt too soon — you might not need it. Instead, taste the soup just before serving to determine if it needs more salt.
  • Add rice noodles. To make it a meal, add rice noodles just before serving the soup. Check the instructions to determine how long the noodles need to cook.
  • Serve with grains. Instead of noodles, pair this soup with grains. Jasmine rice and quinoa are delicious options.
  • Garnish with Thai basil. If you can find Thai basil, it would be excellent topper for this dish.
Vegan Thai coconut soup in a bowl.
Photo: Kirsten Nunez

How to Store Vegan Thai Coconut Soup

Store vegan Thai coconut soup in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days. To reheat, microwave the soup for 1 or 2 minutes until heated through. You can also warm it on the stovetop over medium heat.

Serving Suggestions

  • Vegan Lettuce Wraps — You can’t go wrong with a soup-and-wrap combo.
  • Bok Choy — For even more veggies, add baby bok choy to your soup.
  • Vegan Bánh Mi — Though from a different cuisine (Vietnamese), vegan bánh mi would pair well with Thai coconut soup.
Vegan Thai coconut soup in a bowl.

Vegan Thai Coconut Soup

Thanks to its spicy-and-sour flavor profile, this Thai coconut soup will hit the spot. Learn how to make the one-pot recipe with tofu for a vegan version.
Click stars below to rate, or leave a full review in the comments
1 Rating
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Course: Soup
Cuisine: Thai
Diet: Vegan
Keyword: vegan soup, vegan Thai coconut soup
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 172kcal
Author: Kirsten Nunez, MS

Ingredients

Instructions

  • In a large pot over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the mushrooms, red bell peppers, and ginger. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the mushrooms are slightly soft. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the Thai chili paste and stir to coat the vegetables. Cook for 30 seconds.
  • Add 4 cups vegetable broth, soy sauce, and brown sugar. Stir well, then bring to a light boil for 15 minutes. Add coconut milk and tofu. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the juice of one lime, about 3 tbsp. Taste and add salt, if needed.
  • Divide the soup into bowls. Garnish with fresh cilantro, shredded carrots, and chopped green onions.

Notes

  • Add another 1 or 2 cups of vegetable broth to thin the soup.
  • For a spicier soup, add another 1 teaspoon of Thai chili paste.
  • If you’re unable to find Thai chili paste, try it with red curry paste instead. It will add a slightly different flavor profile, but it will be just as good.
  • As the soup uses soy sauce, avoid adding salt too soon — you might not need it. Instead, taste the soup just before serving to determine if it needs more salt.
  • To make it a meal, add rice noodles just before serving the soup. Check the instructions to determine how long the noodles need to cook.
  • Instead of noodles, pair this soup with grains to make it a meal. Jasmine rice and quinoa are delicious options.
  • If you can find Thai basil, it would be excellent topper for this dish.
  • Store vegan Thai coconut soup in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days. To reheat, microwave the soup for 1 or 2 minutes until heated through. You can also warm it on the stovetop over medium heat.
  • This recipe will yield about 8 servings, depending on the size of each bowl.

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Large pot

Nutrition

Calories: 172kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Sodium: 890mg | Potassium: 354mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 805IU | Vitamin C: 25mg | Calcium: 33mg | Iron: 3mg
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