Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

Seriously, is there anything better than a big hot bowl of chicken soup? Particularly in January? Especially in a January that has been the worst in recent memory? While there is plenty of reason to be living on a steady intravenous drip of vodka at the moment (I’ll just leave it at that), I chose chicken soup to comfort my weary soul.

This month’s Recipe Redux theme (make a meal for less than $3 per serving) was appropriate and inspiring in so many ways. Just coming down for the high of the holidays (and the associated spending, eating and drinking) and ramming head-long into what has been the coldest and snowiest January in the Portland, OR area since 2008, I was happy to give some creative energy to thinking about a healthy, affordable and warming recipe to sooth the ills of January.

One of my favorite winter time meals is Thai coconut chicken soup (AKA Tom Kha Gai). My favorite place in town does this soup to perfection and was the inspiration for this recipe. While this soup can be somewhat labor intensive, I took several healthy (and affordable) shortcuts and saved a few $$ in the process:

  • Instead of chopping and shredding cabbage and carrots, I purchased a bagged coleslaw mix. This not only saved time, it also cut down on the cost since I didn’t end up with 1/2 of a head of cabbage that would have likely languished in the fridge until it turned into (unintentional) kimchi
  • I used leftover rotisserie chicken
  • I always stock up on broth and coconut milk when it’s on sale. These are perfect ingredients to have on-hand for quick meal inspiration

While I didn’t break out the calculator to determine the final cost per serving (because, you know, math), I estimate that I got pretty darn close to the $3 per serving target. And, because I used the shortcuts noted above, the soup came together FAST!

How I made it healthy:

  • I used half the coconut milk that is typically called for in traditional recipes
  • I used dried ginger, garlic and Thai chili peppers since I already had them in my pantry
  • I used a lot more veggies than you’d see in most restaurants
  • I always choose low sodium broth. This allows me to have control over the sodium content
  • I used less noodles per serving than most take out versions of this soup

I think it’s time for soup, don’t you? Let me know what you think!

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

servings: about 4 big bowls | time: about 40 minutes


1 32-ounce container low-sodium chicken broth

2 cups water

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. ginger power

1/2 tsp white pepper

1/2 tsp Thai chili flakes (or to taste)

10 lime leaves (or the juice and zest of one lime)

1 bay leaf

1 cup cooked chicken breast

1 cup shiitake mushrooms, large ones sliced in half

1 large package coleslaw mix (or any cabbage and carrot based blend you can find)

3 green onions, chopped

1 can coconut milk

5-10 dashes fish sauce (to taste)

2 tsp. coconut sugar

handful of cilantro

handful of mint

1 lime, sliced into wedges

1 8.8 ounce package thin rice noodles, prepared according to package instructions


  1. Place chicken broth, water, garlic powder, ginger powder, white pepper, chili flakes, lime leaves and bay leaf in a large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 20 minutes
  2.  Remove the lime leaves and bay leaf. Add the mushrooms and cook for 15 minutes, until the mushrooms become tender
  3. Add the cooked chicken breast and cook for 5 minutes
  4. Add the coleslaw blend and cook for 3 minutes
  5. Slowly stir in the coconut milk and add the coconut sugar and the fish sauce. Allow to simmer over very low heat for a couple of minutes. Taste and add salt as needed
  6. Place equal portions of cooked rice noodles in four large bowls. Top with cilantro and mint. Add the soup and garnish with a lime wedge