Thai-Inspired Chicken Coconut Soup with Lemongrass

This Thai-inspired chicken coconut soup with lemongrass is creamy and comforting yet surprisingly light and healthy.

Two bowls of Thai-inspired chicken soup with coconut milk and lemongrass on a striped napkin.

A more-or-less traditional dish that has been on the Vong menu since its opening, this Thai chicken soup with coconut milk and lemongrass combines bright flavors and a lovely combination of colors. The soup is pale yellow with brown shiitake, white chicken, and bright green cilantro peeking through the broth. The broth can be prepared in advance and, in fact, tastes better when it’s done a day ahead. To turn this starter into a main course, increase the amount of chicken to a pound or more and serve with white rice, which can be eaten on the side or spooned into the soup.–Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman

A Note On What Chicken Stock To Use For This Soup

When Jean-Georges Vongerichten wrote this Thai-minded recipe, he specified Rich Chicken Stock as an ingredient, which you’ll see listed in the recipe below. It’s not the type of stock that would be used in Thailand. It’s simply how Jean-Georges refers to his basic chicken stock recipe that’s made rich with leeks and thyme and…well, heck, we’ll just give you the recipe. Stud 1 medium onion with 6 whole cloves and then toss it in a stock pot along with 3 garlic cloves, 2 pounds chicken wings, 1 carrot, 1 bay leaf, 1 celery stalk, 3 or 4 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 very well rinsed leek, and 10 cups cold water. Bring it to a boil and then immediately reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, skimming any froth or scum that appears on the surface. Cook for a total of 1 1/2 hours. Let cool slightly and then strain. Sorta surprising it isn’t more Asian in nature, although as you’ll taste from the resulting soup, it’s quite nice, just not traditional.

Thai-Inspired Chicken Coconut Soup with Lemongrass

  • Quick Glance
  • (3)
  • 30 M
  • 45 M
  • Serves 4
5/5 - 3 reviews
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Trim the lemongrass of its outer sheath and its tough ends. Whack the stalk in a few places with the back of a knife to smash it and then cut it into 2 or 3 pieces.

In a large skillet or medium saucepan, combine the oil, onion, and garlic and turn the heat to medium. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. 

Then add the lemongrass, curry paste, galangal or ginger, and lime leaves. Cook, stirring, for 3 or 4 minutes, then add the stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium, and cook at a moderate boil for about 15 minutes. (You can cool, cover, and refrigerate the soup base for up to 2 days.)

While the broth cooks, cut the chicken breast into 1/2- to 3/4-inch chunks. Remove the stems from the shiitakes and discard or reserve for stock. Cut the caps into quarters or eighths.

Add the coconut milk, chicken, and mushrooms to the broth. Simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Remove from the heat. Stir in the lime juice and nam pla and taste and adjust the seasoning. Divide the soup among 4 bowls and garnish with the scallions and cilantro and serve. You may remove the galangal and lemongrass before serving, or leave them in; they are delicious to gnaw on at the table. Originally published September 17, 1998.

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    The Fatty Daddy Challenge Variation

    • This is David here, and I want to share with you my tweaks to this Thai chicken soup recipe in case, like me, you’re looking to save calories wherever you can. I call it The Fatty Daddy Challenge version of this recipe, and in it I use non-fat chicken stock in place of the rich chicken stock and shrimp in place of chicken. You’ll be coming in at just 9 Weight Watchers PointsPlus. Which is awesome in my book. (I made a few other adjustments to the recipe, which I explain in the David Says below, and I gotta say, it was phenomenal.)

    David Says

    David Leite caricature

    I was looking for an easy-to-make recipe that would be enticing to both me and The One, low in calories for me, as well as healthful for The One (he's come down with a bad cold, and I figured the ginger and lemongrass in this recipe would be a nice antidote). But I couldn't leave well enough alone. Instead of chicken, I used 1 pound Gulf shrimp. I also substituted homemade shrimp stock for the rich chicken stock called for in the recipe. (I had a bunch of shells and shrimp heads in the freezer, so I just dumped them in a stock pot with water to cover and slowly reduced it to 4 cups. I then drained the stock through a fine sieve lined with paper towel.) I added a few squirts of Sriracha sauce for heat and served it pronto. It was mind-blowingly fantastic. So flavorful. Luckily I made a double batch, so I have more to eat tomorrow. Oh, yeah, and if there's any left, I can continue to nurse you-know-who back to health.

    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    This Thai coconut chicken soup is an absolutely delicious recipe that boasts intense flavor that belies the short cooking time. I found it needed a quick shake of salt to make the flavors pop, and I would recommend using salt and not more fish sauce as the soup’s taste was very well balanced.

    Also, my soup wasn't the prettiest color but the taste kept you from caring what it looked like!

    This Thai coconut chicken soup was delightful. It packed a punch but was delicate at the same time. All of the ingredients from the mushrooms to the ginger to the lemongrass and cilantro created a flavorful broth that was light but filling.

    I'd be careful with the fish sauce—I wouldn't add any more than the recipe calls for as everything has a perfect balance. This would be the best soup to make when you or a family member has a cold!



    1. I was so looking forward and excited about making this soup! But it did not deliver. I followed the recipe to a tee with all the ingredients but something came across in a mild soapy taste…not good! I even made homemade chicken stock!! I am wondering if something was not right with the coconut milk? What brand did you use. I use Thai brand. Any thoughts.???

    2. Feeling lousy today–I thought chicken soup would be the perfect “cure-all.” I appreciated that this soup required few ingredients and most of them I already had at home. The assembly required very little time. The total preparation was less than 15 to 20 minutes and cooking time, maybe 45 if you’re taking your time. I didn’t have lemongrass and used the lemongrass in the tube (purchased after another Thai recipe scavenger hunt in which I went to 3 different stores to find fresh lemongrass–in the Los Angeles area–sorry to say.) The lemongrass in the tube was fine, but I would like to make this soup again to experience the taste difference between the real thing and a processed ingredient. I do wish I had curry paste rather than powder because I think it would have added the kick I was looking for. I used lime leaves from my Mexican lime tree and although I really dislike the smell of fish sauce, it is a necessary ingredient in most Thai dishes and the smell/flavor mellows in the soup. Fish sauce adds a great depth to this soup. Next time, just for color and a bit more kick, I think I would add a chopped red Thai chili (To be honest – I was also craving noodles so I cooked up a very small portion of rice noodles – not seen in the picture of the finished product, but was a nice addition for me.) I enjoyed this dish very much and would definitely make it again. My husband loved every bite.

        1. Well David, thanks for that article (I think). I’m glad to report I’m alive and well no thanks to those lime leaves I used. I actually questioned whether the recipe should have said kaffer lime leaves (which I have never been able to find in the area of LA where I live). I think I will have to get those lime leaves on line. I will certainly make this soup again with the proper greens and fresh lemongrass. It was very good as it was – I imagine it will taste much better with the real deal.

    3. I love this soup. It is so healthy and yummy, and not hard to make. I’ve made it thousands of times by now. I’m wondering, how long should it be good in the refrigerator for leftovers?

      1. Anne, so glad you like this as much as we do! As for how long to keep it in the fridge, I tend to err on the side of keeping leftovers for as little time as possible, not just from a food safety perspective but also from a food quality standpoint. I would say two days at most, though I’m certain some would keep it longer. And when you reheat it, be certain to bring it to a bare simmer and heat it through and through.

    4. I loved it! The first batch I made I omitted the chicken breast and curry (since I didn’t have either on hand) but doubled the mushrooms. I used baby shiitakis with the stems on and they were delicious!! Today I made a double batch but this time I added curry powder (I made my own omitting the cayenne pepper because I don’t tolerate spicy) and added some cabbage. It all came together so beautifully. Half of this batch will go into the freezer to be pulled out later when I’m craving it. Next time I’ll probably double the amount of mushrooms and cabbage I used today because I really love a vegetable-dense soup. Thank you for your recipe. It’s definitely going in the permanent-recipe file 🙂

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