snow day soup: tom kha gai


Time from start to finish: 45 minutes
Difficulty level: easy peasy

I’ve lived in Nashville for almost five years now, and I swear — every time the snow falls, it’s declared a “snowpocalypse.” At this point, I’m a snowpocalypse pro. I have a whole routine: wake up, make pancakes, wear pjs until at least noon, take inventory of the fridge for meal ingredients, attempt to walk to a (inevitably, closed) grocery store, walk back feeling sick of the cold, decide to stay inside all day, eventually make cookies.

Today, I’ve added a new agenda item: make tom kha gai soup.

[insert epic soup meme]

For the success of this dish, I’d like to thank my pantry, fridge, and essential oil collectionWhat?

There was some bone broth in the fridge, and a couple cans of coconut milk in the pantry. In a moment of Girl Scout-like resourcefulness, I realized that I could use lemongrass essential oil to create a Thai flavor… why hello there, tom kha gai. 

On a normal day, I would’ve gone to Whole Foods to buy a stalk of lemongrass. But it’s like… really cold outside. Essential oils to the rescue!

This soup uses a few fragrant ingredients to create a complex, yet comforting flavor. It’s vibrant from the ginger and lemongrass, creamy from the coconut milk, and deliciously savory from the fish sauce. Enjoy. 


For broth:

  • 3 cups chicken stock or homemade bone broth 
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce [Paleo approved fish sauce: Red Boat Fish Sauce]
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2-1 fresh jalapeno, sliced
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass or 4 drops food-grade lemongrass essential oil
  • 1 large piece (4″+) of ginger, sliced thin

To finish:

  • 2 cans coconut milk (full-fat)
  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed or 1/2 lb. chicken breast, cubed and 1/2 lb. large shrimp, butterflied
  • sliced fresh jalapeno, to garnish
  • cilantro, to garnish
  • basil, to garnish


  1. Combine all broth ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil, then simmer for about 40 minutes (to allow flavors to combine).
  2. Bring the heat up slightly to a low-medium heat, and add the coconut milk and simmer for about 5 minutes (if using a stalk of lemongrass, remove it here).
  3. Add the chicken and shrimp (staying at low-medium heat), and heat until both are cooked through.
  4. …..That’s it. Serve immediately with chopped basil and cilantro and sliced jalapeno, or pour into Pyrex containers for later.


This recipe is also great with some veggie action: Add sliced mushrooms and thinly sliced red pepper when you add the coconut milk. For a heartier meal, you can also serve it over basmati rice. 

PS — If you love the flavor of lemongrass, investing in a bottle of lemongrass essential oil might not be a bad idea. I recommend doTerra brand. It adds a lovely flavor (not to mention detoxifying benefits) to soups, curries, sauces, and more. Lemongrass essential oil is also a great deodorizer – use it in a water diffuser to get rid of pesky kitchen smells! Fun fact: lemongrass is also a natural insect repellent. Who knew?

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