Spicy Coconut Chicken Soup


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Frank and I had a busy weekend which culminated in a hot, sticky run through Lumphini Park this morning.  In the middle of the run, the unimaginable happened – it started raining.  In the three months during which we have been residents of Bangkok it has rained exactly…once (for a total of 5 minutes).  It was shocking, and refreshing.  Refreshing, that is, until it stopped raining and the humidity in the park quickly rose to 134%.

As I’ve mentioned before, despite the heat, my brain still occasionally tells me that it is winter, and I crave the comfort and depth of a good bowl of soup.  Soups in Thailand aim for balance while maintaining the distinct flavor of each element.  This one certainly achieves those things.

The coconut milk is sweet and and rich, the peppers bring spice, the tamarind paste is sour and fruity and the lemongrass brings in its unique…lemongrass-ness.  If you are lucky enough to find fresh coconut milk, use it in this soup, but I find that any type you can find in the international aisle of your local grocery store still delivers great flavor.  The lemongrass, shallot and pepper get an initial roast in the pan, but give them a good wack (with a pestle or rolling pin) before that to give them a head start.

This soup is rich without being heavy and combines spice and creaminess.  It is certain to warm you up on a cold Sunday night…or sooth you if you live in downtown Bangkok where a typical intersection in the center of the city looks like this on a weekend night…

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Spicy Coconut Chicken Soup

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
Servings: 2


  • 2 small shallots
  • 1-4 birds eye chilis, to taste
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, cut into 4-inch lengths
  • 1 Tbsp. galangal, cut into thin slices
  • 2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp tamarind paste (click here for instructions on how to make this)
  • 1 makrut lime leaves, torn into small pieces
  • 1 small chicken breast, cut into small slices
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1 tsp. palm sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. thai chili paste
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • cilantro leaves to garnish (optional)


  • Lightly crush shallots, chilis and lemongrass with a rolling pin or pestle.
  • Place a wok over medium-high heat. Add shallots, chilis, lemongrass and galangal to wok and dry roast until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Add broth, tamarind paste and lime leaves to wok and bring to a simmer. Add chicken to simmering broth and cook 1 minute. Add coconut milk. Bring soup back to a low simmer and cook until chicken is cooked through.
  • Add fish sauce, palm sugar and chili paste, stirring to combine. Continue to cook for 2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Turn off heat and add lime juice. Remove and discard lemongrass stalks and shallots. Serve immediately.

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef
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About Jess Smith

Jess is the recipe creator and photographer at InquiringChef.com. She spent nearly a decade as the Chief Recipe Developer for the award-winning meal planning app Cook Smarts. Her colorful, healthyish recipes have been featured in popular online publications including Parade, Hallmark, and HuffPost.

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  1. The article mentions tamarind paste, but the recipe doesn’t call for it. Which is correct? Dying to make this! Thanks!

    1. Hi Kimberly – this is one of my favorites! I’m so sorry for the omission in the recipe, but it has been updated to include the tamarind in the appropriate spot. Should be all set now. Enjoy!