December 9, 2022

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Thai Chicken Coconut Curry Soup

Coconut Curry Soup is warm, satisfying, fragrant and extremely versatile, made with coconut milk, red curry paste, chicken, veggies and more!

This Coconut Curry Soup is fragrant and flavorful, light yet creamy and bursting with layers of warm, comforting aromatic flavor. The rich, complex broth is made with coconut milk, red curry paste, Thai basil (or regular), ginger, garlic, lime juice, fish sauce and cilantro along with tender chicken, mushrooms, carrots and rice or keep it low carb and use your favorite veggies and protein. This Thai Coconut Curry Soup is a meal-in one or serve it alongside chicken satay to complete the feast!

Thai food is my absolute favorite with its symphony of savory, salty, sour flavors! Don’t miss Tom Kha Gai, Tom Yum Soup, Thai Chicken Noodle Soup, Thai Soup with Chicken and Wild Rice, Red Curry Chicken, Panang Curry or Pad Thai.

How to Make Coconut Curry Soup Video

up close of Thai coconut curry soup showing how juicy the chicken is
top view of coconut curry soup with chicken in a bowl with cilantro and limes

Thai Coconut Curry Soup Ingredients 

This Coconut Curry Soup recipe features a fragrant coconut milk broth infused with spicy, sour, sweet, umami flavors. The ingredients list may look lengthy, but it is actually a very easy soup to prepare. Here’s what you’ll need to make this Thai soup recipe (full measurements in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post): 

THE ADD-INS

  • Chicken: I recommend juicier, more flavorful, boneless, skinless chicken thighs. They will make your soup far superior than using chicken breasts! However, you may swap out for chicken breasts (make sure not to overcook or they will be dry!) or better yet, use rotisserie chicken.
  • Vegetables:  The Thai Coconut Curry Soup use carrots, red bell pepper and mushrooms, but you can use whatever you’d like.
  • Basmati rice: Rice is optional, but I love the textural interest it adds.  Please use basmati rice verses jasmine or any other white rice because it is sturdier and doesn’t get mushy in the soup. 
  • Aromatics:  Onion, ginger and garlic infuse the broth with complex flavor.  Fresh is best, but you may substitute with 1 teaspoon each ground/powders in a bind. 
  • Thai basil: This should be easy to find at specialty Asian grocery stores. It tastes like normal basil with a pronounced herbal, anise-licorice flavor and crisp pungency that’s slightly more peppery than the sweet kind.
  • Cilantro: This is added directly to the soup for a fresh, zesty, citrusy kick. Stir the fresh cilantro into the soup at the very end of cooking, otherwise it will lose its fresh flavor.
Coconut curry chicken soup in a large soup pot with vegetables

THE BROTH

  • Red curry paste:  This can be found in the Asian section of any grocery store.  The premade paste is made of finely ground coriander, peppercorns, Kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal, cilantro, shallots, garlic, and fresh chiles – all combined for you for dynamic flavor.
  • Coconut milk: Please use full fat coconut milk for restaurant-style creamy, flavorful curry. Light coconut milk simply isn’t as thick or nearly as flavorful so you’re missing out on both flavor and texture.  If you do use light coconut milk, I suggest adding an additional 1 tablespoon cornstarch to help thicken it up.
  • Chicken broth: Use low sodium chicken broth so we can control the salt. Chicken broth is more flavorful than vegetable broth, so I wouldn’t swap it out unless necessary
  • Soy sauce: Use reduced sodium soy sauce so you can control the saltiness of the Coconut Curry Chicken Soup.
  • Fish sauce: I promise fish sauce will not make your soup taste fishy – even though it smells fishy! It is needed, however, to infuse the soup with its nutty, rich, savory, salty flavor. If you’ve never used fish sauce before, it can be found in the Asian section of any grocery store.
  • Lime juice: Freshly squeezed is best! 
  • Brown sugar:  Just a little sugar balances out the savory, salty tones.
  • Chili sauce: Use sriracha or your favorite Asian chili sauce at the end of cooking depending on how spicy you want your Thai Coconut Curry Chicken Soup.

How to Make Coconut Curry Soup

Coconut Curry Chicken Soup is very straightforward to make, despite the long ingredient list – most of the ingredients are just dumped directly into the soup! Here’s an overview of how to make it (full recipe in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post): 

  • Step 1: Brown the chicken. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and sear in sizzling hot oil just until golden. The chicken will not be cooked through at this point but will be added back to the pot later. Remove the chicken to a plate but leave the drippings behind which are flavor gold.
showing how to make coconut curry soup by searing chicken in a Dutch oven
  • Step 2: Sauté the aromatics. Add onions and carrots to the drippings and sauté over medium-high heat for a few minutes.  Add the red curry paste, ginger, garlic and sauté for 2 minutes or until the onions are softened.
a collage showing how to make Thai coconut curry soup with chicken by sautéing onions and carrots then adding red curry paste, ginger and garlic
  • Step 3: Simmer the soup. Add the chicken back to the pot, followed by the chicken broth, coconut milk, diced tomatoes, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, salt, pepper and bay leaf. Cover and gently simmer until the chicken is tender enough to easily shred with two forks.
showing how to make Thai coconut curry soup with chicken by adding coconut milk, chicken broth and bay leaf to the pot to simmer with the chicken
  • Step 4: Shred the chicken. Remove the chicken and let it rest until it’s cool enough to shred. 
  • Step 5: Cook the rice. Meanwhile, add the bell peppers, mushrooms and rice to the pot. Simmer just until the rice is cooked, about 10 minutes.
showing how to make Thai coconut curry soup with chicken by adding mushrooms, bell peppers and rice to the soup
  • Step 6: Add the remaining ingredients. Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the shredded chicken, cilantro, lime juice, and basil.
showing how to make Thai coconut curry soup with chicken by adding shredded chicken, cilantro, to the soup
  • Step 7: Garnish and serve. Garnish individual servings with cilantro, freshly squeezed lime juice, chili sauce or chili peppers to taste.
top view of serving coconut curry sup with chicken in a Dutch pot garnished with cilantro and chili peppers
  • For the juiciest chicken: This recipe will work with chicken breasts or chicken thighs, but for best flavor, use chicken thighs or shredded rotisserie chicken.
  • Rotisserie chicken hack: Stock shredded chicken or rotisserie chicken portioned into 2 1/2-cup freezer bags so you always have it ready to add to any soup.
  • Sear the chicken. Color = flavor. By searing it, you’re infusing the broth with even more FREE flavor thanks to the golden bits that get stuck to the pot as the chicken sears. 
  • Don’t burn the bits: When searing the chicken, you don’t want blackened bits, or they will make your soup taste burnt. If the chicken is browning too quickly, turn the heat down.
  • Cook the chicken at a gentle simmer: After you bring the soup to a boil, reduce to a gentle simmer so the chicken doesn’t become rubbery.
  • Simmer chicken until tender: Whether using chicken thighs or breasts, check the pieces individually for tenderness because they may cook unevenly. Be prepared to remove pieces of chicken at different times. The chicken is ready when it easily pulls apart with two forks, not any sooner.
  • Adjust the curry paste amount as needed.  If you are using a milder brand like Thai Kitchen then I would start with ¼ cup curry paste.  If you are using a spicier brand, like Mae Ploy, I would start with 2 tablespoons.  You can add more curry paste to taste once the soup is simmering or add chili sauce to taste at the end of cooking.
  • Adjust to taste. Add additional lime juice for more sour/citrus, more chili sauce for more heat, more sugar for sweeter/less tangy, more fish sauce for saltier etc.
  • Use full-fat coconut milk. I don’t insist on full fat coconut milk but I HIGHLY suggest it if you would like restaurant-style creamy, Coconut Curry Chicken Soup.  Light coconut not only isn’t as thick but it isn’t nearly as flavorful. If you must use light coconut milk, I suggest adding a little cornstarch to help thicken it up.
  • Ginger pro tip. I like to freeze ginger so it’s always at my fingertips. To freeze ginger: grate it, spread it by the teaspoon or tablespoon on parchment paper and flash freeze until solid, about 1 hour. Transfer to an airtight container or plastic bag for up to 6 months.  You can add frozen ginger directly to your soup. 
  • Powdered ginger and garlic swap. If you don’t have fresh ginger and garlic on hand and need to make this coconut curry NOW (I get you), you may substitute with powders.  
  • Rotisserie Chicken. As discussed, you can swap the chicken thighs for 2 ½ cups shredded rotisserie chicken. Add the chicken at the end of cooking when you would add the shredded chicken thighs back to the soup.
  • Use shrimp. The shrimp will need to be cooked separately first, then returned to the soup just before serving it. Shrimp overcook quickly, so don’t simmer them in the soup or they can become rubbery.
  • Other proteins. You can also swap the chicken for cubed pork tenderloin, fish or tofu. When cooking fish, season it with salt and pepper and cook separately.
  • Make it vegetarian. Omit the chicken, swap the chicken broth with veggie broth, and use a vegan fish sauce. You can either use tofu, chickpeas, or extra veggies like sweet potatoes and cauliflower to bulk up the soup. 
  • Alternate veggies. Mix and match the veggies based on what’s in your fridge, your favorites, what’s in season or what’s on sale.  Some tasty alternatives would be sweet potatoes, cauliflower, asparagus, bok choy, etc.
  • Use a different curry paste. Swap the red curry paste for green or yellow.
  • Add peanut butter. Stir in a couple tablespoons of peanut butter at the end of cooking to melt through.
  • Add coconut. Garnish the soup with toasted sweetened coconut for extra coco-nutty yumminess.
a ladle of Thai coconut curry soup with chicken

This Thai Curry Soup is a meal-in-one full of protein, carbs, and veggies, but we also love it with a fresh, crunchy salad such as Chinese Chicken Salad, Crunchy Asian Salad, Chinese Salad, or Asian Pineapple Salad.

You can transform this soup into a feast by serving it with appetizers! We love it with any of the following Asian appetizers, even though most of them aren’t Thai:   

showing how to serve Thai coconut curry soup with chicken by adding to a bowl and garnishing with limes, cilantro and chili peppers

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ADD LATER

  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 3/4 cup uncooked basmati rice (optional)
  • 1/4 cup minced cilantro
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh Thai basil leaves (or regular or 1 TBS dried)
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Asian chili sauce or sriracha to taste

GARNISH

  • chopped cilantro
  • lime juice
  • chili peppers
  • crushed peanuts
  • Season chicken with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven/soup pot. Once hot, add the chicken and sear until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Remove chicken to a plate but leave the drippings.
  • Add onions and carrots to the drippings and sauté over medium-high heat for 4 minutes. Add curry paste, ginger, garlic and sauté for 2 minutes or until the onions are softened.
  • Add chicken back to the pot followed by chicken broth, coconut milk, diced tomatoes, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, bay leaves, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer (covered) for 15 minutes or until chicken is tender enough to easily shred with two forks.
  • Remove chicken and let rest until cool enough to shred. Meanwhile, add bell peppers, mushrooms and rice to the pot. Simmer approximately 8-12 minutes or until rice is cooked. *Note: Cooking time may vary depending on how long it takes to bring your soup to a boil so I suggest checking the rice occasionally until done.

  • Remove from heat and discard bay leaves. Stir in the shredded chicken, basil, cilantro, lime juice, and Asian chili sauce to taste. If you would like a less “chunky” soup, stir in additional broth or coconut milk. Garnish servings with desired toppings.
  • Adjust the curry paste: If you are using a milder brand like Thai Kitchen then I would start with 3-4 tablespoons curry paste.  If you are using a spicier brand, like Mae Ploy, I would start with 2 tablespoons.  You can add more curry paste to taste once the soup is simmering or add chili sauce to taste at the end of cooking.
  • Rotisserie chicken: You may swap the chicken thighs for 2 ½ cups shredded rotisserie chicken. Add the chicken at the end of cooking when you would add the shredded chicken thighs back to the soup.
  • Rice:  Please only use basmati rice, other rice tends to become mushy.  Alternatively, add any cooked rice to soup bowls and ladle soup over top.  
  • Recipe variations:  Swap in shrimp, different vegetables, make it vegetarian, etc.  See post for ideas/details.
  • Leftovers: The rice will soak up broth while it’s stored, so be prepared to add additional chicken broth or coconut milk. Better yet, if you expect leftovers, omit the rice, then add cooked rice to the leftovers when reheating.  Store the soup in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Prep ahead: The chicken can be trimmed and the vegetables and aromatics chopped and stored in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator.   

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