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AIP Tom Kha Gai is that Thai coconut chicken soup everyone loves — with the comfort food flavors of coconut milk, fresh lime juice, ginger, lemongrass and a buttery chicken stock. This nightshade-free version is also Paleo, Whole30, Keto and Gluten-free. Glorious to serve to most people.
Use your Instant Pot or stove top to make this easy, delicious dinner.
The Keto version has just 2 grams net carbs per serving!
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Ingredients in AIP Tom Kha Gai
This AIP version of Tom Kha Gai is just perfect: You’ll never miss the nightshades!
Rich and so delicious that even kids will ask for seconds, this is one soup that everyone I know loves. It was a privilege to create the nightshade-free version. There’s just no reason this soup needs peppers. So much flavor and perfection happens without them.
The ingredients in AIP Tom Kha Gai are:
- water — The water, chicken and sea salt (listed below) combine to create a rich meat stock.
- veggies — Ideally zucchini and mushrooms, but also celery, and it’s okay to use other veggies you like or have on hand.
- water chestnuts — These are optional but have such a nice crunch. Leave them out for the Keto version.
- coconut milk — Full fat (not lite).
- lime juice — Fresh.
- coconut aminos
- fish sauce — Use Red Boat brand — such a wonderful ingredient. If you haven’t used fish sauce before, it’s not fishy in the soup, but imparts an important flavor profile to this authentic tasting dish.
- ginger — Fresh is best, but you can use ground in a pinch (no pun intended).
- sea salt — This recipe uses a fair bit of sea salt, because the stock base of the soup is made from chicken, water and sea salt. The product is rich, balanced, buttery and delicious.
- fresh cilantro, for garnish
How to make the Instant Pot or stove top versions
If you have an Instant Pot, that’s the easiest and fastest way to make this recipe. It’s what we call a Dump and Cook recipe with very little hands on work. And the cook time is just 15 minutes.
You place about half of the ingredients into the insert: chicken, water, salt, veggies — and cook. When the timer goes off, the chicken, water and sea salt have actually created a rich, flavorful stock — full of gelatin, and no broth was needed to make this soup!
After opening the lid, you’ll add the fresh-tasting ingredients that make this soup famous: coconut milk, fresh lime juice, fresh ginger and optional lemongrass essential oil. Also the fish sauce and coconut amino acids, which we want to stay strong and rich; they shouldn’t be cooked, just warmed.
This AIP Tom Kha Gai recipe gives you the choice: You can use fresh lemongrass, if you know where to buy it. It’s REALLY easy to work with, and I give that option below (with guidelines in the recipe Notes).
Or you can use 2 shakes of lemongrass EO, and of course, that’s easiest route. The high fat coconut milk in Tom Kha Gai absorbs the herbal oil — and equally and gently distributes the flavor throughout the soup. But not everyone likes to cook with essential oils, so please look for lemongrass at your natural food or Asian grocery store, if you prefer.
The stove top version takes about 30 minutes of cooking, but no more prep work than the Instant Pot version.
You’ll just make the meat stock in a large sauce pan or medium size stock pot, the same way you would in the IP: Place chicken, water and sea salt in the pot. Simmer for 20 minutes, covered, then add the veggies and cook for another 10 minutes. Pretty hands off!
Then, same next step, you’ll add the fresh ingredients.
After the chicken cooks and the meat stock is made, you’ll remove the chicken from the pot using tongs, allow it to cool a little; then chop it into bite-size pieces.
And then, what makes AIP Tom Kha Gai so delicious is the fresh ingredients that are added at the very end: coconut milk, coconut aminos, fresh lime juice and ginger.
The chicken is added back to the pot. And it’s all topped with fresh cilantro.
The result is popular Thai flavors: creamy, spicy stock with delicious meat and veggies.
I garnished mine in the photos with a little dark granulated sweetener.
How my family likes this soup
My favorite thing about this soup is how much my family loves it. I make a lot of soups and spent three years creating this soup cookbook; PLUS, we owned a soup café for years. So my kids have eaten a lot of soup. (Not to mention 6 years on the GAPS diet, LOL.)
But when I make this soup, my kids get genuinely enthusiastic. The day I made the soup to take these photos, my teenage son said, “This is really good, Mom.” Ten minutes later, still eating, “This is really good, Mom.” Hilarious.
So yes, your family, your kids, everyone should like this. The flavors are just so good. And the soup is satisfying.
What to serve with Tom Kha Gai
Obviously not high in carbs or bready type textures, you may like to serve AIP Tom Kha Gai with muffins (AIP or Keto), a variation on rice or some other bread. (Keto Bread Rolls here, AIP Biscuits here.)
Also, it’s great with refreshing cold veggies. We eat a lot of cucumbers around here, and I love Thai soups with a side of them. To make it pretty and fun, make a veggie-fruit plate with fresh berries, raw veggies or pickled veggies.
How to store leftover AIP Tom Kha Gai
Honestly, this soup is best fresh! Because what makes it so special is all of the dynamic, fresh flavors.
But, you can definitely enjoy leftovers. Keep sealed in the fridge for up to 3 days. Simply reheat gently; do not simmer.
To freeze, store in sealed container. Defrost overnight in the fridge.
AIP Tom Kha Gai (Paleo, Whole30, Keto and Gluten-free)
- Instant Pot/pressure cooker or saucepan/stock pot
- 5 cups water
- 3 pounds chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
- 4 cups veggies zucchini, mushrooms and celery preferred, sliced
- 8 ounces water chestnuts canned, rinsed, optional (omit for Keto)
- 1 can (15 ounces) coconut milk full fat, not Lite
- 3 green onions sliced
- 1 lime juiced
- 3 Tablespoons ginger fresh, minced or grated; or use 2 teaspoons dried ginger powder, if you can't access fresh ginger
- 2 Tablespoons coconut aminos
- 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sea salt (This combines with the chicken and water to create a rich chicken stock.)
- 1 Tablespoon fish sauce Red Boat brand
- 1 Tablespoon coconut sugar ; for Keto, use 5 drop stevia OR "brown sugar" low carb granulated sweetener
- 2 shakes (a little over 2 drops) lemongrass essential oil OR one stalk of fresh lemongrass (see recipe Notes below for how-to)
- ¼ cup cilantro or mint, fresh, for garnish
INSTANT POT VERSION
- Add to Instant Pot insert: water, chicken, veggies, fresh lemongrass (if using) and sea salt. (If you're using dried ginger powder, add it now too.)
- Put on lid. Shut steam valve. Choose "Stew" button, then decrease time to 15 minutes. When timer goes off, allow steam to release naturally for 45 minutes (if you have the time); otherwise, carefully do a quick release. (Press "Cancel" button. A dish towel or hot pad can be helpful to carefully open steam valve.)
- Use tongs to remove thighs to cutting board. Cut into bite-size pieces and return to pot.
- Add most of the remaining ingredients to the pot also: coconut milk, green onions, lime juice, fresh ginger, coconut aminos, fish sauce, coconut sugar (or low carb sweetener for Keto) and lemongrass EO if you're using it.
- Stir well, serve, and garnish with fresh cilantro.
STOVE TOP VERSION
- Place into medium stock pot or large saucepan: chicken, water and sea salt. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low or medium-low to maintain a slow simmer, and cover. (If you're using fresh lemongrass and/or dried ginger powder, add those now too.) Cook gently for 20 minutes. Then remove lid, add veggies (zucchini, mushrooms and celery), and gently cook for another 10 minutes.
- Remove chicken with tongs, to cutting board. When cool enough to handle, chop into bite-size pieces.
- Add chicken back to soup pot with most of the remaining ingredients: coconut milk, green onions, lime juice, fresh ginger, coconut aminos, fish sauce, coconut sugar (or low carb sweetener for Keto) and lemongrass EO if you're using it.
- Stir well, serve, and garnish with fresh cilantro.
How to use fresh lemongrassTo use whole lemongrass stalk, cut off the top of the stalk, and set it aside. Peel off the outer layers of the bottom 3 inches — to reveal a paler, more tender core. Cut off the lower bulb end and discard it. Using the butt of a heavy knife, a rolling pin or a similar tool, smash the root to soften it and release the flavors. Add both top of stalk and smashed bottom root to soup pot before cooking, and remove them before serving/eating. When purchasing lemongrass stalks, choose ones that are heavy, tightly formed and firm without bruising.