Tom Kha Gai Butternut Squash Soup

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Bowl of Butternut Squash Tom Kha Gai soup topped with fresh basilIf you ever have the chance to travel, do it.  It has been one of the most challenging experiences I’ve ever endured – hello jet lag, language barriers and heavy backpacks –  but it was also one of the most fun and educational.

Perhaps my favorite element of travel is expanding my horizons, whether it’s observing how other people do life, learning to speak another language or exploring new cuisines. Such cuisines were Thai and Indonesian. Though very simple, straight-forward dishes, they were always fresh, inventive and incredibly flavorful.

One example of this? Tom kha gai.

Baking sheet of with chunks of butternut squash ready to be roastedTom kha gai is a broth- and coconut milk-based soup whose primarily flavors are ginger (or galangal), lemongrass and chili. I have a simplified version of it in our upcoming 31 Meals cookbook (to be released any day now!) But I got it in my head to make a version with butternut squash because I imagined the flavors melding together so well. Turns out, they totally do.

Blender containing butternut squash pureeTom kha gai typically features chicken as the primary protein, along with a few mushrooms for more heartiness and texture. But I kept this version vegan friendly and upped the veggie count with an entire roasted butternut squash! Look at that creamy goodness. I could hardly wait to give it a try.

Pouring squash puree into a bowl for Tom Kha Gai Butternut Squash SoupThough this soup may be foreign to some, the ingredients are fairly common and easy to attain:

Butternut squash
Vegetable broth
Coconut milk
Ginger
Lemongrass
Shallot
Thai chili (or other hot pepper)
Mushrooms
& fish sauce (optional)

Sliced mushrooms for adding to Vegan Tom Kha Gai Soup

Bowls of Tom Kha Gai Soup with fresh cilantro and lime wedgesOn its own, this soup has TONS of flavor. But the addition of butternut squash makes it even more creamy and luxurious and perfect for slurping down while hunkered down inside during harsh winter weather. Trust me, this is practically all we did last week. Wake up, stay in jammies, hot cocoa, soup, back to bed. And it, was, wonderful.

I highly recommend you do the same. Enjoy!

Bowl of Tom Kha Gai Butternut Squash Soup with fresh cilantro and lime wedges

Tom Kha Gai Butternut Squash Soup

Tom kha gai soup with a twist. Butternut squash puree makes it creamy and luxurious and doubles the flavor. Warm, gingery, spicy and the perfect vegan, GF-friendly soup to warm your weary bones.
Author Minimalist Baker
Print
Bowl of Butternut Squash Tom Kha Gai Soup topped with cilantro
4.97 from 28 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4
Course Entree
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Vegan (optional), Vegetarian
Freezer Friendly 1 month
Does it keep? 3-4 Days

Ingredients

  • 1 small butternut squash (skin and seeds removed & cubed)
  • 1 14-oz. can light coconut milk
  • 4 cups low-sodium veggie broth (DIY or store-bought)
  • 1 small shallot (thinly sliced)
  • 1 small knob fresh ginger (grated // 1 knob yields ~ 3 Tbsp)
  • 2 stalks lemongrass (cut into 6-inch pieces for easy removal before serving)*
  • 1 cup mushrooms (sliced)
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce (optional)
  • 1/2 medium Thai chili or serrano pepper (thinly sliced, seeds mostly removed)
  • For serving: lime (quartered), fresh chopped cilantro and basil for garnish

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees (204 C). Add butternut squash to a baking sheet and toss with 2 Tbsp olive or coconut oil and a bit of sea salt. Roast for 12-15 minutes or until tender and cooked through. Set aside to cool slightly.
  • In the meantime, add coconut milk, vegetable broth, ginger, lemongrass, and shallot to a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Then lower heat to a simmer. Add fish sauce (optional) and sliced pepper and stir.
  • Add butternut squash to a food processor or blender with 1 cup of the broth and puree until smooth (amount as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size). Add back into the soup and stir until well combined. Add mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes more.
  • Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. I added more ginger and a pinch more salt at this point.
  • Before serving, discard lemongrass (if you used fresh stalks – otherwise ignore this instruction). Garnish with fresh lime juice (HIGHLY recommended), fresh basil and cilantro.
  • This would be lovely over rice or on its own. Store leftovers covered in the fridge for several days. Freeze for longer term storage.

Notes

* If you can’t find fresh lemongrass, sub 1 heaping Tbsp lemongrass paste (found in the herb section) for the 2 stalks lemongrass.
* Nutrition information is a rough estimate.

Nutrition (1 of 4 servings)

Serving: 1 g Calories: 165 Carbohydrates: 19 g Protein: 4.3 g Fat: 7.5 g Saturated Fat: 5.4 g Polyunsaturated Fat: 0 g Monounsaturated Fat: 0 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 445 mg Potassium: 0 mg Fiber: 2.5 g Sugar: 4 g Vitamin A: 0 IU Vitamin C: 0 mg Calcium: 0 mg Iron: 0 mg

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  1. Kemoy says

    This was so delicious. I made a few changes…didn’t have broth so I used water and added a few seasonings. I used a lemongrass powder and I puréed the whole batch so that everything blended smoothly then I added it back to pot to simmer with mushrooms.

  2. Bethany says

    I normally don’t leave reviews but this soup is phenom. I didn’t have ginger or lemongrass, so I subbed a little bit of red curry paste instead. Delicious

    • Alli says

      I normally don’t like butternut squash soup because it is too sweet, but this is delicious. Like others have mentioned I reccomend blending the whole thing (minus the mushrooms) because it comes out way creamier.

  3. Cleo says

    I HIGHLY recommend pureeing the whole thing instead of just with one cup of the broth, it made a huge difference in the texture. It was a bit gritty and when I pureed the whole thing it was just super smooth and heavenly. Otherwise really amazing, the flavors are outstanding and understated in a nice way. Someone said to double the ginger/lemograss etc and add garlic and curry paste if you want something with more of a kick and I’ll probably try that next time I make this.

  4. wavvy says

    This is incredible. I made it, added two thai chilis for an extra punch. Ihave been dreaming if it since.

    I can’t wait to make it again <3<3

  5. Quinn says

    Wow I want this soup on hand ALL. THE. TIME. It is so comforting and has insanely wonderful flavor. Lemongrass + lime is perfect. Thank you!

  6. Kendall says

    Such a delicious take on Tom Kha! The butternut squash flavor blends so nicely with the traditional ingredients in this soup. I added sliced shitake mushrooms and whole shimeji mushrooms (picked up from the farmers’ market). The lime juice really makes the flavors in this soup pop! Thank you so much for your creativity in this recipe!!

  7. Diana says

    I made this and served at a dinner party. It was a big hit! I followed the recipe pretty closely and it was very easy to make. I had a jalapeño on hand so I used a few slices of that and it added a really nice amount of heat. I also did go ahead and use the fish sauce. I felt like the flavors really developed more as it simmered and I think adding the cilantro and squeeze of lime before serving really made it. Thank you for the recipe! I will definitely make this one again.

  8. Krystie Powers says

    I have a question. Your photo looks so thick. When I make this soup, it is SO delicious but it is not thick at all. What am I doing wrong?

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Krystie! This soup shouldn’t be too thick actually and I’m wondering if you’re referring to the photo of pureed butternut squash that is being poured into the black bowl? If you prefer a thicker soup, another reader used 1/4 cup multi purpose flour!

  9. Stacy says

    I just made this today, (feeling under the weather and it sounded perfect.) Well it is DELISH! I did not have a serrano pepper so I used some crushed red pepper instead, (about 1/8 tsp.) Also, did not have fish sauce so I subbed soy sauce. Health and tasty! Highly recommend!

  10. Anna H Tennis says

    Can anyone tell me if I were to add chicken back into this recipe, how and at what point in the recipe I would do it?

  11. Michelle says

    Loved this soup! I used shitake mushrooms (yummy!) and I did make a few substitutions based on what I had in the cupboard (regular coconut milk, jalapeno, and small white onion instead of low fat, serrano, and shallot) and it was still great. Definitely don’t skip the lime – it adds complexity and brightness. Both of us loved it, and it reheated well for lunch the next day.

  12. Julia says

    Wow. This soup is just delightful and we are adding it to our family recipe book. I used carrots in place of the butternut squash because that is what I had, and it was as soothing and flavorful as could be. Both my husband and my 9 month old loved it! :) Thank you!

  13. Sierra says

    Fast and simple! With 2 of us this came together in no time, served over leftover cous cous with lots of lime, cilantro and basil. We added chicken from last nights Sunday roast ?? Sooo comforting and delicious, perfect cold weather soup ?

  14. Venetia says

    Thank goodness this soup was absolutely delicious as I had to triple the recipe! I had already cut up and roasted 2 large squash (2.25 kg) for another recipe before changing my mind about it (I became suspicious of the coconut milk to water ratio…. no broth? hmmmm…). After a quick search, I found this ingredient list and it felt exactly right. I figured my 2 big squash were equivalent to 3 small ones. Based on the colour of my soup, it was probably a little lean on the squash, but it was so good I would do it again that way. My lemon grass was skinny so I used 4 stalks (x3 = 12) and regular-sodium veggie broth. Lemongrass balance was perfect and it was by no means too salty. I did not have mushrooms (sniff-sniff) but they can be added later. I saw some other comments about it not turning out very thick, but you actually want a Thai soup on the runnier side. Shouldn’t be like a traditional pureed North American root vegetable soup. I read the instructions too quickly so I added the fish sauce before boiling/simmering, but nothing bad happened! Also, I didn’t realize there was no blending of the entire batch, so I grated my ginger very coarsely to save time – I don’t mind, but some guests might, so I blended it; however I have now lost the nice shallot slices. My chile was Sambal oelek paste: I recommend it as its very easy to control the heat. It would be nice to have an explanation about how to get the Gai (chicken) into the soup if we don’t want a full veggie version. Thank you for the good memories of Thai restaurants with a nice North American (squash) twist!

  15. Debraj76 says

    Absolutely FABULOUS! I used a jalapeño…seeds and all and it was spicy (to my liking). No mushrooms on hand, but did not miss them. I was also out of veggie broth, so used chicken broth. A repeater for sure!

  16. Daina says

    I absolutely loved this soup and I don’t usually even like soup! I replaced the shallot with a small white onion (because that’s all I had), doubled the ginger, left out the lemongrass (didn’t have any) and used the whole Thai chili. I added the cilantro into the soup as well as on top when serving. I added a lot of fresh squeezed lemon juice as well.

  17. Laura says

    I made this night night minus the fish sauce or lemongrass and subbed a scallion for a shallot (only because it’s what I did and didn’t have on hand) and it was delish! The aromas in my house were wonderfully Thai. I threw together a quick asparagus, onion, and shredded cabbage stirfry and dinner was all set in less than 30 minutes.
    I look forward to experimenting with the recipe further based on the comments above. Thanks Dana, love your recipes!

  18. Jennifer Lo says

    I often skim your website by searching what I have to cook with and then seeing what minimalist baker might add to my ideas. (today I roasted a butternut squash and was debating if I should make cupcakes or soup with it) I saw this and thought brilliant! Using what I had on-hand, I made the closest version of it. I squeezed tons of lime to make up for no lemongrass and used 3/4 of my squash since my soups are always too thick for me. I’m eating it right now and it’s delicious! I threw in turmeric to oomph the color (it is Halloween today lol) and will use the leftover butternut for that hummus-hybrid recipe you made. Just wanted to reach out and say thank you for always sharing your creations – I’m not a baker (I don’t even have cupcake pans or any flour at all to make the cupcakes I’m craving) BUT! I do love to cook and you’re one of the only sites I actually use for referencing as I cook.

  19. Louise says

    Me and my husband love this soup, it provides an incredibly satisfying combination of flavours. We both feel that the lime added just before you eat it is vital to get just the right taste. Without the lime it isn’t nearly as good.

  20. YogiTwins says

    We loved this soup! I added a bunch of chopped up kale since I was out of mushrooms and threw in some crispy tofu. It worked perfectly. In place of the fish sauce I used a little tamari (tip from previous comment, thanks!) The soup was not very thick so I added a 1/4 cup multi purpose flour and that thickened it up. Served it over jasmine rice and made it a meal. Next time I’ll add mushrooms and red bell pepper along with the kale and tofu. YUMMY!!

  21. Haley says

    This soup was delicious! Lots of thai flavor! Only thing I would do different next time is use full fat coconut milk instead of light. It wasn’t as creamy as your pictures. Mine was quite a bit watery and I wanted a richer soup. I used a red habanero pepper and a whole serrano. Needless to say, it was a extremely spicy! I will be more modest next time. I crushed the lemongrass to help it release it’s flavors.

  22. Allison says

    This soup is amazing! I was looking for a more unconventional way to use the butternut squash I had sitting around and let me tell you, this dish was so delicious I had to stop myself from licking the bowl! I did use full fat coconut milk because I prefer the richness but followed everything else accordingly. I let my soup simmer for a good while and served it over rice and fresh spinach (which allowed the spinach to cook perfectly upon serving). It was to die for. Thank you for such a beautiful recipe. I look forward to using it again and again.

  23. Sferd says

    Approximately how much cubed butternut squash did you use for this recipe?

    Also, just a tip that many Asian markets in big cities carry “vegetarian” fish sauce which we use for pad thai, curries, papaya salad, etc. We traveled in Thailand for about 7 weeks and LOVE to cook vegan versions of Thai specialties.

  24. Rachel says

    Hello thank you for this recipe! You may need to make a correction on the recipe title- I’m pretty certain that Gai in Thai language means Chicken. Tom Kha Gai means it has chicken, the woord Moo in Thai language means Pork. so it would then be tom kha moo if you had pork in it. Hope this helps!

  25. Stephanie says

    This soup is heavenly good. Seriously. A new favourite for sure!
    I topped it with sautéed enoki and white mushrooms, homemade coconut bacon bits, fresh cilantro and a bit of sriracha and it was simply perfect.

    Thanks for this recipe, I’ll certainly do it again☺

  26. Linda says

    Just cooked this soup for lunch. I only had a quarter of butternut squash so I put in a medium sized sweet potato and it turned out amazing. I didn’t have lemongrass either, but still… It wasn’t as thick as it looks in the pictures, but it was just what we needed this wintery afternoon.Thank you for a grat recipe, i will be making this again soon!

  27. Jeanne says

    HI!
    LOVE your recipes! I’m a foody that has the worlds most screwed up belly and live of about 10 foods.Obviously not a great combo. Yet somehow your recipes can be tweaked to save me from total food blahness. THANK YOU!

    I do have a big question. Since I cant have onions, garlic and celery (key ingredients in veg broth) nor meat based broth, what can I use instead? Would fish stock work? Especially if I leave out the fish sauce?

  28. Sue Ann Jaffarian says

    Another winner! I’ve made 2 soups from you so far (the summer corn soup) and I have LOVED them both. So easy, fresh and flavorful. Keep up the great work. You’ve really changed my eating.

  29. Ciara says

    Made this for dinner last night and it is absolutely amazing. Served it with oh she glow’s spiced roasted chickpeas and used tamari instead of fish sauce. Sooooo good.

  30. Donovan says

    Sweet Baby! This soup is great. I like aggressive flavors, so I made it with double ginger, double lemongrass, added garlic, and Thai Chile paste. Damn!
    An instant favorite… Thank You.

  31. Abby says

    This recipe looks delicious, but shouldn’t it be called “Tom Kha Dje”? Cause the current name literally translates to Tom Kha with chicken, which is really confusing.

  32. Ashlee Spear says

    One of my new year’s resolutions was to cook a new Thai dish at least once a month. This soup is in my queue!

  33. Nicole Leigh says

    Just fyi: I’d call this recipe “tom kha” rather than “tom kha gai” since “gai” means chicken in Thai. It’s a bit misleading. :)

    • Dana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Nicole, thanks for noting that. I recognize that it may be a tad misleading, but I clearly state in the post that though tom kha gai is traditionally served with chicken (with gai meaning chicken), I wanted to make this version vegan. Thanks for clarifying though.

  34. Melanie says

    Just stunning. Absolutely stunning.

    I really hope to be like you when I grow up. Or at least run into you at some point in my existence. Perhaps when I’m visiting the fam back in Missouri.

  35. Abbie @ Needs Salt says

    This soup looks so delicious! And it’s so colorful. I love butternut squash with pretty much anything.
    Pinning this!

  36. Tieghan says

    Thai and Butternut are two of my favorites! This soup looks so great!

    I would love to be able to travel and experience new foods and find new inspiration!

  37. Kate says

    Loving both Thai food and butternut squash lately…I’ll have to give this one a go. Thanks so much for sharing!

  38. Katy says

    Gorgeous soup and I love how simple it is like all your recipes. I probably look forward to your soup recipes the most because they’re simple, delicious, often vegan, just perfect. :) Pinned

  39. Kelli H (made in sonoma) says

    Looks delicious! Last night I made a soup with some similar ingredients (broth, coconut milk, spices) but it had lentils and chickpeas. I think you would have loved it, Dana!

  40. Emily says

    Oh, this looks delicious! Question though… I’m severely allergic to mushrooms. Can I leave them out? Will leaving them out affect the texture/taste?

  41. Dixya @ Food, Pleasure, and Health says

    i have all the ingredients at home except for the squash, I will b e making this one soon.

  42. Cheryl says

    Whoa, yum! Tom kha is one of our absolute favorites but can leave us hungry a couple hours later. I usually serve it now with a sweet potato, mashed with a bit of coconut milk and red curry. You’ve married the two for a freakin magical soup! Cannot wait to try. Have you ever found a good vegan substitute for fish sauce? And I think “gai” actual means “chicken” :)

  43. Averie @ Averie Cooks says

    I just posted a squash recipe today too. Cannot get enough! Your soup is so thick and rich looking. Just beautiful, Dana! Pinned

    • Cristy says

      I just love your recipes!! And you always seem to know just what I am craving!!
      I was going to make some Tom kha gai this weekend! I am using roasted delicata squash (because I have it on hand, and its yummers)
      I wanted to share this fun little thing I discovered… if someone wants to mimic the fish sauce flavors in theirs… either of these work well… 1-2 piece of roasted seaweed sheets (like the kind you can get at Trader Joe’s or costco) just crumble it up really well and add a touch of bragg liquid aminos. The other way which is a little odd, but also mimics it well is 1-2 kalamata olives (pitted) and chopped really finely (or even better just puree them with some broth… and again add a squirt or 2 of bragg’s with it! Anyway, just thought I’d share that.
      Thank you for all your inspiration and yummy recipes!!