Thai Chicken Meatball Tom Kha Recipe

Thai food may be one of those cuisines you never thought you could easily make at home, but as it turns out, you can whip up quite the impressive bowl with surprising ease. If you can chop herbs, simmer broth, and acquire a few specialty ingredients, you can make this Thai chicken meatball tom kha soup. If you've made meatballs before, it'll be even easier to whip up this boldly flavored bowlful inspired by a traditional Thai dish

"This soup is a spin on the classic Thai tom kha, which is typically a coconut-forward soup with slices of tender chicken," recipe developer Michelle McGlinn says. "Here, the chicken takes a front seat as big, juicy meatballs filled with flavor. The tom kha compliments the herby, light flavor of the meatballs and adds a pleasant spice and cooling coconut flavor. The meatballs are delicious, but promise, you'll be slurping the broth down to the last drop!" Surely your taste buds are curious by now, so here's everything you need to know about making this memorable soup that tastes so much more rewarding than takeout.

Prepare your Thai chicken meatball soup ingredients

You may have to stop at an Asian market (or your favorite online grocer) for some of these ingredients, but trust that it'll be worth it. Plus, your pantry will be stocked if you want to cook Thai food again in the future.

For this soup, you'll need coconut milk which adds flavor and helps thicken the soup, as well as ground chicken for the meatball base. You'll also need an egg, palm sugar, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, cilantro, dried galangal, fish sauce, soy sauce, white pepper, panko breadcrumbs, chicken stock, peanuts, a lime, and red curry paste. "I like the brand Maesri, and they have a tin of paste labelled 'red curry' that is also sometimes labelled as 'kaeng kua.' That being said, if you don't have access to Maesri, your grocery store will likely have something labelled as 'thai red curry paste,'" McGlinn notes. She also says that galangal "may be hard to find," and "can be omitted if needed, especially if you have kaeng kua curry paste."

Make (and bake) the meatballs

Preheat your oven to 400 F, because it's time to get started. Mince your garlic, ginger, and lemongrass and chop up your cilantro. "If you hate chopping, throw the lemongrass, garlic, ginger, and cilantro in a food processor and pulse. Saves some time — I prefer chopping because it uses less dishes," McGlinn says. Once you've done that, combine that with the ground chicken, soy sauce, white pepper, breadcrumbs, and egg, but save a bit of garlic for the soup. Get in there with your (clean) hands until you have a nice meatball mixture, then form your chicken-y, herb-y spheres. Finally, place them on a foil-lined sheet and pop them in the oven.

"Baking the meatballs is the easiest, most hands-free way to make them, but you can also brown them in a skillet, which will give them a little more brown on the exterior," McGlinn advises. "Don't try to cook them directly in the soup, they will fall apart."

Start cooking the soup

While your meatballs bake, turn your attention to your stovetop. Sauté the reserved garlic in your soup pot, then add the coconut milk and curry paste and give it a good stir. Then, toss in the chicken stock, lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, palm sugar, galangal, and lemongrass stalks. Let it all boil, then keep it at a simmer for a while.

Finish the soup and add the meatballs

You should simmer your tom kha soup for about 20 minutes, which is conveniently the amount of time your meatballs should bake for, take those meaty spheres out and drop them into your simmering soup. Let it cook a bit longer, then take out the lemongrass and galangal pieces since they're not very pleasant to chew.

Sit down with a steaming bowl of Thai chicken tom kha soup

Ladle your chicken meatball tom kha soup into bowls, garnish with peanut, cilantro, and lime wedges, and enjoy. "I love having it with spring rolls or crispy egg rolls. I love the crunch to go along with the sweet and sour broth! You can also serve with noodles, like pad thai, or add noodles to the broth itself for a noodle soup," McGlinn says.

If you're planning on eating solo, you'll be glad to hear this: "This actually saves well," our developer says. "Don't be alarmed, but the coconut milk separates from the broth in the fridge. It comes back together when stirred. Just reheat until hot — it's best hot, not just warm."

Thai Chicken Meatball Tom Kha Recipe
5 from 35 ratings
This Thai chicken meatball tom kha features juicy meatballs in a delicious coconut broth.
Prep Time
Cook Time
tom kha meatball soup close-up
Total time: 50 minutes
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 teaspoon minced lemongrass, plus 2 trimmed stalks
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic, divided
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro, plus more for serving
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 1 (13 ½-ounce) can coconut milk
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 4 slices dried galangal
  • juice of 1 lime, plus wedges for serving
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar
Optional Ingredients
  • peanuts, for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  2. Combine the chicken, minced lemongrass, minced ginger, 1 teaspoon of minced garlic, cilantro, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, white pepper, egg, and breadcrumbs in a bowl. Using your hands, mix together until completely combined.
  3. Roll the meatballs into balls roughly the size of a golf ball. Place on a foil-lined sheet tray.
  4. Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes, until slightly browned.
  5. While the meatballs are cooking, begin the soup. Sauté the remaining teaspoon of garlic in a lightly oiled pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once fragrant, about 1 minute, add the curry paste and coconut milk. Whisk to combine until smooth.
  6. Add the chicken stock, galangal, trimmed lemongrass stalks, lime juice, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, fish sauce, and palm sugar. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes. The palm sugar will dissolve and the soup will develop a strong flavor.
  7. Remove the meatballs from the oven and add to the soup to finish cooking. Simmer the meatballs with the soup for 5 to 10 minutes.
  8. To serve, remove the lemongrass and galangal. Ladle the meatballs into bowls and pour soup over top. Garnish with cilantro leaves, peanuts, and lime wedges, if desired.
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