A vegan version of one of my favourite Thai dishes is this Tom Yum Soup! It’s super aromatic and has a perfect balance of, sour, hint of sweetness, and a little bit of spice. It’s both light and hearty, and also actually really healthy!!
CLEAR VS. CREAMY TOM YUM
You can make the clear version of Tom Yum or make a creamy Tom Yum version with some vegan evaporated milk or even coconut milk. It’s totally up to your preference but I love the added richness the coconut milk gives to this soup.
Creamy Tom Yum is traditionally made with evaporated milk and coconut milk is used for Tom Kha (Thai coconut soup). But for this vegan recipe, I find that coconut milk works just as well!
THE AROMATICS FOR THE SOUP
These are what really bring this soup to life and give all the flavour, so these are the most important elements of this recipe!
KAFFIR LIME LEAVES
Kaffir lime leaves are what give this vegan tom yum soup the distinct sour taste. They come fresh or dried, and depending on what you have access to, both work really well!
Though I personally would prefer using fresh ones for optimal flavour. I store my fresh leaves in the freezer and simply grab a few leaves when I need to use some for a recipe.
They’re still so fresh even after freezing! I keep mine in a silicon bag (I love my Stasher bag) and can keep it frozen for months on end.
So before using your kaffir lime leaves, you need to crush/break them apart to release all the flavour. They’ll smell SO GOOD and really citrusy!
Lemongrass, also known as tanglad in Filipino, is distinct for its citrusy aroma and flavour. Though despite its name, it’s actually not sour! It’s commonly used in Filipino cuisine and in other Southeast Asian cuisines. The tall leaves are inedible and are actually quite sharp, and it’s the bottom 4-5 inches from the top of the roots that are the most aromatic.
Photo below is my lemongrass (tanglad) plant!
The outer shell of the lemongrass is actually very tough so you’ll need to peel them off to be able to reach the inner flesh that is much more tender and will be easier to slice and pound. The shells of the bottom parts can be kept and used for teas and in soups such as this one.
The lemongrass stalks in soups are not edible and are used for flavour, and they can be removed after they’ve simmered in the broth and have released the flavour.
The flavour really comes from the base (closer to the roots) of the lemongrass (see photo above) so if you’re able to get them fresh from your local story or grocery, I highly suggest utilising the bulbs/stalks at the bottom!
GINGER WITH PEPPER
Okay so nothing can exactly mimic the flavour of galangal but since I don’t have access to fresh galangal (sadly my plant still isn’t ready for harvest) I opted for ginger and some pepper (since galangal has that mild peppery taste) and I can say that this sub worked well!
Though of course if you have access to galangal, I highly suggest you use that instead of ginger.
Here’s how galangal looks like (photo not mine):
I used chili garlic sauce for this recipe to add that nice spicy kick and extra flavour! Other chili sauces such as sriracha would also work well! It’s totally up to you too how much chili spice you’d like.
For my chili garlic sauce, you can get my homemade recipe here.
As for the veggies, I used some baby corn and halved straw mushrooms.
Both of these were canned but if you’d like to use fresh ones, that’d be even better! You can also use other mushrooms of choice but I like the texture of straw mushrooms in this soup.
I also added in some tomatoes and fresh bird’s eye chilies for spice. If you want that spice but not too spicy, you can opt to remove the seeds of the chilies.
COCONUT SUGAR, VEGAN FISH SAUCE, AND LIME JUICE
This trio is what gives the soup that balance of sweet, savoury, and sour/tangy! You’ll find the perfect balance of the these flavours with a little bit of trial and error at the start and you’ll have to taste along the way to find your preference in terms of flavour. So feel free to adjust depending on your desired taste!
COOKING THE TOM YUM
This recipe requires just 1 pot!
I heated up a pot and sautéed the aromatics along with the tomatoes before adding in the liquid.
Left it down to cook until all the flavours form the aromatics seep out and you get a really flavourful soup base.
I added in some of my homemade vegan fish sauce for that extra layer of flavour and savoury taste. It makes a big difference in terms of taste!
I mixed in the vegan evaporated milk (or coconut milk) to add a little bit of creaminess to the soup (but nothing too thick at all).
Hope you enjoy this tasty and really comforting recipe! You’ll find it below. ◡̈
You might enjoy these other vegan recipes:
- Stir-Fried Tofu and Basil Noodles
- Tantanmen (Vegan Ramen)
- Peanut Satay Noodle Soup
- Yaki Udon
- Baked Peanut and Lime Tofu
- Kung Pao Tofu
- Pineapple Cashew Tofu Stir-Fry
Vegan Thai Tom Yum Soup
- 5 stalks lemongrass , preferably the stalks nearer the roots
- 6 cloves garlic
- 10 pieces kaffir lime leaves fresh or dried (see notes)
- 4 bird’s eye chilies
- 1 inch (2.5 cm) fresh ginger thinly sliced (see notes)
- Pinch of ground black pepper (see notes)
- 1 tbsp neutral oil
- 1 white onion thinly sliced
- 3 small tomatoes sliced into wedges
- 6 cups vegetable broth
- 7 oz straw mushrooms or other mushrooms like oyster trumpet, button
- 7 oz baby corn sliced
- 1 tbsp coconut sugar adjust according to desired taste
- 1/3 cup vegan fish sauce add 1 to 2 tbsp more to taste as needed, see homemade recipe here
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 cup lime juice from 3 limes add 1 to 2 tbsp more to for sourness, if needed
- 1 cup vegan evaporated milk or coconut milk (if making a creamy version, see notes)
- 1 tbsp chili sauce adjust according to desired heat
- Fresh cilantro for garnish
- More lime juice
- Crush the lemongrass to release the oil and aroma. I usually just do this by pounding on it using the dull end of a cleaver or a pestle. Crush the garlic as well. Break apart the kaffir limes and slice the chillies.
- For the veggies, I simply sliced the straw mushrooms in half and the baby corn into small pieces.
- Heat a large pot over medium high heat. I used a dutch oven.
- Add in the oil. Once hot, sauté the onion and tomatoes. Add in the garlic, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, ginger, and pepper. Sauté the aromatics for 2 to 3 minutes over medium high heat until the onion is translucent.
- Add in the vegetable broth to the pot.
- Cover the pot and leave to boil over high heat.
- Once the soup boils, add in the mushrooms, baby corn, tomatoes, sugar, fish sauce, and salt, to taste. Mix well and then leave to simmer of medium high heat for 5 minutes or until the mushrooms and corn cook down.
- Mix in the lime juice, evaporated/coconut milk (if making the creamy version), and chili sauce. Mix everything together and taste the soup. Feel free to add more lime juice (for sourness), sugar (for sweetness), and fish sauce (for saltiness). You can also add in more salt as needed.
- Leave the soup to cook down for another 8 to 10 minutes over medium heat for all the flavours to infuse. At this point the tomatoes will have cooked down.
- Serve the soup hot with more lime juice and some cilantro, if desired. Enjoy!
Kaffir Lime Leaves
- I highly recommend using fresh or frozen leaves if you have access to them. I have both fresh (that I froze) and frozen and find that freshly frozen ones have a stronger smell and flavour compared to dried. But dried ones still work well too! Make sure to crush your leaves well to release all the flavours.
Ginger and pepper
- Traditional tom yum really uses of galangal, that has a milder flavour and peppery taste compared to ginger. So for this recipe I used ginger with some pepper since I didn’t have galangal on hand. But if you have access to galangal, then by all means, that’d be the best!
Evaporated Milk/Coconut Milk
- Creamy Tom Yum is traditionally made with evaporated milk and coconut milk is used for Tom Kha (Thai coconut soup). But for this vegan recipe, I find that coconut milk works just as well!