Thai-Inspired Meatball Soup

Inspired by Tom Kha Gai — and a New York Times recipe shared by a friend — this Thai chicken-coconut soup uses spinach for added color and flavor and a squeeze of lime for brightness. The broth is thin but can be served over rice or another grain to make a full meal. This can be made with any ground meat but we prefer it with turkey. The original recipe called for frying the meatballs, but we have found baking them to be preferable. This soup is a great jumping off point for experimentation. Can even be made with tofu instead of the meatballs.


4 to 6 servings

1 (4-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled
5-6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 jalapeño (optional)
2-3 small carrots, sliced
2 pounds ground turkey (or chicken)
1 large bunch cilantro finely chopped. Save a few whole leaves for serving
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 cups chicken broth
1 (14-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
5 ounces baby spinach
1 tablespoon lime juice. Save a few wedges for serving
Steamed white or brown rice, for serving (optional)


The Meatballs

Finely grate the ginger, garlic and jalapeño — or finely chop them by hand. Transfer half of this mixture to a large bowl and set the remaining aside for a future step. In the large bowl, add the ground meat, finely-chopped cilantro, 2 tablespoons fish sauce, and 1 teaspoon salt. Using your hands fully combine but do not over mix. Form 2-inch meatballs of about 2 ounces each and placed on a large baking sheet. The mixture should make approximately 24 meatballs. Place the baking sheet of meatballs in an oven pre-heated to 350ºF (~175ºC) and bake until cooked through. Approximately 35 minutes.

The Soup

Once the meatballs are in the oven, add a little vegetable oil to a large pot and heat for a few minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining ginger mixture and sauté until fragrant, about a minute. Add the chicken broth, coconut milk, sugar, sliced carrots, as well as the remaining 1 tablespoon fish sauce. Bring the broth to a simmer and then add the meatballs; simmering until the flavors come together and the meatballs and carrots are cooked through, about 12 minutes.


When you are ready to serve, remove the soup from the heat and stir in the spinach and lime juice. Add a serving of rice into each bowl and top with meatballs, broth and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.


One can add any number of vegetables to this dish. Try mushrooms or seafood if that’s your thing.

Published by Rick Scully

Rick is a craft brewer, shepherd, gardener, photographer, writer, tech nerd, web developer, and all around good guy.