Thailand is responsible for a vast number of delicious, exotic dishes packed with flavor. Their use of fresh ingredients combined with spices makes Thai food a popular choice all over the world. However, the names of their dishes can be confusing for many people.

This article takes an in-depth look at Tom Yum Vs Tom Kha – what is the difference? Within 2 minutes, you’re going to be a guru on the topic of these two amazing Thai soups.

A comparison of Tom Yum and Tom Kha soup

They’re both on most Thai menus in the starters section. Served hot, these soups offer a flavor-packed, spicy dish that’s not overly filling.

Tom Yum

A bowl of Tom Yum soupTom Yum, or Tom Yam, is a hot and sour soup, prepared with fragrant spices. It is usually cooked with shrimp or, occasionally pork.

Loosely translated, Tom Yum means a boiled broth that combines sweet, spicy, and sour flavors into one dish.

Common ingredients: Lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lime juice, chili pepper, and fish sauce.

Tom Kha

A bowl of Tom Kha soup.Tom Kha is similar to Tom Yum. It’s a spicy and hot soup; however, it also has coconut milk added, resulting in a creamier texture.

Tom Kha means a boiled broth that has galangal added. In this soup, one of the main ingredients is galangal.

Infographic comparing Tom Yum and Tom Kha

Difference Between Tom Yum and Tom Kha

Watch a quick video

Which is best?

It’s hard to pick a winner out of these two soups; they are similar in flavor. Thanks to the chili peppers, they both pack heat.

I prefer Tom Kha because the coconut milk perfectly balances out the heat from the chili and the tang offered by the lemongrass. If you prefer to avoid creamy dishes, then Tom Yum is the best option for you.

Tom Yum Soup
An excellent garnish for Tom Yum soup is cilantro.

Comparing the calories

The calories will vary depending on the recipe that is used; however, on average, one cup of Tom Yum soup contains 90 calories. Tom Kha has approximately 350 calories due to the addition of coconut milk.

Benefits of Tom Yum and Tom Kha

  • Both delicious soups with lots of flavor impact.
  • They’re healthy dishes without the calories that soups like French onion soup contain.
  • Perfect for clearing the sinuses if you’re a bit “under the weather.”
  • Spice levels can be adjusted to suit flavor preferences.

Don’t like spicy soups?

If you plan on making one of these soups at home, then leave out the chili, and you’ll be fine. You could also request to have the chili left out at a restaurant, but this will be “hit and miss” because some restaurants have their soups pre-made.

Final words

Tom Yum and Tom Kha are both hot and sour soups. The critical difference is that Tom Kha has coconut milk added.

If you’re considering making one of these soups at home, it’s easy to make using a Tom Yum soup base. This base includes Nam prik, which is a spicy paste made from chilies, shrimp or fish paste, shallots, garlic, and lime juice. Buy the soup base already made from Asian grocers or online from Amazon.

What’s your favorite between these two soups? Let me know in the comments below.

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