Advanced Planning Tip:
The key to making vegan Tom Yum Soup is collecting the ingredients. Items like galangal (thai ginger), thai chiles and kaffir lime leaves can be hard to find. This recipe replaces these ingredients with red curry paste (which includes all of the aforementioned ingredients) with some other substitutions. Make sure you can get your hands on red curry paste and lemongrass before committing to the recipe. These are often available at traditional grocery stores.
Prep Time Tip:
This recipe is pretty easy, using only one pot. Prep time includes about 20 minutes of chopping vegetables and measuring spices. Simmer time is about 25 minutes to have dinner on the table in 45 minutes or less.
Simple Vegan Tom Yum Soup
Are you craving vegan Thai food? Tom Yom Soup has always been a favorite of mine. However, making a vegan version can be tricky. Like many Thai food recipes, Tom Yum Soup features fish sauce as a main ingredient, a no-go for vegans and vegetarians. This Tom Yum Soup recipe uses my vegan fish sauce in place of traditional fish sauce. It also seeks to simplify the ingredients to those that you can find in your regular grocery store, omitting the need to travel to more than one place to bring this delicious Tom Yum Soup recipe to your table.
Tom Yum Soup Recipe: Making the Traditional Version Vegan
While it’s easy to find Thai dishes that heavily favor vegetables, vegans should know that many Thai food dishes do not comply with a vegetarian diet. Two of my favorite dishes: pad thai and tom yum soup fall into this category. Why? Fish sauce.
Fish sauce is an ingredient frequently found in Southeastern Asian cooking. It’s salty and known for its strong savory sensation. It’s made by salting anchovies and allowing them to ferment. The end result is a salty liquid that, despite its origins, doesn’t really have much of a fishy flavor. Because of its strong umami flavor, fish sauce has a way of binding and bringing out the best of the other ingredients. It’s not an ingredient to be skipped lightly, so what’s a vegan chef to do?
Making Vegan Fish Sauce
I recently went pretty far down the rabbit hole of research in order to design a vegan fish sauce that could bring some of my favorite Thai dishes to my table. It was actually quite a bit of fun to write. I learned a few new things and the end result had me totally revamping a prior fish sauce recipe I had put together. It’s designed to be a salty sauce, rich in umami, using shiitake mushrooms, tomato paste, soy sauce and miso paste. You can find that blog post here.
If you’re not at all interested in making your own vegan fish sauce (a sentiment I can appreciate), then you can still make your favorite Thai dishes at home by replacing fish sauce with soy sauce or salt. Soy sauce can be substituted on a 1:1 ratio with fish sauce. Salt, on the other hand, is best done by adding slowly and tasting as you go.
Simplifying the Ingredients in Your Tom Yum Soup Recipe
Galangal, kaffir lime leaves, thai chilies… oh my! If you’re like me, these ingredients are hard to find. I live in a small town. Not only does it not have a vegan Tom Yum Soup dining out option, but it also doesn’t have a specialty Asian store to buy the raw ingredients traditionally found in Tom Yum Soup. I’m not one to be deterred though, especially when it comes to food, so I came up with some alternatives.
Luckily, red curry paste has red chili pepper, galangal and kaffir lime in it. It’s a bit spicy, so it’s not an all-in solution. In other words, you can’t get enough galangal, lemongrass or kaffir lime without ending up with too much spice. To accommodate, I omitted thai chilies from the recipe and added in more lemongrass. Speaking of lemongrass, it can sometimes be difficult to find fresh lemongrass. For some substitution ideas, check out my Vegan Bahn Mi Pizza recipe.
Galangal (thai ginger) and ginger aren’t a 1:1 substitution, but using ginger will get you part way there. I added about a tablespoon of fresh ginger instead. Likewise, lime juice and lime zest are not a 1:1 substitution for kaffir lime leaves. But, you can use them to give a citrusy scent and flavor to your Tom Yum Soup. I recommend adding the lime zest in full, but adding the lime juice slowly to control the flavor.
Vegan Tom Yum Soup
Are you craving vegan Thai food? Like many Thai food recipes, Tom Yum Soup features fish sauce as a main ingredient, a no-go for vegans and vegetarians. This Tom Yum Soup recipe uses my vegan fish sauce in place of traditional fish sauce. It also seeks to simplify the ingredients to those that you can find in your regular grocery store, omitting the need to travel to more than one place to bring this delicious Tom Yum Soup recipe to your table.
- tbsp coconut oil
- 1 quart low sodium vegetable broth
- 1 quart water
- 2 stalks fresh lemongrass scored and smashed
- 1 inch piece fresh ginger peeled and cut into coins
- 6 tbsp vegan fish sauce or substitute soy sauce
- 2 limes juice and zest
- 1 tbsp turbinado sugar
- 2 tbsp red curry paste I like Thai Kitchen's red curry paste
- 1 14 oz can full fat coconut milk
- 12-15 shiitake mushrooms washed, dried and sliced into thin strips
- 1 shallot sliced very thin
- 1 bunch broccolini washed and trimmed
- 1 roma tomato sliced into small wedges
- 1 thai red chile sliced thin as garnisWash, dry and slice the shiitake mushrooms.
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro torn leaves as garnish
Wash, dry and slice the shiitake mushrooms.
Heat the coconut oil in a large stockpot. When shimmering, add the shiitake mushrooms, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are soft and just lightly browned. Set aside.
In the same stockpot, add the vegetable broth and water. Bring to a boil and add the lemongrass and fresh ginger. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
After simmering, add the vegan fish sauce, lime zest, sugar, red curry paste and coconut milk.
Add the lime juice one lime at a time and taste. Heat until warmed.
Add the mushrooms, shallot, broccolini and roma tomatoes. Heat until the broccolini becomes bright green.
Garnish with thai red chilies, sliced thin and fresh cilantro.
About Herbivore’s Kitchen
Herbivore’s Kitchen is a blog run by me, a plant-based home chef and aspiring food photographer. I switched my and my family’s diet to a plant-based diet after learning about the health benefits of going vegan. Making this change has prompted a variety of food and holistic-lifestyle related questions that I explore through this blog. I talk about how to pick and prepare the most nutritious foods, to how to reduce waste at home, to how to live a more sustainable lifestyle while on the road.