Tom Kha vs Tom Yum_featured

Tom Kha vs Tom Yum: Similarities & Differences

Thailand is known for spicy and sour soup. Household names like Tom Yum soup may need no further introduction, but have you heard of Tom Kha soup? We have written other articles on Tom Yum noodles and Tom Yum hotpot. Recently we also covered the topic of Tom Kha soup calories. Learn more about similarities and differences between Tom Kha vs Tom Yum here!

Table of Contents

How about the taste of both soups?

Both Tom Kha and Tom Yum have spicy and sour taste. This spicy and refreshing taste comes from chili, lime and a bit of fish sauce and sugar. Both soups make good use of Thai herbs to add nice aroma to the dish. Having said this, we will cover more of the soup ingredients in a later section.

The creamy version of Tom Yum soup also contains creaminess (usually from coconut milk), very much similar to Tom Kha soup. So from taste and texture standpoint, the two soups are quite similar

Tom Kha vs Tom Yum: appareance

Tom Kha vs Tom Yum_featured

The most striking difference between Tom Kha vs. Tom Yum starts with the soup color. Tom Yum is a red/orangish-colored soup. On the other hand, Tom Kha has a mild, white-colored soup. Tom Yum (especially the creamy version) derives its red color from red chili, shrimp, but most importantly Thai chili paste. Tom Kha’s white color is due to its major ingredients, coconut milk!

Soup ingredients


We have mentioned earlier that the two soups can taste quite similar. That is because they share many same ingredients such as:

  • Herbs: Lemon grass, kaffir lime, galangal, shallot
  • Seasoning: Chili, lime, fish sauce and sugar


Despite the similarities, there are a few striking differences in the ingredients.

  • Protein: While both soups can use any protein, the most common protein for Tom Yum is shrimp (Tom Yum Goong) and other seafood. On the other hand the most common protein for Tom Kha is chicken (Tom Kha Gai)
  • Other key ingredient: Key ingredients for Tom Yum soup are chili paste which adds spiciness as well as red color to the soup and evaporated milk that adds creamy texture to the soup. Whereas for Tom Kha soup, the soup is either made purely from coconut milk or a mix between chicken stock and coconut milk!

Apart from the list above, there may be some other variations of the two soups. For instance, addition of mushrooms, tomatoes or even onions – this really depends on the recipes.

Calories for Tom Kha vs Tom Yum

There are two versions of Tom Yum i.e. clear Tom Yum and creamy Tom Yum. That is why Tom Yum can have as low as 270 calories or as high as 350 depending on the recipe. Check out our other article on Tom Yum soup calories and health benefits. 

On the other hand, Tom Kha contains ingredients like coconut milk which is high in calories. Hence, a serving of true Tom Kha soup made from 100% coconut milk can have as high as 700 calories. However, this number may be lower if the Tom Kha uses a mix of chicken stock with added coconut milk.

Which soup should you try?

Both soups are great! If you like clear soup, unfortunately Tom Kha soup does not have the option. However, Tom Yum has both versions: clear soup and creamy soup. We personally prefer Tom Yum because of the clear Tom Yum soup. In hot weather like Thailand and Singapore, clear Tom Yum soup is very refreshing and feels lighter. We do love creamy Thai soups as well but only have it once in a while. Also, keep in mind that soup like Tom Kha should be consumed in moderation due to its calorie count. 

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