Ginger Coconut Soup for Colds and Flu


This soup is delicious, whether you're sick or not. Many of the ingredients -- including ginger, onion, mushrooms, garlic, chili pepper, bone broth, and fermented foods -- add flavor as well as health benefits, boosting immunity and helping the body fight off viruses that cause colds and flu.

Click here for Dr. Sarah's recipe for Ginger Lemon Sore Throat Pops.  

One of the main medicinal compounds in garlic is allicin, which is formed from an inactive precursor only upon exposure to air. It's destroyed by heat, so the less you cook it, the better. To maximize the medicinal benefits of garlic in this soup, I grated it to increase the surface area exposed to air and added it only after the soup was fully cooked. I allowed it to sit in the hot soup for a few minutes to soften the sharp flavor of raw garlic, but this step is optional.

Heat also affects the medicinal qualities of fermented foods by destroying the beneficial bacteria that support a healthy immune system and protect against colds and flu. To keep them viable, I added tamari and fish sauce only at the end, once the soup was fully cooked.

For a vegan version, substitute cubed tofu for chicken thighs, vegetable broth for bone broth, and extra tamari for the fish sauce. 

4 chicken thighs at room temperature (seasoned with sea salt 24 to 48 hours in advance if possible)
1 stalk lemongrass, tough stem end and outer leaves removed, roughly chopped
1 green Serrano chili pepper, roughly chopped (or substitute another fresh chili or cayenne)
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, roughly chopped
1 small shallot, roughly chopped
1 lime, zested and juiced
1 tbsp coconut oil
10 ounces shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced (or substitute crimini mushrooms)
4 cups bone broth
14 ounces or 2 cups coconut milk
1 cup thinly sliced snow peas
2 cloves garlic (or more)
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped cilantro leaves, stems, and roots
1 tablespoon tamari
1 tablespoon fish sauce 
  1. If you haven't already, season the chicken thighs with sea salt.
  2. In a food processor, finely chop the lemongrass, chili, ginger, shallot, and lime zest. Set aside.
  3. Warm the coconut oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Brown the chicken thighs on both sides, in batches if necessary. Transfer them to a plate and set aside to cool.
  4. Add the mushrooms to the pot and sauté until they start to brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
  5. Stir in the lemongrass mixture and continue cooking until it softens and starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces.
  6. Stir in the bone broth, coconut milk, and chicken. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes.
  7. Stir in the snow peas, cook for 2 more minutes.
  8. Turn off the heat and grate the garlic into the soup. Stir, then allow it to sit for 5 minutes.
  9. Reserve some scallions and cilantro for garnish, then stir in the rest along with the tamari and fish sauce. Taste the soup for seasoning and make any necessary adjustments. Ladle it into bowls and garnish with the reserved scallion and cilantro. Serve immediately.