Tom was born in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, Illinois, the daughter of Nancy (née Dare) and Chan Tom, Jr., who worked in the frozen food business. She has a brother named Chip. Their parents were born in Chicago, and their grandparents came from Kaiping, Guangdong province, China. Raised in Highland Park, Tom was teased as a child about her Chinese heritage, making her introverted and eventually inspiring her to study dance.
At the age of 17, Tom landed a spot with a touring company of A Chorus Line and was cast in the Broadway production of the show less than a year later in the role of Connie. She won an Obie Award for her Off-Broadway acting and was cast in the Broadway shows Hurlyburly and Doonesbury. In Chicago she starred in the Goodman Theater's production of 'Tis Pity She's a Whore.
Tom had several small roles in movies including Nothing Lasts Forever, Wall Street, See No Evil, Hear No Evil and Blue Steel. Her biggest role up until that point was as a waitress in the Robin Williams/Tim Robbins film Cadillac Man. This role led to being a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
Tom landed a lead role in the film The Joy Luck Club in 1993, which led to roles in other films such as When a Man Loves a Woman and North.
Since the mid-1990s, Tom has focused her work, primarily, in voiceover roles. She has appeared in a few live action films, including the 2003 comedy Bad Santa and the critically acclaimed 2004 film In Good Company.
Lauren Tom's first role in television was that of Miko Wakamatsu on The Facts of Life. She subsequently appeared on The Equalizer, Catfish With Black Bean Sauce, thirtysomething, Quantum Leap, Chicago Hope, Homicide: Life on the Street, Grace Under Fire, Friends, The Nanny, The Middle, DAG, The Division, Monk, My Wife and Kids, Barbershop: The Series, Grey's Anatomy, The Closer and Men in Trees. She had an acting role in a bonus feature on the Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder DVD. She also had a supporting role on the 8th and 9th season of the drama series Supernatural as prophet Kevin Tran's mother, Linda Tran.
Tom began vocal work in the animated series Superman: The Animated Series playing Angela Chen. From there on, she voiced Dana Tan in Batman Beyond and had minor roles on Pinky and the Brain, Extreme Ghostbusters, The Zeta Project before landing her regular roles on King of the Hill, where she voiced Minh and Connie Souphanousinphone and later Futurama, where she voices Amy and Inez Wong.
She has also lent her voice to All Grown Up!, Rocket Power, Max Steel, Handy Manny as Mrs. Lee and Nelson, Samurai Jack, Johnny Bravo, Justice League Unlimited, Kim Possible and Legion of Super Heroes.
From 2002 to 2008, Lauren Tom played Numbuh Three (Kuki Sanban) and Numbuh Three's mother Genki on Codename: Kids Next Door. She also voiced various recurring characters on the show, such as Numbuh 23 and Numbuhs 44 and 45.
She has also voiced the villains Gizmo and Jinx on Teen Titans, Yan Lin, Susan, Alchemy on W.I.T.C.H., Tasumi on The Replacements, Jake's mom, Counselor Chang on American Dragon: Jake Long, and as Joo Dee on Avatar the Last Airbender. She also guest-starred in The Penguins of Madagascar as Chuck Charles's co-anchor, Bonnie Chang, in "Gator Watch" and "All Tied Up With a Boa".
Recently in 2010, she did the voice of Bai Li and Ming on the animated series, Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness and also played the role of Jessica in the animated film, Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare.
Other animated movies Tom has voiced include Mulan II, Kim Possible: The Secret Files, Kim Possible Movie: So The Drama, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker and the four Futurama movies: Bender's Big Score, The Beast with a Billion Backs, Bender's Game and Into the Wild Green Yonder.
She voiced Li Li Stormstout in World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria and played Hayaku on an episode of Turbo FAST.
Tom married Glenn Lau-Kee on October 23, 1982. Following the end of that marriage, she wed actor Curt Kaplan in October, 1999. She and Kaplan have a son, Oliver Kaplan.